Men’s Health finally ran a four page article that came out of the voyage that Bobby John Varkey did with us on our way to participate in the President’s Fleet Review last December. Along with him was his photographer Vivek Singh.
I have been asked many questions about the voyage and I have been hearing the same ones ever since Cdr Donde began his. I can make out a lack of awareness of the oceans but it is more than compensated by the inquisitiveness of our people. Here goes…
Q- Are you doing this solo alone?
A- Yes. (I am not sure if it is so that people do not get the “solo” part or if they cannot bring themselves to believe that it is going to be a solo)
Q- How many people are going with you in the boat?
A- That depends on the skipper. Cdr Donde liked to believe that there were three people in the boat (I, me, myself). I will be going alone though.
Q- How much money are you carrying with you for the voyage?
A- We have an ATM onboard. Seriously? When am I going to need money in the middle of the sea?
Q- How will you carry food for the voyage?
A- Food preservation technology has progressed considerably since the first circumnavigation by Joshua Slocum. I will be carrying a mix of fresh food (which will last for about a month), tinned food and ready to eat food (which will last about six months) and freeze dry food (which can last upto 5 years). There is no refrigeration onboard due to electricity issues. And then is rice and dal and dry fish and pickles and all that which can almost last indefinitely.
The planning is for half a kilo of food a day which makes it 100 kilos for 200 days and we have more than enough space in the boat for that.
Q- How do you cook?
A- We have cooking gas onboard. Two gas cylinders are more than enough for a circumnavigation. In case that doesn't work, I will use the engine to heat water.
Q- What is the easiest dish to cook?
A- Boiled potatoes in sea water. Its simple. Try it. Remember not to add salt.
Q- What is comfort food?
Q- What about water?
A- Water will be carried in tanks (600 litres) and about 200 bottles of fresh water (my consumption on an average is 1 litre per day). In addition we have an RO plan that converts sea water into fresh water. Other than cooking and drinking, all water requirements will be met with sea water. That includes bathing, brushing, doing the dishes, washing clothes etc.
Q- How do you wash clothes?
A- Soak in sea water and detergent for a day. Tie the clothes to the end of a line and stream it behind the boat. Sail fast. Its a natural washing machine
Q- Are you scared?
A- For whatever reason, the answer is a “No”. And I don’t know why. I am looking forward to the voyage. What bothers me is what will I do when I get back.
Q- How do you mentally prepare yourself?
A- I meditate everyday. That helps. Besides, I have faith in the boat. So that is a lot of strain taken off your mind.
Q- Why do you need electricity? How do you generate electricity?
A- We need electricity for running the navigation and communications equipment onboard. Electricity is generated through the main engine (very rarely because it is least efficient for generating electricity), a 3.5KVA generator, solar panels and wind generator. These sources charge the service battery bank which comprises 4 Northstar batteries.
Q- How fuel efficient is the boat?
A- It is as green as it can get. We did a voyage from Thailand to Kochi and the fuel consumption was only 30litres. Ironically, when I reached Kochi there was a statewide shut down protesting hike in fuel prices. The boat is currently set up so that it can be at sea for 600 days or more without touching port. Of course it is a theoretical figure and we consider that all equipment keeps working as good as new.
Q- How do you arrive at the date of departure?
A- We aim to follow the sun, spending all the southern hemisphere legs in southern summers. Therefore, a November departure appears to be the best, to make good Horn by Jan and Indian Ocean by April.
Q- How much is the project going to cost?
A- I am not in a position to comment on the exact figures but we are trying to keep it as low as possible. From the time she has been conceived, all projects pertaining to the boat has been completed well within budget.
Q- How insane is it?
A- To quote Yossarian’s doctor, its more insane on land.
Q- What is the point you are trying to prove by doing this?
A- “To be secure on land, we must be supreme at sea,”- Jawaharlal Nehru.
The project aims to draw the attention of our people to the oceans and encourage our youth to look oceanward for inspiration.
When I mentioned to a friend that I would be departing on a solo circumnavigation of the globe in 70 days, her question was, “Is it business or pleasure?”
I am not sure if she really got the point.
Preparations for the project are coming along well though. The contract was offloaded to the firm that built her, Aquarius Fiberglas, putting her in a very safe pair of hands. That has also taken my mind off a lot of matter that might have nagged me forever.
When the core team began drawing plans for boat preparation, the idea was to have as many backs ups as possible without affecting the sailing ability of the boat. Consequently, we have a whole lot of new equipment and spares coming into the boat- new set of solar panels, a wind generator, a new diesel generator, new pumps, inverter, battery charger, steering gear, wind vane autopilot sensors etc. With data from the last voyage from Phuket to Kochi I can safely assume that she can stay out at sea for about 600 days before touching any port- that is the kind of endurance that has been built into her provided nothing breaks.
While the boat’s preparation goes on at her usual mooring, we had a progress meeting at Delhi and it is heartening to note that things are going well and as per schedule. Plans for installing a system of some very expensive cameras went through a rough patch of weather and had to be scuttled. Nevertheless, like a true Naval officer, there is a plan B and I am in no mood to disappoint people back home by returning empty handed in that department.
Delhi was an opportune time for the defence PRO to catch hold of the “master and his prodigy” (as one news channel put it) and expose us to the media. His plan seems to have worked out well and in that department the project is in safe hands. Consequently, we established this blog as the official blog for the project (this was a private blog earlier) and www.facebook.com/www.mhadei.co.in as the Facebook page.
I got back to living in the boat now. The hammock is well pretty well set between the galley and skipper’s bunk. Work goes on by day but it is very pleasant in the evenings- a time that I keep to gather my thoughts and spend time in the company of books.