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!