LE DON DU VENT, A STORY FROM MARSEILLE
Le Don du Vent was born in post-war Germany.
Yet it was among the travellers and gentle dreamers of the Mediterranean that it found́ its raison d'être.
Here is its singular story.
1940-1945: THE BIRTH OF A WARSHIP
Europe was at war. Germany needed ships to dominate the seas against the Allied forces.
In 1941, the Third Reich Navy ordered the construction of several hundred cutters suitable for both fishing and combat: the Kriegsfischkutter, or KFK.
The order was won by Ernst Burmester, the owner of a large shipyard in northern Germany. Work began in 1942 at Swinemünde, a Baltic Sea port in what is now Poland, based on plans supplied by the army.
The Don du Vent (a far cry from her name at the time!) was one of 400 Kriegsfischkutters built at the yard.
1945-1954: FISHING AND YACHTING IN THE NORTH SEA
During the final months of the war, the port of Swinemünde was bombed by Red Army aircraft. A few KFKs escaped destruction and were transported to Bremerhaven on the North Sea.
In 1947, Ernst Burmester, the shipyard owner responsible for the KFKs, set up a fishing company with the ten or so vessels he still had. Number 8 in this series was the Nordstrand, which was to become the Don du Vent. This boat came out of the yard too late to take part in the war, so it was the very first time it sailed.
A few years later, the progress of German reconstruction led to the emergence of a demand for pleasure boats. Burmeister transformed his fishing boats into luxury yachts and made them available to wealthy Germans.
Although they had been designed for war, the KFKs proved to be very well suited to pleasure boating, due to their soliditý and great seaworthinesś.
1954 - 1957: A NEW NAME, A NEW DESTINY
In 1954, the Nordstrand was bought by Friedrich Wilhelm Sellschopp and his wife Ursula, a wealthy couple from Lübeck.
The new owners renamed her Fatima, after the Queen of Libya.
They intended to use the ship for cruises and charters in the Baltic Sea. But weak demand and poor weather conditions led them to consider a new activity in the Mediterranean.
IN 1957, THE FATIMA LEFT GERMANY BOUND FOR CANNES.
The crossing was a difficult one, with a violent storm in the Bay of Biscay forcing a stopover in Toulon to patch up a few breaches.
However, the ship made it safely to port and moored at the Quai Laubeuf in Cannes' old port.
The Sellschopps entrusted its operation to a charter agency: the famous Glémot company.
THE 1960S-70S: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE FATIMA
By a happy coincidence, the wife of the captain of the Fatima happened to be a concierge at the Hôtel Majestic, a popular holiday destination for the stars who were frequenting the Riviera at the time. Many illustrious passengers boarded the ship, including Charles Chaplin, Cary Grant, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton on their honeymoon in Europe, as well as Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, Juliette Greco and Aristotle Onassis.
The American composer Frederick Loewe (who wrote the arias for My Fair Lady) often spent several months a year on board. He says he appreciates "all the German comforts" offered by the boat. To combine business with pleasure, he had a grand piano installed on deck and composed facing out to sea.
In July 1965, the American magazine TIME-LIFE published a report on the Fatima, showing Loewe and his guests enjoying a beautiful Mediterranean day. In March 1971, LUI magazine took up the subject, reporting that "...on the Fatima, the menus are varied, the food simple but very good".
However, the ship required constant maintenance. Lorries often arrive from Germany with loads of spare parts, ropes and furniture to keep the Fatima elegant and seaworthy. This maintenance was complex and costly: from the mid-1970s onwards, the Sellschopp family stopped looking after her and the condition of the ship deteriorated rapidly.
THE 1980S: A RENAISSANCE IN MARSEILLES
In 1979, Philippe and Margo Derain, a couple from Marseilles with a passion for old sailing ships, bought the Fatima and set about restoring it. At the time, the boat was in very poor condition.
To simplify the work, the couple decided to keep only the original steel structure. The rest (deck, superstructure, rigging, etc.) was the subject of extremely long and meticulous work based on plans drawn by Philippe Derain. The work lasted no less than thirteen years!
In 1992, the ship, renamed le Don du Vent and moored in the Old Port of Marseille, was finally ready to set sail again. Its new vocation was to showcase the splendours of the Mediterranean to passengers, companies, film crews and others. It criss-crosses the coasts around Marseille, from the calanques to Corsica, during both the good and bad seasons.
Le Don du Vent has become an integral part of life in Marseille: in 1999, the city of Marseille chartered the Don du Vent to celebrate the city's 2600th anniversary, in 2000 it was the Don du Vent that was chosen by the Red Cross for the "Mediterranean - a boat for Peace" operation, in 2007 the yacht became of Heritage interest and in 2013 it was on board that the closing ceremony for Marseille's year as European Capital of Culture MP2013 was celebrated.
SINCE 2020 : A NEW SPIRIT, BETWEEN DEMANDING STANDARDS AND HEDONISM
In 2020, Philippe and Margo handed over Le Don du Vent to new owners who loved the sea: Fanny and Benoît Bouchet.
Fanny is a painter from the Côte Bleue. Benoît, who was born in Martigues, became a captain in 2009 after training as a mechanic, and is passionate about the elegance and power of the ship.
While their project is a continuation of that of the Derains, it is imbued with a new dynamism and a desire to make the Don a place to live and meet people. For the young couple, this bold purchase embodies both a professional ambition and a dream of family life in Marseille.
After all, it was in Marseille that their granddaughter Constance was born, an accomplished sailor and happy pirate of le Don du Vent.
All you need to know about Le Don du Vent ...
|Name||LE DON DU VENT|
|Former names||NORSTRAND, FATIMA|
|Type, series or local name||KETCH AURIQUE, ocean-going sailing yacht|
|Architect||Henry GRUBER WERFT|
|Builder||BURMESTER à BREMERHAVEN (n.2898)|
|Type originally||Fischkutter type KFK|
|Length overall||30 m (with bowsprit)|
|Length hull||23,60 m|
|Length waterline||22,45 m|
|Master beam width||6,32 m|
|Air draught||24 m|
|Displacement (in tonnes)||100 t|
|Admin. tonnage (in barrels)||65,82 tx|
|Hull||composite construction - steel frames, oak planking (changed with iroko) - oak keel - cast iron sow ballast (30t.) inside the hull - straight stem, transom stern, long keel|
|Decks & superstructures||deck battened in Oregon pine plus wear deck in iroko - wheelhouse and roofs (mahogany) - flat niangon edges and rails in iroko - companionway, clerestory, companionway roof and wheelhouse in mahogany|
|Rigging||type, mast, running rigging, standing rigging, materials - ketch with boom mast - wooden spars - stainless steel standing rigging - synthetic running rigging (braided and stranded)|
|Canopy||mizzen, main sail, main jib, staysail, jib, clin jib - all sails in dacron total upwind area, approx. 350m2|
|Moving in||three watertight compartments - forward with 6 berths plus 2 cabins with 2 berths, companionway with sail locker - central compartment - saloon with two lounge and dining areas|
|More||galley-bar area, mahogany panelling and white plywood - aft compartment - passageway with WC and bathroom/WC, engine room, main companionway and 4 double cabins - raised wheelhouse, chart table and navigation instruments - 2 quarter berths - hold in the vaulted ceiling|
|Engine||Bodouin 6R 120, 240 hp, from 2001, bow thruster|