15 June 2015
After more than seven months in Lorient, it’s time for TARA to head out to the open sea. This Sunday, the boat will weigh anchor to navigate some 6,000 nautical miles across Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and England. Nine weeks of sailing that require careful preparation during the last hours at dock, and the perfect opportunity to find out what the boat really has in its belly.
Yesterday TARA took the opportunity to fill its reservoirs with 20,000 liters of diesel, enough to make it through to next year’s checkup in a shipyard. Besides tools, equipment, and fittings, there’s another task concerning supplies: the food. The kitchen, with the engine room, is the second beating heart of TARA, and for this summer campaign it’s Dominique’s realm. It’s been 3 years since this former nurse left her white uniform on land for an apron on board. “It corresponded to a period in my life where I could change jobs, have time for myself, so when the chance to embark came up, I took the opportunity.”
Since the first meals she prepared in Ireland, “Do” (as everyone on board calls her) has developped a taste for travel — from Norway to the Mediterranean to the legendary Northwest Passage. And despite her kitchen responsibilties, Do won’t stay confined. “As soon as I hear the crew manoeuvering the boat, I stop everything and go up on deck. Even if the sailors don’t really need me, I still can participate in one way or another. I don’t want to be just a cook. I need to get involved in the manoeuvres.” At the stove and on the “coffee grinders”, those winches on deck for taking up slack during manoeuvres, Do must satisfy the stomachs of 16 crew members aboard and up to 30 guests at certain ports-of-call.
For the upcoming voyage to Greenland, the quantities loaded aboard are dizzying: 150kg flour, 40kg sugar, 65kg pasta and 100 chocolate bars. “I have to calculate the quantities needed for three and a half months, knowing that in Greenland we can’t stock up. When we leave, we’re generally autonomous for the duration of the expedition, except for some occasional fresh produce at stopovers.”
To assess the magnitude of the task, we follow Do during one of her outings in Lorient, between fish mongers, organic food market and supermarkets. With her unique shopping list, her TARA T-shirt and her smile, Do attracts the kindness of shopkeepers and producers. “People are often curious about what we do on TARA, and they help me. They understand our needs and put aside not-too-ripe vegetables so we can keep them longer. “For example, the farmer from whom I ordered this morning: I’m sure there won’t be a single damaged vegetable in the box he’ll deliver.” Meeting TARA’s cook is a taste of adventure coming to the market stands. There are discussions and questions, and the merchants are happy to have their products sail off to distant lands. A jar of jam, a bunch of radishes or a few fish – lots of small gifts added to the supplies on board. They’re stored in every corner of TARA because the 2 large shelves in the forward hold, the freezer and 3 refrigerators are not big enough for this precious cargo. Provisions are stored everywhere, under the cabin bunks and benches in the main room – unexpected pantries that always draw smiles from TARA’s visitors. Imaginative cooking is probably the best ally of the on board cook. “When I’m running out of fresh products, I try to find recipes that taste fresh. Sometimes with only one zucchini for 15 people, added to tagliatelle, we still feel like we’re eating something green (laughs).”
But true happiness for cooks at sea is contained in one word: stopover. In the markets of ports and medinas during the Tara Mediterranean expedition, the kitchen was garnished with exotic aromas and spicy flavors. Do safeguards these collected treasures in one of the kitchen drawers, like a small condiment museum. Spices from Algeria, Lebanese cinnamon and white pepper from Egypt – so many gustatory postcards whose fragrances sometimes pervade the dining room with a reminder that aboard TARA, the journey often begins on the plate.
Pierre de Parscau