“I didn’t even know that people sail or race around the world till I volunteered to sail solo around the world,” says Commander Dilip Donde—a surprising admission from the first Indian to circumnavigate the world solo.
The Navy Commander recently authored and launched a book, The First Indian: Story of the First Indian Solo Circumnavigation Under Sail , chronicling his experiences on the sea.
In an email interview, Cdr. Donde says that the idea itself was mooted by Vice-Admiral (retd.) Manohar Awati (Retd). “He had been asking the Navy for many years to take on the challenge (of sailing solo). In 2006, the then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash, agreed to support the project and the Navy started looking for a suitable volunteer. When I was asked, I volunteered immediately with very little idea as to what I was getting into. I wasn’t the first person the Navy asked, but was definitely the first to volunteer wholeheartedly, ending their search,” he says.
For someone who had taken up sailing only after joining the Navy, the preparation for the journey itself was quite an experience. One of the conditions for funding from the Navy was that the boat be built in India. That’s where Mhadei came into being. Commander Donde speaks fondly of his craft: “I have seen Mhadei take shape from a pile of wood to the fine boat she is today. I have shared some of the finest and worst moments of my life with her as my sole companion and witness. More times than I can recall, she has been the only thing that stood between life and a watery grave a couple of thousand miles from the nearest land. She is very special and will always be!”
If sailing around the world alone was not challenge enough, he decided to write about it. “Just as I built a boat and sailed solo for the first time, I wrote a book for the first time too. So it was, in a way, another voyage of discovery and learning. It was nice going down memory lane and writing about the experiences. It took me five years to write the book as I was busy sailing, helping others sail, grooming my successors and looking after the boat,” he says.
On being back on land, Commander Donde says, “It is always nice to get back to land after a long sail. Though at times it gets a bit bewildering and after a while you want to sail out again, in search of solitude--far from the maddening crowds. Of course, I would love to do another solo trip given the chance.”
The book is available online on amazon.in and will be available in bookstores shortly.