In March, when I sailed back to Goa from Mauritius alone, I got my first taste of what the solo circumnavigation attempt would be like. Being by yourself is terrible at first and it takes about a week to break your bonds with land. Then you get used to life at sea and to being subject to the vagaries of the wind.
One of the hardest things to get used to when you’re sailing alone is the sleeping pattern. You always have to stay alert. So you get into the pattern of waking up every half-an-hour to check on the weather and your position and then napping for a bit; you never seem to get enough sleep.
Even so, some times, the weather can catch you completely by surprise. I’d just crossed the equator and was becalmed in the middle of nowhere, the wind barely about five knots. So I decided to get some reading done. The sail was hanging limply, and there wasn’t the slightest breeze. Then suddenly, a wind of about 40 knots swooped down on the sail. In the few moments that it took me to check my radar, and toss my book in, the auto pilot had given up and the boat was reeling in the wind. A powerful gust like that makes the mast shake, and you can feel the vibrations in the entire boat.
It took all my energy to navigate my way out of that. Later, I realised, that this extreme situation helped me know how my boat handles in different conditions. It was knowledge that would be invaluable during my attempt to sail around the world alone. As my mentor Sir Robin Knox Johnston, who is the first person to sail single-handed, non-stop around the world, says, the boat is capable of a lot of things. It is up to me to discover what she can do.
What I also realised is that you keep dreading something till it happens. But when it does, you’re too busy coping with it to fear it. And once you’ve emerged successfully from it, it doesn’t seem that extreme anymore. You just remember it as a different experience.
To follow Commander Donde on his trip around the world, visit his blog at www.sagarparikrama.