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50 Years Ago - The French Line's Flandre Arrives New York

by Theodore W. Scull

flagMost liners make triumphant maiden voyages with celebratory arrivals but such was not the case for the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique's new liner the FLANDRE. Built at A. and C. de France at Dunkerque, the 20,477-ton ship sailed from Le Havre on July 23, 1952, arriving in New York on July 30th almost a day late after electrical failures and breakdowns. She had to be towed up from Quarantine to her berth at Pier 88 North River by four tugs.

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French Line's T.S.S. FLANDRE at the Le Havre breakwater July 1952.

Initially, her three-class accommodation included 402 in first, 285 cabin class, and just 97 in tourist. Later a two-class arrangement would see just 212 in first and 511 in tourist. Twin screw geared turbines drove the ship at 22 knots.

While she was originally designed to operate between France and the West Indies with her slightly new sister, the ANTILLES, and was launched with a white hull, the FLANDRE spent most of her French Line career sailing the North Atlantic route between France, England and New York sporting a black hull while the former, painted white, held down a longer run from Channel ports to the West Indies.

The FLANDRE's North Atlantic running mates were the considerably larger pre-war ILE-DE-FRANCE and LIBERTE, the latter the former North German Lloyd EUROPA, but once the technical problems were sorted out by the spring of 1953, the FLANDRE became a very popular ship. She operated with true French Line style but on a much smaller scale.

THREE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MAIDEN ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK CITY OF FLANDRE ON JULY 30, 1952.

The new FLANDRE arrives at the French Line's Pier 88 North River.

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The escorting tugboats towed FLANDRE to her berth.

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A bow view of the new FLANDRE at Pier 88 North River.

With the arrival of the SS FRANCE in February 1962, the LIBERTE went for scrap and the FLANDRE switched to West Indies cruising and took on her sister's white hull. Sold by the French Line in 1968, she went for a major refit and re-emerged as Costa's full-time cruise ship CARLA C.

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T.S.S. FLANDRE at Lisbon. (Photograph by Luis Miguel Corriera from the T.W. Scull collection.)

In 1974, she was dieselized and rebuilt and in 1986 had her name altered to CARLA COSTA. While internally, she was nearly a new ship, externally she kept her handsome profile and very long foredeck, making her an unmistakable sight. Sold to Epirotiki as the PALLAS ATHENA, she caught fire at Piraeus, had to be dragged from the port, and burned out on a nearby beach. Incidentally, her sister ANTILLES, grounded in the West Indies in January 1971, and escaping fuel caught fire and she burned and capsized. Her wreck is a dive site.

On a personal note, I made a very happy crossing aboard the FLANDRE in August 1958, and several years ago, I became the proud owner of a fine 3.5 foot model of the ship.

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FLANDRE at Le Havre in 1958. (Photograph by the author)

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The bow of FLANDRE diving into a trough during hurricane Daisy when the author crossed in August 1958. (French Line photograph)

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The FLANDRE docked at Pier 88 North River in New York City (Photograph from the authors collection)