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Training vessel crew excited to be here

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At the helm: Commanding Officer Bert Gregoire aboard French schooner <I>Étoile</I>, which is in Bermuda until next Wednesday. It is her third visit to the island (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

For Commanding Officer Bert Gregoire bringing one of the French Navy’s most unique and historic training vessels into Bermuda was a rare privilege.

Just two other captains before him have stood at the helm of the magnificent Étoile and brought the schooner through Town Cut and into St George’s Harbour.

The ship entered Bermuda on Tuesday where she will remain until next Wednesday until the crew of 26 push on up the east coast of the United States towards Saint Pierre and Miquelon for the bicentennial anniversary of the return of the archipelago to France.

“Everyone was very excited to arrive in Bermuda,” the 39 year-old skipper said.

“This is the third time the Étoile has been in Bermuda so it is an honour for me to bring her to this beautiful island.

“Every sailor in the French Navy spends at least one day on this ship as part of their training so it is privilege for me to be commanding officer of the ship on such an important voyage and to represent France.”

Étoile and her crew set sail from Brest on March 20, stopping in the Canary Islands and Cape Verde before arriving in Bermuda and berthing at Penno’s Wharf. She is due to continue to New York, Boston and Halifax in Canada before heading to Saint Pierre and Miquelon for the bicentennial celebrations.

Commanding Officer Gregoire, who has been in the French Navy for 16 years, told The Royal Gazette that the crew had enjoyed a calm voyage after hitting storms just off the coast of Spain.

“We had some strong winds of about 40 knots and some high waves after we left France,” he said.

“We had to begin sailing with the engine to avoid the storms off Spain.

“Some of the crew were quite sick because of the bad weather, but it got easier as we travelled west.

“Everyone was very happy to see Bermuda after three weeks at sea. It is a beautiful place to see from the water.

“While here the crew will have a chance to relax and go out and enjoy the island, before we head towards America and continue our journey towards Saint Pierre and Miquelon. I would encourage everyone to come down and visit the ship and the crew while we are here.”

Residents and visitors can tour the ship today, Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 12pm and next Tuesday at the same time. The vessel will also be open to the public between 2pm and 5pm today and Sunday.

For more photographs, visit the image gallery here

French style: Étoile at Penno’s Wharf, St George (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Very happy to be here: Commanding Officer Bert Gregoire and Simon Badoules, weather forecaster, on board Étoile (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Getting prepared: Pierre Volant and Loic Le Bras load fresh foods for the crew of 26 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)