Two names for an expedition

© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

20 November 2014

The schooner is advancing under sail, the crew’s rhythm is more relaxed and everyone is calmly occupying themselves.

Michel Franco is delving into the on board library, which he says adds weight to the schooner. The engineer of the boat keeps repeating “Tara weighs 40 tons too much”. While exploring the Paulsen collection, Michel pulls out an unexpected book: “The Big Guide to Names”. First names of all the team members are then reviewed. Among them, the two captains of Tara Mediterranean: Martin which means “warrior” and Samuel “name of God.”

To the definitions, the author of the guide added some lines on the character traits of the bearers of common names. Brainstorming in the grand carré: How to describe our two captains who took turns throughout Tara Mediterranean?

Upon reflection, the crew came up with the first words: determined, willing to help, professional, secretive, not averse to jokes and very cultured. That’s how the Taranautes perceived 37-year-old Martin Hertau. Mathieu Oriot, who shared his cabin for three months, added with a smile: he enjoys reading “Le Canard Enchainé” newspaper in his bunk, and he often punctuates the sentences with “voilà.”

And Samuel Audrain? Charismatic and serene. The 36-year-old from Nantes cultivates his sense of logic and his taste for a job well done. Always smiling, he tries to use the right words. Reserved at first, he knows how to communicate. His friends say he is fearless in action. And when he does say that he “was afraid”, it’s always an afterthought and this means that the danger level of the situation was really high.

One speaks with a quiet and calm tone, the other at a fast clip, but both Samuel and Martin are adept at manoeuvering the boat. They speak to people looking them straight in the eye. On board, they took turns in the posts of Chief Engineer and Captain during the 7-month expedition in the Mediterranean.

It’s precisely this versatility that inspires Samuel. “Unlike a large boat, you can do everything on Tara,” he explains. “On board, I’ve worked at all of the posts. I don’t like being confined to a single task. When I’m Captain and there’s a machine problem, I like to give a hand to the Chief Engineer.” Martin, for his part, was impressed with “Tara’s program and its usefulness.”
When it comes to their careers, they evoke the world of sailing. After a year studying philosophy, Martin went boat-hitchhiking as crew on transatlantics to Brazil and then to the Antilles. He moved later to Montreal, where he did odd jobs before deciding to turn his passion into a profession. On his return to France, Martin prepared a racing boat at St Malo for the Route du Rhum, then he worked escorting boats and in chartering. He crossed paths with Tara in 2011when the boat stopped over in Patagonia, at Puerto Williams. He had a discussion with Hervé Bourmaud, the Captain at the time. Martin has real experience of the Far North, Tara was about to leave for the Arctic, and the CV of the Malouin (inhabitant of St. Malo) interested Hervé. Two months later, Martin received a brief email in which Hervé invited Martin to come aboard as First Mate. His on board experience began in 2011 during the Tara Oceans expedition between Polynesia and San Diego. He assumed the role of Captain for the first time during the Tara Oceans Polar Circle expedition  in 2013.

Samuel realized later that sailing could be a career. He studied at the UCPA and then at Glénans where he wanted to teach what he had learned. A combination of circumstances, chance and nerve led him to Clipperton Island, to work alongside the explorer Jean-Louis Etienne. Sailing towards the island, he heard a lot about Antarctica (Tara’s first name) while sharing the night watches with a man named Jeannot, a crew member of Antarctica and Seamaster. Finally, it was Jean-Louis Etienne who put Samuel in contact with the new owner of the boat, Etienne Bourgois. His first mission began in 2005, in South Georgia and then there would be the 11 months of Arctic drift, “on another planet.”

Tara Mediterranean is ending. As captains, Martin and Samuel were responsible for ensuring the safety of the crew, the smooth progress of the scientific research and stopovers. But after donning overalls, they would take turns disappearing into Tara’s caverns to ensure the smooth operation of the boat, without which nothing would have been possible. Two captains and two ways to manage the expedition. Samuel and Martin instilled a different energy on board as a function of their experience and character traits.

Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles