31 May 2017
Loïc Caudan is something of a shadow man aboard Tara: he’s below deck in the bowels of the whale and discreetly watches over its vital organs. Whether in the engine room, the workshop, the hold or under the passageways, he moves around carefully, far from the bustle of the bridge, which is perfect for him. During his long months on board, he pampers, repairs, creates and maintains. Who exactly is this Taranaut? Portrait of a “chief mechanic” very different from the stereotypes.
For the first mate, Nicolas Bin, Loïc is “a guy I like to work and sail with! He’s someone who finishes things and doesn’t go half-way.” On board, everyone agrees that the young man is conscientious and reliable. But not only…
Chief engineer Loïc Caudan upon arrival in Yokohama harbour © Noélie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation
32 years old, married with one child, Loïc grew up in Val-d’Oise until he was 20. He enrolled in geography at the university and earned a bachelor’s degree in “History, Sociology, Climatology and Geology”. In parallel, he became an instructor for “dinghy sailing and sailboat cruising”. Following a year of volunteer work at the French Les Glénans sailing school and a state certificate as sports instructor at the National Sailing School of Quiberon, Loïc found his vocation! “At least for a while.” He then worked at Les Glénans for 3 seasons. While there, he didn’t hesitate to jump overboard to put his apprentice-monitors to the test during rescue exercises. “The most grueling session lasted 45 minutes in 15° C water. That’s a long time, even in a wetsuit,” recalls the chief mechanic.
In 2010, he joined forces with Father Jaouen’s association to improve his knowledge of ship maintenance and repair: “I was given responsibilities even as a novice. I helped to fabricate a bronze rudder bearing for a 36-meter boat. A rare experience!” It’s here that he acquired the basics for his future work aboard Tara. He then embarked on a major personal project: buying and refitting a steel sailboat and sailing along the coasts of Africa, Brazil and Uruguay.
On his return in 2012, he passed the 750Kw mechanic’s certificate and volunteered as a mechanic on the Greenland expedition Under the Pole. “I was involved in the project from the construction site to the end of the exploration. And it was during this first polar experience that I encountered my first big engine breakdown. Seawater had entered the cylinder head.” Loïc then turned to another environment: fishing. He embarked as second mechanic on a 35-meter trawler for 8 months.
© Tara Expéditions Foundation
Loïc always thought about working aboard Tara: “I wanted to continue to be on a work boat and to sail, which is, in my opinion the nicest way to navigate.” For the last 2 and a half years, the 30-year old has taken turns in the position of chief mechanic on the schooner. Daniel Cron, his alter ego on board explains: “In general, it’s a bit frustrating since we just cross paths on Tara. But just for a change, this time I embarked as deck officer. So we have the opportunity to sail together for a month to Fiji. And I’m very happy! We are opposites in character: he’s rather quiet and I’m rather extroverted. In fact Loic mentions from time to time that silence doesn’t bother him. At first, he plays the role of gruffy bear and it takes a little while to find the marshmallow inside. He’s a fake bad guy, but a real grumbler when it comes to the consumption of water and electricity on board. And he’s right!”
© Maeva Bardy / Tara Expéditions Foundation
It must be said that Loïc is responsible for all of the schooner’s energy production. He understands how much each drop of water costs and knows every energy expenditure. Engines, generators, desalinator, electric circuits, water circuits for science and even sanitary. Loïc watches over Tara’s essential organs, and also over his teammates. He is always there to help.
After thinking about it, he probably makes a game out of being reluctant. Loïc displays a cynical sense of humor but he doesn’t lack responsiveness or general culture. His characteristic shrugging and eyebrow raising show that he participates in the teasing on board. You often have to listen carefully to hear him say a word. He doesn’t like being the center of attention, and when the on-board correspondent points a camera in his direction, the chief mechanic bends over and closes his eyes. When asked to open them, he answers at a glance, “You should take my picture only when I have them open! Maybe it’s time you found a real job.” Bursts of laughter follow.
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