BREST, France (AP) — After crossing the Atlantic twice and visiting ports along the U.S. East Coast, a replica of an American Revolution-era tall ship has come home to France, completing a voyage rich with diplomatic symbolism.
Powered only by its soaring sails and an international crew of maritime aficionados, the Hermione weathered mid-ocean storms and arrived Monday to cheering crowds along docks in the city of Brest in the Brittany region. Several smaller ships and an anti-submarine frigate escorted it into the port.
The three-mast ship — 56 meters (185 feet) tall and 65 meters (215 feet) long — is a near-exact copy of the one that brought the Marquis de Lafayette from France to America in 1780 to help George Washington's troops fight the British.
It left France in April to retrace Lafayette's journey, which laid the foundation of French-American relations. After stops in Yorktown and Baltimore, it visited the waters around the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July, swung by Newport and Boston, stopped in Maine for France's Bastille Day holiday July 14, sailed past Nova Scotia and then headed east for Europe.
Commander Yann Cariou praised the crew for handling the ship in rough weather during the "tough" return journey.
Over two decades, maritime experts and historians worked on the project, based on captains' logs and manuscripts from Lafayette's time. Workers used the same construction materials and methods as those used to build the original, toiling in the same boatyard where the original was made in southwest France. Sailmakers hand-sewed eyelets on the 2,200 square meters of linen sails. Engineers replicated the pulley system.