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Home / Politics / Policy /  Around the world in 254 days, with 6 women sailors

Sailors are superstitious. They believe dolphins bring luck, you should not set sail on a Thursday, and never, ever, let women on board. Well, the last superstition was tossed decisively overboard by the crew of the INSV Tarini this week, as they became the first Indian all-women crew to complete a circumnavigation of the globe.

Ending their 254-day voyage on 21 May at the INS Mandovi jetty in Goa, the same port from which they had departed on 10 September 2017, the six-member crew broke many stereotypes during their record-setting sail.

One of those stereotypes is that six women sharing the close quarters of the 56-feet sailing vessel must have had terrible squabbles. After landing in Delhi, where they will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, the crew busted that myth. “We’ve all sailed and trained the same amount, and everybody has their own way of dealing with situations, but that was a good thing, because we could discuss different ways of solving a problem and choose the best one. In fact, I’d say it was easier for us to collaborate and work together," lieutenant commander Vartika Joshi, the INVS Tarini’s captain, said in an interview. The crew also includes lieutenant commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P. Swathi, and lieutenants S. Vijaya Devi, B. Aishwarya and Payal Gupta.

The crew was mentored by commander Dilip Donde, India’s first solo circumnavigator, who sailed around the globe, completing his journey in 2010. One of the first things he told them, he says, is that “unlike boats, which are always feminine in the English language, the sea is gender neutral. It does not distinguish between men and women".

The veteran’s second bit of advice: “Look after the boat and she will reciprocate. If you don’t, she will connive with the sea and give it back to you."

The team took that to heart, spending several hours daily caring for the INSV Tarini. The various tasks were split between the crew, assigned to each by Captain Joshi. In the process, the crew also broke a second stereotype that a woman boss is indecisive.

“Vartika was quite fair and we shared the tasks equally, including mucking out the loo. She settled any differences of opinions patiently, and I never felt forced to do something I didn’t want," second-in-command Jamwal said.

Two of the INVS Tarini’s crew are married, while two more are engaged. Did that create problems? It’s often said that women don’t go far because they are held back by family compulsions.

“Our families did have a hard time, but that was because most of them had never even seen the sea! Four of us are from the mountains. The first time my parents saw the ocean was when I invited them to visit the boat," Joshi said. “But once they saw that we’re doing well and looking after ourselves, they were quite supportive. Apprehensive yes, but supportive too," she added.

The crew celebrated three birthdays at sea, decorating the boat and even succeeding in baking cakes to make the occasions special. “Six was a great number, we were always entertained. We watched movies, listened to music, and you won’t believe some of the goodies the crew rustled up in our tiny pantry, even while sailing in rough seas. We made paranthas, baked cakes and breads, and even made halwa and rasgullas!" Joshi said.

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