Four months after her return from the Tara Pacific expedition, the schooner is getting ready for her next mission thanks to the valuable know-how of her sailors and some local businesses. Designed nearly 30 years ago by the architects Olivier Petit and Luc Bouvet, Tara is a unique vessel. Sheltered from bad weather in the west wing of the ship repair area in Keroman in Lorient, the schooner’s maintenance is in progress. Conducted every 3 years, the work includes major renovations and small improvements.
450 Sikaflex cartridges!
The mess room is an essential living space. It is where Tara’s team members work, welcome guests and officials, eat, chat and even dance! During the last transatlantic crossing, the crew noticed several leaks around the Plexiglas panels. The seals had aged, and required repair. First, the mess room was entirely emptied and the panels removed following a well-defined procedure. Then came the famous Sikaflex, an adhesive mastic to be warmed up in a water bath. For the 2 largest panels alone, almost 50 Sikaflex cartridges were used and a total of 450 necessary to complete the entire job.
Application of Sikaflex mastic to ensure the proper sealing of the Plexiglas panels © Lucas Blijdorp / Tara Expeditions Foundation
As for the Plexiglas panels in the PC-Com area, the first plate of double glazing was cracked and needed replacement. Plexiglass plates are molded then pared down to fit precise dimensions. Plates are made larger than their final shape. A jigsaw and careful attention are required because the slightest error can cause the Plexiglass panels to crack or melt. A slow cut is made under running water to keep the plates constantly cool. This demands rigorous attention with millimetric precision.
Mess room refurbishment
In the mess room, the headliners – linings inside the hull – damaged from leaks, have been replaced, and new cork flocking was installed to improve insulation. From the icy Arctic Ocean to the warm turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, the temperature inside the schooner requires regular adjustments. Ensuring thermal and sound insulation is absolutely crucial, so Tara’s crew can enjoy the warmth of the mess room in the Arctic Ocean and its coolness in warmer regions. By the end, the entire mess room will have been refurbished!
Tara at Keroman dry dock © François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation
Since Tara had to be dismasted, the sailors took the opportunity to perform some checks and repairs on the masts. First step: removing rust from stainless steel parts, such as the guy ropes attached to either side of the mast to stabilize it. A protective acid-based product is then applied before rinsing thoroughly. Strands – cords, twisted together, that make guy ropes – halyards and sails are also inspected. Finally, the mast heads are given a coat of orange paint, Tara’s signature!
Generators, windlass, rudder, etc.
One of Tara’s major ongoing repairs is the replacement of her two generators (GE1 and GE2), located at the front of the vessel. To carry out the necessary work, each generator has to be brought into the rear hold. Very heavy and too large to pass through doorways, the generators and motor are separated to allow their removal from the vessel. This operation is complex because there is no hook on the hold ceiling to fasten a hoist. As a result, the power generators have to be manually extracted and moved with the assistance of a plate.
At the same time the crew overhauls, repairs and replaces many parts of the schooner – the windlass (winch used to let out and pull up the anchor), forestay and backstay (cables that stabilize the masts), wheeling system and rudder.
On the rear deck, a new coat of white anti-skid paint will be applied and the electrical capstans (winches used to roll up or down ropes) are being renovated.
The maintenance is well under way, but there is still much to do before Tara can set sail again. Crew and volunteers are getting ready to step Tara’s mast by mid-March. The schooner will then leave on a European mission about Microplastics. Scheduled departure in June 2019.
Bon courage to everyone at the Keroman chantier!