Joshua et Sir Robin Knox-Johnson

"To keep alive and active our maritime heritage"

On Dec 31st 1985, the France 1 (and its sister ship France 2) came out of service as a floating meteorological station in mid Atlantic, made redundant by the development of satellite technology. She returned to her home port of La Rochelle to be broken up. However, a group of campaigners persuaded the municipality to buy her as the basis of a new Maritime Museum, and thus was born the Association of Friends of the Musee Maritime de la Rochelle (MMLR).

Formed in 1986, the Friends have worked to gather together a collection of boats to keep the maritime heritage of la Rochelle alive: joining the France 1 afloat in the inner basin of the beautiful old port are the trawler Angoumois, the tug St Gilles and the famous Joshua in which Bernard Moitessier sailed around the world in 1968/69. (1) Cousteau's Calypso was there for several years and owners of classic yachts are encouraged to moor, under the flag of the MMLR, on the pontoons adjacent to the museum: there traditional skills of repair and maintenance are encouraged, as well as taking part in races and other outings at sea. The historic slipway has been restored to working order and is open for business since the St Gilles was launched from it in 2009 after extensive repairs.

In addition, a group of Friends work to restore their collection of dinghies, including a Firefly designed by our own Uffa Fox in Cowes - a class in which many British university teams competed in the 1960s.

The MMLR was set up in 1988 and its Director to this day is Patrick Schnepp, who campaigned to save the France 1 in 1985. The emphasis of the museum is on keeping the knowledge and skills alive (and afloat!): each year on the heritage days in September, local people who made their living on these (and other) vessels are invited to share their experiences with younger generations in an event known as "Alors Raconte!". The Friends play an important role in bringing together the volunteer helpers for this event and for the repair and maintenance of the Joshua and the fleet of dinghies; they also assist in the exchange of information and expertise with a library and regular meetings with guest speakers. With a programme of outings, workshops and two groups meeting regularly to sing sea shanties (ie: chanter!), the Friends support the museum in its stated aim of keeping the maritime memory active. (2)

Antonia Benett

  1. The Sunday Times Round the World race won by Robin Knox-Johnston which Moitessier chose not to complete, preferring to sail on round the Cape of Good Hope again to finish at Tahiti after 10 months at sea.

  2. Published in St Hilda's College, University of Oxford Report and Chronicle 2009-2010 p. 65

The site is now in French, you will find further information concerning the AAMMLR activities : painting, singing, restauring dinghies, library, lectures, trips and so on... As far as the maritime heritage is concerned you can check web links about the French maritime memory but also maritime museum around the world, our dinghy collection ("inventaire" in French) and seafoods recipes as well... To contect the webmaster :