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#tallships - The magnificent historic French tallship Belem dating to 1896 is to make a visit to Galway Port early next month and will be open to the public, writes Jehan Ashmore.

121 years ago the three-masted Belem was constructed near the city of Nantes and to begin a career transporting cocoa beans from her Brazilan namesake city to France. On arrrival in Europe, this involved heading upriver on the Seine to supply the cocoa for a Parisien chocolate maker.  

After a career sailing between South America and Europe, Belem was transferred to the British flag having became the property of the Duke of Westminster, who converted her to a luxury pleasure yacht.

She was subsequently renamed Fantôme II having been sold to the Hon. Arthur Ernest Guinness. The tallship took part in the Cowes regattas. In addition the Guinness family made a world cruise between 1923 and 1924. 

In 1952, the ship was sold to Italian interests, the Cini Foundation in Venice and she was renamed Giorgio Cini. At that stage a conversion took place to undetake a role as a sail training that plied the Mediterranean Sea until 1966.

At the age of 83 the tallship returned to France in 1979 and revive the original name of Belem. At that stage preservation of the tallship was entrusted to the Fondation Belem. The Paris based foundation decided to use her as a sail training ship open to a wide public.

The Belem in 2002 retraced her commercial cargo maiden voyage to Belém do Pará which last occurred in 1907.

In 2008 she sailed from Bordeaux across the North Atlantic Ocean to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city of Quebec by French sailor and tradesman, Samuel de Champlain.

A French wine company based in Languedoc-Roussillon had transported cargo on board the Belem also during this voyage to the Canadian city.

Belem's Galway Port visit details:

When? Thursday 3rd of August

Where? Dun Aengus Dock, Galway 

Price? 6 euros per person

To Visit Register on the French Galway facebook page by clicking here.

Group 1 – 6pm – maximum 20 people
Group 2 – 6.30pm – maximum 20 people
Group 3 – 7pm – maximum 20 people

To find out more about the ship Le Belem, please check their website on: https://www.fondationbelem.com/

Published in Tall Ships
One of the last surviving West Country ketches tallships out of a fleet of around 700, the Bessie Ellen was making passage through the Irish Sea yesterday from Falmouth bound for Liverpool, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 120-foot vessel was built by WS Kelly in Plymouth and for most of her 107-year career she traded in transporting aggregates, china clay, clay, grain, peat, salt and other bulk cargoes between Britain and Ireland. She would be a typical example to the type of vessel that would of employed the services of the Dublin Bay 'Hobblers', the name of the boats that race out to provide pilotage duties, to read more about this and yesterday's Hobblers Challenge click HERE.

Bessie Ellen is rigged with eight sails which cover 330 sq m and this would be the only source of power to transport her hold which had a cargo capacity for 150 tons. Her original owner was the North Devon home-skipper Captain John Chichester who named the ketch after two of his daughters. The crew would be limited to between four to six persons, a captain, mate, deckhands and cook.

By the Second World War most of these numerous working cargo sailing ships were being taken over by power-driven vessels. They were becoming increasingly redundant and laid-up rotting away in creeks, fortunately there was sufficient cargo for Bessie Ellen up to 1947.

She was purchased by Danish owners for where she carried a profitable trade in scrap metal, even so sail-power was not enough and she had an engine installed. Trade increased and she was too small to serve her owners Capt. Moller up to the 1970's. In 1983 there were plans to convert the vessel for charter but this fell-through.

Her current owner Nikki Alford brought the vessel in 2000 and over the next three years she was refitted to original rigging specifications and re-emerged in her new career as a sail training vessel. She runs day-long sailing cruises and longer sailing expeditions and educational programmes. Accommodation is for 20 persons in bunks and another 12 is set aside for guests.To read more about the ketch click HERE.

In recent years another West Country traditional sailing vessel the staysail-schooner Kathleen and May made an historic voyage to Dublin in 2008 with a commercial cargo of French wine. This would be the first cargo she conveyed since 1961, also the last year in which the last Arklow owned cargo-carrying schooner the De Wadden would trade, though she was fitted with an engine. The schooner is now preserved in Liverpool, click this LINK.

Katheleen and May made a second delivery to Dublin in 2009 again for Fair Wind Wine and the company (CTMV) also chartered the schooner Etoile de France in advance of St. Patrick's Day. The final CTMV wine cargoes were on board the Bessie Ellen and Notre Dame de Romengol during the last Dublin Docklands Maritime Festival held in 2010. The small French coastal cargo vessel or "gabare" built in 1945 at Camaret, near Brest is classified by the French government as an historic monument.

Also last year the oldest sailing tallship in Europe, the French barque Belem attended the inaugural Hoist the French Sail, French Week in Dublin. The 1896 built Belem was specially chartered in to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alliance Francaise in Dublin.

Several years ago Belem called to the capital to deliver wine but this was a trade-only publicity exercise prior to the CTMV wine cargoes. Apart from wine she is also associated with Sir Arthur Ernest Guinness of the family brewing dynasty, who owned her as a private 'yacht' under the name of Fantôme II. To read more about the fascinating history of this barque click HERE.

Published in Tall Ships