Indian Army sailing expedition encounters fishing nets, dolphins
Chennai : Getting tangled in fishing nets and dolphins are some of the challenges that an Indian Army expedition team have faced till date, an official said here.
"The coming days will be more challenging as we will be on the Western Coast where the traffic on the high seas will be high with fishing as well as commercial ships," Major Alok Yadav, who is leading the 40-member Around Indian Peninsula Sailing Expedition team, told IANS on Tuesday.
Yadav said they will be the first to attempt to cross the Pamban Bridge between India and Sri Lanka on a sail boat.
"The boat is expected to cross the Pamban Bridge early next month. With its sail mast measuring about 18 metres, the bridge has to open in the middle to allow passage," team member Major Mukta Shree Gautam told IANS.
Yadav said the boat might also cross the Ram Sethu near Rameswaram.
The expedition started from West Bengal's Haldia port on October 21 and will end at Porbandar, Gujarat.
"High seas are actually like a jungle for sailors. Navigation at night is a nightmare. One may not know what one would encounter like a group of fishing boats in non-fishing zones. Similarly, there will be big ships that have to be carefully negotiated by boats on sails," Yadav added.
"The expedition started with a good omen. Soon after we left Haldia, a bird came and sat on the Bavaria class 44 ft boat. A bird on the boat is said to be a good omen... The bird was on the boat for a day."
Yadav said the boat got entangled in fishing nets twice.
"Once it happened between Haldia and Paradeep port and the second time between Visakhapatnam and Chennai," Yadav said.
He also recalled encountering waves as high as 1.5 metres between Visakhapatnam and Chennai on October 26.
Regarding dolphins, he said two pods were with them soon after the expedition team cast off from Visakhapatnam port.
"It was fun and interesting to see them jump from right to left near the bow," Yadav mused.
According to him, weather updates were obtained regularly and from bigger ships that pass them on the high seas so that they are not caught in a sudden storm.
As for the food while on the high seas, Yadav said they carry normal and emergency rations onboard which get replenished at various ports.
"Every team member has a specified duty to perform. So, cooking is done on board," Yadav said.
The expedition team comprises Army officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and jawans. The team includes five women officers.
"It is the Army's all arms team, meaning, the team members are from various divisions of Army including infantry and artillery," Yadav said.
"The sailing team would also include ladies. There will be two ladies in Chennai-Karaikal leg and three in Kochi-Mangalore leg."
However, the Karaikal-Trivandrum leg will be an all-male team.
While the sailing team will be about eight to 10 members, there will be a ground support team to coordinate with port/navy/coast guard officials for permissions.
The other team members will travel by road in an Army truck.
The expedition will call at nine ports -- Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Karaikal, Trivandrum, Kochi, Mangalore, Goa, Mumbai and Porbandar.
Yadav said the nine leg expedition is designed in such a way that about 30 days will be spent on the seas.
It will cover 3,850 nautical miles (NM) sailing through the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The expedition is under the aegis of the Army Adventure Wing.
According to Yadav, water samples will be collected on East and West coast for testing in labs for pollution levels.
"The East Coast is relatively clean," he added.
Major General TSA Narayanan, Deputy Commandant, Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (MCEME), will flag off the next leg of the expedition at the port here on Tuesday.