Lafayette’s HERMIONE VOYAGE 2015

Paula Rychtar-- MWL Editorial Supervisor


Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette

It is with great enthusiasm that I write this article for the Mariners Weather Log and share this extraordinary opportunity, inviting our readers, to be a part of history. It is not very often that such a historical event can be recreated in such a way that it will forever touch so many lives and offer unequaled opportunity for engagement and hands on participation. I am referring to a handcrafted replica of the HERMIONE, the 18th century frigate that brought the young Marquis de Lafayette with French troops back to General Washington. The HERMIONE Voyage 2015 will replicate the route of a historic voyage that in 1780 changed the course in our quest for independence and re-affirming the historic relationship between the United States and France.

Twenty years ago a small group of visionaries met, under the leadership of Rochefort’s then Mayor Jean-Louis Frot, and imagined reconstructing an exact replica of the Hermione, the French frigate that returned Lafayette to General Washington, pledging full French support for America’s cause. With a unanimous vote of the municipal council and the creation of the Association Hermione-La Fayette, work began…The conception of this undertaking for those without vision was seemingly insurmountable; but today shows proof that the words and guiding spirit of Lafayette still ring true, nothing is ever impossible; “Cur non? “ (Why not?)


Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette

Not only does the project reaffirm a deep and long friendship between the United States and France, it also acknowledges the continued commitment that our two countries have with one another. Our First President of the United States of America, President George Washington, gave these words, “The alliance and friendship between the two countries will be established in such a way as will last forever.”


Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette


Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette


Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette

The HERMIONE voyage will offer a full program of educational initiatives. One of the initiatives is to provide a vehicle for the students, crew, historians and scientists to be fully engaged in the environmental data collection processes; meteorology, oceanography and climatology. In fact, one of the core lesson plans for participants is obtaining a predefined level of knowledge in these areas in order to be awarded a “Weather Badge”. In early January, I was initially contacted by Catherine Marzin, an ecologist from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Catherine was given my name by one of my colleagues, Scott Woodruff (NOAA/OAR), who is familiar with the U.S. Voluntary Observing Ship Program (VOS) that I co-manage alongside with Steven Pritchett. Catherine explained that there was an initiative towards placing instrumentation on the HERMIONE so that during their voyage, the students and scientists would be able to collect environmental data; meteorology and oceanography. This hands on “whole concept” methodology of learning will demonstrate how environmental data and the ability to analyze the data is essential to the successful planning and sailing of the vessel as well as safety at sea.

The students will learn how the collection of water temperature and salinity is instrumental in our working knowledge and continued analysis on the health and well being of our planet. Students will also be releasing drifting buoys to study ocean currents. Instruction will be offered on how and why there is a need to provide proper marine weather observations, placing the data into a software program called TurboWin (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, KMI) and then transmit this data real-time into the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) for ingesting into forecast models; transforming raw data into useable forecasts and analysis. Students will be comparing the modern day procedures of data gathering with the historical methods used and documented in the logbooks of the original HERMIONE voyage. Meteorological history will most certainly be discussed and evaluated. Coming in the midst of the American Revolutionary War, the hurricanes of 1780 caused heavy losses to European fleets fighting for control of the New World’s Atlantic coast. A fleet of 40 French ships capsized off Martinique during the Great Hurricane, drowning approximately 4,000 soldiers. On St. Lucia, rough waves and a strong storm surge destroyed the British Fleet of Admiral Rodney at Port Castries. Much of the British fleet was decimated by the three storms, and the English presence in the western North Atlantic was greatly reduced thereafter.1

NOAA’s National Weather Service’s VOS program is an international program comprising member countries of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that recruit ships to take, record and transmit weather observations while at sea. The VOS Program is a core observing program within the Ship Observations Team (SOT) in the Observations Program Area of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) and Météo France is part of this international organization. I contacted my colleagues at Météo France, Jean-Baptiste Cohuet (VOS Focal Point for Météo France) and Pierre Blouch (E-SURFMAR Operational Service Manager, Météo France) to establish a direct contact between Météo France and Marc Jensen, Director of Maritime Operations, Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America to build a bridge for successful project planning.

Mark Jensen

Photo: Courtesy of Mark Jensen

You can Blog Marc and be a part of this project! You are invited aboard the HERMIONE: Marc Jensen’s Log Notes, here you can read his posts and share in this event. You will be able to not only ask questions, but you will get continuous updates on all things HERMIONE!

With the coordinated efforts between Météo France and Marc, Jean-Baptiste and Pierre Blouch were able to fully support this project. Marc Jensen is planning 4 webinars during the crossing from France to the United States. One of which is a webinar on Environment and Climate. The webinar for Environment and Climate will take place during the L’HERMIONE crossing from Rochefort, France to Yorktown, VA. The crew will be releasing 5 of the 10 drifters (data buoys) that are being provided by JCOMM (Joint Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology) thanks to the request made by Pierre Blouch [The other 5 will be released during the return trip]. The drifters will be managed in coordination with DBCP (Data Buoy Cooperation Panel). Jean-Baptiste gladly supported this project and equips L’HERMIONE with the necessary software and meteorological measuring devices to allow this program to take place.

In addition, along the route the crew will be taking water samples to measure levels of dissolved plastics in the ocean’s surface waters and upload daily weather data; humidity, temperature, wind speed/direction, barometric pressure, etc…

The goal of the program is to engage students on both shores of the Atlantic to tune into the ship’s voyage and learn about maritime meteorology, the condition of the health of our oceans, and how to be better stewards of this precious resource. To engage students 12-18 years of age, they will be invited to join a webinar that will be held on Earth Day, April 22nd; activities will be explained and the students will be afforded the opportunity to ask the experts, both aboard and ashore, about what can be expected to be learned from the data and the voyage.

Hermione Voyage Map

Track the HERMIONE in REAL TIME! Go to:

In April 2015, after all the sea trials and training that was done in 2014, the HERMIONE will set sail for the USA. The Journey will start from the mouth of the River Charente, in Port des Barques, where Lafayette boarded on March 10th, 1780. The transatlantic crossing is expected to take 27 days, before making landfall at Yorktown, Virginia.

As the HERMIONE moves up the Eastern seaboard, it will be accompanied by a range of pier side activities. These include (in some ports) a traveling exhibition and a heritage village that will be accessible to the public. HERMIONE Voyage 2015 is part of an expansive outreach program with cultural events, exhibitions and educational programs that celebrate the trip and mark its progress. A robust digital activation for the voyage expands the reach of the project to millions of people. To get the APP, go to:

Hermione Itenerary

The dedication to this project is not only to the members of the Association Hermione - Lafayette, INC. but it extends to the many volunteers who have worked so hard training and learning how to sail a tall ship. The all voluntary 72 member crew (one-third women) whose average age is 27, and most of who gave up their “real life” to become steeped in the history of the vessel that changed the course of America’s war of independence. The crew has been training under the Captain Yann Cariou, a 30- year veteran of the French Navy and his second in command, Charlene Giquel, 29, a former Navy Lieutenant over the past year. Training consists of old world sailing practices, one of which includes climbing the rigging to maneuver the yards and sails by hand. Marc Jensen, remarks “One quickly takes on the rhythm of ship-life, working 4 hours, on call for the next 4 and then resting for 4 before starting again. The work is hard and often draining, but the friendships developing will last a lifetime. The 21 sailors who are on watch at any given time learn to trust one another and watch out for each other in a remarkably deep way. They are your family.” There are so many facets to this story that one article for the HERMIONE just won’t be possible. I could write an entire article on just the construction of this tall ship. Many challenges that were faced in the ambition to reconstruct the original frigate more than 200 ft long, carrying three masts and a sail surface of 16,000 square ft, with a hull entirely make of oak…all this as authentically as possible, while having to take into account modern statutory constraints concerning seaworthiness. For a time lapse of the entire effort, you can go to these links below:

I want to thank Deborah Berger, Coordinator and PR Consultant for the Friends of HermioneLafayette in America. She and a host of people under her charge gave me permission to use their photographs and press releases, and the information contained in them in the efforts of producing this and future articles. There will be future articles! We will follow their journey and provide you with more photographs while the HERMIONE is at sea and visiting their port of calls. The continued energy towards outreach and education will be cataloged and I look forward to their submissions for the next issue of the Mariners Weather Log in August.

The crew of the Hermione

Photo: Courtesy of Association Hermione-La Fayette- Crew of the HERMIONE

For more information concerning HERMIONE'S upcoming voyage and itinerary of ports of call, please visit:

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