Empowered Women Navigating The World
Gone are the days, where women in India remained indoors unless permitted to go out with an escort. Conditions today have changed, thanks to all those women who have fought for their freedom and set a very good example for others. The real power of women though realised earlier, is currently being projected to the world by the advancement of technology and media.
Women occupy almost all the major positions in society. Currently, women’s accomplishments are tremendous in many fields. One such achievement is the All-women Indian Navy crew who circumnavigated the world for 254 days all alone, in a sailboat called INSV Tarini.
INSV stands for Indian Naval Ship Vessel. Tara-Tarini is the patron deity for sailors and is worshipped for safety and success at sea.
INSV Tarini is the second sailboat of the Indian Navy (The first being the INSV Mhadei). It is a 55 foot sailing vessel built indigenously in India by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt. Ltd, located in Goa. After undergoing extensive sea trials, she was commissioned to the Indian Navy service on 18 February 2017. The boat was named after the famous ‘Tara-Tarini’ temple in Ganjam district of Odisha. The word ‘Tarini’ means ‘boat’ and in Sanskrit it means ‘Saviour’.
INSV Tarini has advance Raymarine navigation suite and an array of satellite communication systems for perfect navigation anywhere in world.
a. What does INSV stand for?
b. When was INSV Tarini commissioned to Indian Navy service?
c. Who is Tara-Tarini? After whom was the sailboat named?
Navika Sagar Parikrama was a project undertaken in consonance with the National policy to empower women to attain their full potential. “The Project is considered essential towards promoting ocean sailing activities in the Navy while depicting Government of India’s thrust for Nari Shakti (women power),” said Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba in his welcome speech.
The voyage was aimed to show case ‘Make in India’ initiative by sailing on-board indigenously built INSV Tarini. The special feature of this sailboat is that it encouraged use of environment friendly non-conventional renewable energy resources such as the wind; collected and updated meteorological, ocean and wave data on regular basis for accurate weather forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD) and also collected data for monitoring marine pollution on high seas.
Indian Navy’s all-women crew was the first-ever to circumnavigate the globe skippered by Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi. The all-women team has also Lt. Cdr. Pratibh Jamwal, Lt. Cdr. Swathi Patarapalli, Lt. Aishwarya Boddapati, Lt. Sh. Vijaya Devi and Lt. Payal Gupta as its crew members.
The crew started their voyage on 10 September 2017 from Goa, flagged off by the Defence Minister of India. It was a historic day, which would be marked in navigation history and globally. It covered the expedition in five legs with stop-overs at four ports (Fremantle, Australia; Lyttleton, New Zealand; Port Stanley, the Falklands and Cape Town, South Africa) for replenishment of ration and repair as necessary, before returning to Goa in April 2018. They went around the globe within 254-days and reached Goa port on 21 May 2018. The six member women crew broke many stereotypes during their record-setting sail.
The first Indian solo circumnavigation was undertaken by Capt. Dilip Donde, SC (Retd.) from August 19, 2009 to May 19, 2010 on board another India-built vessel INSV Mhadei.
The first Indian non-stop solo circumnavigation was undertaken by Cdr. Abhilash Tomy, K.C. from November 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013.
An Interview with the crew members
India’s all-women navy crew who went around the world in 254 -days have shared their experiences about their great voyage in an interview. Through their personal experiences, we really come to know their hardships and unpredictable challenges they have faced all through their expeditions.
Interviewer: How well were you acquainted with the sail boat before you took up the task?
Vartika Joshi: None of us was acquainted with a sail boat or ocean-going boat; none of us had sailed before, nor are woman officers allowed entry in combat platforms as yet. At first, it was difficult to take the boat out to sea, from one point to another. But we slowly built upon it through three years of training.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about the training you had undergone before this expedition?
Vartika Joshi: We started with some theoretical courses on navigation, communication and weather prediction. Classroom courses are different from sailing outside. So, we were given hands-on training, like, how to repair things and how to deal with emergencies, when the weather gets rough, if there is a medical emergency, and training was needed in tactical aspects as well.
Aishwarya: We underwent our basic sail training courses in Mumbai at the Indian Naval Waterman ship Training Centre (INWTC), and at various schools in the southern naval base in Kochi. We even sailed on INSV Mhadei to Mauritius (in 2016 and 2017) and back and also to Cape Town in December 2016. We were trained for almost three years to prepare for the voyage. Since the boat was old, it had minor leaks and repairs. Also, we ran out of water and food soon. So the trip was a tutorial for us on how to manage food, water and even electricity during the big voyage.
Interviewer: What was the selection process?
Aishwarya: Out of the thirty women who had applied, six of us were shortlisted, based on the little survival skills we showcased. The crew was mentored by Commander Dilip Donde. But after I was told about the flare-ups at sea, I even had second thoughts about joining the team.
Interviewer: How did your family members react when you told them about this expedition?
Vartika Joshi: Our families did have a hard time, but that was because most of them had never even seen the sea! Four of us are from the mountains. The first time my parents saw the ocean was when I invited them to visit. But once they saw that we’re doing well and looking after ourselves, they were quite supportive. They were apprehensive and supportive too.
d. Where did the crew undergo their basic training?
e. How long were they trained to undertake this voyage?
f. Which skill was considered important in the selection process?
g. Who mentored the crew?
Interviewer: What were your aims and how did you work to achieve them?
Vartika Joshoi: I wanted to make sure that I complete this journey with ultimate honesty. I didn’t set out for a destination; it was the journey that mattered to me the most. So my contention was to make sure that we go by the rules of circumnavigation which say that you don’t have to use any auxiliary means of repulsion and you don’t have to take anybody else’s assistance. I grasped that completely.
Interviewer: Name that one quality of yours that enabled you to complete this expedition successfully?
Vartika Joshi: Whenever the winds dropped, it wouldn’t have taken me even a fraction of second to switch on the engine and say let’s go one mile ahead. But inside of me something poked me and said that you have to be honest with yourself and this expedition has to be done with honesty. I am glad that we were able to finish it successfully without the use of the engine at all.
Interviewer: As the head of the crew, how did you involve the team?
Vartika Joshi: We’ve all sailed and trained the same amount, and everybody has their own way of dealing with situations, but that was a good thing,
because we could discuss different ways of solving a problem and choose the best one. In fact, I’d say it was easier for us to collaborate and work together.
Payal Gupta: When you are out at sea, teamwork is the most important in the middle of the crisis. Even during the storm when three people would be out on watch, the other three who would be inside wouldn’t be able to rest. Somebody would heat the water, the other person would heat the gloves because it was raining also. So team effort actually helped in navigating through the 20 hours long storm. I feel that if I had been alone then it would have been a nightmare to deal with the challenges that the sea throws at you.
Interviewer: Share your experience about the most challenging task while sailing.
Vartika Joshi: The Sea can get really tough when winds are picking up. Those are the times we have to be active and need to anticipate what could be there ahead. In the South Pacific, we encountered a storm where the seas were almost nine to ten meters high and the winds were picking up to 60–70 knots(a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour exactly 1.852km/h), which is about a hurricane force of wind on land. It is normal on sea where there is hardly any land mass to stop the winds.
It was also a blissful experience when something broke down and after a lot of hard work and effort, we were able to fix it together. We will remember these incidents as well because it gave us the strength to move on and if something went bad, we were able to overcome those challenges.
Interviewer: How adventurous was your trip?
Vartika Joshi: When we were crossing the Tasman Sea, we witnessed the brilliant Southern Lights from sea. It was rare to watch that in those months, that too from sea. We were absolutely awestruck as we were not expecting it, to see the entire sky lit up in green light. There was bio -luminescence, dolphins swimming in the wake of the boat like our neighbours and a variety of sea creatures. We spotted a dead sperm whale once and we thought it was an island from a distance, it was so huge. We are not specialists, so whenever we spotted something in the sea, we had to Google it to learn more about the species.
Interviewer: How did your crew spend time deep in the sea?
Swathi P: During circumnavigation, we picked up some hobbies and kept posting pictures of delicacies like golgappas and cakes. We also read books when the weather was pleasant and did some quilling and craft work. While team leader Joshi read comics and the Ramayana during her journey, I loved cooking as well so I indulged in baking. I also liked crafting a lot, so I used to make lampshades. I love it when people appreciate the food that I cook, so I gave my crew members the best dishes that was possible on land with the limited resources that we had on the boat.
Vartika Joshi: Six is a great number, we were always entertained. We watched movies, listened to music, and you won’t believe some of the goodies the crew rustled up in our tiny pantry, even while sailing in rough seas. We made parathas, baked cakes and breads, and even made halwa and rasgullas!
We celebrated festivals at sea. When we think about it now on land, we remember the Diwali we spent at sea. We celebrated three birthdays including the first birthday of the boat; also specific occasions like crossing the equator, the International Date Line and such.
Interviewer: What motivated you to fulfil the country’s expectations?
Swathi P: We knew that the entire country was watching us and praying for us, so we never wanted them to have a single day thinking that we are in trouble. We knew that it is going to happen but the people out there did not know what kind of challenges we were facing. So, one of the motives that we kept in mind was that we did not want to frighten them. We decided that once the circumnavigating was over, we are going to show what we have actually gone through.
Interviewer: As a woman, how would you consider this expedition?
Vartika Joshi: It is a matter of great honour and we couldn’t have imagined anything better for our cast-off. Of course we being an all- woman team, it is a great boost to women in the country. But, as we are going as sailors, and we as sailors have seen that the sea does not discriminate between genders. It is always gender-neutral and we have realised that gender does not play a role in sailing. But to boost the morale in the country and for more women to take in adventures like sailing, I feel it is great that an all- woman team had been formed to undergo this expedition.
h. Which quality of the skipper helped to bring out a successful expedition?
i. Who among the crew mentioned about teamwork?
j. When did they witness the brilliant southern lights from the sea? How did the sky appear there?
k. What festival did they celebrate during their expedition?