La Rochelle, with Bremerhaven, Ostend and Grimsby, was one of the industrial fishing ports that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The maritime museum in the city focuses on fishing, with displays of historical artefacts, models, and activities such as knot-tying in which visitors can take part. The museum is supported by annual grants from the city authority.
The collection includes eight ships, chief amongst them France I, a naval weather ship, adapted from an American frigate of the Second World War, which sailed the North Atlantic from 1958 until the 1980s. It is classed as an ancient monument. Manuel Joel of 1954 was the last wooden trawler to be built in La Rochelle, while TD6 is a steam dredger of 1906, and St Gilles a tug built in 1958. Some vintage yachts are also displayed at the museum.
Perhaps the great pleasure for visitors is sitting in the bistro bar on the top deck of France I and surveying activities in the busy harbour.