The Hermione, a 213-foot replica of the French Navy ship that played a pivotal role in the American Revolutionary War, will dazzle visitors when it sails into Greenport Harbor on July 6 as part of the 2015 Greenport Tall Ships Challenge.
And although this will be the warship’s maiden voyage, one North Fork resident has already seen it.
Neil McShane’s photos, which show the frigate’s keel, or backbone, under construction in 1998, drive home just how long it took to build the vessel.
A part-time Nassau Point resident, McShane, 79, and his wife, Carol, were taking a wine tour in France in 1998 when he mentioned to his guide that he had been stationed in Rochefort, France, in 1955 during his service in the U.S. Army. The tour guide then took a detour to the small town McShane had called home for seven months so he could revisit a part of his youth.
“It was very interesting. It didn’t change very much,” McShane recalled. “If you go to France, that’s what you see. It’s unlike modern cities.”
But, he learned, an exact replica of the ship that ferried the Marquis de Lafayette and his crew to America during the Revolutionary War was being built in the town. The mayor of Rochefort took McShane to see the ship and to meet its architect.
“We took a number of pictures,” McShane said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I believe that ship would be coming to Greenport.”
Those 1998 photos, which depict the replica ship when little more than its spine existed, remind the spectator just how long it took to build.
The Hermione, which cost the French government $28 million to build, was a work in progress for more than 17 years. The ship’s 19 sails weren’t completed until 2014. By contrast, the original only took about a year to build.
The vessel set sail in April for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic and the McShanes plan to be in Greenport next weekend when it arrives.
“My ship has come home,” McShane said. There will be a welcome ceremony for the Hermione at 10 a.m. Monday, July 6. Visit http://www.greenportvillage.com/tall-ships-2015/ to buy tickets for the Tall Ships event.
See more photos below.