CASTINE, Maine — Mainers who trace their lineage back to France can be found in nearly every community in the state, but there will be few places in Maine next week as heavily infused with enthusiasm for French heritage as the local waterfront.
The replica tall ship Hermione, which set sail from France in April and is making its way north along the East Coast, is due to arrive in Castine on July 14, which is Bastille Day. The date is celebrated each year to mark the French Revolution, which resulted in the French monarchy being overthrown and a republic established in its place.
The 153-foot ship has an element of American patriotism, as well. It is a replica of the original Hermione, which carried the Marquis de Lafayette across the Atlantic in 1780. Lafayette, a volunteer French aristocrat who fought against the British alongside George Washington in the Battle of Brandywine, had returned to Europe in 1778 to ask the King of France, Louis XVI, to help the American rebels’ fight against the United Kingdom.
The French king gave his assent and sent Lafayette, then only 22 years old, back across the Atlantic on Hermione to inform American leadership of France’s support.
The replica ship is making a dozen stops along the East Coast, including one Canadian stop at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, before it sails back to France. Its first North American stop was in early June in Yorktown, Virginia. Since then, it has docked in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, among other ports. It is scheduled to stop in Boston this coming weekend.
To help commemorate Lafayette’s voyage, two barrels of Hennessy cognac were brought as part of the cargo on the trans-Atlantic crossing.
In Castine, a parade of pre-registered boats is scheduled to begin in Penobscot Bay at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, to escort Hermione into the local harbor. The ship is expected to tie up to the local town dock around 4 p.m. Tickets to visit the ship’s top deck on Wednesday, July 15, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
An exhibit about the original Hermione, which after transporting Lafayette across the ocean in 1780 was sent to spy on a British garrison at Castine, is on display at The Castine Historical Society at 17 School Street.
Other events, such as walking tours, revolutionary war re-enactments, traditional music and a Bastille Day parade, are among some of the local events scheduled from July 11 to 15 to mark the Hermione’s visit. For more information on local events, visit castinehistoricalsocietyhermione.org.
More information about the replica ship and voyage can be found online at hermione2015.com.