log book - Impressions from aboard Tara
Impressions from aboard Tara
Chief mechanic, embarked at Guayaquil (Ecuador) on May 19, he disembarks at Papeete on August 17.
Best memory: The hospitality of the Pacific Islands’ inhabitants, their generosity. Everyone offered us fruit or invited us to pick whenever we wished from their gardens. Could you imagine the same thing in France? And the best mechanical souvenir: when the portside motor finally worked after 3 weeks of repairs.
The worst memory: The breakdowns. When you’ve got water in the oil, that’s a bad sign. It meant hours repairing the motor.
What do you miss?: My grandchildren, and they miss me, too. Three months is a long time, but after Tara I’ll be going into retirement. I also miss my wife, but we’ll be meeting up in Tahiti!
What you’ve gained from the expedition?: I worked a long time as a fisherman and we only made stopovers on land for re-fueling or when someone was injured. Otherwise we stayed onboard and stopovers lasted at the most 12 hours. But here, the chance to meet people on land is also an adventure.
What is different about Tara?: There are women onboard! After navigating for 48 years, I haven’t seen many! Once there was a female radio operator but that didn’t last long and another time a mechanic, but that’s all! It’s less monotonous when women are around.
What next?: I already have plans - when I get back, I’ll go see the grandchildren. And then I’ll be working on my 7m20 motorboat. I’ll have the whole winter to rebuild the engine without stress!
A tattoo at Marquesas: Yes! I hadn’t done that before, and here there's an opportunity, and it sort of marks the finish. On my arm I have a dolphin, a manta ray, the Marquesan cross and 2 “tiki”, a woman and a man – the symbol of love.
Biologist, embarked at Gambier (French Polynesia) on June 18, she disembarks at Tahiti on August 17.
Best memory: The Polynesians! Their beautiful tattoos, their intense dances, their kindness and hospitality. I would like to have stayed a bit longer!
Best moment: Breakfast outside in the cockpit while taking time to wake up.
Worst moment: Cleaning up...but come to think of it, that's not really the worst moment. Maybe when people are in a bad mood.
What you like most when compared to life on land: The enthusiasm of traveling, of expeditions. You’re moving with “your house”, discovering people and places. And I love this atmosphere with a group. I also love not having to go shopping or cooking!
A Marquesan tattoo?: I’ve gotten 2 tattoos, one from Easter Island: a tortoise – it’s the animal linking land and sea, and in the Marquesas, it’s the animal that guides the souls underwater to paradise. And the second one was done in the Marquesas – a manta ray with a wave to symbolize the sea. This fish is very graceful and symbolizes the marine world where I’ve spent these last 2 years with and aboard Tara.
What will you do after returning?: I’ll be sleeping! And then I’ll be immediately preparing my next embarkment in Hawaii in 3 weeks time!
Vincent Le Pennec
2nd mechanic, embarked at Guayaquil (Ecuador) on May 19, and disembarking at Tahiti on August 17.
Best memory: when we landed at Ua Pu Island, Etienne, one of the inhabitants, invited me to gather fruit for the boat. We then made the rounds of the village, from house to house, harvesting from his friends' gardens. It was the first time I was able to spend some time with the people. Our stopovers are short and we don’t always go on land, and it’s really seldom to visit a family, to see the community. That’s also what I miss when spending all my time at sea.
Worst memory: It always has to do with what happens in the engine room. I was second mechanic at the beginning of my embarkment and the souvenirs were not memorable.
Best moment: There are lots of little moments. For example, when people slowly get up in the morning.
What you miss: What I miss most is having more time to meet people during the stopovers and getting a feeling for the country. Besides that, there’s not much. I’m in good health. During the 3 months onboard, I’ve found my rhythm, I’ve adapted well, and I could continue much longer with no problem. If you can manage for a month, then you can manage for the rest of your life!
What I learned: On the mechanical side, I’ve learned how to dismantle the pumps! But I always learn things from encounters. I discovered Polynesia, which I didn’t know before, and all encounters, even quick ones, change you a bit. You notice things and have exchanges with the people and places you meet.
Your tattoo: I didn’t have time for one and I wanted to think about it. Now I know what I want, and I’ll get one in Tahiti. It will be on my shoulder. I would like a wave to symbolize the sea, a mountain for land, a bird and a dolphin representing animal life you always see on the ocean. The moon, to symbolize currents and tides, the polar star and the Southern cross for orientation and life under the stars. And finally the wind, which means liberty.
Oceanographer, embarked at Nuku Hiva (Marquesas) on July 24 and disembarking at Tahiti on August 17.
Best moment: Having done it! I mean, this mission “STEFI” which I’ve thought about since early 2009, when I started to talk about Tara with Gaby Gorski (scientific coordinator of the expedition). We had already embarked once with Pierre Testor, but that was a test leg to prepare for this one. That test really confirmed Tara’s potential for “STEFI” in the Marquesas.
Between Cape Town and Ascension, we tested the communication between the boat and the team on land, crucial for the mission. The idea was really to merge cutting-edge biology and high-performance oceanographic instrumentation. That was a first, and I think we have experienced the oceanography of the future. Thanks to the preceding legs, the whole team gained experience: the embarking team and naturally the indispensable team on land.
More precisely, my best moment was after the first sampling station (“Gaby”), which was also the most complicated due to uncertain weather conditions. When we completed “Gaby” it was terrific! We were on our way!
Worst memory: The beginning of the “Romain” station, when we were trying to take samples in the center of the eddy. There were so many unknowns; it was difficult to get the right information. It was nerve-racking.
Best moments: When woken by Hervé Bourmaud who was on the telephone with the Lorient Interceltique Festival. My cabin is just next to the “PC com” room and due to the 12 hour time zone difference with France, I “had the honor” of being woken at either dawn or in the middle of the night. And when I heard him ranting because the communication broke down, it made me laugh. First thing in the morning, it’s terrific...
But otherwise, I am ecstatic to be here, in the middle of the Pacific, and also to have accomplished this mission, which we fought for! And I’m very happy to collaborate with the whole team. I wouldn’t have been able to do this with anyone else. And especially with Pierre Testor – we've just lived and worked together for 40 days, 24 hours per day! And there was also Daniele Iudicone, member of the land team with whom we spoke every day on the phone!
What you miss: My family, my two daughters, my wife. It’s almost an Italian cliché, no?
Your tattoo: It’s the “Chimera”, representing an Etruscan bronze statue. The tattoo artist copied it from a photo I took. I had it done in Rome when I was part of a rock band. We played in villages in southern Italy during the summer to make some money.
Biologist, embarked at Gambier Islands on July 13, and will disembark at Tahiti on August 17.
Best memory: The little glass of Irish whiskey after the first station.
Worst memory: When we were chasing the eddy, and had to change positions 3 times for the station. It was difficult to follow what was happening.
Best moment: The time spent in the dry lab (inside and below deck). I helped design this lab, so working in it and seeing that it functions well is a real pleasure. During this leg, we had enough people for the work, and I was able to concentrate on imaging. I spent a lot of time making beautiful images. I love being at the microscope and photographing these organisms with their extraordinary shapes, even with the pitching of the boat, when everything moves under the microscope. That's when I love to give a big shout, “Bourmaud!!” (The captain), as if it’s his fault that the boat rocks!
Worst moment: Household cleaning... but it’s the same at home!
What you miss: My family, my 2 sons. The youngest is just 2 months old, and I know that after a month, he’ll have changed amazingly. What I also miss is a comfortable bed where you’re not embracing the walls with each roll of the ship. I have the impression of getting a jinxed berth every time I embark.
What you enjoy most when compared to life on land: I like the feeling of detachment one has aboard a boat. You leave your usual frame of reference, and this gives you a different perspective. You can concentrate again on the essentials. These moments help me make decisions about the future. My memories come back when I’m at sea. Thoughts buried for years re-surface.
What you’ve learned: I’ve gained a lot from discussions with the other scientists onboard. I’ve also shown them lots of things about imaging. These exchanges are very stimulating and help put career plans in perspective.
Biologist, embarked at Nuku Hiva (Marquesas) on July 24, and disembarking at Tahiti on August 17.
Best moment: In the morning when the sun rises, and the evening, especially at the end of the stations. For me, this voyage is a constant surprise because I’ve never done this before. I thought it would be more difficult. I adapted more easily to all the practical aspects of life onboard than I thought I would. I also imagined there would be more tensions with the people onboard due to the close quarters.
Worst moment: Generally the meals, when everyone is being social in a group, and people are speaking mostly French...that's difficult! It’s impossible to understand the jokes.
What you like most when compared with life on land: It’s nice to find your own rhythm onboard. On land I'm much more restricted. My time is organized around my children and my work. Here, life is much simpler, more concentrated. And I’m being me all the time, and I don’t have to play a role at all. It’s also surprising to be moving the whole time and to always have your bed with you.
What you miss: On land I am used to doing the cooking and enjoying what I prepare. I really like the food onboard, but it’s difficult to change one's habits. I miss cheese! I'm also astonished because on land I'm addicted to my telephone, my emails and world news, but here you lose track of time. You become more detached from lots of things. You find your center. It will be difficult to share this at home, with people who haven’t lived this experience.
What you’ve learned: I’ve learned that I love sailing! Looking at the water and nature all around is great. Maybe I should have embarked earlier during the expedition. But I wasn’t ready mentally; I didn’t think I was capable of it.
A tattoo?: I had one done on my foot at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. I wasn’t really sure at the beginning, but actually I’m ecstatic. It’s a wave and 2 stylized figures representing my children.