Alone, on my first night watch

© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

Chronicle of Clémence Lesacq, winner of the Libé-Apaj writing contest.

Alone, on my first night watch

Tuesday, September 30th, early morning 

Second night aboard Tara. In the cockpit, the small round black clock says 4:50 am. From 4 to 6 am it’s my turn on watch. The other 13 passengers are sleeping. The instructions are so simple and clear, it took me only a few seconds to understand them. On the computer screen, make sure that the little red symbol identified as Tara does not go beyond the green circle. If it does, then wake up Martin, the Captain. Also watch if any red button (there are lots in front of me) starts to blink, makes noise or whatever. If this happens, then wake up Samuel, the chief engineer. In any case, don’t go into the wrong cabin and wake up half the boat. Easy.

I am by no means reassured.

We are moored off Sanary-sur-mer. No stars in the sky and the water is inky black. The lights of the city surround us but the feeling of loneliness is immense. The silence is heavy, punctuated by unfamiliar noises, pops and beeps. The radio to my left erupts in voices crackling inaudible sentences. Sometimes in French, sometimes in English. And I wasn’t warned about that. It’s about positions, numbers, ”alpha”, ”station” and “good morning.” I understand one word out of two, and I jump at each response. And what if a voice was actually trying to contact me? What do I do? What is the protocol? “Hello, yes, hello, excuse me I’m not hearing you well (I don’t understand anything), could you repeat the question? Yes, because, no, you know, this is the first time I’m on watch on a boat. In fact, this is my first time on a boat. I still have trouble distinguishing starboard from port… You think it’s irresponsible leaving me alone at the bar? It’s fun for me, too! Monologue of embarrassment.

Finally, I choose my course, and play deaf. I won’t answer anyone, and pray that no ship or maritime official has the bright idea of trying to communicate with Tara. Only three quarters of an hour left to hang on…

Clémence Lesacq


About the author:

In July 2014, Clémence Lesacq won the Tara prize in a writing competition organized by the newspaper Libération and the Association for Aid to Young Authors (Libé-Apaj). This year’s theme was “On the road and byways.”

Click here to read her prize-winning text “Dawn of the Journey.” Clémence will voyage aboard Tara for 12 days between Marseilles and Naples, and will regularly send Chronicles from the schooner.