Cruising up the Helford River yesterday, past Durgan, we sighted a tall ship anchored up at the mouth of the Helford River, whilst on our Helford River Cruise.
Cruising past it we saw she was the French ship the Belem, a three -masted barque from Nantes in France . We wondered if it perhaps could be the Frenchman’s ship from Daphne du Maurier’s novel ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ waiting for the high tide to be able sail up the river!
In reality it is actually now a training sailing ship from Nantes, France. The Belem has had quite an exciting history narrowly escaping a volcano in 1902 in Martinique whilst shipping sugar from, coffee and cocoa from Brazil and the West Indies back to France. She also escaped unharmed during an earthquake at Yokohama harbour on the Pacific Ocean, which destroyed the harbour but she was able to continue has voyage, sailing the seven seas around the world via Panama and Suez Canals with owner beer baron Sir Albert Guinness (renamed Fantome II) and his daughters from 1922-1939 at the helm.
She’s been a private luxury yacht for 2nd Duke of Westminster and owned by a Venetian Count who named her after his dead son Giorgio Cini who used her has a training ship until 1965. She was re-rigged has a Barque in 1976 and returned to her home port as the Belem in January 1979 – flying the French flag after 65 years. She is now used as a sail training ship – or is is really the Frenchman’s Ship in Frenchman’s Creek in disguise?!