IMPACT JOURNALISM DAY 2015: FLOATING SOLUTIONS

Project to share low-tech solutions

The Sea Nomad team of Corentin de Chatelperron (above), Ary Pauget, LouisMarie de Certaines, Roland Moreau, Emmanuel Poisson, Elaine Le Floch, PierreAlain Leveque and Arthur Penet, and sponsor Roland Jourdain.
The Sea Nomad team of Corentin de Chatelperron (above), Ary Pauget, LouisMarie de Certaines, Roland Moreau, Emmanuel Poisson, Elaine Le Floch, PierreAlain Leveque and Arthur Penet, and sponsor Roland Jourdain. PHOTO: ZEPPELIN

Team plans round-the-world voyage to promote ideas

FRENCH engineer Corentin de Chatelperron spent six months out at sea alone in 2013, sailing around the Bay of Bengal on a boat he built out of jute.

His plan was to survive with only what he had on board.

But his potato and lemon plants died. His bamboo mast broke after termites ate into it. And his chickens ran away the first chance they got.

The self­described handyman said he learnt an important lesson: "When I'm alone, isolated and without the Internet, I am pretty useless. I can't be self­sufficient by myself."

Lesson learnt, the 30-year-old returned to his native France to start a new, more ambitious project called Nomade des Mers, or "Sea Nomad".

It aims to promote low­tech solutions - those that are simple, inexpensive, environmentally responsible, and respond to basic needs - across the world.

With European economies battered and environmental awareness rising, interest in low-tech solutions is growing, said Mr Kris de Decker, founder of online publication Low­tech Magazine.

Mr de Chatelperron and two full­time colleagues have created a website for sharing existing low­tech solutions and inventing new ones.

This spring they will build an 18m catamaran out of jute and flax grown in France. The plan is to launch it early next year and sail around the world, from France around the tip of Africa, across Asia, and then to the Americas.

They estimate they will reach 50 destinations in three years, promoting low­tech ideas at every port they dock at.

With close to 800 members and growing, the Nomade des Mers website has already spawned the type of innovation and idea­sharing that the team is hoping for.

One member recently posted a video on how to make an energy­efficient stove with a few metal tools and some stainless steel tubes. Another showed how to make rope out of old plastic bags.

Explaining his vision for the project, Mr de Chatelperron said: "There are lots of low­tech innovators out there - engineers, NGOs, handymen and women, and people in poor countries, for example. But they're all in their own corners. The idea is to bring them together."

At each stop, the crew hopes to pick up new low­tech ideas.

But his dream is not without challenges. Attracting people outside of Europe will not be easy, said Ms Mathilde Richelet, who works for Roots Up, an NGO in Ethiopia hoping to collaborate with Nomade des Mers. "Most low­tech innovation is happening in poor countries," she said. "It will be difficult to find the people behind these innovations because they're often in remote places."

But Mr de Chatelperron is not deterred. "It won't work right at first," he admitted. "But by the end of the journey, I believe we'll have it figured out."

ROSALIE HUGHES/ SPARKNEWS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'Project to share low-tech solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe