As the first, Indian all-women crew from the Indian Navy set sail to circumnavigate the globe, Prachi Mishra of Yo!Vizag presents a candid interaction with the crew to get you exclusively on board the INSV Tarini.
Bravery is as the brave do and glory comes to those who dare the unthinkable. Six officers of the Indian Navy take on the world for a voyage that will etch India across the seven seas. They are all set for the landmark Navika Sagar Parikrama, proving that courage has a soul but no gender. The sailing vessel and the brave ladies prepare for the fierce challenge at Goa currently and leave nothing to chance and fate. This is their story.
Navika Sagar Parikrama, will commence on September 10, from Goa to take the voyage around the world and complete it in March 2018. The Parikrama will be covered in five legs and touch four ports which are Freemantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), and Cape Town (South Africa). A gruelling expedition undertaken by few, the Parikrama firmly places India at the forefront of ocean-going strengths and maritime skills. The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba and the nation wishes them luck and safe passage.
INSV Tarini is the 55 foot, indigenously created sailing vessel that will carry the brave Naval Officers on board. Named after the Tara Tarini temple in Odisha, the vessel delivers truly to its name which means ‘saviour’ in Sanskrit. A glorious specimen of ‘Make in India’, built by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt. Ltd. at Divar, Goa, it succeeds the INSV Mhadei that has successfully completed the circumnavigation and 1, 15,000 nautical miles already. The INSV Tarini will soon prove itself a titan of the blue waters bringing fruit to the labours of the all-women crew working on it now.
Meet the crew:
The Crew comprises of six Naval Officers, all women, who embark on this courageous mission. The vessel is skippered by Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi and carries on board Lt. Commander Pratibha Jamwal, Lt Commander
P Swathi, Lt. S Vijaya Devi, Lt. B Aishwarya and Lt. Payal Gupta.
Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi
She is the youngest and the first Indian woman to skipper an ocean-going boat and has sailed from Vizag to Goa in February 2016. Being from the foothills of Himalayas in Uttarakhand did not stop her from garnering sailing glories. Commissioned as a Naval Architect on July 5, 2010, Vartika has skippered INSV Mhadei from Goa to Mauritius and back. Harsh weather and capricious waves are no match for this courageous Naval Officer.
Biggest challenge: Vartika looks at Cape Horn as being the most challenging point in the journey. Few people have attempted the stretch which is known for the extremely rough seas and unpredictable climate. On a personal level, she stresses on maintaining a balance and positive attitude. Being far away for so long is deeply felt on such a long tour. “Rising above daily irritations to look at the bigger picture and the adventure is a challenge”, says Lieutenant Commander Vartika.
Core strength: “My team is my strength”, says Vartika proudly. The training and at-sea experience has created a strong bond amongst the team members. Confidence and faith on the mature coordination in her team gives her the strength to take on the world tour.
Love and support: Apprehensive at first, Vartika’s parents are now optimistic and confident. Being from the beautiful mountainside of Rishikesh, they only had a faraway knowledge of the expansive seas. Vartika brought them on board her vessel at Mauritius to give them a live experience that changed their minds. They have now put their faith in her rigorous training and courage.
Looking ahead: “Take life one step at a time” is what the skipper of INSV Tarini believes. A true-blue maritime enthusiast, Vartika feels it will be hard to stay away from the seas. She leaves it to the Indian Navy to give her opportunities to contribute in this field. Being close to the ocean is what her heart seeks for future.
Lieutenant Commander Pratibha Jamwal
The beautiful valley of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh is Pratibha’s home. A mountain lass at heart, she has been an active yachtsman since her academy days. She volunteered for the Navika Sagar Parikrama and is all set to sail. She already has ocean sailing experience on-board INSV Mhadei on the course of Goa to Port Blair in 2014. The young lady is a graduate in Electronics and Communication and joined the Indian Navy as Air Traffic Controller on July 4, 2011.
Biggest challenge: Pratibha places supreme confidence on the training that has been going on since 2014. South of America, which is the southernmost point in the journey, is where she anticipates the challenge. Negotiating the cold weather and harsh winds on a very rough sea would require sustained effort from all of them. Forewarned and prepared by her mentors, she is keen to dare and complete this stretch of treacherous sea ably.
Core strength: Every officer of the crew is from a different educational background and has varied fields of interest. Pratibha’s interest lies in the technical department on board. She sees herself contributing the most in preparing and managing the technical, mechanical and electrical details on the vessel. “I am more into it”, is what she tells us very cheerfully.
Love and support: “Families worry and are bound to be apprehensive.” Pratibha tells us very candidly about the apprehension of her family that has dissipated now. Over the long course of training, the doubts of her parents have given way to faith. They have come a long way since her voyage in 2014 from Vizag to Goa.
Looking ahead: Looking at the first part of the voyage rather than meditating on the globe tour is Lieutenant Commander Jamwal’s perspective. Each step along the way counts in reaching the goal. According to her, she has grown as a person to become patient and strong. It will serve her better in achieving future goals. Further sailing is what Pratibha wants to do and places her trust in the Indian Navy’s plans for her.
Lieutenant Commander P Swathi
A bubbly and vivacious girl, Swathi is from the City of Destiny, Visakhapatnam. Destiny has indeed favoured Swathi with a chance to globe trot on the blue waters. An avid yachtsman since her childhood, she has mapped the Indian Ocean while sailing from Cape Town to Goa to Rio race in 2014. The young Lieutenant Commander joined Indian Navy as an Air Traffic Controller.
Biggest challenge: Swathi is ready for the expedition physically and mentally and the training has prepared her for all circumstances at sea. According to her, the biggest challenge is keeping oneself mentally strong throughout the voyage. Mental strength would help them the strongest winds and harshest seas.
Core strength: Acting with a focused mind to any emergency coupled with firsthand experience is Swathi’s personal strength. Two and a half years of training and coaching by Capt. Atool Sinha, the teams mentor has imparted strength to the young officer. The sailing race has acquainted her with performing under pressure. “It will help me a lot in taking quick and correct decisions during emergency situations’’, Swathi tells us brightly.
Love, support and Vizag: Her family is her world. One of three sisters, Swathi is extremely attached to her parents and her uncle. Since childhood her family has contributed a lot towards her success. It is in Vizag that she has completed her education, from schooling to Masters in Science. About Vizag she recounts the good old days in the city which she misses. Feeling strongly about it, she tells us that it is a very good platform for young people with a lot of opportunities.
Looking ahead: With her heart and soul dedicated to the Naval forces, Lieutenant Commander Swathi is extremely grateful and feels honoured for the opportunities that Indian Navy has given her. “Wherever the Navy wants me, I will be there”, she says. She wants to give more to her work in the future and assures us that she would be most happy doing it.
Lieutenant S Vijaya Devi
Commisioned on December 24, 2012 as an Education Officer, Vijaya is a Master in English from Delhi University. Her hometown is Manipur, one of the seven sisters of North East India. This brave young woman has chartered a long journey from home and in career. Her first appointment at Indian Naval Academy presented her with her first sailing opportunity. Visakhapatnam to Goa via Chennai and Kochi was her first long sailing experience with the all women’s crew.
Biggest challenge: Vijaya places maximum stress on being prepared for the weather and emergencies on the course of sailing. The unpredictability of the weather conditions and the instant changes keeps them on their toes, she tells us. However, the biggest challenge according to her is maintaining a cool and calm temperament on board. Patience and a check on one’s temper will be very important for the success of this mission.
Core strength: A self-confessed rope work enthusiast, Vijaya has taken up seamanship duties on INSV Tarini. Her charter of duties requires her to take care of the rigging, sails and ropes that are in use as well as the spares. Attention to minute details and tackling emergencies is what she does best. “We all have to know everything. At any point of time at least two officers will be on duty which is decided by rotation. But I personally love my specific responsibilities”, says Vijaya competently.
Love and support: Vijaya and her family belong to the beautiful land of Manipur that is cocooned by mountains. To fathom life on the wide open sea is very difficult for her father. The only girl in the family and cherished sister of four brothers, Vijaya has people worried back home. Despite everything, they have complete confidence in her and the endeavour. Photographs and videos help them understand her life better.
Looking ahead: For Vijaya, joining the Indian Navy was truly unexpected. A literature student at post-graduate level, she is now a converted seafarer. She loves sailing as a sport and has won gold medals in women’s category. In 2014 and 2015 she aced the Navy Sailing Championship and as they say there was no looking back. A volunteer for this mission, Vijaya wants to be associated with sailing in the future as well.
Lieutenant B Aishwarya
Young, city girl Aishwarya hails from the dynamic city of Hyderabad. A keen eye for adventure has kept the peppy spirit of this young voyager high. She joined the six officers’ team and conducted her maiden ocean crossing from Goa to Mauritius. The harsh weather and the trials of crossing the equator twice have not dimmed her spirit. She joined the naval forces in the Architecture Cadre.
Biggest challenge: Aishwarya is full of optimism for the upcoming expedition. Faith in her training and confidence on herself has her raring to get set and go. She points out that no matter what situation they come across on the journey, they should never lose hope. This is the biggest challenge according to her. Unpredictable climatic elements, state of sea and other such factors make their task harder.
Core strength: Young Aishwarya is the one on board with a terrific sense of humour. Cheerfully she tells us that in any difficult situation she always tries to make things lighter. She loves to dissipate tension, keep up the good spirit and hold everyone together.
Love and support: Aishwarya, young and city-bred tells us on a candid note that it was the charm of the uniform that drew her to Indian Navy. Her parents who were hesitant at first about her embarking on such a long journey are comfortable now. This is all thanks to a sortie on INSV Mhadei on a good weather day. Firsthand experience of their daughter’s life at Goa changed their outlook on ocean sailing forever.
Looking ahead: Lieutenant Aishwarya was not aware that lady officers do not get at-sea appointments. This was before she joined Indian Navy. She tells us about her ignorance on this point being from a non-defence background. She hopes that the mission opens doors for women to be inducted for appointments on board ships. The love for the open seas and sailing moves Aishwarya to say that – “Once you have had the experience of sailing, you never want to go back.”
Lieutenant Payal Gupta
Young and energetic, Payal Gupta loves travelling and has come far away from her home in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. An Education Officer in the Indian Navy, she volunteered for ocean sailing to add to her repertoire of globetrotting adventures. Mentored by Captain Dilip Donde, Payal has acquired her sea legs on the course from Goa to Visakhapatnam. She has come a long way since the first sortie and is now looking forward to the landmark mission.
Challenge ahead: As per young Payal, the biggest challenge on the voyage will be the Southern Ocean. Having been to Cape Town while training at sea, she knows the challenge of the natural elements. The turbulence of the sea or the prediction of the winds and weather there are all unknown. The southern leg of the route will be most difficult, she feels.
Core strength: Payal feels that being optimistic in the face of difficulties is her strongest quality. At sea, maintaining a positive attitude in the face of uncertainties and problems will stand her and the team in good stead.
Love and support: Having parents who are extremely supportive is a very big deal for Payal. Calling them the best in the world, she thanks them for always taking a stand with her. Her mother has always prayed for her to achieve the goals she set for life and career.
Looking ahead: As an education officer, Lt. Payal Gupta hopes to serve a more proactive role in the Naval forces in future. She looks at the current expedition as a stepping stone for lady officers to open possibilities of active service. She wishes to continue sailing and thanks the Indian Navy for opportunities that would be hard to come by as a civilian.