First successful navigation between Dunkirk and Saint-Nazaire
by Alexandre Dechelotte, CCO and co-founder of Plastic Odyssey
First day of 2022, first voyage for the Plastic Odyssey vessel. After many postponements, departure details are finally in place. This is good news for the whole team: seeing the ship at sea – after so many months in the shipyard – reassures our troops and boosts their spirits! This navigation has a very special flavor, because its goal is to reach the port of Saint-Nazaire as soon as possible to start… a new refit! The last one. After more than a year and a half of renovation in the expert hands of the Damen shipyard in Dunkirk, the ship will now undergo its last big repair: replacement of a complete ballast tank whose wear was discovered during an inspection a few months ago. An area that had never been visited during the ship’s 40-plus year life time; it is fortunate that this defect was discovered before the big departure.
Thursday, January 13th
Smooth departure from St-Malo in the calm atmosphere of the night at 05:00 this morning. The wind that blew last week and the waves it kicked up prevented us from continuing our route. It finally calmed down, returning the sea to a more welcoming condition. During these few days at berth, we were able to repair the windlass11 of the forward manoeuvring station, which had decided to stop working a little after our arrival in front of the fortified city of Saint-Malo. The engine cooling issue is also solved! Tristan, the chief engineer, will be very happy to arrive in St-Nazaire with one more problem fixed! As for me, I disembarked to go back to my sedentary life, and to write this logbook’s final entries from my office in Bordeaux.
At sunrise, we can see in front of the bow the fins of dolphins playing with the wave our ship has created. The weather is clear, the sea is extremely calm, and the show is magnificent.
The next stop is Roscoff: a journey that the ship reaches in a little more than 10 hours of navigation. Light traffic, the current pushing us almost all the way, a tight maneuvering but brilliantly succeeded by a more and more experienced team: the first mission of our proud ship will soon be a great success.
11 winch to manage the tension of the mooring lines.
Friday, January 14th
It’s time for our Team Meeting. But today, our weekly session is more like a travelogue. The crew connects by videoconference from the ship in the middle of the navigation. They are soon joined by a group of dolphins that Olivier is eager to show us live from the bow.
“We will have to take the TSS12 off Ouessant Island because we are not allowed to pass in the coastal area. We have increased our speed so as not to exceed the 12-hour limit at sea. At this speed, we will arrive in Brest around 5 pm.”
Olivier is pragmatic, reassuring, and despite the fact that this is his first voyage as captain, the way he handled the few problems we encountered is a testament to his extensive seafaring experience and his immense ability to adapt. A first navigation – after two years of construction on a 40-year-old ship, still not yet finished – is quite a first experience at the command!
But it’s a faultless job for Olivier and the whole crew: the arrival maneuver in a tight space goes smoothly and the crew can go and rest before heading off again tomorrow, taking advantage of the beautiful weather window that allows us to finish this crossing before the end of the weekend.
12 Traffic Separation Scheme: area in which vessel traffic is regulated, comparable to an imaginary highway (only drawn on maps) with a direction of traffic and specific rules to respect.
Saturday, January 15th
Departure from Brest in the early morning, heading for Lorient. Olivier tells me about his manoeuvre of undocking which he completed perfectly – no surprise! but which he was able to analyze in order to retrace the steps one by one. I can sense the confidence growing daily in Olivier’s voice and in his stories. It feels good to know that the ship is in good hands. Beyond their professional expertise, the entire crew shares Plastic Odyssey’s vision
Around 2 pm, the ship passes off the Glénan archipelago and at 5 p.m. sharp, the ship is moored at the docks of the port of Lorient, ready to leave the next day, heading for Saint-Nazaire.
Sunday, January 16th
Last leg for this navigation which started on 01.01.2022. Today’s program: rounding the Quiberon peninsula, passing between Belle-Île and Houat, then south of Hoedic, before heading gently eastwards towards Saint-Nazaire.
And so, in one short day with beautiful weather, the vessel completes its last voyage before several months of shipyard. The welcome is warm: Anne, our accountant and administrative assistant, has come from Nantes to bring the crew a “galette des rois” and a hot dinner. This is an opportunity to raise a toast to the health of this beautiful ship, which has just completed her first of a long series of expeditions under its new flag, that of the Plastic Odyssey adventure.
Kouamé, Mamadou, Louis, Hugues, Tanguy, Tristan, Ludovic, Gilles, and Olivier: a big, big thank you for this mission that you have brilliantly completed. The adventure can continue! And in a few months, this shipyard work that began in 2019 will be once and for all behind us, and we will finally launch the expedition with you.
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