Pune: Completing an exemplary task, a six-women crew of INSV Tarini returned on May 21 after a 254-day circumnavigation of the globe, which begun from Goa on September 10 last year. The expedition no doubt has changed their perspective towards life, taught them new lessons and they experienced several things, which they have never done before.
The six crew members, including Lieutenant (Lt) Commander (Cdr) Vartika Joshi, the skipper, Lieutenant Commander Pratibha Jamwal, air traffic controller, Lieutenant Aishwarya Boddapati, a naval constructor, Lieutenant Patarapalli Swathi, air traffic controller, Lieutenant Vijaya Devi and Lieutenant Payal Gupta, education officers, had successfully covered a journey of 22,000 nautical miles from Fremantle in Australia to Cape Town in South Africa. The expedition, titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’, was aimed at promoting women empowerment aligned with the Government of India’s thrust for ‘Nari Shakti’. It also aimed to promote ocean sailing by the Indian Navy and inspire youth to develop a spirit of adventure. This is the first-ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women crew.
Joshi said, “It all began with Vice-Admiral Manohar Awati (retd), whose dream for years was to push India to consider some ambitious sailing records like the solo circumnavigation of the Earth. He conveyed his message to the Naval Headquarters, which signalled its intent and then the volunteering started. The dream was taken forward by Captain Dilip Donde, who retired in 2009 and was the first solo, non-stop and unassisted person, who circumnavigated across the world (2009-10). He was adamant that the boat was indigenously made and was steadfast such that one girl from the crew will sail single-handedly all over the world.
Joshi said, “In 2014, we joined as crew. We volunteered for several expeditions in Malai under the mentorship of Capt. Dhonde. We had started off our tenure by training in the basics of sailing at the Navy’s facility in Mumbai followed by theoretical training in seamanship, communication, navigation and meteorology at Kochi. Following this session, we had been to Goa, sailing the Mhadei in 2015, improving our sailing skills and getting to know the boat better.”
Devia said, “We were taken off from our respective cadres and we were posted on the hood on INSV Mhadei to learn about sailing and know about the boat. The entire circumnavigation was supposed to be either equal to or greater than the circumference of the Earth, which is 21,600 nautical miles. So the first criteria was to cover a distance either equal to or greater than the circumference of the earth. So in this voyage, we have probably logged about 28,000 nautical miles. We started from Goa and came back to Goa after circumventing the globe. We had to take four stopovers, which were eastwards and our four planned stopovers were Fremantle (Australia), Lyttelton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), Cape Town (South Africa) and Port Louis (Mauritius),”
‘Tarini is the replica of Mhadei and Jamwal was the one who decided the name for the boat Tarini (a Dutch design), which has also mythological connections with Madhei. It was built in Goa by Aquarius Shipyard Ltd. We took her out to Port Bandar, Mumbai, and then made one sortie to Mauritius and back to Mumbai after it was inducted in the Indian Navy. The entire training period was of two to three years,” Joshi said.
Joshi added, “We had to start from scratch though we had all completed more than five years of service. The ladies did their theoretical training in Kochi, as there are certain schools of Indian Navy, navigation, communication, meteorology. Thereafter, they were posted to INS Mandovi where they started hands-on training on INSV Mhadei. We used to work on the boat, repair things, and learnt everything about the boat.” Devi said, “Our day was divided into the watch system. We had a roster of four hours per person per day. We are six, so we had a two-hour watch. The rest would cook, which was done on a roster. That’s how we used to spend our day.”
Boddapati said, “Ther e were times when huge sea waves, which were up to 9 to 10 metres high, hit us and we sometimes felt that we are outside the boat. Some of our crew members also got hit on the head while surviving through the storm. We took all the dry food items with us and mostly survived on tin foods. We had to take stops just to store the food.”