Commander Dilip Donde of the Indian Navy has embarked on an adventure to circumnavigate the world solo. He arrived in Lyttelton port in Christchurch to a rousing welcome from the Indian community as well as the city’s maritime community upon his arrival.
Of significance is the fact that he is aiming to achieve this feat single handedly and under the power of sails.
On August 19 this year, Commander Donde set out on the sailing yacht – INSV Mhadei from Mumbai in an endeavour to circumnavigate the globe – the first ever by an Indian.
He arrived in Freemantle, Australia on September 24 after being at sea for over a month traversing nearly 5000 nautical miles. The completion of the first leg of this historic voyage by the officer and indeed the Indian Navy has already earned him a place in the record books as no Indian has ever sailed solo this far.
He departed Freemantle on November 1 on his second leg that will see him traversing nearly 3300 nautical miles in approximately 21 days and arrived in Lyttelton harbour, Christchurch on November 21.
"That was a little bit of a hard situation as there were nine-metre swells and there were problems with the steering gear," he said. "I was honestly worried about it. You don't think too much about it, you just get it sorted," he told the media in Lyttelton where he will stay till December 6 while his yacht is repaired.
The yacht Mhadei is an indigenous construction built at Goa. It is 56 feet long with a set of six sails that can be used in different combinations for speeds of up to 10 knots.
This yacht is a fine example of Indian ship building industry which has literally come of age with some fine warships recently constructed and with an ambitious indigenous construction programme currently under way.
Incidentally, the sails have been manufactured in New Zealand and therefore Commander Donde is looking forward to this visit. The boat draws its name from the river Mhadei that flows through the western Indian state of Goa into the Arabian Sea.
The name was considered both evocative and appropriate as it honours the 'Boat Deity' of Goa and the river she was built on, seeking her blessings for a successful circumnavigation in the name of both Goa and India.
From Christchurch Commander Donde sails to Falkland Islands and Cape of Good Hope in South Africa before arriving back in Mumbai on or about May 25 next year.
The sailor will thus be rounding the tips of the three great continents, namely, Australia, South America and Africa. During the course of this voyage he would cover a distance of over 22,500 nautical miles with just four stopovers.
The raison d'e^tre for Commander Donde to undertake this voyage can be attributed to the human spirit that finds its finest expression in an environment of challenge and adventure. The best example of which is a voyage under sails, and that too alone.
Commander Donde's blog at http://Sagarparikrama.blogspot.com makes a fascinating read with some breathtaking images of the Indian Ocean.