Commander Dilip Donde became
the first Indian to sail around the
world alone when he returned to
Mumbai on Saturday after nine
months at sea. Here are excerpts from
How did it feel to be absolutely alone in
the middle of the ocean?
I think I went through
the whole spectrum of
possible emotions but
I rarely felt absolutely
alone since the
Mhadei was my constant
explains my use of
the pronoun "we" as
against "I" in the blog
I wrote during the
so you are never alone.
I'd often end up talking to myself.
My different roles on the boat, like the
chef or the skipper, were alter egos I
spoke to. There was often other company
like the albatross that would fly
along the boat, or the dolphins and
flying fish that would frolic alongside.
How did it feel to be completely at the
mercy of the elements?
Being at the mercy of the
elements was a voyage of discovery.
There was plenty of
apprehension, a lot of discomfort,
and even fear. Yet
throughout, there was a
solid confidence in the
Mhadei and a firm belief
that she could weather the
elements no matter what.
Even so, there were
moments that left me miserable and
scared. And moments that were challenging
enough to make me throw caution
to the wind, wave my fists at the
elements, daring them to do their
worst. I would go on for hours on
pure adrenaline and then suddenly
get deflated when the
moment passed. It
was quite the
when I was
then I'd tell myself that I put
myself in this position voluntarily
and there was no one
else around to help me. So I'd
curse myself for a while, wait
for the despair to pass, and
then start again.
What does it mean to be the only Indian
to have sailed around the world?
To be honest, I don't feel very different.
I had volunteered for the project
and given the Navy my word that I
will take on the responsibility to achieve
their aims, so I did it. So there is some
measure of satisfaction there for a job
Just as I was finishing the trip, I got
a mail from Sir Robin Knox-Johnston,
the first solo circumnavigator in the
world, congratulating and welcoming
me into the Solo Circumnavigator's club
as its 175th member. It's pretty exclusive;
even the astronaut's club has over
400 members. So that did give me a
kick. But it's momentary; you get over
it and get on with your work.
How do you feel about the ocean after
spending so much time at sea?
Being a career naval officer and a
diver, I have always had immense
respect for the ocean. It only increased
by leaps and bounds as I saw and experienced
more of it. That's why whenever
someone talks about me conquering
the oceans through this expedition,
I correct them I am too puny
to conquer the ocean, I just try and
learn to live with it. The ocean is huge,
immensely powerful, and completely
beyond human comprehension.
Whether I love the sea or hate it
depends on the way it treats me and
that keeps changing all the time, but I
am always in awe of it.
It was downright poetic and romantic
at times and sometimes extremely
cruel and indifferent to my suffering --
it seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in
And about your constant companion,
It's difficult to describe my feelings
about Mhadei without getting
a bit sentimental. In the last four
years, I have seen her grow from a pile
of wood to the fine boat she is. She has
been my constant and trusty companion
through the entire trip and together
we have gone through experiences
that really cannot be shared with anyone
else. There have been times in really
bad weather when, feeling absolutely
helpless, I just set her up as best as
I could with a silent prayer to keep me
safe, and went to sleep since there was
nothing more I could do, and she has
weathered the storm without a whimper!
At other times, she has been in
trouble due to the weather or some
breakage and I worked frantically to
keep her safe or repair her. She is an
excellent boat and after sailing her for
over 30,000 Nm, I am still discovering
new things about her. What can I
say? Don't think I'd be too far off
the mark if I said I am in love with