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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Of Garcia and a Bored Ocean

We crossed Diego Garcia on the 5th of December at night.  There were aircrafts flying about. The island was so much aglow with light, I wondered if global warming was put on a backburner ever since I left mainland India.


Earlier in the day we fuelled from Suvarna for the second time in this voyage. Wind has been so elusive  in this bored ocean that we have had no choice but to motor so far. There is nothing attractive about motoring barring the fact that it drowns the voice of my guitar when I play it on the deck in the evenings. Therefore, when the crew looks at me but can’t hear a single chord even when they strain, I look like a maestro and I am glad. I like holding the guitar and not play it because it reminds me of a woman’s waist I once caressed.


I must again thank Captain GP for supplying me with a fine selection of books- one from almost every continent and genre.  James Clavell’s “King Rat” was followed by Geza Gardonyi’s “Slave of the Huns” (“the national book of Hungary” – GP) and now I am on Homer’s Illiad (“because you are at sea and sailing” – GP).


After fuelling we were customarily invited by the Commanding Officer, Cdr Mundakkal, to the ship for ablutions and dining. The skipper wanted me to decide the order in which we were to leave for, he said, “you are the First Mate and adam (admin) is your concern.” I retorted with “I sure am the First Mate and I will make it a point to mate first. Therefore, it is Eve that concerns me and not adam”. We had a hearty laugh, the two of us who understood, and I let the skipper off first with Khajuria.  It took them two hours to get back and when it was my turn, the EXO invited me to his cabin for a shower. It was confusing because I did not know whether it was the cold water or the hot water that gave me more pleasure.  I dined with my coursemate, James John and spoke of old times and new, especially of a trip we made in 2000 to Rajasthan.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Crossing the Equator and All That

We crossed the Equator at 3 in the morning of the 3rd of December and opened a can of gulaab jamun.

A little while later we were ambushed by a bad squall, which was normal given my affinity for rains. The southern hemisphere officially began and hopefully the boat should do some better speed because its downslope all the way from here. Things might be upside down from now on and I might have to hold on to things to stop myself from falling off the boat.

The Equatorial sun is harsh. It has begun to leave a mess of rashes and boils on my body. The heat makes it impossible to keep awake during the day and dehydration adds to the nausea.

I look forward to the evenings which bring in beautiful sunsets and nights that bring about the phenomena of stars. A cursory look upwards at night and you are bound to be mesmerised by the billions of stars that people the night sky. There are so many constellations one can make out even if you are not a habitual stargazer, for the mind is inventive and imaginative. One of the crew discovered the constellation of the eye and another that of the umbrella.

When my turn came, I tried to look for one that signified accommodation for single officers in the navy. Needless to say, I failed. It has also become difficult to sleep on the deck because starlight impinges on my eyes even when they are closed and plays with my dreams.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stardust and Anaconda

We have had the luck of seeing some wildlife. There were whales a day after the departure, schools of dolphins as is the wont and the two sparrows I wrote about earlier. There has been some amount of bio-luminescence too. Cdr Donde remarked they might be reflections of stars, but on a cloudy day they were the sea’s own stars. Today we were fortunate to have a couple of dolphins at night. They criss crossed the bow and left in their wake a disturbed sea that mildly erupted with light, as if an anaconda made of stardust.

Crossing Maldives and Salaaming Jamshad

DSC_0732Five days of sailing (mostly motoring) and we are crossing Maldives. Suvarna is in company. It has been a hot five days, with an un anticipated 2 knot northward current slowing our progress. Squalls have been frequent, but wind has not been so. We languished a while before deciding to motor for fear that we might not make it to the race in time. Will it be Cape Town for new years? Not too sure.


My body has settled into a routine unlike previous sailings. Bowel movements have been normal and I make it a point to take bath once a day. Sea water is not one bit sticky. Twice while we shook off a reef from the main, I was able to gather about a bucket of fresh water with the help of someone else. I used it for bathing.


A cute couple of sparrows found their way into the boat about a hundred miles out of Goa. We tried to feed them and humour them, but I guess they are not too fond of sailors’ food. One of them died. Cdr Dilip gave her a sea burial. He said the final stitch wasn’t through the nose because she had a beak. I don’t know what happened to the other.


Capt Prakash, Commanding Officer of INS Mandovi left a fine collection of books (19 of them in all). His only request was that he wanted all of them back to which I replied that there were two kinds of fools –“those that lend books, and those that return them”. That prompted him to make a catalogue. So far I have finished  Woody Allen’s “Side Effects” and Murakami’s “After the Quake”. Now onto “King Rat”.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Three autopilots and a pilot

Three autopilots and a pilot have come together on the Mhadei yet again!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Preparations for the Cape to Rio Race have been going on pretty well indeed. By afternoon today the boat’s refit was completed with nothing pending. We even sailed out a couple of times, once with NDTV crew for a shoot and once independently to check out the water maker etc. What remains are fuelling, provisioning and stocking up on essentials such as medicines. That done, we hope to sail out sometime next week. It will be sad to leave one crew behind. In all possibility it will be Ram Lal who has been showing a lot of dedication in his short stint with the boat. I hope to give him a slot as crew some other time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Testing one two three

This is a check to see if I can use the live writer to blog directly.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sounding the First Post

Followers of Commander Donde's voyage around the world would be only too aware of Mhadei and their exploits and of Tell Tale who followed them around the world taking pictures and trying to be of whatever assistance as could be. Those who are not well aware of Cdr Donde and Sagar Parikrama should visit to acquaint with the story so far.

It was sometime when Cdr Donde was on his second leg (Freo to Lyttelton) that Adm Awati, mentor of the first project, recommended to the naval headquarters about a more ambitious project - an unassisted solo non stop circumnavigation of the globe- for which I was the natural choice (condemned to volunteer, I would say). It was an attractive idea for the naval headquarters. It did not take long before deciding on a suitable vessel. The Mhadei needed only minor modifications and a short refit before it could be put for the voyage. It was also decided to take part in the Cape to Rio Race-2011, which comprised sailing the boat from Goa to Cape Town and Cape Town to Rio with crew of four, return to Cape Town shorthanded and finally sail her all the way back to Goa single handed. The 17000 miles that she would put under her keel on this voyage coupled with the 3500 miles I already had sailed on her amounted to a circumnavigation in itself. Moreover, there could be no better training.

In due course, I was transferred from the far flung Andaman and Nicobar Islands to INWTC (Mb). A week later I found myself in Goa at INS Mandovi monitoring refit work and modifications being carried out by Ratnakar Dandekar of Aquarius Fiberglas. Soon a crew of four comprising an officer and three sailors joined. Lt Cdr Khajuria is an engineer officer appointed to an RE while the three sailors, viz., Ram Lal, Pankaj Kumar and Pradeep Kumar belong to the aviation cadre of the navy. Cdr Donde dropped in for a few days to oversee progress of work. However, Pradeep Kumar was soon to leave us due to the untimely death of his grandfather.

Modifications and refit to the boat was divided into two, one part of which was to be completed prior to the Race and the other which was to be preparatory to the non stop solo in 2011. Work is progressing well and is expected to complete in time. Hopefully, we should be sailing out on the 20th of Nov to Cape Town.