India’s first bid for a solo circumnavigation of the world is close to completion and the navy is preparing to welcome Commander Dilip Donde and the INSV Mhadei back in Mumbai on May 22.
But the journey isn’t over yet. The Mhadei is currently 200 Nm west of Mangalore, caught in the doldrums. After the sailboat’s biggest headsail was shredded in a thunderstorm, progress has been slow. To compound matters, even the food supply is running low.
Donde said, “There has been almost no wind and we’ve been drifting a lot. Its quite maddening in this heat and the food stock is dwindling!”
After he ran out of gas last week, Donde has been relying on the small supply of ready-to-cook food that he’d kept on board. He has just enough to keep him going for 4-5 more days.
“I’m trying to have one packet of ready to eat food a day and substitute it with some biscuits, canned fruit, etc. I think there are about 4 to 5 packets left.”
When the Mhadei ran out of gas on May 6, Donde sought to make light of the situation on his blog, www.sagarparikrama.blogspot.com. “The chef suffered a bit of a setback today with the discovery or rather non discovery of any butane gas in the gas cylinder,” he wrote.
The next day, the big Genoa got shredded. He’d already lost the original headsail a fortnight earlier. There was nothing to do but wait for fair winds. And those are hard to find in the doldrums (the low pressure calm around the equator) that are notorious for trapping sailboats.
Will the navy help? “They can, but my trip is an unassisted solo circumnavigation and if I accept help that will change. I haven’t taken outside assistance for over 22,000 Nm, so why do it now?” Donde says.
The navy’s keeping a close eye on the Mhadei’s progress. Chief Defence PRO Captain Manohar Nambiar said, “Despite the troubles Commander Donde’s been having, we’re sure he will reach in time.”
It sounds like a task for true survivor, but even in the face of all these challenges, Donde remains calm. “That’s the best part of being on a boat! You have no choice but to survive!”