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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

‘At sea, it was the best of times, and nothing else’

Presley Thomas, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, April 06, 2013
First Published: 01:34 IST(6/4/2013) | Last Updated: 16:04 IST(8/4/2013)

On Saturday, when lieutenant commander Abhilash Tomy (in pic) of the Indian Navy sails into the shore of Mumbai on the INSV Mhadei, the naval officer will become the 81st person and the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe solo on a sail boat. 

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After having travelled 21,600 nautical miles, or 40,000 km, alone at sea; in a boat that’s at the mercy of the speed of the wind, Tomy will be honoured at the Gateway of India by President Pranab Mukherjee. 

In an interview to HT, via a social networking site, Lt Cdr Tomy takes you through his trials and tribulations at sea, and the ‘fantastic’ journey.
It has been 141 days at sea. What and whom have you missed the most? What’s the one thing you’re itching to do, once you’re back on land?

Honestly, I’m not missing anything. This would not have been an easy journey if I had started missing things on land. I do dream of fresh water and fresh vegetables, but these are very small things I have given up to be here and to live a voyage like this. I’m looking forward to meeting my mom! I am sure it is going to be an emotional moment, especially meeting all the people who have been associated with the voyage, and cheered me on all along. But It won't be easy to get back on firm land and people. The one thing I am itching to do — have popcorn!
 
Describe your journey
It has been fantastic! There was never a bad day. There were interesting ones though. Some days, there would be howling winds with tons of water lashing against the boat and the next moment, you’d see beautiful sunrises, moonrises, starlit skies and dolphins and whales… I had the best of times and nothing else.

We’ve known about mirages in the desert, and how it plays on one’s mind. How does the sea affect the mind? And how much of a toll does it take on you?
The sea is just an excuse for me to be alone. What you have at sea are not mirages, but lucid dreams and hallucinations, as a result of the exhaustion. I have had very clear and vivid dreams but I really did not reach a stage where I hallucinated. The sea is a friend, which changes its mood too often. I never felt I had to fight the sea. We had a strong boat, and a lot of preparations had gone into this. That reduced the mental strain a lot. Adequate rest, and being well fed helped me cope.

The President of the country will be there to welcome you – which is a very rare gesture.
It means a lot to me. It is not only an acknowledgement of the feat but also the fact that adventure is appreciated in a big way in the country. This should motivate the youth to take up adventure, in whatever way possible.

Tell us what a day at sea is like.
Every morning began with yoga, followed by breakfast and morning reports. Then, I would pore over the weather charts, planning the route for the next fortnight or so. After that was a tour of the boats to spot defect and repair them. By 5 in the evening I am preparing the boat for the night. I would then make reports and look at weather charts again. At night, it was necessary to keep a watch, so I would grab some sleep whenever I could.
 
What was your toughest moment at sea?
When I was rounding the Cape of Good Hope, a huge gust of wind, at the speed of 130 km/h, hit us. The boat spun out of control and a big wave caught the genoa and tore it.

Any advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Follow your dreams! Do not regret the things  you did not do.

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