Sailing solo around the world

February 16, 2010

Dilip DondeCommander Dilip Donde of the Indian Navy is on a quest to become the first solo sailor from India to complete a circumnavigation of the globe.

The 42-year-old Donde has crossed the halfway mark of his nine-month “Sagar Parikrama” journey. Having started from Mumbai in August 2009, his ‘Mhadei’ vessel has passed through Fremantle (Australia), Christchurch (New Zealand) and the Falkland Islands.

Here are excerpts from Donde’s blog.

SUNDAY, February 14
Mhadei completed one year of service with the Navy on February 12 completing almost 23000 Nm in her brief lifetime. Not too bad for a yacht that is the first of her kind in the country.

Had she been a Naval ship, the crew would have been celebrating her anniversary, maybe cutting a cake, etc. We celebrated doing some smooth and fast sailing eating up over 170 Nm in a day. It’s been good sailing the past few days. Not always very smooth, with the winds regularly touching 30 kts, but fairly fast with sunny days and starry nights that you can sit out and enjoy as it is not that cold anymore. The swell is lesser than what we had been experiencing in the Pacific and that really helps.

The forecast for the next few days is predicting winds over 20 kts with the inevitable gales thrown in. We are already at the edge of the “Roaring Forties” and getting pushed North with a strong South Westerly wind. Would like to remain here a little longer though, to take advantage of the good winds and avoid slowing down in the high pressure systems further North.

Ending this with Valentine’s Day greetings from the middle of South Atlantic. Have a great day.

THURSDAY, February 11
After over three days of non-stop gales, today was the clearest sky I saw since a long time. The sun was up and warm and it was great working on deck barefoot and without any woollens. Can’t remember when I did that last, probably not since leaving Australia in November.

The wind has stayed a steady 10 to 15 kts from WNW and with a comfortable Westerly swell Mhadei has been doing a NE course almost on her own. It’s strange how the mind forgets the misery of the bad weather days and starts enjoying the good ones.

There is a star-studded night outside, as I write, with a gentle 12 kts breeze and a following current making us move at over 7 kts with hardly any bouncing around. I think we used to bounce around more while tied alongside at Port Stanley.

A cold front is expected to pass us later tonight so the winds will pick up and it will be time to shorten sail. Till then enjoying the moment.

MONDAY, February 8
Beaufort scaleSince this morning we seem to have stepped on the tail of an East moving weather system. So big seas, strong winds and a nice following current translating into almost 100 Nm through the day. Bit of a wild ride but the boat’s holding well and miles are being eaten away so well worth getting tossed around. Let’s see how long we are able to hold on to it.

We have finally left the “Furious Fifties” behind and are trying to cross the “Roaring Forties” in a hurry before the next system, already forming to our West catches up with us. It is definitely getting warmer with clearer skies and a sun that actually warms you up.

Since a lot of readers have written that they don’t understand much of the sailing jargon, attaching a simplified version of the Beaufort wind scale to make things easier. This was given to me by my hosts Pip & John at Fremantle, both experienced sailors themselves. I actually find it more realistic and easy to relate to than the real Beaufort scale.

WEDNESDAY, February 3
We are back at sea after a memorable send off by the Governor of Falklands and HMS York, among others, at 1000 h on February 1. Thanks to the hospitality of the Falklanders and the British armed forces, the crew though busy with repair work on board, had a great time ashore and is back to the task of finding their rested sea legs.

Mhadei is moving along nicely with a much lighter steering post repairs and considerably less swell than that experienced during the last leg. Apart from a couple of hrs of gusty winds touching 40 kts as a front passed over us yesterday, it has been good sailing so far with clear skies and moderate winds.

In fact, as I write there is a beautiful yellow moon rising ahead of us leading the way to Africa, 3000 Nm across the Atlantic. Gales are predicted for the next two days but we will see when we meet them, presently it’s time to enjoy the sail on a calm moonlit night.

THURSDAY, January 28
A visitorIt has been over a week since we reached Port Stanley and time seems to have flown by. The repairs are progressing well and looks like we will be able to sail out on February 1 as planned.

A short sortie to test the autopilots this morning went off well except for the tricky coming alongside in gale force wind, which seems to be a norm here rather than an exception.

As mentioned in the last blog, we were in time to meet up with Ocean Watch of “Around Americas” fame and see them off on their next leg. The local populace here has been really understanding. Realizing that we were extremely short on time and couldn’t do much sightseeing, some of them decided to visit us and were captured on camera by my shutterbug crew Abhilash.

Talking about friends, working in the harbour, my thoughts are often with Jessica, battling the South Atlantic Gales and nursing EPL from her knockdowns. In fact every time a gale passes over Stanley, more of a daily occurrence in the past few days, I tend to look up and tell the wind, “Hey! Ease up as you go, there is a brave girl sailing that way!”

While Jesse was celebrating Australia Day on 26 Jan talking to Kevin Rudd and screaming up the South Atlantic, me and my crew spent the 60th Republic Day of India by putting in a couple of hours of extra work to fix up my steering and the generator. I doubt how many know that the two countries celebrate these days together.

FRIDAY, January 22
Looks like many are wondering about our disappearance after rounding the Horn almost a week back. Apologies for not updating the blog earlier but things moved a bit too fast after the Horn and the crew kept getting busier as we entered the Port and got on to the most important task of turning around Mhadei for the next leg.

Entering Port Stanley We are presently berthed at Port Stanley, getting the steering and generator fixed while also pampering Mhadei by meeting her small little demands which while not critical, are best attended to when there is a little shore time. She has weathered the Pacific at a trot and deserves all the attention.

Meanwhile the crew, self and Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy who landed up a day after I reached to help me with the work, are being looked after by the British armed forces and the friendly Falkland Islanders.

This is perhaps the first time an Indian boat has touched the shores of the Islands so we are quite a novelty here. We landed up in time to meet “Ocean watch”, and her crew. It was great to exchange notes with her skipper Mark Schrader who has two solo circumnavigations under his belt.

Taking heed of the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I will stop writing for now and let the viewers see a photo. Hopefully this will make up for the silence of the last few days to some extent.

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