President, Navy chief to honour Lt Cdr Tomy in Mumbai on April 6
Within a fortnight of it receiving sail training vessel INS Sudarshini from a voyage to South East Asia, the Navy is now set to accord a grand welcome to Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy, as he sets foot in Mumbai on completion of a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the globe under sails — the first Indian and the second Asian after Japanese Minoru Saito to attain the feat.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi will fly down to Mumbai on April 6 to honour Lt Cdr Tomy, now battling upwinds, placid waters as the wind plays truant, and humid climes in the Arabian Sea some 700 nautical miles short of his destination.
Lt Cdr Tomy had set sail from Mumbai last November with oodles of confidence earned from his long association with the boat, on which he had clocked several thousand miles, under the astute and awe-inspiring mentorship of Commander Dilip Donde, who steered the boat around the globe all alone in the maiden edition of the Navy’s epoch-making Sagar Parikrama Project conceived by Vice-Admiral (retd.) M.P. Awati.
Lt Cdr Tomy’s feat was even more daunting as he made the task still tougher by choosing to sail non-stop.
As the boat winds its way fighting headwinds to Mumbai, he is all praise for its build quality — it was built in Goa under Cdr Donde’s supervision — and strength, saying it is good to straightaway head for another round of circumnavigation.
In the middle of the ocean, Lt Cdr Tomy is now facing a strange problem of water shortage and is literally conserving every drop of drinking water. There is enough left in his stock of specially-packed freeze dry food from New Zealand besides the consignment delivered by the Defence Food Research Laboratory in Mysore to see him through the journey. But the reverse osmosis plant onboard had packed up a few months ago. To make things worse, a diesel leak in the boat contaminated potable water stored in tanks and sealed bottles, which has forced the mariner to demonstrate some ingenuity in harvesting about five litres of water from passing rains. If anything, the voyage has taught him the virtues of simple living.
Meanwhile, an elated Cdr Donde tried to reach out to sailing aficionados through a facebook post on Tuesday: “It will be great if all of you can be on the water to welcome & ‘sail in’ the iconic boat and her Skipper on this historic occasion from Prongs reef lighthouse to the finish line off the Gateway of India. Its a Saturday and with the excellent sea breeze in the afternoons, I am sure all of you can enjoy a leisurely weekend sail while getting a chance to escort the Mhadei in the history books! Looking forward to a large participation! (sic)”
On April 6, Lt Cdr Tomy will hand over the boat back to Cdr Donde, who in all probability will be at the helm as it returns to take part in the Cape-to-Rio ocean race in January next.
“I try not to think of it,” Lt Cdr Tomy said half-heartedly when asked if he would miss the boat after the voyage got over. He sure will.
But the long spell of solitude he enjoyed aboard the petite vessel will be his takeaway.