The original longboat, also known as an admiral’s barge, was built in Brest, France over 200 years ago. The boat is similar to the Captain’s gigs used at that time by the navies of France, Sweden, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the USA. Today the gig is the featured exhibit in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin.
During the early winter of 1796, revolutionary France sent off a naval force to support Irish patriots in their struggle with England. A gale dispersed the fleet, but most of the vessels finally arrived at the rendezvous at Mizzenhead, off the Southwest tip of Ireland.
Just as the fleet was regrouping, another strom blew in. On the evening of December 22nd, La Resolue, at 134 ft. long X 34 ft wide, was hit severely damaged during the storm by La Redoutable, another ship from the same fleet. La Resolue was severly damaged, and, standing off Bantry Bay on December 24th, her longboat, commanded by Lieutenant Proteau, was dispatched to locate the commander of La Immortalite and request a tow. While attempting this risky trip, the longboat was driven ashore on Bere Island and the crew captured. She remains in Ireland to this day. Built as an admiral’s gig c.1790, she is the oldest surviving vessel in the French Navy.