Tuesday, December 21, 2010

South of Madagascar

Mhadei crossed about 150 Nm South of the Island of Madagascar this morning and is now rushing for the South Eastern tip of the African continent in good following winds and seas. The winds are predicted to remain Easterly for the next two days which should translate into some fast progress as we get closer to the fast moving Agulhas current and a fast passage to Cape Town in time for New Years! Bets are on, on board, whether we celebrate the New Year's in Cape Town or at Sea! A bit too early to predict yet. We will get a better idea in the next few days!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Across the Line yet again!

Mhadei crossed the Equator and got back in the Southern Hemisphere at 0258 on 03 Dec 10. This crossing, the fifth in eighteen months was rather interesting. A rouge minion of Neptune in the form of a nasty squall was waiting to ambush her within minutes of entering the Southern Hemisphere. Luckily the same had been detected on the radar and the boat was well prepared for it when it hit. All it could do in the end was to send her a bit off course at a fast clip while giving plenty of cool fresh water to the crew to have a shower and wash clothes!

We have been getting good steady winds since the last two days, translating into good progress on a Southerly course. We will continue heading South till we meet the South Easterly trade winds which will help us shape a straight downwind course to the South African coast.

As I write, it is a beautiful starlit night outside with a sky so clear and stars so bright that the horizon is visible by starlight alone! Mhadei is sailing along merrily on a cool steady Westerly breeze. A perfect time to lie out on the deck and do some stargazing!

Posting some pics by Gautam Khajuria, on his first trip with Mhadei.



    

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In the clutches of Doldrums


The wind gods still seem to be paying little attention to us, thus we continue to sail whenever we can and motor the rest of the time. The last three days we were experiencing almost 3.5 kts of current against us! That and the light winds have made the progress painfully slow. The equatorial line squalls have not relented though and keep us company for a couple of hours, mostly at night, sending gusty winds and of course some refreshing cold showers for the crew.

Sighting some of the islands of Maldives was probably the only event through an otherwise dull day. Well, so I was thinking, lying down on the deck after sunset, gazing at a clear sky when suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of a Dolphin exhaling close by. Jumped to take a look at it in the dark night and was greeted with an absolutely stunning sight! Since it was dark, the Dolphin itself was not visible but its motion was creating a streak of bio luminescence in the water as it moved! The Dolphin kept racing with the boat creating eerie blue streaks after itself and splashes accompanied by the “whoosh” sound of it exhaling when it surfaced. The streaks would become dull as it went deeper and brighten up as it closed the surface. What a sight! It’s a pity that we couldn’t capture the moment on a camera. Well I suppose some sights of the sea can only be enjoyed at sea!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Back to the Sea!


After a short rest of 06 months and lots of TLC lavished on her by Ratnakar, her builder, Mhadei set sail again from Goa on 25 Nov 10 for Cape Town. Unlike the virtual crew of the last voyage she has a real crew this time in the form of Dilip Donde, Abhilash Tomy, Gautam Khajuria and Pankaj Kumar. The idea is to take part in a race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro commencing 15 Jan 11, being organized by the Royal Cape Yacht Club of Cape Town. This is the first time an Indian boat will be taking part in a trans ocean race thus continuing Mhadei’s habit of trail blazing! Info about the race can be obtained at the RCYC web site www.rcyc.co.za

We were seen off at Goa by Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, Flag Officer Commanding Goa area who has been a fan of the boat and has taken her under his wings, since the time she was discovering her sea legs. The others included all officers of INS Mandovi, her new home, along with their families. After making good progress under a gennaker, the largest of the sail with us, in a light breeze, the wind gods decided to take a break leaving us in a flat windless sea since yesterday. This being more of a delivery trip for the race and since we do not have much time in hand we have been motoring for the past 24 hrs which isn’t all that exciting as far as sailing goes. There have been other exciting moments though. A bunch of whales frolicking at a distance, jumping completely out of water! A couple of sparrows taking passage on the boat, the usual schools of dolphins crossing our path and a pair of turtles & sea snakes basking on the flat sea……. 

Things are definitely easier for the skipper compared to the last trip! For example on leaving Goa all he had to do was steer the boat while the sails got set as if by magic! Wow, what luxury! It is good training for the crew. While Abhilash had sailed the boat from Goa to Mauritius last year, others are still learning their ropes. By the time they reach Cape Town they will probably be more at home on Mhadei than what they have ever been at their homes on land! Well thats a long way off and while there will undoubtedly be exciting times during the passage, the crew, like all seamen wishes that the passage is as uneventful as possible! Will keep the readers posted as we move. For now a picture of the Mhadei casting off at Goa in her namesake river.



Back to the Sea!


After a short rest of 06 months and lots of TLC lavished on her by Ratnakar, her builder, Mhadei set sail again from Goa on 25 Nov 10 for Cape Town. Unlike the virtual crew of the last voyage she has a real crew this time in the form of Dilip Donde, Abhilash Tomy, Gautam Khajuria and Pankaj Kumar. The idea is to take part in a race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro commencing 15 Jan 11, being organized by the Royal Cape Yacht Club of Cape Town. This is the first time an Indian boat will be taking part in a trans ocean race thus continuing Mhadei’s habit of trail blazing! Info about the race can be obtained at the RCYC web site www.rcyc.co.za

We were seen off at Goa by Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, Flag Officer Commanding Goa area who has been a fan of the boat and has taken her under his wings, since the time she was discovering her sea legs. The others included all officers of INS Mandovi, her new home, along with their families. After making good progress under a gennaker, the largest of the sail with us, in a light breeze, the wind gods decided to take a break leaving us in a flat windless sea since yesterday. This being more of a delivery trip for the race and since we do not have much time in hand we have been motoring for the past 24 hrs which isn’t all that exciting as far as sailing goes. There have been other exciting moments though. A bunch of whales frolicking at a distance, jumping completely out of water! A couple of sparrows taking passage on the boat, the usual schools of dolphins crossing our path and a pair of turtles & sea snakes basking on the flat sea……. 

Things are definitely easier for the skipper compared to the last trip! For example on leaving Goa all he had to do was steer the boat while the sails got set as if by magic! Wow, what luxury! It is good training for the crew. While Abhilash had sailed the boat from Goa to Mauritius last year, others are still learning their ropes. By the time they reach Cape Town they will probably be more at home on Mhadei than what they have ever been at their homes on land! Well thats a long way off and while there will undoubtedly be exciting times during the passage, the crew, like all seamen wishes that the passage is as uneventful as possible! Will keep the readers posted as we move. For now a picture of the Mhadei casting off at Goa in her namesake river.



Monday, May 31, 2010

Back Home!

This blog is way overdue and my sincere apologies to all the readers for such a long delay. It is amazing how hectic life can become once you finish a trip such as this and just when you badly need a long break!

   We reached Mumbai and completed the circumnavigation at 0030 hrs on 19 May, exactly 09 months after setting off. Till the afternoon of 18 May we were heading for Africa instead of Mumbai, thanks to light Northerly winds. Luckily by about 1330 the wind backed and freshened up allowing us to sail straight towards Mumbai harbour. The uncertainty of the ETA proving once again that "Sail Boats do not have ETAs, they have destinations and that they go towards a destination and not to a destination". Owing to the uncertainty of the ETA even 12 hrs before arrival, making arrangements for a formal welcome proved difficult. We thus quietly slipped in the Naval Dockyard, from where we had started 09 months back, and were received by close family, friends and the top brass of the Western Naval Command. We slipped out again at first light on 22 May to make a formal entry and were received in right royal style by the Vice President of India Shri M Hamid Ansari, the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Naval Command and a host of other dignitaries. It was good to be back home! The celebrations unfortunately were marred by the news of a horrific air crash of an Air India aircraft that morning at Mangalore. 
 
     The week after arrival went in a whirlwind of press briefings, interviews and most importantly in making sure that Mhadei is well looked after and cared for. She has taken me around the world safely without any major complaints, has been the most forgiving & trusty companion through moments that I cannot share with anyone else and has earned all the TLC I can shower on her and more! Thus though the trip is over, the work goes on till we manage to put some system in place for her upkeep and utilization in the future.

         Ending this with some photos and links of our arrival. Also a big thanks to all the readers of the blog for the support extended by them which came in very handy in keeping up the morale of the crew throughout the trip!






And the most important and cherished! A link to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's blog on becoming the 175 th  member of the exclusive Solo Circumnavigators' Club! I can't think of a greater honour than being personally welcomed by Sir Robin to this elite club! 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Last 100 Miles!

We crossed Goa, Mhadei's birth place last night and as I write are crossing the port town of Ratnagiri 30 miles to the East, famous for its Alphonso mangoes which will be in season now. A little know fact about the town, which I discovered quite late, is that the last Emporer of Burma was exiled here till his end in the last century. That leaves another 100 miles to Mumbai and the finish line!

It is a clear night outside with a crescent of yellow moon and cool breeze. Enjoying probably the last night of solitude with Mhadei for some time to come, listening to the local radio station. By tomorrow night we will be too close to to the coast to relax.

Read about the fabulous and well deserved welcome for Jessica. I think she has really earned all the accolades being bestowed on her and it will be an honour for us to follow her into the exclusive club of Solo Cicumnavigators!      

Thursday, May 13, 2010

500 Miles from home!

The doldrums did finally catch up with us with a couple of windless days. One night it became so bad I finally dropped all sails, lashed up the boom and went to sleep letting Mhadei drift around. The next morning turned out to be as windless so had a refreshing swim in the sea, the first time in this trip, and started sailing again once a little wind picked up by noon. Been getting light North westerly winds since then making slow but some progress.

The cooking problem has been sorted out to some extent by using warm water from the water heater which heats up water to about 60 C using the engine coolant. So idling the engine, instead of the generator, to charge the batteries and also for getting warm water once in a few days. A bit of food rationing is being resorted to as the supply of ready to eat food, which I usually used to keep for bad weather days, is limited and with the unreliable winds, predicting an ETA even 500 Nm away is a bit tricky. The ready to eat food is well supplemented by knickknacks like Cereal & chocolate bars, Billtong, crackers, canned fruit etc so really no cause to worry.  In any case the heat really kills ones appetite and what you really need is plenty of fluids which are available in plenty. The progress in the next few days should give a better idea, at least about the likely day if not the time of crossing the finish line!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Across the Equator

We bid goodbye to the Southern hemisphere today after spending eight eventful months in it and crossed into the Northern hemisphere at 1639 local time. This was our fourth Equator crossing in less than a year so Neptune's sentinels let us pass without even giving us a second glance! So far the progress has been better than expected though the doldrums must have shifted North with the Sun and we may yet encounter them as we move North. Since last two days, contrary to all weather predictions we have been getting strong Westerly winds. If these are an indication of an early SWly monsoon setting in, we should be extremely lucky because in that case the doldrums will be in a disturbed state and we can get out of their clutches easily.

It is getting increasingly hot by the day with the temperature inside the boat refusing to come down below 32 C at any time! All the water that evaporates from the sea during the hot day comes down at night as thunder showers with strong gusty winds and sheets of rain! So we are settling into an interesting routine of staying awake during the night controlling the boat and unable to sleep during the day due to the heat!

The chef suffered a bit of a setback today with the discovery or rather non discovery of any butane gas in the gas cylinder. That definitely is the end of any cooking on board and the chef will need to be at his creative best to make unheated canned food taste palatable till we reach home 1200 Nm away!  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cruising in the Trade Winds


We crossed the beautiful island of Mauritius on the morning of 27 Apr. Passing less than 5 Nm from the Island, it was really tempting to stop by and meet up with friends from the last visit less than a year back. Last year on 09 Jun I had sailed out of Port Louis, Mauritius for Mhadei's last trial before the circumnavigation and my first solo sail and here we were back to the same place from the other side of the world! In a way this completed the Circumnavigation though we still need to get back home 2000 Nm away!

The elusive SE trade winds finally showed up after crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and since then Mhadei has been cruising along at a clip heading straight for Mumbai. This blissful state may last for a day or two before we hit the frustrating Doldrums and start playing cat & mouse with the shifty and light winds. North of the Equator the wind seems to have slowly started shifting West as the SW Monsoon season approaches. Hoping that it will set in by the time we cross the equator in a weeks time for a nice downwind leg home.

The tropics are making their presence felt in more than one way with the temperature inside the boat remaining above 30 C almost all the time which makes life a bit uncomfortable. So a lot of time specially at night is spent sitting out enjoying the cool breeze under a clear moonlit sky!






Thursday, April 22, 2010

Searching for Trade Winds

It has been over ten days since we said our good bye to the Southern Ocean and landed under a High Pressure system which seemed very reluctant to move in the usual Easterly direction and give us some decent wind. A couple of days of light winds were welcomed by the crew after the fury of the Southern Ocean and duly enjoyed lounging on the deck in the cool breeze having good food, doing a bit of maintenance and catching up on "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The cook got into action serving a wide variety, from the quintessential Bombay fare of Bhelpuri, to Thai curries, Pasta & Risotto! While the crew was having a whale of a time the Skipper was wondering about over 4000 Nm of Indian Ocean yet to be covered!

As the High pressure system slowly inched Eastward, the wind started picking up, unfortunately from North North East which is exactly the direction we want to go in. Thanks to the direction of the wind and the resultant swell we have been sailing close hauled for over a week now barely managing to do either a NNW or ESE course with frequent tacks, sail changes and the boat pitching all the time. While we are still about 300 Nm from the Tropic of Capricorn, the weather has already started showing signs of the tropics with day temperatures in the 30 Cs and occasional squalls which give gusty winds from any direction while they are around and take away most of the wind when they move on leaving us with a nice swell for company! The ever present Albatross have parted company and we should be entering the territory of Dolphins & Flying Fish soon.

The weather forecast is predicting NE winds for a few more days till we meet up with the steady SE Trade winds for making a dash to the Equator!

Been reading about Jessica and the weather she has been facing. Despite the slow progress we are making I don't envy her much for that! Looks like she is in for a fast run home!




 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Goodbye to the Southern Ocean


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, 2010

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, 2010

Greetings from Cape Town



I suppose the only way I can start this post is by apologizing 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. 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 for 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 www.phoenicia.org.uk

Ending this post with some photos as usual.


Entering Cape Town


From Chapman's Peak Drive


Cape of Good Hope




Lion's Head, Signal Hill & Robben Island


The Cape Peninsula


Mhadei & Phoenicia

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reached Cape Town

Mhadei reached safely at Cape Town at about 1030 local time on 25 Feb 10 to a fine welcome organized by the South African Navy and the Cape Townians! Got 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 center 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, 2010

Back to the Eastern Hemisphere

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 woolens, 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, 2010

Out of the Roaring Forties


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 woolens 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!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A year and 23000 Miles

Mhadei completed one year of service with the Navy on 12 Feb 10 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! Its 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, 2010

Clear Sky! After many days!

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 bare feet and without any woolens. 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. Its 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, 2010

Riding a Weather system's tail!

Since 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. Lets 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, 2010

Off again!

We are back at sea after a memorable send off by the Governor of Falklands and HMS York, among others, at 1000 h on 01 Feb 10. 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 its time to enjoy the sail on a calm moonlit night.