Inside a French frigate

Wellingtonians got a rare glimpse into the life a French naval sailor today.

The French frigate Prairial opened its doors to the public as it docked in Wellington harbour.

It is here on a maritime surveillance mission and some of its 94 sailors offered guided tours around the 2600 tonnes vessel. 

PRARIAL: Cousins Tristan Harris, left and Joseph Bahr both 12, have a look around under the watchful eye of navigator Ivan Gentil. The discipline sign is one of the navy mottos on the ship.
PRARIAL: Cousins Tristan Harris, left and Joseph Bahr both 12, have a look around under the watchful eye of navigator Ivan Gentil. The discipline sign is one of the navy mottos on the ship.

People had to book their visit in advance so there were relatively few members of the public taking the opportunity to explore the ship.

Prairial was the second of a series of six ships built in the Saint-Nazaire shipyards in 1990-1992, by Chantiers de l'Atlantique, which also built the Queen Mary II.

Her home port is Papeete in French Polynesia (Tahiti), and the name "Prairial" refers to the "month of pasture harvest" in the calendar of the eighteenth century French revolution.

OUI OUI: Helicopter mechanic Rodolphe Fontaine shows off some turtle shaped bread which has been baked for display.
OUI OUI: Helicopter mechanic Rodolphe Fontaine shows off some turtle shaped bread which has been baked for display.

Visits to New Zealand by French naval ships now happen fairly regularly, about two or three times a year.

The Prairial is under the command of Captain Frederic Daumas and is the fifth of a series of six ships built in France between 1990 and 1992, by Chantiers de l'Atlantique, which also built the Queen Mary II.

The Prairial's missions include patrol, control of maritime spaces, maritime protection, surveillance of fishing in the exclusive economic zone and evacuations.

Stuff