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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Across the Graveyard of Ships

cape of good hope 2-2
Cape of Good Hope- from a previous visit
I spent the 19th of February between legs, rounding the Cape of Good Hope at a respectable distance and passing from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean to begin the home run.
Known as the Cape of Storms and the Tavern of Seas, it is at a point close to the Cape that the warm Agulhas current meets the cold Benguela current, where a gale is recorded every 36 hours if not less. It overlooks the Agulhas banks that extend the southern tip of Africa into a shallow plain under the sea above which a strong current flows towards the west. At times, when a front passes bringing strong westerly winds in tow the force of the wind and undercutting currents act in opposition to pile up waves as high as 100 feet with a steep leeward face- a phenomenon that can break the back of the strongest ship. It is also for this reason that sailboats sailing eastwards usually round the Cape south of the banks. On the 520th birthday of Nicolas Copernicus, the Renaissance astronomer and mathematician who had formulated a heliocentric model of the universe, not only had I round the Cape but also conclusively proven the rotundity of the earth because I had intersected my own track that had started as a solo voyage from Cape Town on the 31st of April 2011 and meandered onwards to India in May to reach Goa in the first days of June, and thereafter voyaged eastwards this year to reach the same point on earth through west. I had thus, technically, become the second Indian to circumnavigate the globe solo and under sail.
feb blog
The last solo from Cape to Goa and the present one around the world
But it had not been an easy rounding for the Cape of Storms lived up to its name. On the 19th winds blew a steady 40 knots from the South West prompting me to keep the Cape as far to the north as possible. Winds regularly gusted to 50 knots and more and the swell stood at 8 metres by conservative estimates. We were already down to the last reef on the main and the stay sail was partly furled to reduce exposure. At one point, just hours after the rounding, a huge build up of clouds dissipated right astern of us sending in winds at 70 knots, pinning the boat to the leeward and bashing her without mercy. It hadn’t been the best of times to be out on deck let alone without a harness. All I could do was to hang on to the winch while the boat tried to right itself, which it did after considerable effort. Soon enough she was pinned a second time in the same manner but this time a wave seemed to have found the genoa and opened it just enough to allow it to catch the onslaught of the gust. In no time it opened further until it had a belly that was being expanded by the winds and it shook the mast and the boat along with it. In the words of the last skipper who had experienced something similar close to Australia, it was as if a supremely powerful god was holding the boat by the tip of the mast and was shaking it vigorously. That indeed had been the first time a prayer had come to my lips. Soon the genoa shredded putting an end to the misery and winds abated and steadied at the much milder 40s. That was the offering this cape took of me, in the same manner that it had scarred genoa after genoa in each west to east rounding of the boat.
The shredded genoa
One of the first congratulatory messages came from Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo around the world without stops or assistance. After a tour of India lecturing at IIT Kharagpur, followed by a naval audience at Mumbai and cadets at the National Defence Academy, he had just updated the list of people who had circumnavigated the globe solo and south of the three great capes and found that the list had swelled to 199 in the wake of the latest Vendee Globe. He wrote- “Thus, unless someone else creeps in from another source, of which I currently have no knowledge, the position of 200th on the list is the next one and waiting for you. Go for it!”
Negotiating the Indian Ocean is going to be the trickiest part of the entire voyage because all that I can see is a minefield of fronts, cyclones, currents, countercurrents, squalls, trade winds, shipping, fishing, piracy, doldrums, tropical heat, islands and banks forming a 5000 mile long obstacle course. It is like the Indian board game of snakes and ladders where each mistake can set you back by days if not weeks. The prospect of having to sail across the Indian Ocean without a genoa and the consequent slower passage on the home run appears daunting. But then, having sailed two-third around the world without a chopping board, and one third without pop corn, I am sure I can take this minor discomfort in stride and sail the last 5000 miles to get her back to the monument where it all started- the Gateway of India.

Sagapraikrama 2 on Door Darshan National
Up Next- Trade Winds


  1. Wow, just reading this sent shivers down my spine. Hats of to you. And you sure have a way with both waves and words.

  2. next blog trade winds will be ur last blog ?? :( :( dnt stop writing.....

  3. thrilling to hear from, keep on going sir ji. country is waiting for the brave hero

  4. You should write a book Tomy,happy sailing.

  5. you should write a book Tomy,happy sailing!!

  6. are u alrite waiting for ur presence on fb page!!

  7. you climbed the mast once again r u ok !!

  8. Last 5K miles and you are abck in mumbai. keep it up.Happy sailing

  9. thank god feel so gud when comment gets approved not bcoz its published but gives indication that u still exist and alive last 500o miles come soooooooooooooooon............we also havent been able to sleep properly in worry.......we need rest so come back soon whether wind favours you os not

  10. Tomy sir, u took realy a great chalange and surely u will complete it. all the best.

  11. Your mode of telling the whole thing in this post is in fact nice, all can easily be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

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  12. will be more happy when u com nearer after crossing equater.....than we feel u r at home and dnt frget to cry mom and dad this time......when u r nearer to kerala i think ur grandfather is in the process of making fish pickles (ur favorite) the same madness of nov 2012...... we love you

  13. The 200th from India - would be a proud moment for you and our country. Go for it!

  14. hopfully final month ........come soon......

  15. You sure gonna finish it wthout a hitch, touch wood!

  16. by the time tracker will come u already will cross tropic of capricorn tell him not to take break when u r on equater

  17. most probably u will come in early april some tips for u:
    *do take bath on ur wish preferably but dnt shave.
    *do brush ur teeth on ur wish but keep smiling.
    *do cover urself wid lungi on ur wish but be topless.
    *do read it on ur wish but publish it (if u r alive )
    *do hate us on ur wish but let us love you.
    yours truly

  18. come soon dnt like this busy status not approachable.......switched off ......try later

  19. sailing is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.welcum tracker track the tiger and tell the trepot (sigh!! report :P)

  20. why no updates!!where is tracker is he ok are u ok or wat about ur skipper hpe things r on track dnt publish this post mumbai is becomming hotter day by day save ur water when u come back eat evrything dnt rely completely on raw salads.......

  21. OMG, that was worse seeing that shredded genoa.
    Hope the coming voyage is easy for you. Amen.
    Await to see you soon, Big Bro.
    Best Wishes, Regards and Prayers.

  22. good update still not crossed tropic of capricorn dnt come before april

  23. kal tak tropic of capricorn cross ho jayega??

  24. Tremendous guts and skill! Keep going strong and See you in Mumbai :-)

    All the best for the last stretch.

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