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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sun Race


equatorThe route from Africa to India is well laid out and all that one needs to do is hop from island to island not unlike ancient navigators and their pilots who relied on the same wind to propel their ships that fills my sails today. The first to pass was Madagascar, an outrageously beautiful island that had been the first country I had visited outside of India when I was still a cadet with pockets brimming with Malagasy Francs that had suffered the natural effects of abnormal inflation. Further east, within sniffing distance, is the Mascarene Archipelago whose volcanic islands and banks and shoals have been in a constant state of slow dance, appearing on one hand and disappearing from the face of the ocean on the other mimicking the movement of scales over millions of years. My route took me through an imaginary gate formed by the main island of Mauritius and Rodrigues and when I was still east of Corgados Carajos on the 11th a Dornier from the National Coast Guard of Mauritius gave fly past. I could tell that the bird was happy to see its pilot in a boat at sea. The next day Mauritius celebrated its National Day and I was still transiting past the outlying Mauritian island of Agalega when I decided it was a good occasion to celebrate one of the three packets of pop corn that I had discovered after an exploratory streak in the boat.

The relentless trade winds had aided a quick but rough passage and the sea remained in a state that can best be described as washing machine conditions. Almost towards its end and only slightly north of Mauritius we entered the ITCZ where it rained “as if it were the  middle of the century” and I showered for the first time in the Indian Ocean on the return leg. As we climbed further up the ladder of latitudes, we studiously avoided passing too close to Nazareth and Saya de Malha banks of the Mascarene plateau, names that are not recalled fondly for I had run into their shallows due to logistic reasons on a similar passage from Cape Town to Goa two years ago. From there the island chain veers off towards Seychelles like a stretched bow but that is not where I was headed.
mauritius
The Dornier flypast, National Coast Guard, Mauritius
Close to the banks, I ran into a providential day that suited well for attempting to rig up a new genoa because the trade winds were breathing out its last puffs of gust and winds slated to change north-westerly. My first choice had been the oldest sail in the suite- a spectra carbon genoa that was chosen over newer sails for its cut and weight and the fact that it could be easily furled. Moreover, when I had torn a dacron genoa at a similar place in an earlier voyage, it was this sail that I had turned towards for carrying me all the way back to India. Notwithstanding the  emotional attachment, it seemed to have been a costly mistake because midway through the evolution of rigging the sail I saw many gashes appearing on it as its strands withered away due to the severity of its old age and mould infections. I took off the spectra carbon and rigged a dacron sail in its stead in the rising heat and by evening when the sun was down the horizon the second packet of popcorn opened.

Soon winds picked up and under the influence of the north-westerly breeze we negotiated the trenches that divide the African Mascarene Archipelago from the Asian islands of Maldives which merge into Lakshadweep and then into the Indian sub continent. In the game of snakes and ladders we have been rolling our dice well because days of pouring over weather charts have resulted in the fortunate discovery of the existence of a narrow and fleeting corridor through the doldrums.We crossed it at that point where it was the thinnest and were out of it in a matter of twelve hours.
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Crossing the Equator on Spring Equinox
This voyage, as any other circumnavigation, has more or less been about racing the sun through the southern hemisphere as it cleared a passage through the Southern Ocean in southern summers. On the 1st of November when I started the voyage, I had already allowed the sun a head start. While it had to travel only as far south as a little more than 23 degree South, I had to voyage all the way down to 56 degrees south to round the Horn. The difference between the sun and us had started narrowing quickly only once we hit the trades and were scudding northwards eating away all those latitudes. It was only when the heat began to show that I realised I had been gaining in the race after the sun on its northward transit and on the 20th of March, the day of Spring Equinox, when we finally caught up with the sun I allowed it to cross the Equator ahead of me out of respect for the rigidity of its habit. This time around, I was lavish with offerings of pop corn and Desmond Ji agave.
contaminated water
A sealed bottle of contaminated water
Unknown to me, there was another race brewing within the confines of the boat- one that would prove to be a minor crisis which could possibly become a reason for me to seek external assistance. On the 17th of March I discovered that the water tanks that still held about 200 litres of fresh water had been so severely contaminated that I could not even discharge it out into the sea for fear of setting off a marine tragedy. I took stock of the sealed fresh water bottles only to discover that many had leaked out and others had shown signs of severe contamination. The bottles that I could implicitly trust numbered not more than ten which at best could be stretched to last the same number of days in this weather. I let my exploratory zeal search the boat for any fluid that could be consumed and I came back with a packets of coconut milk, Red Bulls and life expired buttermilk. But then during the last monsoons when the boat was moored alongside at Goa, I had decided to harvest rain water on the boat instead of relying on a supply from the shore and I remembered having succeeded quite well at it. I rigged up the bimini and mainsail to trap water and managed a modest yet precious five to ten litres is passing light squalls and all of a sudden I had become a rich man with a lavish reservoir and twice the endurance as before in this heat. But it remains to be seen who outlasts whom and who wins the race to Mumbai- fresh water or the voyage.

The heat of March is unlike the heat of November because it is robbing me of sleep and incepting hallucinatory dreams that have been absent in the other two oceans. In the beginning of March the moon was still in wane and arm of Milky Way was so brilliantly visible that it could have possibly added to the lucidity of dreams. But by the middle of the month, the moon had started to wax and add to the heat of the sun by day and hide the Milky Way by night. Most of the while I would carry on with work like a zombie and any attempt at rest would make my head feel like a squeezed out towel.

PS: This post is dedicated to the patron saint of blogs and dogs!

110 comments:

  1. The sun and the moon keep chasing each other and rarely meet but when they do their kiss is the eclipse that the whole world stops to see. Dream on for more and more voyages to come.

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  2. see u god on 31st (easter) march till than good nite plzz dnt shave beard looks gud on you and dnt take much bathe we want to feel u from evry sense u r anyhow a gem dnt polish much be unique the way u are

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  3. 6th april noted down will be there to see our president :) thanks so much u made my wish come true

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  4. wat will u do if the winds are too supportive & bring u back on land 3 or four days before the alloted reception date will u still stay in boat till that date or jump on land....

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  5. can u see gateway of india now

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  8. my final exams r till 13th april is there any chance to see u afterwards ??

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  9. socotra is near europe and according to trckers report u r near er to asian continent its confusing realy

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  10. i dnt knw anything about sailing but always follow ur blogs ur videos and evry post in a way u r my fav subject if taken test i will get 100% i cant stay alone at home but recently i had to stay alone i set ur pic as wall paper and used to go through ur blogs repitatdly i understud that there is nothing like ghost u r proof i m cofident now and can stay alone .........

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  12. happy holi u realy worked hard wish u get what u aimed for........ may god solve all ur problems......and u meet evry person u always wanted to meet when u touch land .....that will be ur real reward ......

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  14. heading to iran than byheart the dialogue of veer zara
    main quaidi no. (forgot the number) jail ki khidki se bahar dekhta hoon.....woh kehte hain ki main un jaisa hoon .....per woh sab normal lagte hain :P(u r not)

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  15. can i post a pic of urs on ur page made it specially for u

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  17. we r not willing to sleep becoz according to ur update u r landing tonite plzz clarify us

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  18. Happy Easter! Waiting for April 6..

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  19. comming on 6th april at 3 pm.......can we see you or again due to security wont be able to see you is it public event

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  20. u came on easter realy god bless you

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  21. Hey, welcome back today. As I am coming from andheri to my south mumbai home, saw lots of traffic cops as well mumbai police to welcome president and as well you. Hats of to you and salute from us.

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  22. abhilash sir... c o n g r a t u l a t i o n z z ...

    dr.siju vijayan ayushmithra

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  23. we will miss you......

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  25. missed u today on facebook it was like routine to check the updates of mhadei first ........feeling sad but wish you have a gud time with your near and dear ones will wait when this comment gets approval take care god bless you

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  26. Pardon me Sir, I meant our May issue.

    Regards,
    Shweta Sehgal

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  27. Dear Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy,
    as promised i was present at the ceremony on 6th april but unfortunately, u did not meet the school children who were present. I honestly wanted to meet u so badly and wanted to tell u that we all are very proud of you(you obviously already know that). Well, congratulations and welcome back!!! (hope You read This and reply).
    Well done!
    Avantika Singh.

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    1. Thanks! It had been a very busy day. I will be coming back to Mumbai soon. We can meet up!

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    2. Yes, i heard you had gone to Kerala. Even i'm a malayali(coincidentally!!!) Well hopefully will meet you soon!! :)
      Avantika Singh

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    3. Sure! You can come over to the sailing club whenever I am around

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  28. happy new year from maharashtra today is gudi padwa!!!and for all ur efforts " ADIPOLI" ( this is only mallu word i learnt so far since my chilhood days )

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    1. Thanks! Wish you too a happy new year!

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  29. i was searching for the video of flag hoisting by you in the middle of the ocean on 26th jan 2013 is it available on you tube.??

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    1. Video of the flag hoist has not been uploaded on youtube

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    2. would love to see that video .....happy vishu

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  30. when wiil ur nxt blog come ??write smthing about comparison between land and sea life just like it happened in the movie --casteaway :)

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  31. i loved ur pic with tinkle characters .....its very cute ....

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  33. u ook so much effort to write this blog ...i was going throuh the 33 comments hardly any comment is appreciating the words gud to see that they all love you but m thinking have they read wat u wrote :D

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    1. Those who read and understood have rarely commented

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    2. that means u truely rule heart of many and won trust of many..... i wont be surprised if this year H.S.C children will give importance naval academy ...as much as they r giving to medicine and IT streams .....

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  34. how is life now

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  36. where is the yatch mhadei now is it gone to goa

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  37. about time! A nation which invests in its Navy will be a true Super Power and shall sustain it. History is testimony to this . Napoleon could not sustain the control over continental Europe as French Navy was weak compared to English Navy. English sailors explored the world when they were being choked off in Europe.The result is 400 years of Brittania ruling the waves. Similarly when India is being sarrounded by String of Pearls, Indians Sailors should explore unknown and claim the oceans to themselves making their presence felt in all major sea lanes . My dream shall be Indian Navy acquiring blue water capability and acquring sea denial capabilities wherever need be. The youngest nation in the world expects this from the Navy. Let there be thousands of Abhilash Tomy's claiming the vast expanse of blue for India. "All Yours" Tomy!

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  49. great!! will you go for amurita award function tomorrow than ??? :)

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  54. Congratulations on your journey. If you would like to appear on our podcast, please send me an email,

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    Replies
    1. Hindi is not our National language. This is well settled by courts

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    2. ok evry nation has a national langauge if not hindi than please tell us which is our national langauge

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  80. ye cheating hai

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  89. eagerly waiting for nxt blog will you write the nxt one abhilash

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