Tara leaves Savannah


27 January 2012

At 10 o’clock local time, Tara and her 15-member crew navigated down the Savannah River to the North Atlantic Ocean. We’re headed for New York, with 2 scientific stations programmed along the way, including one in the famous warm current of the Gulf Stream.
The fog was heavy this morning, but lifted an hour before we raised anchor. For a long time, the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge pillars were shrouded in fog. After the traditional horn signal announced our imminent departure, and just as Captain Loïc Vallette set the motors into reverse, the sun finally appeared. Tara’s grey hull gently peeled away from the dock running along River Street as the tide began descending.
The usual operations were carried out. The dinghy was raised onboard and stowed. The fenders and hawsers put away until the next stopover. In just 2 hours, accompanied by hungry sterns and a few pelicans overhead, we reached the Atlantic Ocean. Calm seas and light winds from the southeast were ideal conditions for a first night at sea.
For this “Gulf Stream” leg, the team is mostly French, with one Cuban, one German and one Italian. But as usual, English will be our common language to accomplish this next stage of our scientific mission around the world.
This evening all sails are hoisted:  mainsail, foresail, staysail and yankee. We’re in the middle of the Sargasso Sea, making just over 6 knots, and certainly helped by the Gulf Stream. But only partially, according to Lars Stemmann, our head scientist: the power of this warm current, which rises from the tropics before crossing the North Atlantic, will tell us immediately when we’re totally caught in its flow.
“The current of the Gulf Stream is 300 times more powerful than the Amazon River, and 5,000 times more powerful than the Rhone. Its average flow is 55 million cubic meters per second,” Lars told us last night at the first briefing. Our climate in Europe depends on this current. It’s also a major player in the global circulation of water on our planet.
Before our next station, the 144th since leaving Lorient over 2 years ago, we have to sail about 400 miles and pass Cape Hatteras, where the Gulf Stream flows very close to the coast.
This first long station, devoted to the Gulf Stream, should take place after 2 days of navigation, on the 28th or 29th of January. For the second station 3 days later, we will be positioned above a warm whirlpool, developing in the cold current coming from Labrador. It’s only 10 short days until we dock in the North Cove Marina at New York’s Battery Park.
Vincent Hilaire