Sailing solo around the world

April 13, 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 entered the last leg of his nine-month “Sagar Parikrama” journey.

Having started from Mumbai in August 2009, his ‘Mhadei’ vessel has just rounded off the Cape of Good Hope.

Here are excerpts from Donde’s blog.

MONDAY, April 12
Having crossed the Agulhas Bank and current without getting into the Roaring Forties and seeing a big system moving in from the West we decided against going any further South and avoid getting into the Southern Ocean.

No such luck!

The Southern Ocean decided to move up a little and give us a last bit of hiding lest we forget it in a hurry. That meant almost three days of gale force winds with big seas that pushed us well to the North East. No complaints of course as things could have been worse had we stuck to the earlier plan of getting in the Forties.

The shackle securing the brand new Stay sail to the furler decided to part company despite all the securing just as the gales started picking up and it was pointless trying to put a new one in those conditions so the sail was furled and Mhadei sailed with just the smallest size of main sail possible.

I was surprised how well she managed to hold course at a brisk pace on a broad reach. After sailing her for over 25000 Nm I am still learning to sail her. The gales got us right under a high pressure system and vanished leaving us with very light and shifty winds. For a while the calm was good as it allowed things to be put in order both with the boat and the galley but now again we are looking out for some wind.

MONDAY, April 5
Back to Sea - Homeward Bound!We are back at sea again having left Cape Town at 1030 h on 03 Apr. Both Mhadei and her crew thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and pampering lavished on us by the warm “Cape Townians”! Both of us would definitely love to come back here some day.

The plan was to head well to the South before turning East to keep clear of the Agulhas bank which is notorious for its West flowing Agulhas current and freak waves. As often happens, things didn’t go quite as per plan with Southerly winds right after leaving Cape Town, that pushed us to the South West for the first day and night actually making us move in the direction we came from, that of Port Stanley.

By Easter morning, the Skipper had had enough of slamming in the wrong direction and decided to head East taking advantage of light SE winds. The winds have remained a comfortable 10 to 15 kts SE through the day making slow but stead progress to the East.

At this rate, in a couple of hours, we should be crossing Cape Agulhas, the Southernmost point of the African Continent and saying good bye to the Atlantic Ocean.

THURSDAY, March 18
I suppose the only way I can start this post is by apologising to all the readers for going missing for the past 20 days. Blame it for being busy, lazy and an erratic internet connection.

Time seems to be flying by in sunny Cape Town with repairs to Mhadei and a bit of R & R keeping us busy. Most of the repairs fall in the “desirable” rather than “essential” category which means I could have sailed back home without undertaking them but decided to get them done here due to better availability of spares and skills.

Hopefully in the times to come the necessary spares and skills for yacht repairs will become readily available in India. Also, since we bought the mast and rigging from Cape Town it made sense to get the same serviced at Cape Town.

With Ratnakar, the boat builder, dropping by for 10 days we managed to get most of the small repair jobs out of the way. Presently awaiting the replacements for furler foils from France, routine repairs to the sails by the local North Sails loft and fitting of the generator post servicing.

Greetings from Cape Town Planning to sail out on 29 Mar so as to reach Mumbai around 16 May. Another reason for the longish stay at Cape Town is to avoid the cyclone season in the Southern Indian Ocean which usually lasts till end Apr. Starting in end Mar would ensure that we enter the trade wind zone, where the tropical cyclones mostly occur, by end Apr.

It will also mean crossing the Equator around early May with a hope that the Doldrums will be in a disturbed state due to the onset of the SW monsoons. If the Monsoons set in slightly earlier than usual, last year they were really late, we can have a fast downwind ride all the way home.

Though this is my third visit to Cape Town, I am still in awe with the spectacular beauty of the city and the surroundings. The high point of the R & R was a walk up the Table Mountain which made me regain my land legs quickly. I think anyone who is reasonably fit and has a day to spare in the City should give it a try.

In addition to the seals in the harbour we also have some more interesting company in the form of Phoenicia, a replica of a Phoenician Sail boat trying to recreate the first circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians in 600 BC. You can read about the project on their web site

FRIDAY, February 26
Mhadei reached safely at Cape Town at about 1030 local time on 25 Feb 10 to a fine welcome organised by the South African Navy and the Cape Townians.

Mhadei in god companyGot introduced to the interesting night life of the City on the first night itself when I visited Mhadei to check on her and found her to be the centre of attraction of a rather loud group of admirers.

Too bad I can’t post the noises but as you will be able to appreciate from the pictures she is in good company getting ready for the next leg to Mumbai.

FRIDAY, February 19
We crossed the Prime meridian at about 2253 tonight and are back in the Eastern Hemisphere after a little over two months. Another great day of sailing. Not very fast but absolutely peaceful with a flat sea, gentle breeze and clear sky. Little wonder that the cook finally got inspired and whipped up a delicious Rissoto con gamberi e funghi. A nice lunch under the blue sky without wearing any woollens, washed down with a bottle of “Monsoon” beer from New Zealand followed by the mandatory siesta. Can life get any better?

Tomorrow will be the last of the peaceful days after which the weatherman has fixed up a date with the Cape Town Doctor which would mean strong head winds and seas all the way to Cape Town.

WEDNESDAY, February 17
After experiencing a last big roar of almost 36 hrs of Gale force winds we finally seem to be out of the clutches of the Roaring Forties. The roar did push us a little more to the North than expected though not enough to get into a High pressure system and risk getting becalmed.

Sailing at the edge of the system and getting good Westerly winds since morning. With a moderate following sea Mhadei is cruising along under clear sunny skies. The forecast looks good for the next couple of days after which the wind is expected to turn SE which would mean head winds and slamming into the swell till Cape Town. Well, we will see when we reach there.

Presently enjoying the sail with the weather getting warmer by the day. No more woollens or boots required during the day and the morning cup of coffee can be had sitting out on the deck rather than standing as close to the gas as possible.

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Hi Dilip

Congratulations on making it so far & I wish you the very best for the rest of the journey.

This is very inspiring.

Posted by Indrasena | Report as abusive

Hey Dilip,
I am following your sagar parikrama since you hit Wast Coast of Australia.
But in SA you did not write for ages. It was frustrating not to find new jotting from you.
Hope for a fine sailing for balance of trip.
Hope to meet you in Mumbai

Posted by manav42224 | Report as abusive