Lock 26, at the exit of the city. A few moored boats rock slightly on the Sarre canal. Among them, the long silhouette of the “Majesty” (33.5 meters long, almost 5 wide) immediately catches the eye.

“It was designed to navigate the canals of France and Europe”, slips Christophe Francisco, 48, son-in-law of François Zanella, the designer of this giant model, who died in 2015.

Passionate about ocean liners, this former miner from Lorraine spent more than ten years assembling the exact 1/8th replica of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in his garden in Morsbach (Moselle).

– “The story of the corner” –

By dint of stubbornness, and with a few nudges (like these parts donated by Chantiers naval de l’Atlantique), his dream came true on June 23, 2005, with the launch in Sarreguemines of the “Majesty”. Thousands of people attended the highly publicized event.

The Zanellas then traveled rivers and canals for several years, until François, whose health was declining, decided to put it up for sale. He died in May 2015 at the age of 66, without his boat having found a buyer.

Since then, the “Majesty” no longer sails. And, inevitably, undergoes the onslaught of time. “We come regularly to see if everything is going well”, put rustproofing here and there, change seals, explains Christophe. “We wash it about once a year. It’s work, people don’t imagine…”

If the exterior paintings show signs of wear, the interior is in very good condition, from the dining room to the living room, including the three bedrooms and the bathroom.

“He is not abandoned!” Insist the daughters of François Zanella, Cindy, 36, and her sister Cathy, 46.

After the death of François Zanella, “we thought about what we were going to do”, recognizes Christophe. It is put up for sale again, again without success.

And then, the last words of the “patriarch” end up imposing themselves, “as an evidence”: at the end of his life, he had suggested “putting it on family land”, about thirty kilometers from Sarreguemines, with the idea of ​​making it a place to visit and exhibit, says Cindy.

“This boat is the story of the area, that of a mining basin. And it was made by a miner”, insists Cathy.

But the project turns out to be complex – and expensive. The 102 tonnes of the “Majesty” had to be pulled out of the water and transported over several tens of kilometres.

– “Legacy” –

In 2017, the family knocked on the door of local authorities for possible subsidies, in vain. “We remain open for people to cooperate with our project,” insists Cindy’s husband.

At the town hall of Sarreguemines, we explain that we have not heard from the file “for four years”. The city, which had supported the launching, had been “very involved”, in particular by manufacturing “special foundations” for the crane which had been used to lift the boat, we recall.

Director of the Sarregueminois port, Jean-Yves Haus says he is unaware of the evolution of the project but “respects” the choice of the family. If he regrets that the “Majesty” is no longer sailing, he believes that “the most important thing” is that he “starts another life”.

The family recognizes it: the project is struggling to move forward, and the Covid hasn’t helped. “We work with private money, donations,” explains Cindy.

According to Christophe, out of an initial estimate of 200,000 euros, “we saved” around 100,000 by doing several things “ourselves”, such as maintaining the boat or putting the land in condition which should accommodate it, he hope in 2023.

“We are doing everything we can to carry out our father’s legacy,” insist Cathy and Cindy. “The goal is to bring him home.”