Navika Sagar Parikrama by All-Woman Crew

“It’s not the girls achieving, it’s the youngsters from India achieving. The women of this country have shown that it is possible for the youngsters, if they want to do something, that they can indeed do it, by showing commitment, grit and dedication.”

—Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister

Issue: 3 / 2018By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba with the Indian Navy’s six-member all-women crew who arrived in Panaji after circumnavigating the globe in over eight months on board the naval vessel INSV Tarini on May 21, 2018

The first ever All-Woman Crew of naval officers of the Indian Navy embarked upon a unique circumnavigation of the globe, named Navika Sagar Parikrama on board Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini. The unique voyage was flagged off by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at Panaji on September 10, 2017. The launch of historic expedition was witnessed by Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa and former Defence Minister, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral A.R. Karve, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, and several senior officers and dignitaries.

The expedition for circumnavigating the globe, Navika Sagar Parikrama on INSV Tarini was undertaken by all-woman crew which was led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi and her crew comprising; Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, Swati P. and Aishwarya Boddapati, and Lieutenants S. Vijaya Devi and Payal Gupta.

The crew comprising six members were put through an extremely rigorous training course lasting for nearly three years under the able guidance of Captain Dilip Donde, the first Indian to solo-circumnavigate the globe in 2009-10 and Captain Atool Sinha, an Asian Games silver medallist.

The Long Route

The expedition was sailed in six legs, covering over 21,600 nautical miles since INSV Tarini left Goa adhering to the following itinerary:

PortArrivalDeparture
GoaSeptember 10, 2017
FremantleOctober 23, 2017November 5, 2017
LytteltonNovember 29, 2017December 12, 2017
Port StanleyJanuary 22, 2018February 4, 2018
Cape TownMarch 2, 2018March 14, 2018
Port LouisApril 18, 2018April 26, 2018
GoaMay 21, 2018

Training

A specialised training was given to the crew to help them learn the ropes of astronomy, meteorology, navigation, communication, seamanship and reading weather and weather maps.

Challenges

A bird’s-eye view of INSV Tarini

The naval team battled winds up to 60 knots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “It was a gruelling test of human endurance, perseverance and sailing skills to battle the elements of sea and its wrath,” said Navy spokesperson Captain D.K. Sharma.

In an interview, Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, the Skipper of the Vessel reflected on one of the big challenges before they crossed Cape Horn, often referred to as Everest for the seafarer. “The waves kept coming one after the other. It was bad and we had not seen something like this before.” The crew was prepared for the impending storm. “We cut down our sail. We had to hand-steer the boat for 16 to 17 hours at a stretch and we cut down all our power sources and automatic steering. We divided ourselves to keep a watch, three on deck and three taking rest. During the night, it would get disorienting as there was no clear sky. We used to listen to the sounds of the wave and then keep the boat steady,” she added.

“There was water even inside the boat. The skipper came floating; she was trying to make out if she was on board or in water. Lt Vijaya and I tried to find our way to the wheel and controlled the boat,” added Lieutenant Jamwal.

Steering Gear Defect

On April 15, 2018, whilst the vessel was 160 nautical miles North-East of Mauritius, the steering suddenly disengaged, throwing the boat off course. On inspection it was revealed that the rudder stock had slipped down from its original position. Also, both connectors had broken, rendering the rudder ineffective to manoeuvre the boat.

The crew thereafter slid the rudder back in position, using lines tied from the boom to the rudder. The two broken connectors were then cannibalised to make one and connected back to the rudder stock, thus making one steering system operational.

The vessel entered Port Louis on April 18, 2018, without any assistance. Spares were flown to Port Louis by the Indian Navy for defect rectification.

The crew managed their daily activities and during the halts they prepared for the remaining journey and also stocked up the food supply.

Tarini romps Home

INSV Tarini entered Goa harbour and came alongside INS Mandovi jetty on completion of a historic global circumnavigation voyage on May 21, 2018. The all-woman crew of Tarini was received at the jetty by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who had also flagged them off on September 10, 2017. Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral A.R. Karve, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, senior officers and enthusiastic members from the naval community both serving and retired, as well as civilians were present at the Naval Boat Pool to welcome INSV Tarini.

It was a poignant moment for the Navika Sagar Parikrama team which included a number of naval personnel who worked behind the scenes from the time of origination of the idea of circumnavigation by an all women crew, right through the planning, implementation and training till the successful execution of the voyage. The women crew themselves were ecstatic on completion of the voyage. Speaking on the occasion, the Skipper Lt Commander Vartika Joshi said, “We knew at the very start of this voyage that we had a daunting task ahead. However, the many challenges we encountered brought in a new found strength from within, which we ourselves never knew we were capable of. Our close bonding helped us overcome those difficult times.” It was also a time for happy reunion of the crew with their families after a period of over eight and half months.

Excited crew spot a whale shark near the vessel

Speaking at the occasion, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she is extremely honoured and feels humbled before the crew of team Tarini for what they have achieved. She further added that “it’s not the girls achieving, it’s the youngsters from India achieving. The women of this country have shown that it is possible for the youngsters, if they want to do something, that they can indeed do it, by showing commitment, grit and dedication.”

During his address Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff said, “The grit and determination displayed by these young women officers would definitely encourage future generations to take on daunting challenges and strive for success”.

The Voyage

During her 254 day long voyage, the vessel has covered over 22,000 Nautical miles, visiting five countries – Australia, New Zealand, Falkland Islands (UK), South Africa and Mauritius. At each of these countries the crew received a rousing welcome both from the Indian Diasporas as also from the local community and media. During the course of her voyage, the vessel has met all criteria of circumnavigation, viz. crossing the Equator twice, crossing all Longitudes, as also the three great capes (Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope). The expedition was covered in six legs, with halts at five ports namely; Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), Cape Town (South Africa) and Port Louis (Mauritius).

The crew and the vessel encountered rough seas on numerous occasions during the voyage. The extremely cold climate coupled with stormy weather conditions especially in the Southern Ocean made the task of circumnavigating the globe highly daunting and challenging. The vessel also witnessed winds in excess of 60 knots and waves up to 7 metres high, whilst crossing the Pacific Ocean.

The indigenously-built INSV Tarini is a 56-foot sailing vessel, which was inducted in the Indian Navy in February 2017, and has showcased the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum.

The expedition titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’ is in consonance with the National policy to empower women to attain their full potential. It has showcased ‘Nari Shakti’ on the world platform and helped change societal attitudes and mindset towards women in India by raising visibility of their participation in challenging environs.

The crew also collated and updated meteorological, ocean and wave data on a regular basis for accurate weather forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD), as also monitored and reported marine pollution on the high seas. They interacted extensively with the local populace, especially children, during the port halts to promote Ocean sailing and the spirit of adventure.

A senior naval officer said, “The women officers have done the country proud not only in showing the Indian Flag at distant shores but also in demonstrating the sea faring capability of Indian women.”

Interaction with Prime Minister

It was a proud moment for the crew of Navika Sagar Parikrama when they had the honour to meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 23, 2018. During the interaction the crew made a presentation on various facets of the expedition, preparations, training and experience during the voyage. The Prime Minister congratulated and complimented the crew on the success of their mission and encouraged them to share and write about their unique experiences of their expedition.

Interaction with Media

During the voyage the crew had an opportunity to interact with Media abroad at all five countries where Tarini visited. However, the crew received the rousing welcome and accolades for their path breaking expedition by both print and electronic media in India. Practically all leading television channels most extensively reported the success story of the unique mission. The interaction was splashed through live Interviews of the crew during the prime time of reporting.