The Hermione, the headlining ship in this week’s Greenport Tall Ships festival, arrived Monday morning to a collective “bienvenue” from more than 100 people who gathered on the docks awaiting its arrival.
The 145-foot-long frigate docked shortly after 8:30 a.m. much to the delight of the crowd, many of whom carried French flags to honor the replica ship and its mother country.
“We are welcoming a part of history,” said Cécile DeLannes, a French-American who lives in Greenport.
A replica of the French Navy frigate that carried the Marquis de Lafayette to the aid of General George Washington in America in 1780, the Hermione is considered one of the most historically accurate reconstructions ever built. It launched for the first time this spring.
As the ship pulled in Monday, it fired its cannons, and the attendees replied with their own booming sound: applause.
The Tall Ships Committee and Greenport Village residents welcomed the ship and its crew with a ceremony soon after it landed — and fittingly, there was a healthy mix of French and English spoken, including a performance of both countries’ national anthems.
Greenport Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke said he is proud to host such a notable ship, especially since Greenport is the smallest port on the Hermione’s maiden voyage this summer.
“We don’t often get state dignitaries in Greenport, so this is a real honor,” he said. “It’s a Herculean effort for us because we’re only a village of 2,000 people.”
Mayor George Hubbard gave the town’s flag as a gift to L’Hermione’s captain, Yann Cariou. After hearing from local and French officials, Mr. Hubbard struck the opening bell to indicate the ship’s opening.
“It is a great honor for us to be here,” Captain Cariou said in his remarks. “It’s a big travel and a big adventure, and a reminder of our history.”
The ship is touring the East Coast to commemorate French involvement in the Revolutionary War and to honor Franco-American friendship, part of the legacy left by Lafayette’s original efforts in the U.S.
“Two centuries later, the French-American relationship is as strong as it was in Lafayette’s day,” said Bertrand Lorthoraly, consul general of France in New York, during the ceremony. “The fact that we all stand here by the replica of the very ship with which Lafayette crossed the Atlantic is proof of that.”
David Berson, the master of ceremonies and captain of the tour boat Glory, ended his remarks in French.
“Vivent la liberté, égalité, et fraternité!” he exclaimed, which translates to “Long live freedom, equality, and fraternity.”
Within 30 minutes, a large line stretched down the dock as hundreds of people filed through the ship, exploring its history and interacting with crewmembers.
Michelle Snizek of Manorville said she was struck by just how much rope — more than 15.5 miles’ worth — was in use on the ship.
“We’re amazed at how many ropes are used to operate this,” she said. “How would you even know what to do? It’s amazing.”
The ship has a crew of 78, one-third of which are women, according to Deborah Berger, coordinator for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America. Seventeen members of the crew are professional seamen, and the rest are volunteers.
Many, such as Victor Weber of La Rochelle, France, had never sailed before joining the Hermione and undergoing rigorous training.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Mr. Weber said.
The ship was designed and constructed to be as close to its ancestors as possible, Ms. Berger said.
More than 2,000 oak trees were sawed by hand to build the planks needed, and many of those miles of rope were dipped in tar “in the old-fashioned way,” she said.
Construction workers even recreated the forges that were used to make cannons back in the 1700s — then built functioning cannons with them.
To add to the atmosphere, Revolutionary War re-enactors set up in Mitchell Park and on the ship itself.
“We’re here to add a splash of color and a historical perspective,” said Frank Bradford, an actor aboard the Hermione, clad in a tricorne hat and a red coat.
The ship will be open to the public through Tuesday, after which it will make its way to Newport, R.I. and then Boston, Mass. as part of its tour.