Fans abound for legendary Mhadei, star of solo trips

Commander Dilip Donde and the crew of sailboat Mhadei in Kochi on Saturday. The boat will cast off from Kochi today to Port Blair and from there to other ports in east and south India ahead of its sixth anniversary in February.  

The legendary naval sloop Mhadei, which has undertaken two solo circumnavigations and taken part in two Cape-to-Rio ocean races, would have logged a lakh (1,00,000) nautical miles by the time it returns from its present voyage covering ports in southern and eastern India on February 8 next year.

Four days later — on February 12 — the boat, built in India to rigid international standards, will celebrate its sixth anniversary. The sailboat will cast off from Kochi on Sunday morning to ‘shore around our ports so that young naval officers get to train on it,’ says Commander Dilip Donde, Mhadei’s maiden skipper and India’s first solo circumnavigator.

Headwinds are expected on its way to Port Blair, from where it will set course, for the first time, to the eastern part of India — to Visakhapatnam and Chennai. Mhadei will then return to Kochi, will earmark time for naval cadets at the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala and head further to Karwar and Mumbai.

Much water has flowed under the keel of the study vessel and the unsung hero of its success is the boat builder, Ratnakar Dandekar, says Cdr Donde, who has penned ‘The Fine Indian’ on Project Sagar Parikrama that made the boat and the circumnavigations a reality.

Women officers

Besides Cdr Donde and Cdr Abhilash Tomy, who performed an unassisted solo circumnavigation on the boat, Cdr MVV Satish and Cdr Bedi have been qualified to skipper the vessel. Meanwhile, after the circumnavigation caught the fancy of the nation, scores of naval personnel including women officers undertook long voyages on it. “Someday, we will have an all-women team doing the circumnavigation,” Cdr Donde hopes.

The Mhadei fan club is expanding for sure. If three women officers were in its crew in the Cape-to-Rio race that concluded in June this year, Lieutenant Pratibha Jamwal, an air traffic controller, is taking part in the current voyage. Cdr Bhajahari Ghosh, an engineer, and Lt Cdr Vishnu Prasad, a marine commando, complete the crew.

“The boat has been a part of my life and I am sure it will be around for future generations as well,” said the skipper when asked whether the Navy would have more boats of the class.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 6:04:44 AM |

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