Did you know that Brel's boat is set to sail again?
On 8 April, Jacques Brel's birthday, the Askoy II, the boat with which the Belgian and his partner Maddly Bamy sailed around the world and discovered the Marquesas Islands, will set sail again in Zeebrugge.
The Askoy II is a 40-tonne monster, made of steel and 18 metres long. In the 1960s, this two-masted boat with a teak interior was ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world. Its first owner was Hugo Van Kuyck, inventor of the floating harbours used during the Allied landings in June 1944. Brel bought the two-master for a little less than the equivalent of 84,000 euros in 1974.
Brel and Maddly embarked on a world tour in July 1974, but Jacques' illness disrupted their plans. Finally, after two months spent crossing the Pacific, they dropped anchor in the Marquesas Islands. There, Jacques Brel bought a plane, settled in a house and sold his boat to Cathy Cleveland, a hippie who was travelling from island to island. After that, the boat had several different owners and ran aground in 1994 in New Zealand, where it ended up sinking. In Brussels, France Brel told Piet Wittevrongel and his brother Staf, descendants of a line of master sailors and fishermen, the whereabouts of the Askoy II. The two men decided to repair and restore this legendary boat, with the help of a handful of determined and enthusiastic men. After eight years of work, the Askoy II is ready to go back on the sea, and Zeebrugge has been chosen for its launch. After several stops in Ostend, Brussels and Cannes where Arnaud Askoy (singer and Brel look-alike) will be in charge of events, the boat will head for Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas Islands, where Brel and his Askoy II parted company to live their own, separate adventures.