Cape Town welcomes Indian Navy women power crew on wave-of-change circumnavigation expedition

2018-03-05 06:30 - Saara Mowlana
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Image by: Saara Mowlana

Cape Town - Making history on Friday, 2 March, the first Indian all-women circumnavigation of the globe made its final port docking in Cape Town. The boat was set down outside of the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V & A Waterfront, rounding up a 187 day voyage. The trip started on 10 September 2017 from Goa, India and was flagged by Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Defence Minister.

The crew had docked in Cape Town on the same day as the 2018 Hindi Holi festival, making this final port of call one to remember and ferociously celebrate.

SEE PICS: The real Holi festival of colour

The crew consisted of six Indian Navy women who have trained and put in the work to make this historic moment possible. Their names are: Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Vartika Joshi, Lt Cdr Pratibha Jamwal, Lt Cdr Swathi P, Lt Aishwarya Boddapati, Lt Sh Vijaya Devi and Lt Payal Gupta. They had set out on a circumnavigation visiting several places to complete this trying voyage.

In its circumnavigation, the boat has visited Freemantle, Australia; Lyttelton, New Zealand; Port Stanley, Falklands and now Cape Town. According to the press release from the Consulate General of India, Cape Town, for a sail boat's voyage to qualify as circumnavigation it has to start and finish at the same port.

ALSO SEE PICS: Colours come out for the Hindu Holi festival

It also, they add, has to cover a distance of at least 21 600 nautical miles (or about 34 761  km); keep south of the three great capes of the Southern Hemisphere; cross all longitudes in the same direction; cross the equator twice; not use any canals and certainly not use the engine for propulsion. These exacting standards under which the crew of INSV Tarini have been sailing makes it all the more monumental that they are the first Indian all-women team to have completed circumnavigation.

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Voyager experience:

The crew got to see many amazing places and experience a lot of meaningful interactions while on this voyage. "We saw both the countryside and the cities and also a lot of people from different backgrounds. So, we got to interact with students and university people," says Lt Aishwarya Boddapati. 

Boddapati elaborates that the best place she's seen on the trip is Falkland Islands, "because it's unique, it's an own bay and probably we might not get to visit it again."

The daily life abroad the Tarini involved the alternating of tasks, activities and responsibilities among the crew, such as cooking the main meals, tending to the boat and cleaning up to mention a few. Boddapati says that the boat is always in its best shape because of this system.

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When they aren't ticking off things on the daily to do list, on the warmer or weather-steady days, you'd find the crew sitting out on the deck relaxing and bonding. "If the weather is really calm and the winds are breezy, so, we all sit out, chat and play some music," Boddapati adds. On bad weather days, three crew members brave the outside tending to the boat and the remaining three members support them from inside. 

The weather can be unpredictable and dangerous too. Some of the challenges the crew had faced while on board relate to surprise storms and unsteady seas near the Cape Horn region which had Boddapati quite shaken. 

Lt Airshwarya Boddapati covered in colourful powders, 'Gulal', used to celebrate the Hindi Holi festival after docking in Cape Town Friday, 2 March. (Image by: Saara Mowlana)

"There was this one moment when a huge wave came splashing on me and I thought, like, 'I'm overboard, like, I'm not on the boat right now'. But then I saw the others in the crew and I realised, like, 'okay, I'm still on the boat'," Boddapati says about the experience that had her feeling like she saw God.

Even so, she had said that in those moments the training the crew had undergone to prepare themselves had come in handy in navigating those unpredictable weather circumstances. 

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In spite of scary moments like that on the boat, Boddapati said that there were a lot of fun moments too. She said that while they may not have been able to celebrate a lot of the Indian festivals back home or even on land, a lot of the celebrations they partook in on the boat.

"We have been at sea for the past seven months, so most of the celebrations have happened on boat. So, everytime there is a festival coming up or one of us is celebrating a birthday, so, we do it in a very special way. We probably make a special sweet on board, we decorate the entire boat and we sing songs. We sang carols on Christmas and we counted down to New Year, just like it would have happened, but the party was only six of us," Boddapati reminisces.

She also joked that the 2018 Holi festival is probably the first festival they got to celebrate on land or at a port since journeying on the seven month long voyage.

For more of her answers, see the video below:

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The welcome ceremony:

The welcoming ceremony was nothing short of deserving. The crew had docked here on what happened to also be the annual Hindi Holi celebration - allowing for a grandeur event bursting with colour and the thumping rhythmic beat on the Indian Dhol drum.

The crew were received by Honourable Patricia de Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town and Rear Admiral (JG) EM Masanabo, SA Navy from the South African side and Mrs Ruchira Kamboj, High Commissioner of India to South Africa. Others that formed part of the welcoming committee were Mr. Abhishek Shukla, Consul General of India in Cape Town and Captain Manjit M Thomas, Defence Adviser, High Commission of India, Pretoria from the Indian side.

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Capetonians, including members of Indian diaspora came out in large numbers the morning to show the crew support and applaud their groundbreaking voyage. Students of St Paul’s Primary School in Schotsche Kloof, had also come through waving mini Indian and South African flags to extend a warm welcome to the crew members of INSV Tarini.

The INSV Tarini will be docked in Cape Town until Wednesday, 14 March. During their stay in Cape Town, the crew will engage in formal calls on local leadership, media interaction, receptions and an interaction with students at the University of the Western Cape.  There will also be an inauguration of a photo exhibition, which will display images from the voyage and will be open to the public from Monday, 5 March, afternoon at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

See pics of the welcome ceremony below:

The INSV Tarini welcoming committee waiting for the boat to arrive. (Image by: Saara Mowlana)
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Students from St Paul's Primary School waving India and South Africa flags in honour of the occasion that went down outside of the Two Oceans Aquarium. (Image by: Saara Mowlana)
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana
Image by: Saara Mowlana

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