© F.Aurat/ Tara Expéditions

2 February 2016

This time it’s inevitable: Brigitte and Thérèse, Tara’s 2 original engines will retire after 25 years of loyal service. They will be recycled for use on other boats.

Back from Paris where she proudly led the “Ocean and Climate” campaign  at the COP2, the schooner Tara was moved to dry-dock for major renovation in preparation for the upcoming expedition to the Pacific, scheduled for 2016 – 2018. The renovation had been programmed for a long time  by Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions, and Romain Troublé, Secretary General.

AV0O3109After the long process of re-installing the masts, on January 9th  Tara finally left the port of Le Havre for Lorient. On January 22nd, the boat was hoisted onto the quay at  Keroman fishing port in Lorient for a major overhaul. The captain and crew have moved temporarily to a house in Larmor Plage. Captain Martin Hertau lists the many tasks to be accomplished by the month of May. “We will take advantage of the absence of the 2 original motors to completely overhaul the engine room”, he said. “We’ll remove the engines, verify the gearboxes, and replace them with 2 new motors that meet current standards for pollution control, so that Tara will be more in line with our environmental commitments and scientific missions. We often use the sails during expeditions, but we use the motors to approach  sampling stations”.

Tara’s overhaul is being directed by Jean Collet, captain of the schooner when it was first launched (and called “Antarctica”) by Jean-Louis Etienne. The replacement of the engines will be done by Meunier, a company large enough to put extra staff on site in case of a delay. “These engines are manufactured by Cummins”, said Jean Collet. This new generation requires a better cooling system, and better filtration of diesel fuel. So, a transformation is necessary on this level”. Jean Collet is primarily responsible for relations between the different suppliers and for overall management of the site, in liaison with the Tara Base in Paris.

The new engines will have the same power as the old ones, but their displacement decreases from 14 liters to 10 liters each. Tara will thus benefit from technical progress made since 1989 when the boat was first launched. Her motors will be less polluting and more efficient, thanks to better adapted propellers. “We’ll change the propellers too”, explains Jean Collet. We’re working with a specialist to improve their performance and consumption in general. They’ll be more efficient: less fuel for greater speed”. But this new type of engine requires a larger cooling system, necessitating some structural changes not originally planned. The team will take this opportunity to redo the entire insulation of the machine room, improve ventilation, change all the hoses. “The engine room has not been empty for a very long time. This is an occasion to optimize it,” explains Tara’s captain.


In the port of Keroman, crew members have already begun to dismantle the ship, covering-up and  protecting to get ready for painting They’ll also prepare the panels which will be moved onto the deck in order to remove the engines. For the moment, rainy weather has hindered this delicate operation. The propeller shaft lines were also taken apart and sent to the repair shop. In a shed converted into a workshop, everything has been stored and inventoried, ready to be analyzed, cleaned and reassembled later.

This major cleanup combines with another aspect of this exceptional operation: setting up the boat for Tara Pacific – a 2-year expedition to study the coral reefs of Asia. “We need to build a lab bench for handling coral samples. This requires installations on deck”, explains Martin Hertau. But there will also be a bench for working inside the boat. One cabin was redone last summer and a dry lab is now set up in le petit carré. Another lab will be installed in the rear hold for the coral.”

The scientific program is currently being developed, so we’ll adapt the schooner progressively to the needs of the scientists.The expedition will involve lots of scuba diving. To ensure the safety of the divers, Tara will be equipped with an inflatable hyperbaric chamber* and a compressor for filling scuba tanks. “There was no room on deck to put a hyperbaric chamber”,  explains Jean Collet. “This one is inflatable and can accommodate 2 people in case something happens. It will be installed on the deck during underwater dives, then folded up and stored in the hold the rest of the time”.



Built for polar ice, Tara is now ready to set sail in warmer seas. Expeditions in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean were trial runs. The crew already knows what improvements are needed to make the boat livable at high temperatures. Every new expedition requires certain procedures, renewal of documents and security-related equipment.

This major renovation is entirely funded by agnès b., Tara’s founder and main sponsor, with help from other loyal partners. The engine-removal work will continue until mid-March. A cooling system will be installed in late March, and the new engines in early April. Finally a rejuvenated Tara will be launched on  April 20th.

Dino Di Meo

* The recompression chamber — or hyperbaric chamber — is a medico-technical facility for exposing divers to higher pressure than that of the surface. Recompression, defined by the depth of their last dive, restores a normal cycle of decompression if it was interrupted.


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