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On a voyage of a lifetime

A small sailing yacht, four crewmembers, bundles of packaged food, 1,400 nautical miles of open ocean and no land in sight for nine straight days. Not every college student gets to experience the overpowering vastness of the sea the way 20-year-old Krish Makhija did two weeks ago.

mumbai Updated: Dec 12, 2011 02:06 IST
Sucharita Kanjilal

A small sailing yacht, four crewmembers, bundles of packaged food, 1,400 nautical miles of open ocean and no land in sight for nine straight days. Not every college student gets to experience the overpowering vastness of the sea the way 20-year-old Krish Makhija did two weeks ago.

On hearing that a captain was looking for a small crew to transport a yacht from Langkawi, Malaysia, to Galle in Sri Lanka, Makhija - who has been sailing since he was eight years old - volunteered without so much as blinking an eyelid.

"I joined the tiny crew as a deckhand, which is the lowest designation, as I had the least amount of experience," said the third-year BA student of St. Xavier's College, Dhobi Talao.

"My captain, Homi Maneckshaw, and crew members, Ninad Mayekar and VG Pravin, have been sailing for many years more than I have, but I wasn't going to pass up this amazing opportunity."

Having represented India at junior level sailing contests as a child, Makhija knew that a trip like this one would give him invaluable experience and show him sights he had never seen before.

"The trip was breathtakingly beautiful. One day, as I was fast asleep, my crew members got to see three whales from up close, swimming alongside our boat," he added ruefully.

Prepared for the physical exertion of sailing, it was the mental toughness that Makhija had to muster for the trip. "Sailing is a lot of hard work; especially because of rough weather, sea-sickness and the fear that help is hundreds of nautical miles away. You have to psych yourself to be able to get through it."

Like most long sailing trips, this one too had its share of daunting moments.

An unusually calm sea a few days into their journey caused the great concern, when the wind died down so much that the crew would have to use the motor for the rest of the way. This would have depleted their fuel reserves, leaving them stranded in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.

Realising the perils of such a situation, they took a small detour to Campbell Bay, a small town in the Nicobar Islands, refilled their tank and continued their journey.

After nine days of non-stop sailing, Makhija finally saw land at the port of Hambantota in east Sri Lanka, and a few hours later stepped on to land, relieved yet exhilarated.

Such trips are extremely unusual in the Indian context, according to former national sailing coach, Homi Motivala.

"While yachters abroad often go on such trips, in India, it is very rare to undertake such a long journey on a small yacht," said Motivala, who is an Arjuna awardee.

"College students like Krish almost never get the opportunity to have such an experience," he added.