On August 19, Commander Dilip Donde of the Indian Navy will start a journey no Indian has undertaken: aboard the 56-foot-long sailing boat Mhadei, he will try to circumnavigate the world on his own.
As part of a Navy project, Donde, 42, will, over nine months, cover a distance of 21,600 nautical miles, making four stops along the way. He’s gearing up to be tossed about in stormy weather, becalmed without a sign of wind, and amused by friendly dolphins.
Ask him what made him volunteer for the project, and he simply says, “It sounded like a good idea.”
But the plans were elaborate. The solo circumnavigation project, named Sagar Parikrama, was initiated by the Navy in 2006. Since this was a first for India, Donde contacted Britisher Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the first person to sail single-handed, non-stop around the world, and worked with him for three months. Construction then began on the sailboat. “The Navy wanted it to be built in India, that was another first,” says Donde. It cost a million dollars (nearly Rs 5 crore).
The worst Donde expects to encounter in his trip is damage to the boat. "Hopefully it'll be something I can fix,” he says. "There's also the danger of falling off the boat when it's pitching and rolling in winds that sailors call the 'Roaring 40s', 'Fearsome 50s' and 'Screaming 60s’,” he adds.
Another Indian is ready to follow Donde. Bhavik Gandhi, who in 2006 became the first Indian to row solo across the Atlantic, will attempt to circumnavigate the world solo later this year.