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Cover photo Antara

Sailing : Learn all about it with the first Indian

“India has a long coastline and favourable weather for sailing most of the year. No reason why we should shy from using the sea for sport and recreation. For a small group, a sail boat offers a good COVID free environment. I am optimistic about more Indians being bitten by the sailing bug. It may take some time but it will happen.” Meet Captain Dilip Donde, Retd. First Indian Solo Circumnavigator, Clearance Diver and Author.

Captain Dilip Donde and Sucheta Jadhav, launched “Antara” in Apr 2019. People from all walks of life can experience what it’s like to sail beyond sight of land. They can, if they wish to, also experience being a real sailor instead of being a mere passenger. Antara, a Van de Stadt designed ‘Caribbean 40’ sail boat built in India, is registered with the Directorate General of Shipping and certified to sail anywhere in the world for commercial and personal use. She is well equipped with all the necessary safety and navigation equipment to cross an ocean. So here is your opportunity to cruise across the sea at a leisurely pace with the country’s first solo circumnavigator as yours navigator!

Sailing with covid precaution

Sailing basics

Some of the world’s greatest discoveries are credited to sailing. Thanks to new technologies, seafaring peoples have been able to voyage far and wide. Weather and hazardous waters can be some of the challenges for a seafarer. Motion sickness can be a dampener for some but that can easily be handled by popping a few pills without any side effects.

The challenges and difficulties for leisure sailing aren’t as many as imagined by most people. As long as one can move around reasonably well, one can try his/her hand at sailing specially on a large boat. In western countries, sailing has become favourite post retirement activity. A lot of very young women sailors are breaking the records!

The secret to cruising is that you can do without most things. There are some tools and spares you shouldn’t sail without. Sea boots need to be warm, comfortable and offer grip that you can trust. Half the fun of cruising is in the planning. It requires preparation to the point where you are paranoid about safety.

Sailing as a career

Sailing is one of the most eco-friendly activities. For those who are keen to pursue it as a career a lot of options are available. The Indian Navy and The Indian Coast Guard are best to serve the nation while following passion. To meet the challenges at the sea with an ocean of opportunities! 

The yachting association of India is the governing body for the sport. There are sailing clubs in Mumbai, Kerala, Goa, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai. The National Sailing School, Bhopal, runs with the support of the Indian Navy.

There are sailing schools like Aquasail, Discover Sail who conduct sailing classes for novices. Most clubs like the RBYC, TNSA, RMYC also have their own sailing programs. All of them are however restricted to sailing small boats inside harbours.

Sailing destinations around India

For leisure an array of options are available, from luxury sail cruise, corporate cruise, valentine’s day special cruise…and so on. Sail past some of the oldest lighthouse on the Andaman islands or Daman and Diu Territories’. Take a cruise along western coastline and just relax in the playful waves. Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, the Middle East….All depends on how much time you like to spend at sea.
Even in limited amount of time for cruise, there is still plenty of adventure. Plan a ride into the farthest of the sea to witness a setting sun that reflect in the crystal-clear water. The seascape, the gentle breeze will take your breath away.

To experience the magic of sailing out of sight of land, sailing on Antara with Captain Dilip is one of the best options. “So far we have explored Murud Janjira, Jaigad, Pavas, Devgad and Netrani. Lovely places all, on the way to Mumbai to Goa cruise! We plan to take our guests to these places in coming months to work out our SOPs. There are plenty more, I am sure, which we plan to explore in due course. I specialized as a diver in the navy so had plenty of opportunities to dive. By far the best diving in India has been around the Lakshadweep islands. We do plan to go there someday on Antara for a bit of diving”.

The First Indian : Story of solo circumnavigation of Captain Dilip

“I volunteered to do the circumnavigation so in a sense I promised the navy that I would do it. Well, I had to keep my word. As I moved along the project I met some very interesting people like Late Vice Admiral Manohar Prahlad Awati, PVSM, VrC , Sir Robin Knox Johnston, Mr Ratnakar Dandekar etc who went out of their way to help me and again I couldn’t let them down. All that and the challenge of doing something that had never been attempted by an Indian before”.

“The First Indian” is a beautifully written, story of this great achievement, how I built a navigable vessel from scratch, trained myself under the best circumnavigators and boat makers, and finished a solo round-the-world trip. I also helped a new generation of naval officers, including the all-woman team of INSV Tarini, to circumnavigate under a sail. Find more at https://youtu.be/NJGJEvmie3M

While these metrics are impressive, what put my jaw on my desk was the fact that often sailing is required on seafloor-feet above rocks that could wreck absolute havoc if contact is made! I would like to replicate, how heroes are made by sheer perseverance and commitment to a chosen path, “ Solo circumnavigation of the planet has successfully been completed by about 300 people in the world; compared to this, over 5,000 people had climbed Everest and over 600 have been to space! ”
Capetown arrival capt dilip
Mumbai capt dilip

Message to younger generation

About adventure says Captain Dilip: “ Go ahead and do what interests you. Do it because you enjoy doing it rather than the perceived gains you might get out of it. Take on newer challenges, plan well and for the worst but don’t create doomsday scenarios in your head about unlikely dangers. And lastly, don’t wait too long as life moves on very quickly and before you know it is too late”.

“I look forward to the day when Indians would go out for offshore or blue ocean sails as easily as they go out for weekend treks. We have a long and lovely coastline and good weather most of the year. Yet we barely use the sea for recreation or sport.

The offshore sailing industry is a big employment generator in the developed world. Hopefully as more people get interested and the infrastructure improves, the overall costs will come down, encouraging more to take to sea. Antara is an effort to start that cycle”. Believes Captain Dilip.

“There is a thrill in going away from land, to stop in the middle of nowhere and measure perspective, there is a general fear of the sea. I would tell people, come and sail, figure it out for yourselves, the weather and the winds will teach you sailing”, Narrates Captain Dilip.

family sailing

So let’s start with some micro adventures, look at charts and maps and decide where you might go next to explore. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, achievements or just head out for a memorable time on the waters with family and friends. You may not have all so called luxuries onboard. 

Safety and confidence is there for sure that you are travelling with one of the best sailors in the world! Spending time and listening to stories of the famous first Indian is a unique experience in itself!

You can book to sail with Captain Dilip Donde at https://www.thefirstindian.com/antara/

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  1. Commander Dipankar Goswami

    An excellent article to read! I have known Capt Dilip Donde for many years; a born seafarer. His achievement of completing the solo circumnavigation, as first Indian, is a matter of great pride for us.

    I wish Capt Dilip Donde all the very best.

  2. Great effort to pull the landlubbers specially those living on the vast coastline of our country, for some adventure at sea. Best wishes

  3. Nicely written. Way to go Dhonde sir 👌.

  4. Ahoy Sir ! chanced upon in the forces network ! never knew about you !! Am heavily into Sailing Youtube videos like SV La vagabond, SV Zatara, SV Uma, SV doodles, Sailing Project Atticus, Taylors travels, Alluring artic, Erik Aanderaa etc etc and one always wondered why we lack sailing culture or desi sailing YouTuber ?

    Highly impressed and Congrats on your solo circumnavigation achievement and wishing you all the best in your new endeavour ANTARA. Pray Varuna showers his blessings and wishing you more laurels and accolades in the days ahead ! FAIR WINDS !!

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