19 February 2016
In the technical area of the Keroman port in Lorient, Tara’s masts are silhouetted against a wet sky. Undergoing renovation in preparation for the Tara PACIFIC expedition 2016-2018 (departure scheduled for May 28), the big gray whale is suspended 10 meters above the ground with her fins hanging loose.
Three levels of portable stairs are required to access the rear deck. On board, the 6 crew members have taken apart the bubble that protects the central living area otherwise known as the carré. Gone is the large table where everyone usually gathers for meals and meetings. The kitchen is reduced to a simple trench, the corridor is ripped open and reveals a tangle of tubes like the large black bowels of an animal. Seats and flooring have also been taken out.
Wednesday, February 17th is the big day for removing the engines. Captain Martin Hertau oversees 4 helmeted workers hidden in the gaping hole where Tara’s original starboard engine (fondly nicknamed “Theresa”) is located. Hoists and pulleys rotate with a deafening sound of chains. Everyone is occupied, carefully lifting the big blue engine out of the carré. The crane operator, remote control in hand, listens attentively to orders. Theresa just barely passes through the opening, swaying slightly as she rises into the air, then descends onto a pallet located 10 meters below. The empty hole left behind is enormous. “It’s big enough to accommodate a beautiful cabin!” Martin jokes. Jean Collet, technical director of Tara’s overhaul, is filming the entire scene. He was the captain of the boat when it was first built in 1989 and called “Antarctica”. The collector still needs to be removed. “It must weigh at least 900 kilos. Only metal gears in there!” says Jean. The operation is tricky since the huge compact block must first be moved to the height of the hole, then hoisted outside. Chief engineer Loïc Caudan is standing in the entryway where he has passed hundreds of times. He observes the scene: “I feel like crying. It’s strange to see these machines leaving us. We worked so hard on them!” The collector is now safely outside of its niche and joins Theresa on a nearby pallet.
Rain begins to fall. The opening of the carré is quickly covered with a tarp. Everyone takes refuge inside since the cold has descended on Lorient. It’s raining too hard to begin the scheduled work of removing Brigitte, the port engine. “We’ll have to wait for better weather,” says Jean Collet. “Yes, in July!” one of the workers jokes about the weather in Brittany. The operation of cleaning the engine compartment can begin while we wait for the sky to clear over Lorient.
Dino Di Meo, in Lorient