26 February 2018
Tara set sail heading north for China: four days marked by a minor scare off the coast of Vietnam. Then the schooner and her crew reached Sanya, on the southern end of Hainan Island.
Imposing silhouettes of buildings and giant hotel complexes are on the horizon. A curious ballet of yachts, monohulls and fishing boats surround Tara. Sanya, a popular Chinese beach resort is celebrating the New Year. At night the decor is even more spectacular: the facades of the buildings are lit up with undulating dolphins and jellyfish, blinking reindeer, palm trees and messages in Mandarin. On deck, the Taranauts enjoy the cool evening.
The schooner took her time to reach Hainan Island. Leaving Nha Trang on February 15, she avoided the end of a storm that came up from the Philippines to Vietnam. The sails were unfurled again and the scientists happy to clear their minds. We were still waiting for the green light from Beijing to resume diving and sampling in the country’s waters, with 2 Chinese researchers aboard.
Between Nha Trang and Sanya, Tara under full sail again © Agathe Roullin / Fondation Tara Expéditions.
Doubt in the China Sea
Tara was calmly sailing in the China Sea the day before arrival in Sanya, when suddenly our route was disrupted. It was already dark on Sunday, February 18 when, during his night watch, dive master/sailor David Monmarché woke up the captain in his bunk. A boat had suddenly changed course and was fast approaching Tara for no apparent reason. Soon other points appeared on the radar to the west of the first. Fishing boats hauling up their nets, or ill-intentioned ships? Samuel Audrain was in doubt and immediately launched the procedure established beforehand: start the engine, change course, drop the sails, and notify the Tara Foundation management. Sleepers woke up. Others put aside their computers or a game of tarot. The entire crew was now standing silently on deck, while Tara headed east. Claimed by several countries — including China, Vietnam and the Philippines — the South China Sea is a particular area where boats must remain cautious. The ship whose behaviour worried our captain sailed away. Fishermen, no doubt. The Taranauts relaxed. Marion Lauters went around the crew with a bowl of M&Ms. The schooner could now head back to Sanya.
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