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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Into the Endless Pacific

A crowded Indian Ocean
A Desolate Pacific
At first it appeared that I would be sailing off the face of the earth. But then, two days after Christmas as we passed through the Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand, the enormousness of the Pacific opened itself unto us. Straddled on the other end by the Americas, wide enough at its widest to be almost half the size of the earth and large enough to swallow up all the landmass of the planet put together, its sheer size has meddled with the minds of followers of this voyage who are newcomers  to the world of oceans and charts and all things nautical. Named by Ferdinand Magellan during his circumnavigation, the Pacific offers its unparalleled solitude and desolation as we cleave our way towards Cape Horn.

Sometime on the 23rd December, we hit the southernmost point in the voyage so far. The Mhadei and I sailed along the 53rd parallel for day  and slowed down to let a system brewing north-west of us pass. Christmas eve turned out the way it should have. A mild breeze blew and it was enough to keep the sails full and the boat moving eastward at the exact slow pace I wanted it to. In the forenoon, the sun was not only up but shining upon us heating the boat to more than 10deg Centigrade for the first time in days. I put on music, made something out of freeze-dri vegetables, washed it down with a can of Mirinda and bit into half a slab of Bournville that had been saved for the occasion- all sitting outside in the sun. It carried a laxative effect well into Christmas which turned out to be a rough affair for reasons including weather. As I began heading northwards, we caught the tail of the passing system and the freshening breeze crossed 30knots soon after it was noon in the boat. The sky remained overcast and the winds did not subside until the following noon. But when the day had passed we discovered our Christmas gift- a 24 hour run of 201 nautical miles unpacked under a sun whose intensity remained unmitigated by clouds even after three days.
Indian Ocean grey...

...and the Pacific blue

From the grey colours of the Indian Ocean to the blue of the Pacific has been a welcome psychological change. I shot a few pelagic birds in the excitement, pilfered a packet of biryani out of January’s rations and turned a course towards Snares Island in the hope of catching the first glimpse of land after 58 days at sea. Sadly, as the wind swung, we missed it by 33 miles (in a nautical life it is the same as the breadth of ones hair). I even tried a hand at fishing but the line came back without violating the EEZ of New Zealand.

28th of December saw a surreal morning because the watches had lost their synchronisation. I have the necessity to maintain three time zones- UTC, IST and Zone Time. To do that, I use as many instruments as I can including GPS time on the electronic chart, two clocks, my mobile phone, laptop, a partly serviceable wrist watch and the INMARSAT phone. Due to frequent changes in time zones and the consequent necessity to readjust clocks, on the 28th of December I woke up to the cacophony of  clocks announcing a major disagreement between themselves. The local clock read 10:00 AM which meant that I was a couple of hours late for rendering the morning report- a feeling akin to waking up at 10:00 AM to realise that you had a flight to catch two hours back. It took me almost half an hour to gather my still drowsy wits and decide on the time because I wasn’t too sure which clock to trust. Half of them- the laptop, wrist watch and the local clock- were simultaneously wrong in their own ways. In a way it was of no consequence because in a solitary existence time is what you make it out to be. What would have gone haywire though is my communications with the rest of the world because for me the only role time plays is that of a synchroniser. I could keep a tag with the help of my beard which has sanction to grow at a pre ordained rate but I don't have time for all that.

I have learnt my lesson-
Correct clocks are all alike. All incorrect clocks are incorrect in their own ways. The Mhadei’s timekeeping could be in turmoil.”

Souls of departed seafarers

UP NEXT- The International Date Line and a Pacific New Year

PS- Despite our distance and relative insulation from the goings on elsewhere in the world, news does percolate in. The passing away of "Nirbhaya" has left a telling gloom in the boat. May her soul find the peace that was denied to her in the last moments of her life. And may we never forget how valiantly she fought till the end.


  1. “Correct clocks are all alike. All incorrect clocks are incorrect in their own ways. The Mhadei’s timekeeping could be in turmoil.”

    Well said. Would like to share an incident way back in 97. We had our passing out dinner, and I had asked for a drink lot of soda and a dash of feni(the Goan cashew drink) The bartender did the opposite, I slept Friday night and woke up Sunday morning still thinking it was saturday... Its fine sometimes to be lost in time or say the sense of correct time.... after all we have decided our times zones...

  2. I am touched by your mention of Nirbhaya....even in midst of all the time zone chaos you are thinking of her struggle... I WISH ALL THE MEN WITH CORRUPT MINDS ARE PUNISHED and all those with sane minds ake responsibility of making this world safe for their moms, sisters, daughters, wifes and all other women around them.

    Gos bless you and wishing you more speedier and safe wind gifts on the new year...

    1. The specific reason for obliquely mentioning Tolstoy was to draw attention to the fact that ours is not to punish but to reform

  3. Very well written, sir. I don't have any other way of expressing what I felt after reading this article. Best wishes for the new year, sir. See you soon!

    1. Thanks Nix! All the best to you too for the new year!

  4. marvel of unpowered flight..not a flap of the 'mile-long' wings...the video has a dream like quality

  5. Happy New Year sir!! :)
    looking forward to learning more about your trip... hope you had a nice start to the year...
    all the best!

  6. Thank you for presenting "Souls of departed seafarers". Time can be a dicey customer. Wish a Very happy New Year to you!

  7. We are following your voyage eagerly. I have personal attachment with Mahdei as u would recall u came onboard Nahdei to Colombo when i was stationed there. good Luck and keep up the great job.
    Captain Pradeep Singh

    1. Of course we all remember you sir! Still have pictures and remember the wonderful dinner at your home! Thank you for following, sir.

  8. read yr blog for the first time- liked it very much, happy new year good luck regards cos enc

  9. I click publish and god knows where it is going. Third attempt to tell u how much i am enjoying ur blogs/ journey. Stunning photography, beautiful thoughts, brilliant writing, great sense of humour, amazing strength and to top it all a heart of gold. Ur mention of nirbhaya touched my heart! First time saw ur blog , thanks to my husband to tell us ( u are not providing enoughMASALA to the media so has gone unnoticed). Proud of u and proud to be connected to the navy thru my husband. May god protect u always! Shall go bk and introduce NCS kids to ur blog.

    1. Congrats ma'm! Third time success!

      This boat has a quality about it. It attracts the exact kind of attention it needs. There is no point adding masala to sea water, is there.

      There were a lot of NCS kids who saw me off from Mumbai and one girl in particular left a message on the blog that was really overwhelming. You should be able to dig it out in the previous posts.

  10. Dear Abhilash

    I am following your incredible journey and feel so much proud of it. As a avid of sea voyage it was my dream since childhood to sail like the great Amundsen , Robin cook and now i have real life hero in Capt Donde Sir and you ! I have been reading about the great voyages of some incredible people since my school days and has always been fancy and passionate about it.
    Loved the detail Blog on your journey and your experience.
    Its not only a great achievement , it is a sign of Living your Life fullest and the way you want..!
    I wish you All the best and May god bless you.

    Looking forward to the Book on your incredible Journey!

    Bhalchandra B