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Indian Navy sailor on a solo global voyage

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - 11:21

Panaji: An Indian Navy commander is attempting a daunting solo sailing expedition across the globe with only a soft toy replica of Tweety, the cute yellow canary popularized in cartoons, as company.

From where he stands on the wobbling deck of the 56-ft yacht, Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Mhadei, rigging his sailing gear in order and speaking to more than one media crew, commander Dilip Donde, really doesn`t look the sort of guy who`d have a large soft toy birdie hung on his bunk.

"It`s a gift from someone who wanted me to carry it along on this trip," Donde said as he left for Mumbai ahead of starting his 21,600 nautical mile round-the-globe expedition August 19.

Tweety, however, is not the only adornment in the constricted but cozy interiors of the yacht, which was fabricated from scratch at a private shipyard in Goa about a year ago.

The custom-made yacht, which was designed by a renowned Dutch ship builder, has a Global Positioning System (GPS), communications devices, elaborate reverse osmosis gear which converts sea water into potable water and a huge braid of dried onions hung from a rack.

"We have cooking gear on board including a gas stove. We have also stashed in a lot of packed foods to add to the variety," said Donde, a self-confessed lover of waran bhat, a staple Maharashtrian dish which includes rice and dal spiced with asafoetida.

According to former vice admiral MP Avati, the guiding force behind the expedition, Donde had promised himself a waran bhat treat on a relatively good day at sea when a sailor`s chores are few. "I hope he will have it a few times before he hits Cape of Australia. Otherwise, there are always packed foods to bank on," Avati said.

Donde, incidentally, has been a part of yet another backbreaking maritime adventure back in 2002, when he along with his crew on board the INSV Tarangini sailed around the world.

Sailing alone however has its own perils, especially when loneliness begins gnawing hard at you.

"The sea was not at all forgiving. The 16-day passage from Port Louis in Mauritius felt longer than it actually was. In fact it was the first by any Indian to cover the span of over 2,300 nautical miles. There were days when I spoke to myself to kill the monotony," Donde recalls of his dry run on board the INSV Mhadei from Mauritius to Goa this June.

"But being a part of such a phenomenal event is itself an achievement to be proud of. I am looking forward to the solo voyage and am fully geared up for it," he added.

Donde`s run, although the first by an Indian, has however been notched by several Europeans, according to Avati. While a number of the adventurers sailed across the world successfully, there were some "who came a cropper".

"The seas are fraught with risk. There were some sailors who never came back," Avati said.

Donde is expected to be back after his nearly-a-yearlong sojourn by April or May 2010 after sailing from Mumbai.

The INSV Mhadei will in the course of its journey drop anchor briefly at port Freemantle (Australia), Christchurch (New Zealand), Port Stanley (off South America) and Cape Town (South Africa) for replenishments.


First Published: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - 11:21
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