The French Schooner Étoile in Kirkwall

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The French Navy Schooner Étoile; (15th of her name), berthed in Kirkwall harbour and welcomed the public on board over two days. The Orkney News were delighted to pop along and have a wee look.

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Since her launch on the 8th February 1932 the Étoile (Star) and her sister ship the Belle Poule, (4th of her name) have taken part in the training of Naval officers. These two schooners were specially commissioned in 1931 for this purpose and were built at the shipyard of Normandy in Féncamp; where their design was based on the challenging conditions expected during navigation in the Iroise sea. Both schooners participated in the second world war for the Free French Forces for which they are still honoured through the flying of The French Flag which encompasses The Cross of Lorraine.

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The mission of these boats is to supply basic seamanship along with education in both life on the sea and the responsibilities that come with it. The trainees hone their navigation skills using the very best of  navigational equipment, magnetic compass, both traditional and electronic charts, radar, Global Positioning System (GPS), Automatic Identification System (AIS), and Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), all skills which shall be essential to a life at sea.

The crew consists of 1 Officer, Lt Levrel (Captain), 10 Officer Mariners, 10 Petty Officers, 5 Seamen, plus 12 students per week and 25 per day.

The schooner herself is; Overall Length 37.50m, Length 32.45m, Waterline 25.30m, Beam 7.40m, Draught 3.65m and Masthead Height 32.50m, with an entirety of 450m² of sails. The vessel was constructed entirely in oak and covered in copper below the waterline.

We caught up with Mr Hugo (Boatswain)

Weather permitting the Étoile hopes to set sail today, when she shall be heading for Reykjavik capital of Iceland.

Reporter Helen Armet and photographer/ videographer Kenny Armet.


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