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Heroes Of The Sea: First Ever All Women Team Who Created History In INS Tarini

Posted: May 26, 2018

An all women crew of Naval officers create history by becoming the first ever all women team to circumnavigate the globe in INSV Tarini. We are mighty proud of them.

The Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) is in the news once again. An all woman crew, on the 56 foot long sailing vessel INSV Tarini completed their eight month circumnavigation of the globe. The team of five women commanders was led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi. The other officers on board comprised of Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal and P Swathi and Lieutanants B Aishwarya, Payal Gupta and Vijaya Devi.

The expedition

INSV Tarini was originally built in India by M/s Aquarius Shipyard P. Ltd., Goa and was introduced into Indian Navy in February 2017. As part of the Navika Sagar Parikrama Expedition which was flagged- off by Nirmala Sitharaman, Goa in September 2017 the vessel had travelled 22,300 nautical miles in its sail from Goa in last year till it touched the safe waters of the bay in Mandovi Goa on 21st May 2018. The stop over points included  Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands – UK) and Cape Town (South Africa) which is infamous for as one of the most dangerous ship passages in the world.

The expedition was mainly in accordance with our national policy to empower women to attain their full potential. The aim was to portray Nari Shakti on world platform and transfigure the social attitude towards women in India in challenging and adverse conditions. The idea of Navika Sagar Parikrama cropped up when the Indian Navy suggested the idea a few years ago and it was this team of six brave women who opted for the same. It implied that this would be the first of its kind all Indian women circumnavigation across the globe.

Braved the rocky waters

Circumnavigating the globe amidst adverse environment is no trivial triumph. The women sailed through the wild waters of Pacific Ocean and made it like a smooth sail. It is a feat which is indeed praiseworthy. The officers, who spent 199 days circumventing the globe and 254 days in all, were received by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on their arrival near Panaji. On social media, the officers were welcomed with heartwarming wishes and congratulatory tweets. From veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan to former cricketer Virender Sehwag — many took to the micro-blogging site to express their pride and convey their well-wishes to the crew.

Talking of team spirit and challenges, the crew said that one of the biggest hurdles stared at them when they crossed Cape Horn. They faced winds with velocity of 140 Km/hour and waves as high as 10 meters. As a result, the crew was on their toes and maneuvered  keep the boat steady.

While talking to Indian Express  Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi said, “We cut down our sail. We had to hand steer the boat for 16-17 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.” Lt. Commander Jamwal added that there was water even inside the boat.

Trained to face the storm

Prior to the sail the crew were trained on astronomy, meteorology, communication, navigation, seamanship and also how to read weather and weather maps. They were trained on exigency situations which included handling burns, electric shock and injuries, fixing a fracture or technical fault in the boat and many more. Though, they had an on board Wi-fi for medical help or any other emergency, the signal strength was very less.

One can decipher their challenges, when the crew said that apart from challenges of the sea, the exhaustion and solitude was equally taxing. The crew of INSV Tarini had to manage their chores themselves. Unlike the other ships they did not have the provision of getting a doctor on call or a restaurant for eating. Bathing daily was a luxury as the reverse osmosis (RO) plant produced water which was judiciously used for cooking. Washing clothes was an adventure where they rinsed their clothes in soapy water, tied them in a rope, dropped them in the sea and made it trail for some time. They would then pull up the clothes, rinse with a little RO water and leave it to dry. The days when there was no electricity and gas provisions, the crew  had to depend on tin food.

The terrific team

The crew members kept the nation updated with their tweets and photos of their smiling faces while also posting pictures of delicacies like golgappas and cakes. They were allowed to carry their laptop, kindles and personal diaries which were their biggest support. Talking to Indian Express Lt. Commander Joshi said that they only had four bunks, two people were always on duty, come what may. There were no doctors, so they were their own psychologists, trainers, engineers, psycho-counselors and cooks. They had nobody except themselves and they were trained in that manner.

All the crew had  was the immense support from their families when they decided to take part in this dare devil expedition. Lt. Commander Joshi had  unflinching support from her mother. Lt Aishwarya thought it was boring to dwell on land. Nicknamed Alligator, she had her father’s support. Same was the case with Lt Vijaya Devi whose father is her inspiration.

The team spoke highly of the first woman defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman who flagged off their journey and also went to receive the proud team of women upon completion of the circumnavigation. To them, Sitharaman was a support system who not only kept a track on their journey but also stood like a pillar. The crew spoke to her when they were stationed in New Zealand and said they felt Sitharaman was more like their mother, always encouraging them in this endeavour.

Proud of the Naval warriors

INSV Tarini’s is a journey to be read, cherished and always remembered as it created history. Sailing in the ocean for eight months, with no support system, no luxury to bathe every day, while sailing through rough weather and returning safely to the bay on India is no mean feat.

Well done team INSV Tarini. We are proud of you!

Image Source: Indian Airforce/ Twitter

Updated: Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi was wrongly quoted as Lieutenant Vartika Sharma. The error has been corrected.

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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of

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