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Around the world, through storms and choppy seas

By Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI, JAN. 22. The Navy's Tall Ship, INS Tarangini, is completing one year of its round-the-world voyage today. It has been through storms and choppy seas, on a mission of goodwill, and meanwhile training its cadets.

INS Tarangini, a three-masted Barque built by Goa Shipyard Ltd, is now in the Pacific Ocean, heading for Suva, Fiji. It is a floating naval academy. The cadets learn seamanship, navigation, astro-navigation, semaphore and morse light signalling. And, they learn courage, camaraderie and endurance.

It set sail from Kochi on January 23 last year. It has logged some 22,645 nautical miles and has about 7,755 miles more to circumnavigate the globe and come back home around May 1. By then it would have called at 36 ports in 18 countries.

The voyage has taken the Tarangini through the traditional route of the Arabian Sea, the pirate-infested Red Sea, the narrow Suez Canal, the stormy Mediterranean, the chilly Atlantic, the Great Lakes, Panama Canal and now the stormy Pacific. Often it has sailed non-stop for weeks.

The first Commanding Officer during the voyage, Commander Shaikh Shaukat Ali, told The Hindu: "We faced a very severe storm in the Mediterranean, with winds blowing at 60 knots per hour, often bursting to 72 knots, and the waves rising as high as 10 metres. One had to look up to see the wave.'' Commander Ali spoke of how they deftly dodged the fury of the storm, keeping it at the ship's starboard quarter — that is, the rear area of the right side. They could not allow the mountain-size waves to crash on its side. Nor should it have faced the wind head-on. The skipper and his six officers, 27 crew members and 35 cadets struggled to keep the ship steady and manoeuvre it towards the storm's better side (navigable semi-circle) and avoid its dangerous semi-circle. It was biting cold and the crew members needed three layers of woollens.

The storm tossed about the Tarangini — which means wave-rider in Sanskrit — for 28 hours. Occasionally it was lifted several metres high. Then the vessel would hit the water surface with a thud, recalls Commander Ali. It lost all its eight square sails and much of the rigging. Even the 14 mm steel cables snapped. But the logistics branch of the Navy that has been husbanding the Tarangini, stepped in and supplied the sails and rigging at the next port of call, Palermo in Italy. The struggle and the subsequent 23-day-long non-stop trans-Atlantic sailing seasoned the youngsters — half of them in their early twenties — into veteran seamen and women.

INS Tarangini stole the show at the Tall Ship races in the Great Lakes. Sailing ships from 24 countries, some with centuries-old sailing traditions, had participated in the event. The Tarangini came first in two races and third in the remaining two of the Youth Sailing Division, the main category of races. Besides, the Indians were the overall champions. The Tarangini was unanimously judged the best ship. Because it had come from the farthest country, the Indian vessel got the Long Distance Ship award too. Commander Ali got the Best Tall Ship Captain award.

Ahead of the races, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Madhavendra Singh, had sailed in the INS Tarangini from Hamilton to Montreal in order to boost the cadets' morale.

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