The Gulf Expedition was launched from Kochi in September 91 and after sailing along the Western coast of India up to Mumbai, the Yacht crossed the Arabian Sea and called on the ports of Muscat and Bandar Abbas, later to return to India sailing along the Makran coast touching Okha in Gujarat, Bombay, Goa, Mangalore and finally returning home to Kochi in December 91 after a 6000 KM voyage across the seas.
India has one of the largest coastlines in the world. If you add to it Pakistan's, the Maldives', Sri Lanka's and Bangladesh's sea-facing boundaries, the South Asian coastline totals 11,110 km. That's a lot.
This coastline is of critical importance ecologically and monetarily to the rest of the world. On the west you come across some mythically exotic ports - Goa, Bombay, and Karachi connecting to Kuwait, Muscat, Zanzibar. The deep natural harbor of Mumbai (Bombay) opens up into the most strategically important sea lanes in the world. An astonishing amount of oil travels through here en route the Persian Gulf. During summer, the western Indian Ocean hosts among the largest concentrations of phytoplankton blooms, which support entire marine ecosystems and allow apex predators to survive.
The yacht Samudra is a 17-year-old, Ketch Class, ‘Amphitrite 43’ fibre- glass sailing yacht, 43 feet in length, 13 feet 11 inches beam (width) and 13,000 Kg displacement.
On the east you have the largest delta in the world, the Ganges Delta. It's part of the Sundarbans - the largest mangrove forest in the world. Mangroves are hotbeds of biodiversity. They perform invaluable services wherever they are found, protecting shorelines from hurricanes, preventing soil erosion and maintaining water quality. In addition, the Sundarbans are also an enormous carbon sink. In 2011, a study by the University of Calcutta found these underwater forests to filter 41,500,000 tons of carbon dioxide over two years. In terms of money, that's worth $79 billion.
After initial screening, the crew underwent training in navigation, seamanship, medicine and first aid, meteorology, boat repair techniques etc, at the Naval Base, Kochi. The boat itself being very old, needed extensive repairs, maintenance and modifications which were personally done by the crew.
At this point, we could steer this boat into some predictable waters. We could talk about climate change, and the devastating impact it has had on the South Asian coastline. We could talk about garbage patches or heavy metal poisoning, or how to avoid using single-use plastics while traveling (which we all need to start doing).
The colour of the sea, the sun and the stars change constantly, with each day being more fascinating than the other. It is indeed a sight to behold the star-studded skies on a clear night – millions and millions of stars that I never ever saw or imagined, were visible through the clear atmosphere above the seas, as compared to the dusty and light obscured visibility in our cities. On calm days, one had to just peer over the gunwale of the yacht to spot numerous forms of marine life visible through a transparent blue-green sea.
Instead, we have shared excerpts from a sea voyage that took place in 1991. Brigadier Rajaram Srinivasan sails up the western coast of India, across the Arabian Sea, and back, with a crew of six others. The journey was made on a yacht, Samudra-III, and considered a great accomplishment in seafaring ability.