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Historic tall ship sails into Boston

A replica of Marquis de Lafayette’s ship, the Hermione, sailed into the Boston Harbor on Saturday.
A replica of Marquis de Lafayette’s ship, the Hermione, sailed into the Boston Harbor on Saturday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

When the French military officer Marquis de Lafayette landed in Boston more than 200 years ago — bearing news that changed the course of the American Revolution — Bostonians greeted him with the roar of guns, the ringing of the city's bells, and the music of a band.

A replica of his ship, the Hermione, sailed into similar jubilation Saturday morning, as hundreds packed into a sunny Boston Harbor, wearing colonial garb and straw hats, listening to the sound of bagpipes, and waving French and American flags.

"To be in Boston is a very great day. We dreamt of this," said Yann Cariou, the captain of the ship. "We realized that dream today. We can say today, 'Yes, we did it!' "


The original tall ship frigate arrived in Boston in April 1780 after 38 days at sea. Aboard the vessel, Lafayette carried a message of French support for the American Revolution. Lafayette's forces later helped defeat the British at Yorktown, and the Hermione blockaded the British in the Chesapeake Bay.

"If the original ship that's behind me . . . never sailed into this harbor and General Lafayette didn't come to these shores," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, "the idea of America probably is not the same as what we see today."

The ship’s crew members lowered a gang plank.
The ship’s crew members lowered a gang plank.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Every detail of the three-mast vessel mimics the original 18th-century design, down to the coiled rope coated in tar and linseed oil. The ship is 216 feet long and 185 feet tall, including the flagpole, which carries a large French flag. Cannons line the side of the boat.

Old-fashioned techniques built the replica, said Deborah Berger, coordinator for the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America. One woman, for example, made all the sails, ensuring historically accurate linens, Berger said.

"When you step on board you can smell the authenticity," said Miles Young, the president of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America.


The effect is striking, said Gerrick Rodrigues, 41, of Marblehead, who is visiting Boston for the weekend with his family. Rodrigues had not intended to see the ship but woke up in time to watch it from his hotel room as it sailed into Boston.

"It was just beautiful with the sunlight coming in from the harbor," Rodrigues said.

More than 200 crew members will work on the vessel throughout its voyage, which began in France in April. The job is regimented and physical but extremely rewarding, said Heloise Chaigne, 26, from France, who called working on the Hermione the best experience of her life.

Crew members hail from all over the world, including one from Boston, 22-year-old Adam Hodges-Leclaire.

Hodges-Leclaire always dresses in historically accurate clothing. He is a history major at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he specializes in 18th-century grooming, textiles, and social beliefs. In early July, he told the Globe about his excitement to sail into Boston.

"Whenever French people talk about the Hermione, they talk about Boston," he said.

The crowd surrounding the ship reveled in the Franco-American spirit. Derek Schusterbauer, 42, of Providence, wheeled his children, 2-year-old Violet and 5-year-old Otto, in a wagon to the harbor.

Otto attends the French-American School of Rhode Island, and he, along with his sister, donned traditional colonial clothes. Violet waved a makeshift paper flag decorated on one side as American flag and on the other as a French flag.


Originally from France, Francoise McCoy, 62, now of Salem, carried both her country's flags throughout downtown Saturday.

"I love to be from France and I love to be from America," she said, waving both flags proudly.

Consul Fabien Fieschi reminded the crowd that as Americans thank Lafayette, the French remember young Americans who came to France's aid.

In a fitting end to the ceremony, Admiral James Stavridis expressed wishes, in French and English, for a long life to "this beautiful alliance."

Lexington Minutemen re-enactors played pipes during the arrival ceremony.
Lexington Minutemen re-enactors played pipes during the arrival ceremony.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Monica Disare can be reached at monica.disare@globe.com.