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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sixth Time Shellback- Crossing the Equator

_DSC0004After 15 days of solitude, whale and dolphin sightings, weaving through fishermen’s minefields, squalls and days of being becalmed, we crossed the Equator at 0505 hrs India time on the 16th day of November 2012 about sixteen miles east of E080deg longitude. A short distance before the crossing, the boat paralleled out, sailed some distance along the Equator and was blessed one last time by the Northern Hemisphere with a mild shower. Soon after that we officially crossed over to the other hemisphere where there is more sea than land, less wars and even less politics, where the wind blows the right way for all the wrong reasons, concocting the worst oceans of the world as it blows its way relentlessly with confidence in itself. From now on, my world is guaranteed to be lived upside down.
_DSC0023This has been the Mhadei’s seventh crossing in three years. We celebrated with liqueur gifted by Swaati. The first swig went to the Oceans and to Lord Varuna, the second to the boat and the remainder was equally distributed amongst the crew. On my part I drew a little of the ocean out of itself and preserved it for her in the same bottle.

The first time I crossed the equator was in 1999. We were cadets onboard the Krishna on our way to Madagascar. There was a ceremony where the commanding officer was arrested and presented at the court of Lord Varuna. One by one, he along with officers and ships company, were judged in the Lord’s Court and meted out with punishments that varied from lifting 27 kilo shells to a generous swig of “SomRas”-  a concoction of sea water mixed with various spices. In return we were gifted a certificate that I still preserve to this date.
Whereas by Our Royal concession We decree that Our Trusty and Well Beloved Cadet Abhilash Tomy has this day entered our domain and has been rightly and duly initiated with all form and ceremony as Our subject on board Indian Naval Ship Krishna.
We do hereby charge all Sharks, Whales, Eels, Dolphins, Gollywogs, Pollywogs etc. to abstain from eating, playing with or otherwise maltreating his person.
And we further direct all Sailors, Mariners, Soldiers, Globetrotters and Landlubbers who have not crossed the Equator of Our Royal Domain to treat him with respect due to one of Our royal subjects.

Given at Our Court on the Equator this Sixteenth day of October 1999
in longitude 64 degrees East
in the presence of Lord Varuna

Commanding Officer

The sailing continues to be good. We tried heading eastward as soon as we had crossed the latitude of Kanyakumari in the promise of more generous winds. The attempt was made three times before giving up under light winds and uncharacteristically strong swells that would display its force by throwing the boom and the sails with it in all directions. Heading south seemed a more prudent option considering the preservation of her mast and rigging. Luckily though, that did turn out to be a good decision, for not only did the wind back giving us a south eastward course as we crossed the 2nd parallel, we also found a southward current that merged with the eastward flowing equatorial current. All in all, the boat is managing about 8 knots in a beam reach with 11 knots of wind. If the current winds and predictions prevail I should be keeping my appointment with Cape Leeuwin in early December.

Heading southward in this season is lengthening the day gradually making it unbearably hot at times. Clouds are far and few in between and the little bimini we have on the boat holds the sun back only as long as it is in the right elevations. There are short spells of light drizzles but they do little to cool the temperature. The heat is throwing up so much sweat all around that I am seriously considering the option of taking another bath.

Meanwhile, across the planet, Cdr Donde was visiting France to see off the Vendee Globe round the world solo race after which he sailed on the historic Suheili with the legendary Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to the UK. The Suheili, unknown to many of us in India, was built in Mumbai. She created history when she became the first sail boat in human history to sail around the globe solo, non stop and unassisted. Sir Robin was at the helm.

Here is what Wiki has to say about crossing the line- a must read for all Pollywogs.
Here is another blogger that has been keeping track of this voyage. Read about her take on this link
Here is a brief video of a walkaround on the deck in 10 knot winds.


  1. Good going, sir. Has the progress been as per plan and schedule? Or is it too early to ask? Oh, and may I add, welcome to the hemisphere!

  2. There is no plan. Therefore, I can't tell if I am ahead of schedule or behind. Other than that, yes! Love being this side of the world!

  3. Very informative article, thanks for introducing us to the next level of sails.

    It was very exciting to see your system screen and having a look in and around Mhadei.

    As usual your photography is very professional, specially the ones in slideshow which is appearing at the top left side of this blog.

    Mrs. Laxmi is very true to her blog, "The Dragonflies are Dead" and also "From Here I Must Walk Alone" has really touched us.

    Keep writing Guru.. We are all with you.. You have already reached "Hall of fame" in many Indian Hearts. :)

    Best Wishes and God make every step easy for you. Amen

  4. Thanks! I am following this blog and ofcourse an old friend. I do a bit of reading between the lines and find the meaning to be too profound. I feel I have to express that. Like every personality that finds a mention in the books needs a biographer, I take upon that role while Abhilash is at sea. Its certainly an honour... no matter what.


  5. Dear Tomy, Gr8 going. Kepp up the spirits. Find some time to read our blogs.
    the one on 05 Nov - Lord Varuna,
    Cdr N Shyam Sundar

  6. Dear Cdr:
    It is so so exciting to see the blue map of the globe on,and to see the orange line gradually move away from the indian subcontinent towards Cape Leeuwin.By the way do you propose to take the Bass strait between Australian continent and Tasmania, or go round the southeast cape?
    Wish you Godspeed,gentle winds,smoothsailing,and safe return to Mumbai.
    Dr Padmanabhan

    1. I might not go through the straits but there is no rule I cant.

      The sailing has been good!

  7. Oh Dear! Was that intense! Simply Shellback stuff! Thanks for sharing it with the Pollywogs of the world. Maybe I'll aspire to get a similar certificate in my next life!

  8. You dont have to wait for your next life. The ocean's there for your sailing too! Start rightaway


  9. Your blog is like the Cheshire Cat, grins a lot, while making the odd disappearing act:-). Good video, great writing and awesome sailing I am sure. Now to figure out the meaning of shellback and pollywog and bimini (which I take it is not a misspelt bikini *grinning dolphin*)

    1. Check the wiki link at the end of the blog. All your questions about shellbacks will be answered :)

      A bimini is not a misspelt bikini... Its a small awning you use in the boat... stop grinning :D

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  11. Is this topic connected with your professional status or is it mostly about your leisure and free time?

  12. I am doing a solo non stop circumnavigation of the globe in a sail boat. This blog documents the endeavour