“There are no laws beyond the 40s, no rules beyond the 50s and no god beyond the 60s.”
Egged on by some formidable winds we sailed so far south this new year as to touch 58.5 degrees latitude, farther south than any Indian has sailed so far alone or in company, as the deity knocked on the territory of godlessness. There was mild anxiety similar to all the firsts in my life- the first solo flight, the first solo sail and the first venture below the 40s. But whatever fear I had was unfounded because the sea is the same in every latitude, except that in the 50s its boiling rage is much colder. It is the sky that is different. With the sun refusing to set (as I infer from colour of the sky because I have not seen the sun itself in a while) the sky passes from the twilight of dusk to the twilight of dawn before it is day all over again and there is enough light all night that I can walk about the deck without a torch. It has been overcast ever since I remember stepping into the Pacific making me wonder how our forefathers navigated hereabouts without a heavenly body to shoot and fix their ships.
Navigationally, the fortnight saw the passing of a few important milestones. On the 09th of January I crossed the 10000 mile mark becoming the first Indian to sail that much distance solo and without any stops. A few more days later we passed Point Nemo, the oceanic pole of inaccessibility, making us more than 2000 miles away from any land to the East or West. In the morning of the 18th we passed the longitude of 108 degrees West, the ante meridian of the port of departure, Mumbai, marking the passing of the geographical mid point of this voyage.
But it is the Horn that will be a true middle point in every other sense because at this mythical cape we would have crossed two oceans, ended our southern transit, and commenced clawing upwards exchanging latitude for temperature and replacing the fear of ice with the far greater inconvenience of squalls lying in ambush. I will be making use of the occasion to thank the providential opening of the Drake passage forty odd million years ago which established the kinship of the Atlantic with the Pacific in the south – an event of such importance that this voyage would not have been possible without its occurrence. Past the Sea of Hoces where the Antarctic hangs like South America’s thought bubble I will commence the homebound journey and it will be home revolutions through familiar territory from then on.
And it will be home revolutions because the water maker has quit and I am left without any means of producing fresh water until I reach the tropics where every passing squall will be treated like a reservoir. I have about 300 litres left, good enough to see me home safely but not in luxury. Baths are ruled out till I hit warmer climates because there is no provision to heat sea water and I suffer from an odour that has no name to it except an inescapable and nauseating feeling that I often encountered during my brief stay in Ratnagiri or while passing the Sassoon Docks of Colaba . Taking bath in a sea at 6 degrees towards the beginning of the year has possibly been the biggest misadventure in this venture and I must wait another month or more before the sea is warm enough. (The only and ignorable distinction that I achieved with this act of foolishness is that I have bathed in the waters of the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.) I have stopped rinsing utensils with fresh water anymore and if ever I do, I drink it.
UP Next- Rounding the Horn- the Everest of Sailing
PS- This blog would be incomplete if I were not to make a mention of Swapnali Dhabugade and her team. Sometime in October, she and Mugdha surprised me by travelling all the way from Mumbai to see the boat. We were in the thick of work and I could afford her only a couple of hours to explain things. She was so awed by the project that she has started an awareness program in Mumbai which aims at taking Sagarparikrama to schools. She started off with a plan, a presentation and drafting in volunteers. In less that one month’s time it already seems to be on its way to becoming a resounding success going by the enthusiasm with which they have been greeted. Kudos to woman power!