The First Indian
This book is a delight to read. Commander Dilip Donde’s story of volunteering to sail solo round the world, under the auspices of the Indian navy is an inspiration.
The novel covers the project, Sagar Parikrama, from its inception, through every single step, from finding a boatyard in India capable of building a yacht of this nature, to drafting design and building contracts, to actually building the boat, through its sea trials, to its departure and adventures through the Southern Ocean, round the Horn and his successful return. Part of the charm of the book lies in Donde’s struggles with Indian bureaucracy; some of the exchanges quoted verbatim are almost farcical. His initial naivete and ignorance of the problems facing him soon give way to a determination to overcome all obstacles.
His patience, persistence and, above all, his humour are apparent throughout. There are plenty of incidents en route with failures of equipment and descriptions of the innovative means of overcoming them to satisfy the adventurous mind. The evocative descriptions of towering waves, and deep troughs, of shredded sails, and calmer, sunny days with exhilarating sailing grip the reader throughout.
The warmth of his on-shore receptions during the stops, in Freemantle, Littleton (NZ), Port Stanley and Cape Town illustrate the warmth of Dilip Donde’s personality. He is generous in his praise for all his team and particularly his mentor, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. To him it was a team effort.
The book contains a number of colour photos, which add much to the descriptions. One of these is of the chart showing the route. There is a glossary of nautical terms included, plus certain basic sailing information, i.e. wind directions, the accepted norms for a circumnavigation under sail, points of sail, a diagram of the boat.
This is a great book to read on a long passage, or alternatively tucked up in the warmth in the middle of winter, with the wind howling outside.