BREST, FRANCE - After nearly four months crossing the Atlantic twice and visiting ports along the U.S. East Coast, a replica of an American Revolution-era tall ship is coming home to France.
Powered only by its soaring sails and an international crew of almost 80 maritime aficionados, the Hermione is approaching the city of Brest in the Brittany region. It is expected to arrive Monday.
The ship – 56 meters (185 feet) tall and 65 meters (215 feet) long – is a near-exact copy of the one that brought General Marquis de Lafayette from France to America in 1780 to help George Washington's troops fight the British.
Its voyage "is one of the symbolic journeys of freedom in history," Miles Young, the head of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, told VOA in June, when the ship docked for several days just south of Washington in Alexandria, Virginia. "It celebrates the birth of the United States as a free and independent nation."
The frigate took part in a New York maritime parade marking America's Independence Day, July 4.
Although the original Hermione was constructed in 11 months in the port town of Rochefort, France, it took 17 years for the replica frigate to be built in the same port.
Shipbuilders used as many 18th-century techniques as possible, Bruno Gravellier, the ship’s superintendent, told VOA during the Alexandria visit.
However, the Hermione includes a kitchen, a power generator, engines – and contemporary bathroom facilities.
"In the place where we have showers and toilets, they had hundreds of live sheep," Gravellier said of the original ship. "It must have smelled quite different."
The Hermione left France in April to retrace Lafayette's journey. Commander Yann Cariou praised the crew for handling the ship in rough weather during the "tough'' return journey.
Young had said he hoped the replica’s voyage and shore visits would forge more French-American friendships.
VOA’s Deborah Block contributed to this report.
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