September 24, 2013
TITUOAN, THE MOUSSE OR CABIN BOY, WILL PERIODICALLY SEND NEWS AND YARNS FROM THE FRIGATE HE KNOWS SO WELL…. ILLUSTRATIONS : © DIDIER GEORGET
TITUOAN ON BOARD L'HERMIONE. ILLUSTRATIONS : © DIDIER GEORGET
Hello from the Deck of the Frigate L’Hermione!
My name is Yann Cariou. I am a 30-year French Navy veteran, including seven years serving on board Tall Ships and three as the Captain of the magnificent Belem three-mast training vessel. The Hermione-Lafayette 2015 Association has given me the great honor of preparing and commanding the L’Hermione frigate on its inaugural 2015 voyage to the United States, retracing Lafayette’s route along the Eastern Seaboard and culminating in the victory at Yorktown in 1781.
So, to begin, I would like to tell you about my nautical ancestors – young cabin boys who served aboard the King’s Navy during the ancien régime. As defined in the Encyclopédie Méthodique Marine, 1786, amousse, or cabin boy, worked for the vessel’s petty officers, from which they learned everything to know about sailing a warship. In time, they will qualify as sailors, but only after completing their second official voyage.
I joined the Hermione-Lafayette 2015 Project Association in 2003 as an enthusiastic supporter, and then, in 2009, I was invited to become a member of its expert advisory council. Passionate as all our members are about the L’Hermione and its critical role in American history, I invite you to marvel at all the latest developments on board as L’Hermione “embarks” on its final stages of re-construction. (Insert hyper-link here to latest video showing time-elapsed installation of the masts? This short segment of the whole video is very evocative of the latest stages of progress.)
These mousses comprised an essential part of the crew, which could be as large as 250 on a frigate like the L’Hermione; for example, on a 12-pounder Concorde Class armed frigate like the L’Hermione – such vessels were classed according to the caliber weight of the cannon balls it fired, whose sizes ranged from 8 pounds round to as large as a 24 pounder – royal ordinances specified there had to be at least 22 cabin boys in place to help man the cannon crews. Above all, thesemousses learned to master all the skills of a wartime sailor. At their respective positions, there was a cabin boy at each cannon, four more to pass along gunpowder to each battle station, and another two to aid any of the wounded. The best among them – those who survived dangerous seas and vicious battles – would be promoted to “topmen”; ensconced high up on the masts, they were a dexterous elite perched amidst the highest spars and rigging.
On March 20, 1780, when L’Hermione embarked for America, with the Marquis de Lafayette on board, there were 37 mousses!
Commander of the L’Hermione