The iconic boat that carried colonists across the English Channel, and later served as the motorboat during the French Revolution, is due to return to its birthplace. The sailboat Oude Rechte, a gift to Spain from France, arrived Sunday at the port of Rotterdam. It will make its way through the English Channel, docking at Antwerp on the Latvian border on Thursday.
The journey could take nearly two weeks. On Friday, the boat will dock in Rouen, and there it will be ceremonially unveiled during a gathering to mark the 2,500th anniversary of France’s arrival in Britain. Several thousand people are expected to attend. On Oct. 12, the boat will head through the Channel and into Spain, where it will stay for a month.
Every year, thousands of people converge on the city of Bilbao in northern Spain to honor the boat as it crosses the Strait of Gibraltar. But Spanish officials say the official commemoration of the boat’s coming back home for the first time in 200 years will likely include officials from Britain, even though it will not be in Britain’s waters.
Though the boat’s name means “The Way of Longing,” it is not without irony: In 1788, it ferried colonists across the Channel to England, transporting 100 barrels of wine in each direction. After the revolutionary uprising, it was transformed into a motorboat that served the French Empire, including in Palestine and Egypt.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the return of the boat as a “source of pride” for France and Spain.
Officials from both countries have said that the boat’s return has struck a chord with their citizens, who are eager to once again behold the pomp and pageantry that came with this iconic historical symbol. The arrival in Britain comes less than a year after the wreckage of the HMS Hood, one of the vessels that carried French and English settlers across the Channel, was found off the coast of Normandy.
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