“Because we need the past to build the future”

It was in the early 1990s that the idea of ​​rebuilding the Hermione was first floated, following the restoration of the Arsenal de Rochefort. This reconstruction was part of the city of Rochefort’s lengthy process of reappropriating its maritime heritage, which began in the 1960s with the restoration of the Corderie Royale. The decision was made to reconstruct one of the Arsenal’s most iconic ships, the Hermione. Thirty years after the project started, it is impossible to deny what a success it has been. The new frigate managed to rally all the key players in the territory, from the city of Rochefort and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to the Department of Charente-Maritime.

The HERMIONE-LAFAYETTE association, a group of people who are passionate about everything and anything maritime, was responsible for bringing this project to life.

While the project may have seemed crazy, the objective was clear. That objective was to recreate a unique part of France’s seafaring heritage by building a frigate from the French Navy’s golden era. Because the association wanted this extraordinary adventure to be shared with as many people as possible, the ship’s construction yard was open to the public.

The association’s main challenge was reconstructing an 18th century frigate using historic techniques, while incorporating modern technical data so that the ship was certified for sailing. It was a real feat because of the multiple problems then posed by the nature of such a shipyard. It involved finding people with the know-how to reproduce old techniques, keeping the public safe, operating responsibly in a site that was classified as a historical monument, keeping the various stages of construction going and training a crew who were qualified to sail this kind of ship.

Since 2014 and its first successful sea trials, the frigate is now the largest replica sailing ship in the world. These enthusiasts of heritage, history and the sea took a really crazy risk but their bet paid off!

Today, the Hermione and its maintenance workshops can still be visited in Rochefort at the Arsenal des Mers. The Arsenal gives you access to the Hermione, the Corderie Royale, the Musée National de la Marine and, in good weather, you can even see what it’s like to be a boatswain in the Accro-Mâts mast adventure area!

Ship's reconstruction

The Hermione-La Fayette Association was created.

In the early 1990s, a group of maritime heritage enthusiasts from the Centre International de la Mer and the city of Rochefort were crazy enough to start rebuilding an 18th century frigate in the heart of the historic Arsenal.

The Hermione-La Fayette Association was created to bring this extraordinary project to life.

Its first president was writer and member of the Académie Française, Eric Orsenna, followed in 1994 by Benedict Donnelly.

Very quickly, the project earned the support of various local authorities including the city of Rochefort, the Charente-Maritime department, the Poitou-Charentes region and the European Union. Regional and national companies also leant their aid.

The association then decided not to build it themselves but to outsource the construction to several companies under the direction of a project manager. 5 years of studies and historical research were needed before the reconstruction could start.

Presentation of the project at the Paris Boat Show

Following the presentation of the project at the Paris Boat Show, the shipyard was officially launched.

January 1997

The Asselin company, based in Thouars in Deux-Sèvres (department), was selected to carry out the first phase of work following a European call for tenders.

February 1997

In the middle of the Arsenal de Rochefort, the Louis XV double dry dock was chosen for the Hermione’s reconstruction site.

The actual work of building the frigate began. In fact, for three months alone, there were carpenters in an immense drafting room drawing the ship’s plans to scale 1 then making the templates for the different parts.


June 1997

Keel blocks sufficient to support a finished boat weighing 1,100 tonnes were fitted.

July 4th 1997

On July 4th 1997, which is very symbolic if you’re familiar with the frigate’s American history, the keel was fitted, which thus officially began the Hermione‘s shipbuilding adventure on a titanic scale. The Arsenal de Rochefort’s special green flag, announcing the start of construction, was hoisted up and flown on the Arsenal’s Porte de Soleil.

The keel is considered the backbone of the ship. This backbone was over 40 metres long and 38 cm thick and was to support the frigate’s entire skeleton. It was made from oak.


August 20th 1997 Fitting of the transom

Now it was time for the transom and the sternpost to be revealed to the public. Once raised, this complex assembly of over 4.5 tonnes of oak was attached to the rear end of the keel. The stern will later hold the rudder.


October 2 1997 First rib attached

There would be 62 in number, laid from the back to the front. Every rib is different, and they are what creates the hull’s final shape.



Close-up of a rib

The fifteenth rib is attached.



April 1999

The Thalassa, french TV programme filmed at night at the Hermione shipyard.

august 2nd 1999

The 62nd rib was laid. The ship’s skeleton was now in place.

December 1999

Fitted in position as the general public watched, the bow is the part that closes off the front of the ship.


During the month of December 1999, Storm Martin ravaged a large part of France. The marquee where the ship was being built didn’t escape damage but the Hermione herself didn’t suffer too much from the “storm of the century”.



January 2000

Following Storm Martin of December 1999, a number of fallen trees (oaks) were donated to the association. Unfortunately, many of them were unusable because they were too damaged.


February 2000

The keelson was laid in place.
This section covering the base of the ribs forms the ship’s internal spine. From now on, a large part of the carpenters’ work was to take place inside the ship.

August 2000

The first workshops (Wood and Forge) start work.

March 2001

The deck beams, the timbers that span the width of the ship and support the decks, were laid.

May 2001

Inner planking began. These planks are the inner skin of a ship.

August 2001

General overview of the ship, with portholes being made.

End of 2001

15 portholes have been made on each side.

  • The planking, forming the ship’s skin is slatted so that the final planks can be adjusted as closely as possible at the end of construction.
  • Construction began of the prototype steering wheel and the fittings for the gun carriages in the workshops.
  • The ship is attracting more and more onlookers.
  • The steering wheel being made – the millionth visitor! – The Hermione crafts festival


September 2003

Saturday 27th September, 1,500 to 2,000 people assembled to accompany a delivery that came via the Route des Tonneaux et des Canons association, having left Nontron in the Dordogne 10 days earlier. All involved were tired but happy to reach the end of their adventure. In a party atmosphere bathed in sunlight, the trailer pulled by 3 magnificent draft horses set off from the marina preceded by fifes and drums. At a lively trot, the horses skirted the Corderie Royale to stop in front of the south pavilion at the entrance to the Centre International de la Mer. Bales of hemp were “delivered”. Passing up the paved driveway the length of the naval battles maze, the load was then successively welcomed by Admiral Dupont at the square that bears his name and at the entrance to the Hermione shipyard by “Monsieur de Latouche”. The two cannons and the entire consignment that had been transported by the Route des Tonneaux et des Canons were thus unloaded and symbolically offered to the Hermione shipyard.

November 2003

Fitting of the transom, a huge horseshoe-shaped device weighing over 3 tonnes that goes at the back of the ship

December 2003

  • Blacksmiths made 64 belaying pins.
  • On 14 December 1999, the bow, the part that closes off the front of the ship, was fitted as the general public watched.


April 2004

On Tuesday 27th April 2004, 33 CAP Ébénisterie and Bac Pro students from the GIEL vocational college in Normandy and their teachers visited the site. This visit organised as part of a 3-day study trip to the Rochefort region was the culmination of an educational project involving the construction of the Hermione‘s watch bench, which 8 of their teachers worked on for an entire school year.

We would sincerely like to thank the students and their teachers for the magnificent work they did. This reproduction of the historic watch bench is now part of the Hermione‘s forecastle.

July 2004

The gig began to be constructed by “Alexandre Genoud Bateaux Bois”.

août 2004

30th August 2004
Anne Renault, a sailmaker who trained at Port-Rhu in Douarnenez and who had recently settled in La Rochelle, arrived at the Hermione shipyard to manufacture the three sails for the gig (headsail, mainsail and jib).

The tools used in sailmaking are: a sailmaker’s palm, needles, splicers, mallets and a “minahouet” (a tool used to “serve” or wrap ropes).



  • Deck planking
    The planking forms the skin of the ship. The widest planks are made of iroko and have a thickness of 162 mm. The other planks are made of oak and are around 80 mm.
    To obtain the desired curves, the planks are steamed then placed on a huge machine composed of different cylinders where they are bent.
  • Installation of stanchions, posts supporting the ribs and decks. There are three types of stanchion on the Hermione: classic stanchions, hinged stanchions and stepped stanchions.


  • Manufacture and installation of the lower halyard block.With its huge bronze sheaves, this is how the lines run back to the large capstan.
  • Two large bitts and the topsail bitt were also made then fitted.
  • On 11 June, the gig was launched in the marina of Rochefort.

September 2005

5th september 2005

Stanchions fitted, being wood posts that support the decks. The carpenters start installing the stanchions on the battery deck. There are 20 stanchions including 6 lifting stanchions.

October 2005

10th october 2005

Two carpenters make the two large bitts and their cleats which are to go on the battery deck. These are large wooden posts located on deck and used for manoeuvres


January 2006

Construction of the mainmast deck ring.

July 2006

Mainmast deck ring fitted on the forecastle.

The deck ring enables the mast to pass through the deck. Shims in the form of wedges are arranged around it to allow adjustment. Then the whole assembly was caulked with fabric to keep it watertight.

February 2006

Since mid-February, the Wood workshop had been manufacturing the top for the lower mizzen mast. It is 3.5 m by 4, and it took a month to manufacture.

August 2006

Anne Renault, a traditional sailmaker, made the three sails for the longboat in front of an audience.

August/ September... 2006

Manufacture of the Hermione’s longboat.

This is one of the Hermione’s three tenders along with the gig and the shallop. That summer, the carpenters started on planking the ship entirely. This operation consists of covering the ribs (the ship’s frame) with oak planks forming the outer envelope of the ship. The whole ship is planked from the keel to the top of the ship.

December 2006

Battery deck caulking.
Caulking is the name for everything that is done to make the hull and decks watertight. Between each plank, hemp tow is inserted before a tar called pitch is poured over it. While the decks are caulked with pitch, the hull is caulked with glazier’s putty.
Manufacture of the shroud chains by blacksmiths.
The milestone of 250,000 visitors over the year was exceeded.

The milestone of 2 million visitors since the start of the project was reached that year

2006 also saw visits from many public figures, such as the United States Ambassador, His Excellency Craig.R.Stapleton accompanied by Ségolène Royal, President of Poitou-Charentes, who came to announce that a grant of one million euros had been advanced. Michèle Alliot-Marie was also to visit the site when she came to Rochefort.


February 2007

Battery deck planking
The first yard was delivered. This was the topgallant yard.

  • The cutwater was attached to the bow (3.5 tonnes made up of about fifteen parts). This part extends the bow and would later support the Hermione’s figurehead.
  • The first masts were delivered (topgallant mast and mizzen topsail mast) and completed on site (finishes).
  • Work on the longboat came to an end and work commenced on the shallop.
  • An exhibition about the Hermione made a stopover in the United States aboard the frigate “La Fayette”

July 2007

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de La Fayette, the French frigate La Fayette travelled to the American coast with an exhibition about the Hermione on board.

January 2008

The Hermione’s hold was used as a filming location for a biopic on Amerigo Vespucci.
Work on the boat continued (planking, manufacture of masts, interior fittings, etc.)

March 2008

The quarter deck planking (‘the floor’) was completed

April 2008

Planking of the forecastle. The planking used was douglas pine and oak

June 2008

Shallop and longboat launched

October 2008

Planking of topsides between the waterline and the bulwark

November / December 2008

Installation of the small then the large capstan. These are two huge oak winches that were hot strapped by the blacksmiths. They are used to hoist or move heavy loads.
The three decks on the Hermione were fully planked now.

The Hermione team met the Belem, marking the beginning of a partnership between these two iconic ships from France’s maritime heritage.


Février 2009

Thalassa was back at the Hermione shipyard and produced a live broadcast, focusing on the very close relationship between the programme and the Hermione project since it first began.
Construction of bilge pump housing.

March 2009

Painting began with painting the bulwarks (upper parts of the hull) in the colours of the King of France (royal blue and Naples yellow).
The four historical bilge pumps were installed which pump water into the sea.
Strapping of pump housing by blacksmiths.

June 2009

The Belem came to Rochefort to greet the Hermione to mark the annual meeting of the association’s members

July 2009

The quarters were fitted in the great cabin, including: 4 cabins and the wood panelling and cabinetry.

November 2009

The painting was unveiled to the public who discovered the sculptures, the coat of arms where the crown and fleur-de-lys were covered with 250 sheets of gold leaf, as well as the frigate’s future colours.


January 2010

Start of interior painting

February 2010

Caulking of topsides (upper parts of the hull, out of the water)

July 2010

3 millionth visitor

October 2010

The Bernard shipyard completed the planking (outer skin of the ship covering the ribs)

November 2010

The Bernard shipyard completed the planking (outer skin of the ship covering the ribs)

The King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf visited the Hermione shipyard

The manufacture of the 17 sails (2,100 m²) continued thanks to Anne Renault, who finished them by hand.

The officers’ quarters were completed in the Great Cabin, the accommodation and command space reserved for the highest-ranking officers.

Les logements des officiers sont terminés dans la Grand Chambre, espace de logement et de commandement réservé aux officiers les plus gradés.

This year, several major projects were ongoing:

March 2011

End of the caulking, representing a total length of 12 km of sealing and 255 kg of hemp used.

April 2011

Creation of the heads at the rear of the ship housing the captain’s and officers’ lavatories.

November 2011

The figurehead was in turn unveiled to the public. It depicts a lion 3.5 metres (11’4″) tall holding the King of France’s crown and the coat of arms with three fleur-de-lys between its front paws.
End of the painting work on the hull (a total of 2 tonnes of paint have been applied to the entire frame).

Manufacture of the davits which are used to manoeuvre anchors
Rudder installed, the central device used for the frigate’s steering.

Décember 2011

Beginning of rigging production by the Swedish company JB RIggers. 25 km of ropes would be needed for the Hermione.
Installation of the two azimuth thrusters at the rear of the hull, for greater manoeuvrability in ports

The visit of the American ambassador in France to the Hermione shipyard represents a strong symbolic moment marking the cooperation of the two countries in view of the future navigation.


A pivotal year since this was when the Hermione was launched on the Charente for the first time and it moved to the Napoleon III dry dock.

The preparation for the undocking took place in several stages: first the marquee was dismantled, the ship caissons were prepped, progressively water filled the dry dock and finally the hull took to the water. 50,000 people came to attend this major event, which ushered in the last phase of shipyard construction allowing the Hermione to sail.

220 tonnes of ballast were placed by the initial volunteers from the Association in the bottom of the hold. The ballast was composed of pig iron and granite cobblestones and it was intended to keep the ship stable.

January 2012

Arrival of a team of volunteers to take over ship maintenance

April 2012

Arrival of the lower masts

May 2012

Arrival of the ship caissons which came to close the dry docks so the frigate could be floated then moved to the Napoleon III dry dock

6/7/8th july 2012 Rochefort celebrates the Hermione

The ship was launched. The Hermione’s first outing along the Charente. She moored in front of the Corderie Royale

September 2012

Historically accurate replica furniture was added to the Great Cabin and the officers’ cabins. This furniture produced in cooperation with the vocational colleges around the region as part of their course work.

October 2012

Installation of the lower foremast, a 23.5 m mast weighing almost 10 tonnes accompanied by 14 shrouds and 2 stays (i.e. 350 m of cordage) as well as its top.
The bowsprit mast was fitted.


November 2012

Yann Cariou was chosen to command the frigate

March 2013

Installation of the fore topmast, the bowsprit and the lower mainmast (27 m). With its standing rigging and its top as well as the mizzen low mast and mizzen topmast

April 2013

Stepping of the topmasts (2nd row) at the capstan

May 2013

Stepping of the topgallant masts (3rd row) and hoisting of the lower yards

June 2013

Last yards in place

The various mast sections were laid throughout the year, starting with the 3 vertical masts, the spritsail and finally the yards, which are horizontal spars supporting the square sails. Here, a crane was used to fit the masts, replaced the masting device of the olden days. This work was overseen by Jens Langert, the master rigger, with the help of about fifteen people (on-site artisans and volunteers)


May 2014

Installation of cannons and ship’s boats on the main deck.
Sails fitted (17 sails with a surface area of over 2,000 m2) and lines were also fitted (i.e. 15 km of ropes and some 800 pulleys)
Fête des voiles sailing ship festival (May 17)
The crew’s historically accurate costumes were made
Strapping of the anchor stocks.

June 2014

Arrival of the last cannon for the Hermione, delivered just like it was in the 18th century by barge up the Charente river. This was carried out jointly with the association La Route des Tonneaux et des Canons.
Anchors fitted

July 2014

4 millionth visitor

September 2014

The construction of the Hermione came to an end after 17 years of work, culminating in the fitting of the 17 sails and 28 guns on board the Hermione. Manufactured at SAFEM near Angoulême, the 12-pounders were installed on the frigate’s battery deck and the 6-pounders on the forecastle. The two anchors that weigh 1.5 tonnes each went at the front of the Hermione.


The Hermione was given the “Bateau d’Intérêt Patrimonial” (BIP) label for being a “heritage boat”, awarded by the Fondation du Patrimoine Maritime et Fluvial.The frigate thus joined a fleet of 829 vessels labelled BIP.

The first sea trials then began, with a crew who had only just trained in sailing a ship with an old rig. On 7 September, the Hermione descended the Charente, cheered on by a large crowd and followed by an armada of boats that had come to greet her. The sea trials, which were to last two months, marked the beginning of a new adventure with the next objective being the official voyage to the United States of America in the spring of 2015.