AB1- The “Commandant Jean O’Neill”


 Presentation: The AB1 ferryboat , acquired by AMERAMI in 1992, was sold to our friend André O’NEILL in 2007, who is ensuring its patient restoration and coping with the charge.


AMERAMI is an association working for nearly 40 years towards the safeguard of maritime and watercourse heritage. It includes all manners of saving Heritage, and this boat is an example.

A convention allows us to still get involved and our friend O’NEILL, obviously passionate about what he does, founding member of our association and active member on our Committee, has decided to enrol his project in our aim to increase the appreciation of our local heritage.

 Restoring and putting the COMMANDANT JEAN O’NEILL-AB1 back in use is the first initiative to be enrolled within the framework of our objectives.

 Career and history of the COMMANDANT JEAN O’NEILL-AB1

  • Launched the 6th August 1935 at Nantes-Chanteray (Dubigeon Shipyards) – registered in Nantes under N°4237 the 25th May 1937 (Act of Registry 65533 of 30th June 1937).

Steel construction, riveted and soldered. Length: 20.68m; Breadth: 4.63m; Height: 1.84m; 45.89 registered tons gross tonnage; 23.90 registered tons net tonnage; speed 10 knots; one propeller; 150 horsepower; 150 passengers (short haul).

  • 1937-1939: Operated by the Société des Auto-Bateaux de la Basse-Loire.
  • June 1939: Sold to the company of Les Bateaux de la Côte d’Emeraude.
  • 1940 to 1941: scuttled in the outer harbour of Saint-Malo, re-floated at the Liberation, by the company of Les Abeilles.
  • 1939-1992: Operated by the company of Les Bateaux de la Côte d’Emeraude (company of Les Vedettes Blanches). Sailing Saint-Malo, Dinard, Saint-Servan.
  • December 1989: End of the ferry’s sailing1992: Transfer of the ferry to AMERAMI by Emeraude Lines (ex-company of Les Vedettes Blanches)
  • 22nd March 1993: Classified Historic Monument. Decree of 06/09/1993, 07/93-35/n°167 (signed by Maryvonne de Saint Pulgent). The ferry is the last witness to the Saint-Malo-Dinard crossing before the advent of the Rance Dam in 1966, and is above all representative of 1930s design.
  • 2005 : Transfer to the O’Neill family.
  • November 2007: The ferry, which has never had any name other than its reference AB1 (AB1 stands for Auto-Bateau n°1), is registered by the Customs at Saint-Nazaire-Montoir under the name Commandant Jean O’Neill.

The ferry is destined at the moment for friendly, non-commercial sailing, in its original environment of the Côte d’Emeraude (Emerald Coast) and the river Rance.

She will continue, under the clear and constructive terms agreed, to conserve close ties with the AMERAMI.

AB1 - Commandant Jean O'NEILL

Navigation to “The Passagere”

Works’ progress: The boat’s situation in 2005 had allowed to say that she was saved. The main structure, hull and rubbing strake were nearly all replaced, the bridge no longer got sprayed thanks to fitting fairly ugly but watertight large bay windows.

Unfortunately the transfer of the Technimar company to a buyer who was not a ship-building professional has led to a lack of the boat’s upkeep despite the injection of money by AMERAMI.

Moreover, under this buyer, the company went out of business in 2006, absorbing moneys paid as down payments on large jobs whilst doing no work in return.

  • 2009: The prop shaft and the propeller were repaired as good as new (Maucour at Nantes), the windows of the bridge re-worked back to their historic look, doors re-done, vessel totally watertight.
  • August 2016: Launching of the ferry before mooring it on the Rance. The 31st of August, the Commandant O’Neill returned to its natural element after nearly 30 years in dry dock.
En route pour La Passagère

Au large de Saint-Malo

Articles in the press:

Saint-Malo. Le “Commandant Jean O’Neill” des années 30 va revivre
Article Ouest-France – Publié le 04/09/2016

Pôle naval. Renaissance du Commandant Jean O’Neill
© Le Télégramme – published 01/09/2016

 20th September: Voyage by sea of the boat AB1, the Commandant O’Neill, from the Pôle Naval Jacques Cartier in Saint-Malo to the shipyard at La Passagère, its mooring on the Rance, with the help of La Landriais shipyard. It was a successful transfer, helped a lot by exceptional weather conditions. Now its a case of entering the final phase of fitting the boat out, entrusted to the Chantier de la Passagère shipyard, in order to render her fit to put to sea by June 2018.

Waiting for high tide

  • 2018: The start of navigation trips to cultural and historic destinations in the Rance-Emeraude Country.