I am always entranced by a boat under sail. It reminds me of how far we’ve come and sometimes of what we’ve lost in the art of boating. The beauty of those vessels belies the toil that took place on and below their decks to keep them running, the hard-boiled disposition of the men who sailed them with no safety gear, no electronics, no hope of rescue if things went awry.
A replica of the historic French frigate Hermione (air-mee-own) is closing out her American tour of ports along the U.S. East Coast. Today she marks Bastille Day (the French Fourth of July, if you will) in Castine, Maine. She travels next to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
In 1780, Louis XVI sent the Marquis de Lafayette across the Atlantic aboard Hermione to announce the commitment of the French fleets in assisting our fledgling military to victory against what was then the world’s most robust naval force.
“Our Marquis,” as he was known, played a pivotal role in securing American independence from England. Against the wishes of his own French government, the marquis, just 19 in 1777, secretly sailed to our shores and volunteered to help President Washington defeat the British navy. He returned home the next year and dedicated himself to lobbying on behalf of the American cause.
Lafayette returned to these shores with great fanfare, as does the replica of the ship today. It may serve as a reminder that even the toughest and most munitioned enemy may be defeated with the right allies.
Fishing photographer Jay Fleming captured her glory in Chesapeake Bay among modern-day fishing boats and passing under the ultramodern Bay Bridge. She may not be a fishing boat, but I believe she serves as a reminder that times weren’t necessarily simpler back then. They were just different.
But the spirit of fishing industry was founded in the same spirit that Lafayette had in striking out on his own and following his own passion. I know plenty of fishermen who would say they’d rather risk their own lives at sea so long as it was up to them to make their own way and create their own livelihood.
The country our founders fought so hard to establish nearly 250 years ago was once the most magnificent blend of independence, innovation and foresight. I hope we will continue to foster our historic industry with those founding principals. The boats and crews may be different, but the drive is the same — to be free to make our own way in the world without the oversight of a distant and disconnected sovereign.