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Blue, as far as eye can see

SHILPA NAIR ANAND
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Tourism The marina is full of yachts, that are part of the Blue Water Rally 2009

on the high seas Carol Bailey aboard Bali Blue, which she embarked in 2009 with husband, Pete Bailey photo: Thulasi Kakkat
on the high seas Carol Bailey aboard Bali Blue, which she embarked in 2009 with husband, Pete Bailey photo: Thulasi Kakkat

T he drive to Bolghatty Palace does not prepare us for the sight that awaits us. We are headed to the Kochi International Marina, and what a wonderful sight it is. Simply stunning!

The marina, at Bolghatty Palace, is incidentally India's first international marina. The marina is owned by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation and is now managed by Ocean Blue Boating. Around 20 yachts, most of them berthed there, are participating in the Blue Water Rally 2009.

Carol Bailey, who is participating in the rally with her husband Pete Bailey, takes me through the ocean rally experience. Most of the participating yachts by the time they get to their respective starting points would have circumnavigated the earth. Carol and Pete and their yacht Bali Blue started on their trip in May 2009 from Crete in the Mediterranean and they hope to finish where they started, in May this year. They joined the rally in September 2009.

Living the dream

Two years, almost, on a 40-footer yacht, most of the time on sea, may not be everybody's idea of a holiday but Carol says this has been a kind of ‘living the dream'. She adds in the same breath that now that they have ‘almost' lived their ‘sailor dreams', they would be ready to stop when they complete the circumnavigation. “We have missed a lot in terms of time with family and friends. Now it is time for other dreams.” Of course, family can join up. Carol and Pete's sons joined up and sailed awhile with them. Some of the participants on the rally are sailing with their kids. “That is so much tougher than just a couple of grown-ups sailing.”

She explains the whole concept of the rally. “It is different from an ocean race. We are sailing, but the pace is more leisurely. We cruise around, there are many ports of call where we stop, do a bit of sightseeing and fix our boats.”

A lot of time is spent on maintenance ‘there is a lot of wear and tear', she emphasises. They catch up on the local sights, try to absorb the local culture, food etc. If folks are not racing, then why are a group of people ‘rallying' together? It is the principle of safety in numbers, sailing in the vast open seas involves a certain amount of risk, emergencies – natural or manmade, accidents are bound to occur and therefore being part of a rally helps. Sailing together does not mean that these yachts sail together literally, it is more in the figurative sense. “There was a time when we did not see another yacht belonging to our rally for almost two-and-a-half months,” she says. But they were in touch, because there is a roll call everyday on radio ‘to make sure everybody's all right.'

Talk of being all right in the high seas brings up pirates. Carol says that lately ‘activity' has been reported from the Arabian Sea but they are not too worried because the organisers of the rally help monitoring the seas and keeping track of the traffic on the seas. “If they are aware of unfamiliar activity or vessels in the area we (the rally participants) might be warned in advance.”

Advance warning helped when the cyclone hit the seas in Australia. Bali Blue was lucky enough to stop right in its tracks and watch the cyclone pass by, a couple of other yachts were not so lucky and had to bear the brunt of the storm.

Problems they have had, but generally the going has been good. Hostility? “Not much. Except in Indonesia.” For Carol who spent a major part of her life there it was particularly hurtful. Bureaucracy was the culprit. Locals everywhere have been very nice.

Our marina may score high, but the paper work – she sportingly refers to the number of forms here that they have to fill up ‘for all manner of clearance.' Turkey scores high on being ‘sailor friendly.' Salalah features on the list of ports, so Egypt is not far away. “We have to sail through the Suez Canal, if there is a hitch we will have to hang around somewhere till the problem blows over.”

Sailing the high seas, they do see some ‘sights'. Garbage for instance. “Inevitably it is the same everywhere. There is so much waste, plastic and otherwise, floating around in the seas. If you don't see it, it doesn't mean it isn't there. All those plastic bottles folks fling into sea are not going anywhere.”

Another thing she has learnt is conservation – ‘not wasting water or fuel. So elaborate baths or washing utensils with lots of water is out.”

So life is one exhilarating, exciting trip…Carol says that it is just a notion. “It is, but it is also pretty routine. There is washing, cooking, cleaning….everything that pretty much happens at home. Only that we are on a boat.” The pair take turns with the chores, and ‘manning' the yacht is done is three-hour shifts. Thanks to the internet they are connected with family and friends. They have made many friends, anytime the yachts are together at a port it is ‘an excuse to party. We barbeque, cook, celebrate.' The two years have seen many birthdays and anniversaries, camaraderie and of course some tough times but when Carol and Pete complete the rally they would have lots of memories to cherish.

SHILPA NAIR ANAND

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