Portrait of an apprentice adventurer

© Mare Nostrum Project

15 April 2015

Louis Wilmotte is an apprentice electrician full of humor. The Taranautes highly praise this young adventurer, and compliments abound every time his name is mentioned. With his endearing and slightly wacky character, young Louis really livens up the atmosphere of the boat. Portrait of an apprentice adventurer.

He looks a little like the well-known comedian/actor Gad Elmaleh. Louis sailed  on Tara for the first time 3 years ago from Brittany to Ireland, and thanks to his perseverance, he was able to join the team: “I saw the boat return to Lorient from the Tara Arctic expedition in 2008. I was 17 and had just started my technical studies. I sent in my resumé many times before being taken aboard as a rookie. Finally, when the schooner returned from Tara Oceans in 2012, I was contacted to work on the construction site.” Louis now divides his time between classes at the IUT (Technical University) of Nice and his work on board. And he’s virtually bursting with ideas involving renewable energy to set up on the boat.

When not working on Tara’s electrical circuitry, Louis sets off on an adventure. Inspired by Kim Hafez, Sylvain Tesson and Alexandre Poussin, he does everything not to be a passive reader. “I read a lot of stories of adventurers,     people who did extraordinary things.  And then one day reading is not enough and you say to yourself ‘why not me’?” That’s how Louis and his friend Douglas imagined the project “Mare Nostrum,” a one-year-and-four-month voyage across the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Istanbul, in a kayak.

In May 2013, the young electrician boarded Tara Oceans and made a crossing to Tromsø, Norway. 3 weeks later, he went to Gibraltar for Mare Nostrum.  First sketched out on a simple piece of paper, the project required one and a half years of preparation before hitting the water. And the 12-month journey turned into 15 months of adventure, thanks to the financial support of the Sorbonne and the DCNS.
10,000 km were traveled  in all kinds of weather using biceps-power, “an interesting physical commitment.” This was not his first attempt. He had crossed France by kayak from Brest to Collioure in 2009.
Inspired by Tara, the 2 rowers took samples for the University of Toulon and the Observatory of Villefranche-sur-Mer, and they communicated with schoolchildren. “At the beginning you start with nothing, just 2 students who have a project; then you meet some interested people. Finally, you land a first partnership thanks to a few dreamers who give you a hand.”

For Louis, one adventure follows another. Between his arrival in Istanbul in a kayak and his last voyage aboard Tara in October, only 3 short weeks have passed. After 15 months of camping, Louis was happy to be warm, to put on clean socks every morning, and let himself be pampered by Tara’s cook Dominique. The apprentice was happy to let go of the oars, do other things with his hands, and then return to his studies. Louis knows that other adventures lie ahead: “Once I’ve filled up on human warmth, eaten well again, and had enough of school, it will be time for me to return to crazier things.”  For this Taranaute, adventure is a viral itch.

Noëlie Pansiot

Visit Mare Nostrum project’s website

Related articles:

- Read the last log:  “The boat notes”

- Read Corentin de Chatelperron (Nomad of the seas) interview