If the success of the Belem stand at the Paris Boat Show in December is anything to go by, it will be a hugely popular three master that will take to the sea in March. Public attention, sympathy and support are a very gratifying response to the effort and care put into the upkeep, maintenance and promotion of a ship that deserves it all, but this response also means keeping one of the oldest vessels still sailing up to the best standards of quality and security.
So this year, the Belem Foundation took on yet another major challenge: replacing Belem’s two existing Fiat Iveco engines with brand new ones. While the ship was in dry dock in Saint Nazaire, the old engines were taken out and replaced by two new ones, bought from the world renowned John Deere company. Better security, but also less petrol consumption and therefore an even better respect of modern environmental standards (including the noise!). The first challenge was finding the 200.000€ needed to buy the engines: an appeal to the Friends of the Belem Club met with an immediate response which greatly helped in putting together the necessary amount. Another challenge was the technical finesse needed to successfully dismount, haul out and replace two great big engines on a venerable ship now well into her 117th year… But the joint efforts of the captain, the ship engineer, some of the crew and the technicians from the Eiffel Marine Dockyards made for a totally successful operation.
Then Belem was taken through the rest of her yearly makeover including repainting part of the rigging, maintenance on the steel hull, and a lot of work by the ship’s carpenter. She is now out of dry dock and is being prepared for her annual spring stopover in Nantes but also for a pre-season trip in mid-March to Bordeaux where she is, well, starring in the inauguration of the new Chaban Delmas Bridge over the Gironde – so much so that the event will be immortalized by a postage stamp showing Belem sailing under the new bridge… Talk of being popular!
All this is in the near future but a great project for the Spring of 2014 is now looming on the horizon: at the invitation of the Mayor of Venice, the city of Canaletto and Guardi will be welcoming the arrival of Belem. A very special welcome to a very special ship: for 28 years, from 1951 to 1979, the Belem sailed under Italian colours and under the name of Giorgio Cini, when she belonged to the Cini Foundation based on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore… in Venice. Another great episode in the Belem saga to look forward to!