15 January 2016
After the COP21, Tara left Paris and sailed down the Seine, arriving in Le Havre on the evening of December 29. The very next day, the masts were delicately unloaded on the dock, then over the next week checked, repainted and inspected by the crew to give Tara a clean new look.
Two days of work on the rigging followed, tightening the shrouds and reconnecting navigation instruments. These tasks were carried out under Captain Samuel Audrain’s watchful eye. The spectacular process of setting up the masts using cranes was made even more complex by the wind. “You’d think we were on an expedition” says Daniel Cron, chief engineer, with a smile.
In the morning, the wind finally calmed down and the sails were hoisted too. The day’s work was intense but carried out in a good spirit. The crew was eager to return to sea and the atmosphere cheerful. In the evening, everyone gathered in the messroom to review security measures, and final preparations before sailing.
Saturday, January 9 at 6am, Tara left the dock in Le Havre. The crew was happy to reach the open ocean despite a little apprehension due to the forecast of very inclement weather and rough seas. The voyage started in bright sunlight and strong wind; a sail was hoisted. Then we hit the predicted high winds (gusts at Beaufort force 8-9) and rough seas. Navigation became very difficult, then impossible off the coast of Cap de La Hague due to a counter current generated by the rising tide. Shipping lanes to the north limited tacking maneuvers and forced Tara into the counter current where the wind sent her off course. The crew decided to turn back and take shelter in Cherbourg. After some necessary repairs on the sails and a few hours of sleep, we departed with the tide. The passage of the Raz Blanchard – against the wind, with one of the strongest currents in Europe – was no pleasure cruise.
The island of Ouessant soon appeared in the distance, promising calmer navigation. Tara could finally sail downwind and head straight towards Lorient. We sailed past Ouessant on Monday night, then set course towards the island of Sein. The pace was brisk and the crew was glad when the rumble of engines shut down around 9am on Tuesday. Sailing full speed on a rough sea, a dozen dolphins came to greet Tara. Suspended a moment between 2 horizons, ephemeral sharing of the ocean with these marine beings, the magic of the depths whispered through their joyous breath. People’s face on deck lit up. At any latitude, life at sea brings infinite wonder – a genuine complicity beyond the long or short experiences each one of us has had.
The sun was still shining when the island of Groix came into sight. We smelled the scent of arrival and homecoming, and the crew prepared Tara’s entry into Lorient harbor. The welcome there is always warm. Tara is back! The schooner and her crew have returned to homeport for a few months, to prepare for the next scientific expedition. This will take place in Asia and the Pacific Ocean over the next 2 years (2016-2018) to study coral reefs. Meanwhile, Tara will undergo a major technical overhaul. Her stay in dry dock for maintenance will last 3 months. Good luck everyone!