14 February 2018
Tara arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday, February 7th, but unfortunately did not receive a sampling permit from the Vietnamese government. The China Sea is a complex geo-strategic region which makes it very difficult for the expedition at present. Disappointed at not being able to resume their underwater explorations, the crew had some consolation thanks to optimal sailing conditions between Pangatalan and Nha Trang in the China Sea. Driven by a north-north-east wind, the schooner raced towards Vietnam all sails unfurled.
The Taranauts who set foot on the concrete dock of Nha Trang port were feeling happy. The seaside resort is disfigured by huge hotel complexes catering to mass tourism, and it certainly doesn’t have the charm of the pristine islands of the Palawan archipelago. But the crew didn’t care. This time the Pacific had offered them a totally new gift: a strong wind – between 25 and 35 knots – for a long, starboard tack, which allowed them to reach Vietnam in just 3 and a half days. “These were the ideal conditions for Tara”, explains Nicolas Bin, first mate. “We hoisted almost all the sails. The wind was blowing so hard we had to reduce the main and the foresail. One night I even had to wake up Sam the captain, to take a reef up front. The wind was too powerful, it was pulling too hard on the rigging”. But no doubt about it, “This was the most wonderful sailing I’ve experienced, along with the one between Japan and Taiwan. To see the boat moving at full speed – 140 tonnes launched at 10 knots – is really impressive”.
Discussion between sailors before hoisting the mainsail – © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
“We finally got to experience Tara with lots of wind in her sails!”
The scientists aboard Tara are not necessarily seasoned sailors. But when we left the small island of Pangatalan, everyone was excited. Some people already guessed that the waves and pitching would get the better of their stomachs since Tara, with her rounded hull, is a “roller”. “We finally got to experience Tara with lots of wind in her sails!”
Gaëlle Quéré, CNRS-CRIOBE postdoctoral researcher, was delighted: “We were able to participate in the maneuvers and raise the sails. I loved it.” Guillaume Iwankow, head of scientific diving at CRIOBE, had suffered from the vagaries of the wind during his previous 5 voyages. “Sailing during night watch, without a sound, with the stars just for myself – It’s a childhood dream, moments I will remember forever.”
In Vietnam without a permit
Strong wind in the sails brought some consolation to the frustrated scientists. As in Indonesia and the Philippines, they just found out they won’t get the necessary authorizations to take samples in Vietnamese waters.
Docked for several days, the team is trying to stay busy. Writing articles, meeting with the Oceanographic Institute of Nha Trang, and a little tourism. The time seems long, but Guillaume Iwankow puts things into perspective: “We could have had neither science nor wind!” Let’s hope this series of disappointments doesn’t last. China is the next stop on Tara’s route.
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