Tall Ship Experience


History of JDL

In December 2017 Jean de la Lune (JDL) was added to the list of Historic Vessels in the UK. She was built in 1957 in Brittany as a fishing ship, one of the last French wooden Sailing Fishing Vessels without an engine, in Lorient and worked out of Douarnenez. She is constructed out of oak planks on an oak frame, and her graceful fine lines reflect those of a traditional French sailing vessel. JDL was originally designed for sail and subsequently she was fitted with an engine as motors generally displaced sails in response to the economic demands of the commercial environment.

When her career as a fishing vessel ended in the mid 1970s, she was sold and converted by her new owners once again into a sailing vessel. The JDL was then taken to Colchester where her owners spent eight years stripping her down to the bare hull and rebuilding her as a Brigantine with accommodation for 16 people.

In 1983 JDL started work as a charter vessel, primarily taking scuba divers around the Scottish Western Isles and becoming a familiar sight around the coast of St Kilda in particular. The winter of 1985 saw her depart for the Caribbean and the following year undertake a three month spell with Operation Raleigh.

On her return the Scottish Isles in early 1990, JDL was once again registered as a Sail Training Ship members of Sail Training International. Sail training vessel means a sailing vessel which, at the time, is being used either:
a) to provide instruction in the principles of responsibility, resourcefulness, loyalty and team endeavour and to advance education in the art of seamanship; or
b) to provide instruction in navigation and seamanship for yachtsmen;

JDL takes on board adults and children of all ages. Everybody is welcome! JDL is a sail training vessel and this means that all persons on board are assigned to watches and participate in sail training programme. No previous sailing experience is needed and our professional and knowledgeable crew will provide all necessary training so you can just enjoy!

JDL is built to reflect the original lines of a traditional sailing vessel and fitted as a Brigantine so she is sleek, quick and manoeuvrable. Brigantines were the preferred type of a ship for all Pirates for their speed to make a quick escape.

The Refurbishment

In 2012 Joanna Whittaker went to see the ship Jean de la Lune for the first time in Prince Albert Dock in Leith, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

“When I met Jean de la Lune for the first time in Leith, where she was berthed for over 12 long years, she was in a sorry state. She was covered in green moss after years of rain and Scottish weather. I instantly fell in love with her and decided to rescue her and bring her back to her former glory.”

“Some say that it is the ship who choses her owners – I felt it exactly this way. At the time I didn’t know anything about buying or maintaining, then a nearly 60-year-old wooden ship. After a year of going back and forth to Edinburgh with various people including surveyors, engineers, a designer and many more I managed to have her properly checked, surveyed, and taken out of the water for a good look over her hull and shaft. I also went up on the yards and had both masts checked. Not all was as I liked it and lots and lots had to be replaced immediately to ensure the safety of the ship.”

However the ship was calling back and the story started to unfold. We were like newly-weds and more people started to get engaged in the process. Finally a date was set for 1st April 2014. A group of 8 volunteers arrived in Edinburgh, plus two children of 4 and 6, who after three weeks of urgent repairs and major cleaning job undertook the maiden voyage across the North Sea to Polish shipyard in Władysławowo where major repairs were to take place. All was to change. The ship was stripped to the bare timbers, heavy waxed sails were replaced with new light-weight racing sails and every last rope was changed to a new one delivered straight from Masters Ropemakers in Chatham on the Thames Estuary. We have already replaced all three yards, bowsprit, caulked the deck the traditional way with new hemp ropes and tar. The ship was also taken out of the water where the hull was repaired and covered with new antifouling solution. A new shade of Old Wine Red was chosen to cover the timbers above the water. All of the improvements remained true to the spirit of traditional wooden sailing vessel.

The journey then took us, the new crew, to Copenhagen where new generator was fitted and down the Kiel Canal back to England, then across Biscay to Portugal and Spain. In Gibraltar we had the most unexpected warm welcome where our friends from the Port Authority organised an Open Day with nearly 600 visitors who queued on the pontoon to come aboard and see the ship. With whales on both sides we sailed into the Ocean from Gibraltar along the African coast all the way to the Canary Islands where the ship was supposed to dry in the winter sun ready for more oiling and painting to preserve the wood. This is where we fell in love with the islands, each of them offering completely different experience to the ship and the crew.

In the Spring we sailed back North once again via Gibraltar to our homeland in the UK, visited Dublin and the Irish coast, then with a boat full of trainees we went across the English Channel to Amsterdam, Kiel at the time of the world famous Kieler Woche, via Germany to the Baltic Sail annual events. Each time the ship was given a huge warm welcome.  In Gdansk we took for short sailing trips over 200 guests including children and seniors, most of whom were on board a real tall ship for the first time in their life. These events were immensely exciting both for our three-year-old daughter and our dog who accompanied each sailing.

For the winter we sailed back to sunny Tenerife where a cosy berth was waiting with our friends in Marina San Miguel. As the ship’s schedule was set for the winter we’ve visited all of the Canarian Isles before departing to Madeira for the summer.

As our family grew and gained new experience, both in life and in sailing, after three full years at sea and well over 15 000 Nmiles in our log books, the decision was made to take a well deserved rest from non-stop sailing. Our daughter went to a local school and made long term friends. The ship has also been given a new life by our chef who created an amazing 12 courses tasting menu, taking our guests on a culinary journey Around the World  inspired by the ship’s 61 years of sailing. The Spanish Authorities registered Jean de la Lune as a Restaurant giving their seal of approval and a beautiful shiny certificate which we display with pride.

Friendly local carpenter re-moddeled all cabins giving them comfortable double beds and new floors throughout. Today there is comfortable accommodation for 20 guests on board in 7 cabins: one family en-suite apartment for 5 guests,  5 cabins with new double beds and a single bunk above and one spacious cabin which can sleep four.

Whether you are a passionate sailor loving the smell of old whisky soaked oak beams or a dreamer who wants to spend a night under white sails above, you are invited to drink champagne at sunset and eat sun ripened local strawberries for breakfast, whilst watching fluffy clouds passing slowly above the majestic top of El Teide volcano towering above the green golf fields in the distance.  Celebrate your birthday or an anniversary on board Jean de la Lune, the ship with a history and many tales to share.

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