The three masted barque Belem is the last 19th century French trading ship still under sail.
The Belem was built at Chantenay sur Loire, near Nantes and put to sea in 1896. As a merchant vessel she crossed the Atlantic 33 times from 1896 to 1913. In those days, her single deck covered 153 square metres of hold containing up to 650 tons of goods and merchandise, mainly cocoa from Brazil, rum and sugar from the French West Indies. The only structure built on deck was the galley.
In 1914 the Belem was sold to the Duke of Westminster, turned into a private yacht, refurbished and fitted with engines. The changes made to the Belem throughout her life, first as a merchant ship, then a yacht and finally as a training ship, never really altered her basic appearance. She looks today much as she did when she was first built. The option taken by the Belem Foundation when it had the ship restored in the early Eighties was to respect the modifications made in the successive episodes of her exceptional career.
Source: Fondation Belem
© Andrew Blackmore Photography