L’ Abeille Bourbon, it’s captain, and his watch…

Sep 18, 2022,13:51 PM


Meet L’ Abeille Bourbon, one of a fleet of powerful high seas towing vessels deployed to protect France’s often stormy Atlantic coastline, and her charming captain, Charles Claden. The “Bee,” based in Brest since she was christened by Bernadette Chirac in 2005, sails with a crew of 12 and is chartered by the French government along with it’s sister ship, L’ Abeille Liberté. (According to Wikipedia such vessels “…are traditionally named according to their activities around the ships they assist; in this case, like a bee around a flower.”)


You’ll pardon a point of pride, here, as my last name ends in -dahl: both “bees” were designed by Norwegian naval architect Sigmund Borgundvåg, and built at the Myklebust Verft shipyard in Gursken. And as I think all will agree, these amazing ships are as strikingly beautiful as they are effective. (Also, please note that the video below provides English subtitles!)


But isn’t this a forum about watches? So, indeed, it is.


Thus, despite my intense interest in these ships (the engine compartment on the 80-meter-long  Bourbon is 60 meters long itself (!), and if all four engines are started while in port, the windows of nearby buildings rattle; on its own, the ship can tow an oil tanker of 550,000 tons)… Yes, despite my interest in these ships and the fearless crews that keep them running, I was surprised and intrigued by glimpses of commandant Claden’s watch, tantalizingly revealed at time marker 5:00 of this brief five-minute-forty-three-second tour of the Bourbon. Some of you may have read my post about the late Vin Scully’s timepiece, and would not have been surprised that it was the inimitable Dr. No, whose skills at the keyboard, as well as long years of experience, allowed a quick and definitive answer to my query. So…


Who’ll have a go at this one?


Although the face of this watch was not immediately recognizable to me, it was apparent that this was no ordinary timekeeper. And quite naturally--inspired by the knowledge that commandant Claden was named a chevalier de la légion d'honneur in 2001—I wondered aloud, “Could this, a decorated man’s companion, be an unusual and fine timepiece?” “Might Claden even be (I went on) a “’collectionneur?’” “Might he (going for the gold, here) even be an avid reader of this forum???”

(You see how my Sicilian exuberance—my mother’s side of the family—sometimes gets the best of me.) Whatever the case (for it could simply be a robust quartz watch with a number of bells & whistles), the captain’s thirty-four year career of 365 rescue operations stands as a model of dedication. There is no talk of heroics. “Above all we want to, quite simply, to try to do things well, period. It ends there!” he says. Yes, indeed, captain. Any watchmaker would agree. It does, when all is said and done, end there. 

Have a most pleasant Sunday all!     FH


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 By: Michael Reilly : September 18th, 2022-14:40
Great post.


 By: halgedahl : September 18th, 2022-16:23
So glad someone might enjoy...

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!

 By: R. Goodfellow : September 18th, 2022-15:29
My grandfather was a member of the Canadian Merchant Marines during the second world war and later a freighter captain. That sparked a life-long fascination with large ships in his grandson (AKA me).

Ultra Cool!

 By: halgedahl : September 18th, 2022-16:28
And there's so much re shipping on "the Tube." Going the other direction (a 35' sloop), have you ever read "Sailing Alone Around the World," a fascinating account of the first solo circumnavigation by Captain Joshua Slocum? His sloop, The Spray, is so fam... 

Thank you for the recommendation!

 By: R. Goodfellow : September 20th, 2022-01:45
Sounds like my kind of book. I just put a hold on a copy at my local library.

Terrific! I don't know how many copies we've given away over the years.

 By: halgedahl : September 22nd, 2022-19:23
A student of mine recommended the book to me ~1984, and my wife subsequently became a fan after we read it aloud to each other while courting. To add to your enjoyment… Over the years a number of people have traced Slocum's voyage on Google Earth—some in ... 

I haven't a clue as to the watch . . .

 By: Dr No : September 18th, 2022-15:45
. . . but this cool Captain deserves a serenade. ⚓️

Perhaps someone will even have a "mate" and be able to reveal…

 By: halgedahl : September 18th, 2022-16:29
Thanks, anyway for reading. Now… back to pool!

Casio Edifice…

 By: Esharp : September 18th, 2022-18:28
…that’s what it is. Although I can’t tell you which exact model it is (from along the many many many models they have made). Great post btw! Best E.

Whoa! I see where you're going here, E.

 By: halgedahl : September 18th, 2022-21:02
Many thanks! I think you've got it. Working, now, on finding the model...