23 January 2012
Friday, January 20: the American flag is floating above Tara. We arrived this morning in Savannah, Georgia. One leg of our voyage is over; before the next one begins, the crew is enjoying a very warm welcome offered by this small city on the east coast.
It took nearly 2 months for Tara to go from one coast to the other, heading south past Mexico then cutting across Central America via the Panama Canal. We left San Diego at the end of November after a long stopover for repairs. Now we’re back again on American ground.
After several hours sailing up the narrow Savannah River, accompanied by the sound of canons blasting in our honor, Tara finally moors in the middle of the city. All along the dock, people crowd around the boat asking questions, engaging in lively discussions with crew members who are delighted to share the world they’ve been living in the past few weeks.Though the quai is still thronged with visitors, certain Taranautes go off to explore the city. For those of us who experienced the effervescence of San Diego, the contrast is striking: the modern buildings of California have given way to beautiful streets lined with old houses, some of which date from the city’s origins in the 18th century. This is a human-scaled city – less than 150,000 inhabitants, ten times fewer than in San Diego – where street musicians are omnipresent and draw lots of enthusiastic spectators.
In one of the many city parks, the Tara crew’s t-shirts attract the attention of many strollers who don’t hesitate to start long discussions with these strange new arrivals. The hospitality continues into the evening: a reception in our honor, organized by the French Consulate, is scheduled at the Savannah Technical College. To bring us there, a traditional school bus has been hired to transport the 15 Tara passengers. Certain of us rediscover our childhood in the back of the yellow bus.
At our destination we are welcomed as very special guests. During the speeches honoring our passage in Savannah, a classic French dinner is served – the crew enchanted to eat foie gras and pastries after a month at sea. At the end of the meal, the French chef gives us some dishes to take home so we can continue the feast for a few more days aboard Tara. Until our departure – scheduled for January 26th – we’ll be very occupied with the visits of local officials, schools and scientists.
These next few days will also be needed to renew the Tara team. Most of the scientists will disembark, to be replaced by another group; and the sailors will prepare for the next leg of the voyage – 10 days heading north to New York. As for me, after 2 months as journalist on board, sharing with you the unique floating world of Tara, I’m giving up my job to an old-timer: Vincent Hilaire will take over the writing, camera and video equipment for the next two months, until Tara arrives in Lorient. Best of luck!