This is how India’s first all-women crew circumnavigated the world

An expedition, Navika Sagar Parikram, launched in September 2017, would make 6 women Navy officers embark on an adventure to circumnavigate the globe. And they did. With no experience or prior training, they crossed over 22,000 nautical miles, three oceans, three great capes, and five countries over a span of 8 months. The brainchild of Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, the expedition required the women to undergo 3 years' worth of training before they embarked on a newly-inducted vessel, the INSV Tarini. This was because women officers in the Indian Navy are not allowed to enter combat platforms as of yet. The persevering team of undaunted women comprised Joshi, Pratibha Jamwal, B Aishwarya, Lieutenant S Vijaya Devi, P Swathi and Payal Gupta. They saw this as a chance to break another glass ceiling by doing something that had never been done before. However, the first challenge was to master the sailboat.

photo of insv tarini

They began with theoretical courses on navigation, communication and weather prediction. This was followed by rigorous practical training on the how-tos of sailing - from repairing things, dealing with emergencies to tackling the weather and medical emergencies. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and Navika Sagar Parikrama wouldn’t take off with just training. The next task for the women was to actually sail and log in some nautical miles under their names as sea-farers.

A training boat - the INSV Mhadei undertook the responsibility for that. It was the only boat to have circumnavigated the world before Tarini was inducted. The women sailed under the tutelage of Captain Dilip Donde, the first Indian to circumnavigate the world solo. Over time the women were trained in long-duration sailing, having completed almost 21,600 nautical miles before they were cleared for the expedition. They even conquered sailing in the Mhadei independently. The team was composed of women who had mastered sailing the most and had the maximum experience on their hands. Once they started seeing results during their shorter sailing adventures, they knew they were ready.

According to Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, despite all the training, their experience at sea was filled with surprises. She had to ensure that they continued working as a team, conquered the rough weather and learned how to deal with problems on their own. In the middle of the sea, there were times when the closest shore would be about 1000 nautical miles away. Apart from that, they encountered and braved several storms. During one, the waves were almost nine to ten metres high and yet, they persevered - through disagreements and all - to make the mission a success.

photo of insv tarini

Over time, the team built a bond - by overcoming challenges together and celebrating the wins. They even celebrated festivals at sea by baking cakes and decorating the sailboat. Despite all the challenges that the team faced, they didn’t let it stop them from celebrating the little things. They even celebrated their Diwali along with the Prime Minister who was on a video call. This daunting expedition is an inspiration to all, that anything can be conquered, if you put your mind to it.