More than 120 years-old, and yet she shows few signs of ageing, quite the opposite! She is one of the few ships built in the 19th century (1896) that still navigates the high seas.
The Belem is a bit like a cat, in that she has had more than one life! As a merchant ship carrying beans, rum and sugar from distant ports in Brazil, Guyana and the Antilles, she miraculously escaped being burnt during the eruption of the Mount Pelée volcano on Martinique, before being sold to the Duke of Westminster who turned her into a private yacht. She was then bought by Lord Guinness in 1921, before eventually becoming a training ship for sailor’s orphans and officer cadets in the merchant navy.
It was only in 1979, at the initiative of the French Caisse d’Epargne bank, that this exceptional three-mast vessel returned under the French flag, to regain its original name and be classified as an historical monument.
She then began yet another life, as a museum-ship and training-ship! A dual activity, with which the people of Bordeaux are familiar, thanks to regular appearances alongside the city’s quays, where she always receives an enthusiastic welcome.
How to recognize her
She has fake scuttles, that is to say openings for guns, cleverly painted on the hull so as to deter pirates and privateers!
Did you know that...
The name Belem refers to the trading port in Brazil to which she made regular trips when she was a merchant ship. She was also known as the “Petit Antillais” due to her numerous commercial voyages between the Caribbean and France, transporting cocoa beans for Meunier chocolate, among other commodities.