Sailing Through History

With summer 2024 underway, the crew is readying the Belem, a 19th-century French three-masted tall ship, for remarkable expeditions ranging from explorations along France's shores to transatlantic crossings. Twin John Deere 13.5L engines, the ship's steadfast support for over a decade, guarantee stability at sea and smooth docking amid bustling harbors along the way.

A Decade of Reliable Power

Powering the Belem are three sails and twin John Deere 13.5L marine engines. Supplied by NPS Driven S.A.S, the John Deere Power Systems engine distributor for France, these engines have logged approximately 10,000 hours since their installation in 2013. They have delivered a significant increase in cruising speed and improved stability at sea while enhancing maneuverability and precision during docking.

"The twin 13.5L engines have reliably powered the Belem for more than a decade, and have offered impressive capacity," says Lester Frank of ship management company V.Ships France, superintendent on the Belem. "Navigating busy harbors and docking can be a challenge for tall ships, but these engines make maneuvering in tight spaces more precise and efficient. This is reassuring considering the many harbor visits we have planned this season."

Preparation and Restoration

In preparation for its busy 2024 schedule, the Belem underwent a successful docking practice in October 2023. Additionally, an extensive restoration from January to April 2023 involved the replacement of a 25-ton section of its hull. Despite the absence of original plans, innovative 3D scanning technology facilitated meticulous reconstruction, blending heritage preservation with modern techniques.

The Belem maintenance team also seized the opportunity to do a complete overhaul of both engines. NPS Driven supervised rigorous engine tests to ensure that the engines would continue to meet the stringent operational standards set by John Deere. The tests included stop-and-start procedures and performance evaluations.

A few weeks later, the engines were tested at sea off the coast of Saint-Nazaire. An NPS Driven technician spent an entire day aboard to oversee the sea trial.

"This gave us the opportunity to validate the quality of periodic maintenance operations and the performance of the propulsion engines," says Fabien Rodier, director of NPS Driven S.A.S. "Our team has extensive experience in marine operations."

Frank appreciates the enduring relationship cultivated over more than a decade.

"Throughout the years, NPS Driven has consistently delivered exceptional service, from engine selection and integration to ongoing maintenance support," he says. "Their dedication and collaboration with our technical teams have been instrumental in ensuring the seamless operation of our engines."

Beyond Boundaries

The Belem's 2024 itinerary blends adventure, exploration, and excitement for the crew of 16 sailors.

After crossing the Mediterranean to Greece via Sardinia and Sicily, the Belem returned to France and made a historic stopover in Marseille on May 8, 2024. Currently, the ship is sailing around Spain and Portugal, passing through the Balearic Islands and the Straits of Gibraltar.

It will take part in French nautical events: the La Rochelle Maritime Festival, Bordeaux Fête le Vin, Brest 2024, and the Douarnenez Maritime Festival. At the end of the summer, the Belem will sail around Ireland and make stops in Scotland and England. As autumn approaches, the ship will return to the coasts of Normandy and Brittany before finishing its voyage in La Rochelle from October 18 to 20.

It's a fitting journey for this iconic tall ship, which remains a symbol of resilience and endurance reflecting the timeless allure of adventure on the high seas.

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