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belem’s history

1979. Return to France.

In 1977, a Venetian surgeon, Renato Gambier, told his French friend, the doctor Luc-Olivier Gosse, that the Giorgio-Cini is for sale.

Mr Gosse, a lover of the things of the sea, had discovered the boat during holidays in Venice in 1970. He asked and obtained the permisssion of the Foundation Cini to visit the beautiful boat of the island San Giorgo:

I ignored everything of the Giorgio Cini, also, which was not my emotion when I discovered on the bulk head a coppered frame round as a porthole, protecting a painting executed straight on the panel. The drawing, a bit naive, represented a three-master boat. In its top a name: Belem, in its bottom another name: Nantes. I was on board of one of the last ocean-going sailboats of the ancient French merchant navy.”

At the sale news, Luc-Olivier Gosse called the Association pour la Sauvegarde et la Conservation des Anciens Navires Français created by Jean-Pierre Debbane, Jean Randier and Bernard Tarazzi at once.

On October 30th, 1977, a delegation of the association came to visit the Giorgio-Cini in the arsenal of Venice and to meet the director of the shipyard, Antonio Marceglia. The selling price, 5 million francs, discouraged a little the members of the French delegation, but at their return, they began to search financing. The Ministry of Defence promised a grant as well as the Ministry of Transport and the Secrétariat général à la Marine marchande. It was far from being enough. An appeal for donations was launched to the general public. It was without results.

At the same time, a Venetian association was founded with the aim of buying back the Giorgio-Cini which is henceforth a part of the landscape of the laguna. It was a serious competition for the Frenchmen, especially since an Italian bank declared itself ready to finance the project.

It was only in 1979, the so awaited patron made his appearance : the Union Nationale des Caisses d’Épargne and two men, Jérôme Pichard, the delegate general of the Union, and Mr. de Maulde, the director of Treasury.

On January 27th, 1979, Jérôme Pichard, Luc-Olivier Gosse, Jean-Pierre Debbane and the engineer Kerlerent went to the shipyard in Venice. A long negotiation began with Antonio Marceglia at the conclusion of which the price was lowered by 500 000 francs. So, the Giorgio-Cini is sold for 4,5 million francs.

A mission of the French Navy and the Direction des Constructions et Armes navales (DCAN) examined the state of the boat. Some additional work on the hull was asked to the shipyard and the name of the boat is changed, from the Giorgio Cini, to the Belem of Nantes once again.

On August 15th, 1979, she was put back in sea to the Navy’s tugboat, the Actif, under the command of Captain Nivault, which is going to escort her to Toulon.

Le remorquage du Belem.

Ten days later, she entered the port of Toulon.

On September 5th, the deep sea tugboat the Éléphant took care of her and lead her to Brest. On September 17th, joined at the Pointe Saint Mathieu by the schooners of the Navy, the Étoile and the Belle-Poule, the cutter the Mutin and the launch of the maritime admiral-prefect of Brest, the Belem went triumphantly into the natural harbour.


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