We weaved through the sub Antarctic islands of New Zealand in the hope of catching a glimpse of land before being hurtled into the vast desolate seascape of the Pacific. Far from sighting an island, I could not even see a cloud that could be attributed to the presence of land nearby. By the 30th of December we had passed New Zealand signifying the beginning of the third leg of this circumnavigation. The last patch of land had been left behind on our 4000 mile long passage across the largest water body in the world.
As I did so, I shouted a big hello to my brother and Mariette in Auckland, and to all the residents of Lyttelton whose acquaintance we had made during Cdr Donde’s stopover. Most of all I will miss the god-fatherly presence of our agent, Peter Rea, master mariner and yachtsman, and the good humoured Merve who had lent his yacht to see off the Mhadei as she left, and George from my hometown who has been working in LPC for over a decade. The “little town with a large heart” (as Cdr Donde calls it) is home to a very warm and generous people. It was here in New Zealand in 2009 that I had touched snow for the first time at Aoraki, and made use of the layover at Auckland during the transit back to India to visit the gun turret of the Achilles (which later became the first INS Delhi) installed at Davenport. It was a pilgrimage of sorts to visit a turret that had seen action in the Second World War in the Battle of River Plate against the Graf Spee and later on in the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese. While Admiral Awati served on the old INS Delhi, I did so in the second ship of the same name.
Visit this link for more pictures of New Zealand.
Two out of three winters of the Mhadei’s short life has been spent negotiating a passage through the Southern Ocean. In the first year of her commission, she was skippered by Cdr Dilip Donde around the world on the first solo circumnavigation attempt by an Indian. In the second year, she found herself taking part in a trans-Atlantic Race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro followed by a solo passage to India. 2011 had been the only aberration as she spent the winter resting in Indian ports after 60,000 miles of sailing. With plans firming up for a non stop solo circumnavigation, 2012 promised to be the most exciting year of her life yet. For that very same reason, the year held a special significance for all those associated with the boat and the project.
Two days after New Zealand we bid farewell to 2012 with the meagre resources I had on-board- a packet of halwa and the other half of a bar of Bourneville that had been saved from Christmas. Six hours later the Mhadei strode across the International Date Line for the second time in her commission and entered into the Western Hemisphere from its west causing a confusion in dates that was worse than the cacophony of unsynchronised clocks. A short lived 2013 was struck off the logbook and 2012 was raised from the dead to serve its last day again which it did begrudgingly. The bilge pump quit soon after I had made the first entry of the day in the log and then the raw water pump of the generator disintegrated. I replaced both with on-board spares and was boiling water for dinner when the boat lurched throwing me across its width to the leeward and scalding me with hot water. When 2013 arrived again at midnight, I heaved a sigh of relief and made my first new year resolution- never to resurrect a dead year.
But the appearance of the new year so close to the 180th meridian did have its record side - I became the first Indian to welcome the new year before crossing over to the other side to become the last Indian to see off the old year; we had two new year celebrations; the first appearance of 2013 lasted only six hours which afforded me the unique opportunity of holding on to a new year resolution for the entire year of six hours. The question that vexes me though is the extra day that I have lived and if I must advance my birthday forever by a day.
2013 was seen in by gale force winds that saw wind speeds picking up to 52 knots at one point. Here is a short video shot as India was ringing in the new year at midnight.
The best New Year’s gift this year has been the article in Nat Geo Traveller India. Pick up your copy if you already haven't!
PS- After spending 64 days at sea covering more than 9000 nautical miles, Sagarparikrama 2 is into her third leg. You can also follow the progress of the voyage on Facebook (www.facebook.com/www.mhadei.co.in) or on twitter (@abhilashtomy). National Geographic Traveller India publishes a monthly article on Sagarparikrama2 which comes with some splendid writing and photography.
Next Up- Point Nemo