Travel, Share, Preserve

The Arcachon mainsail

Founded in 1863 and 1874, the Bonnin and Bossuet shipyards on the basin are the flagship of Arcachon’s shipbuilding industry.

The history of these two family businesses is interwoven with the story of the friendship that unites the two current directors, heirs to an ancestral know-how. It is also reflected in the creation in 2011 of a joint venture called Bô yachting, specializing in the construction of
yacht building.

There aren’t that many companies founded in the 19th century and still operating in the Basin. Even fewer are still run by a member of the original family after five generations! This is the challenge faced by the Bonnin and Bossuet shipyards, run by Alexis Bonnin on the one hand and Jean-Baptiste Bossuet on the other. While both companies provide maintenance and
boat maintenance and repair services, they are in no way in competition. “We each have our own customer base, and the atmosphere between us is excellent,” confirm the two managers, whose similarities in life are quite incredible.
They are almost the same age, met in kindergarten and both went to the Lycée de la Mer in Gujan-Mestras. They went on to work in the family business. As fate would have it, Alexis Bonnin and Jean-Baptiste Bossuet both lost their fathers in the same year,
ten days apart, in 2010. Alexis Bonnin and Jean-Baptiste Bossuet now run their respective companies, continuing the family saga.
In 2011, their friendship and closeness to one another led them to create the joint company Bô Yachting, the fruit of excellence and innovation.

Magnificent sailboats

“We wanted to create beautiful boats, combining traditional craftsmanship with technological advances. It was also a way of paying tribute to our fathers,” continue the two directors, whose order book is strong, despite the health crisis. The fifteen or so sailboats built to date reflect all the company’s experience.
With no advertising, they are attracting customers not only from the Bassin, but also from elsewhere, with a recent order from Morbihan. Between their BÔ 28 (a 28-foot multi-purpose sailboat), the Ti’Bac (a sailboat inspired by the Arcachon Basin sailing ferry) and their latest creation (a
13-meter speedboat), Alexis Bonnin and Jean-Baptiste Bossuet kill two birds with one stone. They give free rein to their inspiration and, thanks to the sale of new boats, feed their respective shipyards.
As to whether their children will take over the business as their father, grandfather, great-grandfather and forebears
forebears before them, it’s too early to say. One thing is certain: their descendants are already steeped in the family values of these two shipyards. “We are indeed family businesses par excellence. We cultivate this spirit with our employees
employees, but also with our customers, who become our friends over time. We also take on apprentices, because it’s essential for us to pass on our skills,” conclude the two men, whose passion is the sea, Arcachon and the Bassin, for which they hoist the mainsail…

They said

Alexis Bonnin:

“We’ve crossed the centuries through six generations of marine carpenters who have worked to pass on their know-how.
This tradition continues today, thanks to our former employees – some of whom saw me in short pants on the yard – and the young people who have joined us.

Jean-Baptiste Bossuet:

“What makes me proud is the personal and intellectual pleasure of creating beautiful objects and making our customers happy. We get very touching emotional feedback from them. In these difficult times, we’re selling dreams, and that’s good for them.

Bossuet shipyard

Jean-Baptiste Bossuet was behind the creation of the Bossuet shipyard in l’Aiguillon, on the company’s current site. By the end of the 19th century, the company had 25 workers. The yard diversified into the repair, maintenance and guarding of floating craft. Requisitioned during the German occupation, Guy Bossuet bought the shipyard and relaunched the family business. His racing skills made him a feared adversary on every racecourse in France and Europe.
In the 70s, Guy Bossuet and then his son Michel faced up to the arrival of polyester in boatbuilding. They decided to specialize in the restoration of wooden boats from the Basin. Production activity picked up again in the 1980s and 1990s with the revival of sailing, revitalizing the shipyard run by Michel Bossuet, who handed over the helm to his son Jean-Baptiste in 2006. Today, the company employs 3 people.

Bonnin shipyard

Founded in 1863 by Jean Bonnin, a graduate of the École Nationale des Charpentiers de Marine in Rochefort, the shipyard moved to Lormont near Bordeaux, before relocating to Arcachon in 1928. Requisitioned during the Second World War, Louis Bonnin and his two sons re-launched the shipyard, building benchmark boats such as the Pacific.
After developing boat maintenance, the shipyard became a benchmark under René Bonnin: creation of dragons, one-designs, tugs, pinasses…
At the dawn of the 70s, the company began specializing in the renovation of old boats. Heading the company since 1998, which also employs his sister Sophie, Alexis Bonnin now has a staff of 9. The yard provides handling and maintenance services, painting and varnishing, naval carpentry, plastic repairs and storage.

Notice to visitors

The magic of shipbuilding is at work, and the Bonnin and Bossuet shipyards are often in demand. Although visits to the workshops
may not be possible for safety reasons, the two managers have nothing against people stopping by to take
photos of the site, provided they demonstrate a certain savoir-vivre.

Pinasses of the Arcachon basin

Emblematic boats of the Basin, pinasses are flat-bottomed wooden boats originally used by oyster farmers. Able to navigate at shallow depths, these boats are perfectly adapted to the region’s climatic and geographical features. Originally a rather rustic sailboat, the pinasse became motorized and was widely used for sardine fishing. Today, they’re a favorite among yachtsmen.