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Day 2: New shores

Day 2: New shores

Today I snoozed it. For 5 minutes. I woke in 3.

The good people at Arany woke up at 3:30 to have breakfast ready. I felt a tad guilty shovelling the double egg omlette and 3 toasts down. A bunch of fruits and a tea later, I was feeling much relieved. The drive down to Kihim was longer than I imagined, and our driver, a regular columbus meant I was awoken multiple times to find the right path.

I hurried down to the water as the land party found parking. At the beach, I found the beached boat with my Kayak safely towed on board. As I warmed up our two boatsmen undid the kayak and set her down. There were a inordinate number of joggers at the beach, and only after the 20th person slowed down did I realise I’d upset some Kihim Beach run. (There seem to be more runs than cricket matches these days, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing)

In the midst of changing my playlist, I lost my precious blue bailer. It was a sign that I needed to keep the kayak dry?

Changing my music at Kihim
Changing music can be a gruelling thing

I didn’t wait for the grounded boat to get clear. (The beach party had a fair bit of fun getting the boat out, I later learnt and my mom’s maternal instincts, or her inkling for fun, made her tug at the boat too)

Pulling the boat out to the water
Mom gives it a go!

It was 7:25 and from yesterday’s sun, I would need some sun block today. I dove a km straight in before tacking and made for the gap to port of the islands. I immediately felt the jolt as the rising tide drove me further and faster. Assisted by it, and not bracing, I clocked a good 8.8 kms in the first hour and 8 minutes. A simple wave and a friendly hello made a bemused fisherman point me through the rocks and out towards Alibaug. The mist was the same, but a silhouette of the distant hillocks made for easy redirection.

Just short of Alibaug, is the Kolaba fort. Apart from being a lovely fortified island, and playing harbour to some colourful fishing boats, Kolaba fort is occupied by all of 5 fishing families. Talking about knowing your neighbours, my safety boat caught up with me here, and it gave us our first shots of the day.

Kolaba fort it is
Coasting past Kolaba Fort

I was doing just fine, and the tide really funneled through this stretch. I was keen on making it work for me, so I sipped some more water and carried on. Alibaug was our first big marker, though the mist made little of the beauty that everyone flocks here for. I stuck to my fishing boats and weaved through. Past Alibaug, Revdanda was the next big point of call and we’d decided to stop here today. After about 17 kms of paddling and roughly 2.5 hours on the water, I felt pretty good though.

Feeling good paddling
Feeling good paddling

So we skipped Revdanda. Shanj and Santosh rerouted me to skip past the inlet at Revdanda and it helped shave off quite a few kms along my current path. The current was strong here, and I used it right to the point of breaking off and headed onward. At around 25 kms I started to feel it. And we had our second refill of the hydration pack. I had just just 2 500ml bottles, so we stopped to draw from the 20 litre barrels. This gave mom and Shanj, who are taking surprising well to being on water, the time to feed me a bunch of things including an energy bar, dates, and anjeer. I’m pretty sure there was a point of time that I was fed some Gulkand Barfi (But I couldn’t complain)

Now, the thing with this GoPro-ing is. It’s great for quick trips, but when you’re out on the water for 5 hours straight and you leave it on video, you tend to run out of juice in 2 hours. Swapping one go-pro for another gave an adventurous Shanj a bit of the sickness of the sea, and gave mom one more person to worry about. The shade of the boat was a great respite as the sun was really turning it up here. And it was only 10:30.

Having had my fair share of injesting and outletting water, I had just about had it with the sun, when the mist cleared. And I could see the coast of Maharashtra in all her beauty. Endless rows of trees in varying shades of green adorned the landscape and hillocks that dotted the coast. The water turned a deep shade of green and the wind picked up. Deliverance.

I was 4 kms off the shore paddling into the beautiful water when I saw the beach that had made me skip Revdanda. I was at Kashid. As I crossed the last turn I remembered that it was a sunday, and banana boater after banana boater welcomed me to what appearde to be the holiday destination for 2015. I distanced myself from the crowd and found a nice patch to land on.

Feet on the ground. 32 Kms.

A good run. A good start.

Going solo
Going solo
Day 1. Home Stretch

Day 1. Home Stretch

Within moments there was silence. The sweet sound of your blade leaving the water was all I could hear.I passed past the throngs of boats lined outside the Gateway. Out of nowhere I heard a voice saying – “Best of luck”. I turned to see the familiar violet colour of the Yacht club Tandel’s. I smiled at the familiar face and then I was gone.

Assembling the paddles
Putting things together

Just as quickly as it began, I was out of line of the boats. There was emptiness. Commercial vessels scattered far and wide. I altered my course. I knew I wanted to pass through the massive oil rigs. The early morning tide was pushing me out the harbour and I let it. The wind was absent at the beginning but 3 kms in, it kicked up and came straight at me. I was going quickly and I was happy when the safety boat caught me just short of the first commercial vessel out on the water.

Safety Boat catches up
Safety Boat catches up

GC, Shanj, Melanie, my mom and the two boatsmen, Santosh and Vishal seemed to be having a good time. In typically GC fashion, I saw him lying prostrate on the bow of the boat. Go-Pro in hand catching a shoulder high shot of me zipping past. I’ll have to say that it got a little choppy when we arrived at the rigs, but the tide was still pushing me, and I carried on. I completed the first 7 kms in good time. On my last crossing, I’d covered 14.5 kms from the club house at Mandwa to Gateway and I approximated this as mid point. I was glad for my hydration pack and it made short work of stay hydrated. But the mist was insane. At 9 kms in I should have sighted Uran or atleast the high flame, but no. I checked my course. And we seemed to be on track. As affirmation the traffic to Mandwa would pass right past us. A little further came the first big change. The two people on board were woken up as it was time to part ways. GC and Melanie were to leave from Mandwa, and the boat was to take them there. This was to start a series of fun events that had nothing to do with the kayaking. As I bid them farewell, I clocked a good 4 kms before the mist cleared enough for me to realise where I was. I was well past Mandwa and almost into Sasawane. I’d saved 2 kms with the tide and my bearing. I was glad for it.

So began the home run. Having spent 2 weeks down at the BSA guest house in Mandwa, I could do the route down to Kihim with my eyes closed. Having not shut them nearly enough the night before (3.5 hours of sleep) I went with inertia and kept them open though. Despite the comforts of the familiar I had no help with the tide or the wind. When I knew I’d cleared the rocky area at the tip of Mandwa, I paused to look for my safety boat. Not finding them, I decided to move on. Around 9:30 the wind just dropped and with the sun high in the air already, it made for a gruelling hour and a half of paddling. Moving past Sasawane I got a stretch of carrying waves and surfed them for a bit. But it was not nearly fast enough and it felt like a punishment. I fought the dehydration by emptying the other 2 litre bottle into the hydration pack, but that was all my water supply. Somewhere along the stretch I must admit I had to pause for a quick pee break. I glided past Awas the way a sleep deprived, partly de-hydrated and terribly warm kayaker would glide and braced myself for the rocks that litter the south part of the beach. By my calculations I was 4 kms short of my destination. I was glad for it. When I spotted Kandheri and Underi through the mist, I quickened my pace. On the beach I could see people engage in a bunch of beach activities and I paddled clear of them. It’s good to get a moment to cool yourself down when you land, and lets not forget the surf toppling me out the kayak doesn’t make for the great first impression.

I touched Kihim and made for the shade. Something about keeping a boat steady, holding a paddle, shading the gopro and doing your business compels you to wait for shore.

Spotted at Kihim
A good start to day 1.

When I returned I found two workers at a nearby farm house inspecting my beauty. I was quick to take pics with them and then answered their many questions about the expedition.

Two workers inspect the kayak
With the curious couple

 

I was curious to know where my land and sea support were, since I was apparently first on site. I thought they wanted me to tell them the coast was clear. (In a manner of speaking, as Kihim is not the sparsest beach on saturdays) It was just then that Shanj and mom showed up with one of Avnish’s men with a bunch of bags. Dad was nowhere in sight and neither was the boat. As I changed, and plonked myself on dry ground, mom spoke to dad and he had the funniest story. Shortly after offloading everyone at Mandwa, my safety crew ran out in search of me. Somehow I eluded them; the way that a 19 foot white kayak with an orange lifejacket strapped at the back can in clear day. They were prompt in calling my father, who at this time was enjoying his Poha at my uncle’s discussing gymming and where to buy houses. It’s not a fair stretch of imagination to think my dad didn’t digest his breakfast as he tried vainly to contact me on my vodafone number. As is custom, my phone was on silent and lodged in mom’s purse. A good 16 phone calls later, my dad drove with much haste down to Kihim. This, in the company of our august Raikkonen of a driver made for a fun account. So it was sweet relief hearing that I was dry, taking in the para-gliders.

We made a beeline for Arany at Phansad where we are put up for two days. A hot shower and being out in the open here made for a good change from the beach, and the hospitality meant I would probably get good sleep tonight.

Till tomorrow. Paddle Hard.

 

Flagging off

Flagging off

(more pics to follow)

I woke on the first ring of the alarm. It was 4 a.m. and I was vastly disoriented. I put it off. I had no time to ponder on how much I could snooze. 3.5 hours. That’s how much I’d slept. A host of last minute changes and running around meant I finally had everything packed and tucked into bed by 12:30. Ideal for the first day of paddling. A flurry of activity followed and by the time the driver showed at our door, we were running late. Bundling food, clothing, equipment, paddles and ourselves in, we rushed to Gateway. When I say rushed, I meant meandered like a river in the flat plains, as our driver is one hell of a cool cat.

By the time I was at the Yacht Club, I had received a bunch of calls. A wake up call to Rajan and our kayak was out the back door. Homi had come down to see me off, and as we strolled up to the Gateway, I observed my high school seniors Akash and Suven were helping dad put up my banner on the perpetually pestilent police barricades that marr Gateway’s morning beauty. Mom was content watching it unfold. Good mom. Nikhil and his wife were a welcome sight and as we started to set up things, a good crowd
started forming. Our local policeman was not to be left behind as he came asking for permissions at the first sight of a congregation of more than 5 people. This must be a habit evolved from the Raj, of which he was clearly a strong believer. Content with our papers, he left us to it.

I have to say that it was a real pleasure having Zubin Dubash, one of the strongest supporters of my expedition, at the flag off early in the morning. Just as with all these months, he was full of that miraculous energy he just exudes. Thanks Zubin.

Zubin & Fali
Where the nickname/brand KK came from.
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Ze Old Gang
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Mom & Dad. Being their supreme best.
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The delightful Avnish Dhall bringing morning cheer to the flag off

 

 

One of the biggest surprises was Avnish Dhall walking right through the crowd to announce he was there. It’s been a relationship that has been a cornerstone of this journey and despite his crazy travel schedule, his advice and help has been pouring in constantly for the last 2 months, so it was great of him to shuttle straight from the airport down to the flag off. Melanie and Patrick were quick to tell me it was a bloody brilliant expedition and I had to agree.

IMG_6850
Paddle Hard & Monjin 🙂
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Goa is That way.

And just like that, the flood gates on well wishers blew right open. The old gang was there with Meds, Pooja, Arun and Swati driving down for their cups of chai and Ali (minus Zoya) walked up to tell me he would rather sleep off my next launch than kayak out with me.(I’m going to have you on the water next time man) Anurag Aggarwal, a spitting image of his brother and dear friend Ankit came all the way from goregaon to see me cast off, and it was a very sweet gesture indeed. Fali, the christener of my

nickname KK, and a rock behind me in tough times, came down and it was great meeting him after these months. Hermann, one of my oldest sailing friends was kind enough to get my mom a PFD, and as always brought a smile to everyone there. Ninad and Mithu, both seasoned sailors and great people to hang with, came by to wish me all the best and it was really good to
get their backing on this expedition.

I had been hoping that the promise Joieta and Jaideep, both stalwart of the cause, had made would come true and then, right in the middle of it all, making the chai conversations a full blown party were the children of MagicBus. Adorned in their lovely blue t-shirts they made for the biggest and loudest and funnest contingent to see me off. It was fun being introduced to the gang again, a ceremony everyone should do in their lives. And I wasted no time in showing them the shiny new kayak and explain to them what I was about to undergo. Just like at Shivaji Park, I could see it spark their imaginations. The white kayak eventually took center stage, and we spent a good deal of time posing and cheering in front of the kayak and the banner. One of the nicest gestures of the day, was that they brought a big cake out for MagicBus’ 16th birthday. Yes, it’s been fighting the good fight for 16 years now. And along with the youngest of the fray, I cut the cake. Thanks so much for being a part of this. It’s been a real honour and a pleasure working and doing this event in support of you.

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Happy birthday MagicBus
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Bright early smiles on the Bright kids at MagicBus

 

Shanj and GC were both the most active people at the event making sure every moment of the event was captured and without them, Tarun, Cam & Shreepad, I’m not sure this would have been a success.

Finally, my mom and dad, who’ve from the moment ‘Goa’ have said ‘Let’s do it’ were on set and we took some shots with the banner and the kayak.

A round of photographs ensued. A moment to spend some time with all the people who’d attended the event and it was time for warm up. There’s a different charm to doing your stretches between the Gateway and the Taj as the morning crowd swept past. The kids who’d taken some time to take in the Gateway were back in time for the Pooja of the kayak and the journey. Family comes first and when my aunt or chotti-atya as we lovingly call her, my cousin Prasad and his father showed up, we took a moment to ourselves.

Finally it was time to hit the water. The jetty was open, and as I lifted the Kayak, I could feel the collective eyes on me. I walked it down to the water. Stretched my legs a little. Assembled my paddle. And got in the seat. As I swept my feet in, I looked back to a crowded slipway, and the walls surrounded by well wishers. I must be doing something right.

So I paddled hard.

A slow kayaking day

A slow kayaking day

Another day of training started early and I was awake by 7. A look out at the water though sent me back to the covers. The tide was way out and there was no wind at all. Despite having to tackle the afternoon sun if I lingered, I decided to catch up on some much needed sleep. After a quick breakfast, I slept off for 45 minutes. Re-woke at 8:30 and was on the water by 9.

Conditions had improved marginally, and I set a decent pace down to the rocks just off Mandwa beach. The tide was out and I could clearly see the rocks. Just to highlight their presence, the breakers created white froth as they crashed on them. I steered well clear to the point of pointing towards bombay. Once sufficiently out of harms way, I turned south to coast down the coastline. Rounding the turn the is the north face of the mainland, I turned to find the blue fishing boat from yesterday. Abandonment is a thing. I dwelled on the loneliness of the boat for a few seconds and then carried on. About 4.5 kms into it, I had my first break. I saw a clearing in a beach I’d not docked at and pulled in; If for nothing else, but the beauty of this picturesque house / villa / resort on it.

Kayak against someone's sprawling house on the beach
Not a bad property is it? The house in the back’s not bad either.

I got back in the water quickly and made for Awas once more. This time I met the fishermen of Sasawane and had a quick chat. The sun was coming up quick and I didn’t linger. I was looking to head back after 7 kms but in the distance I saw a group of people playing on the beach. It seemed like cricket, but the love for games on the beach is something I couldn’t resist. So when I drew up alongside, I was happy to see that they were playing a real sport. Football. Before the breakers could toss me out the kayak I was on the beach, ready to join in.*

Football. Not cricket.
Who can resist a good game of football?

In return I let the eldest of the family sit in the kayak for as long as he could. Having had his fill of sea water, he re-enquired about my expedition. I got on with my training and had barely gone 200 metres, when a fish flew straight out the water and back in again. Such sightings are now a common thing, but when I say fish I mean, a fish the length of my arm and the height of my face. Short of a catapult, I could not fathom the power that would propel this, easily 5 kg, beast out the water and a metre into the air**. Barely had I had the time to say ‘Whosbeenfeedingyouyoumonster’ when it had gone back in. I’m not sure what he was doing getting some air time, but I think we both left with the impression that strange creatures abounded in the waters near Awas. As if by mutual understanding we decided to put each other out of our minds and paddle on. Paddle Hard fish.

The rest of my paddle was uneventful except when rounding back to the jetty, the tide had found it’s feet and was crawling up the beach. I hadn’t accounted for it, and at the lovely breakers that were so pronounced, I miscalculated my turn and found myself in the midst of the rocks. Feeling through the rises and falls around me, I gave the rocks the slip, but it was a bit of tricky business with the water falling and rising and waves hitting me from three sides for that minute I was hung. It quickened my heart rate a little and I have to think that Mr. Fly-So-High fish must have had a “that’ll teach you, you white-black-and-orange surface dweller” smile on his Fly-So-High lips.

I returned to a healthy lunch of chicken and rice. A few phone calls to sponsors and media ensued and I spent the afternoon recovering. After a quick snooze, I got back into gear and headed out a second time. I made for the fishing village of bodani aided by the light evening wind, which was a trickle compared to what I’ve had on this stretch in the recent past. The tide had gone back out again, and ahead of bodani I saw teams of fishermen in pairs, out a km from land but standing up at waist length.

Fishermen with their hand nets
Low tide means get the fishing net out to go shrimping

It made for a fun way to unwind with no wind in sight, and I spent some time going from one fisherman pair to the next. Once content they knew what they were doing, I headed back. Job done. The kayak back didn’t offer much excitement, but was an hour of paddling in the wind again. Finally back to shore, I practiced my re-entry without the jacket, and I must say it’s a lot easier. I’m tempted to tuck it in the back and pull it out only in emergencies.

*This is disputable, as the author might have been thrown out of the kayak by a vicious wave that didn’t respect the rules of kayaking. As there were no witnesses to this, (football is a very immersive sport) the author is entitled to deny this allegation entirely.

**No, I didn’t take a picture of this fish. But it would look something like this –

http://lonestarchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/BertDan015.jpg

The goatee is a little misleading.

Kihim or a beach just like it

Kihim or a beach just like it

Me, Kayak and the untouched beach of Awas
Selfies that must be taken

I woke up rather rested today. I have to admit, I stayed off the water entirely yesterday. (My lower back hasn’t fancied carrying the kayak everytime there is a low tide, and I felt it needed to lay low yesterday) The day rest had done me good and as I eased out the muscles at warm-up, I felt like there was a fair bit of paddling ahead of me. I was on the water the earliest I’ve been in my last week, and at 9 o’clock I was rounding the bend at Mandwa.

Map of Mandwa
The where’s where of my training camp

Taking the advice of seasoned kayakers, I stopped mid-way to chat up some fishermen. This is something like asking for directions in Bandra, minus the condescension at not knowing pali-hill. I’ve learned fishermen are most helpful, and these chaps were quick to point out where I’d meet some rocks and what time I should look to head back unless I meet headwinds that would render me useless. Since trudging seems to be the order of the week, I trudged on. Saw the breakers and steered clear off them. They seemed harmless enough and after rounding the rock face, I started my quick trip down.

The wind was a little high here, and the uncertainty of the swell around the face meant I had to stay sharp. Generally, I don’t mind head wind. I can feel the wind change better and I tend to see the incoming waves. It’s where two waves meet that one has to brace. A km of paddling cautiously meant I was out of this area and headed down further. I could feel a small tail wind and the waves wanted to drag me onto some rocks they had a fancy for. I decided otherwise and paddled deeper out into sea. At 5.5 kms I came across the fishing ships of, what mama at the BSA club house would later point out, Sasawane Beach. As Google confirms this, I must remember to slap mama on the back and tell him what a good old chap he is. (This might eventually lead to my ousting from the club house, as mama is a good chap just as often as I take a strong dose of sugar in my tea.)

I tried my best to amble through the fishing boats, but the following waves meant I steered clear and kept all of these boats well to port. At this stage, I might remind you that my fishing friends from mandwa had given me a strict mandate for when to return. And at 8 kms out, I felt I had another 15 minutes before I started back. I found a nice stretch of beach that didn’t look very threatening, and I made for it through the waves. Waves don’t always think highly of your plans so when I had my two legs out for a nice swift dismount, they decided to throw me out and fill my boat. Nothing quite like getting a little wet in the morning, and I laughed as I pulled me kayak out the water.

I let the water out the kayak and stretched my legs. I took a few minutes to appreciate the untouched beach I’d found myself on. The lone person walking the beach, I found, was some random pole 500 metres off. The trees lined up 20 metres from where I’d landed and things looks surprisingly white and green. I paused long enough to readjust my food and water, and take a few selfies. Then it was back in the kayak. There were a few strong waves and I waited for the large one, and then ducked into the water. Marathoners at the finish would have been proud, and I found myself on the other side of the waves in no time.

Then it was back to paddling and I braved the first 2-3 kms in full headwind. Nearing Sasawane, I heard the unmistakable hum of an overhead chopper. Having had enough of their antics, I was in no mood to stop for the Navy. At first, I felt the Navy thought the same of me, and they ran right over head. A little over the fishing boats, still a km in the distance, they turned and ran past me. Circled around and then went overhead into the sea. It’s that mixed feeling of relief and anguish at being deemed ‘small fry’. Paddling back was good fun, and I enjoyed the wind in my face. By the time I rounded the turn for Mandwa, I’d better the tide and wind, and wasn’t overtly concerned about he breakers near the coast. The last 2 kms, the wind died entirely, and the high tide carried me slowly and surely home.

Abandoned fishing boat
Everyone looks for a reason to avoid mondays

18 km in a little over 2.5 hours. It was a good start to the day.

In the afternoon, I admit I snoozed the alarm a little longer than intended and was out on the water at 5 p.m. It allowed me to catch a nice tailwind and coast down to the picturesque fishing village called Bodani.

Bodani on a map
Good to know where these fishes are

I passed bodani and decided to stop to chat up my fellow maharashtrians. I found they were busy mending their boats. And it made for a sight indeed. On one of my roadtrips, from Manipal to Panjim back in 2010, I’d chanced upon a fishing boat factory where they were making these fine boats, and the warmth of the people there always brings a smile to my face. I encountered these people toiling away at their boat were no different. They were quick to pose for a photo and full of question about where I came from.

Here are some pics from that lovely little village.

Hard working people mending the ship
The ship and it’s lovers
Beached fishing boats on a low tide.
Beached!

 

 

Paddling Blind

Paddling Blind

One of my favourite poems ‘On his blindness’ by John Milton ends

Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

A friend of mine, Sandeep Mhatre, had buzzed me when I last checked into Karanja. A 17 km paddling trip that was one of these flights of fancy. I’d returned home to powai when he’d seen it but I promised to meet him saturday morning.

Waking up at 7 today, I have to say it took a long time to get on the water. A few days back, I’d lost my right eye contact to a wave while re-entering my kayak(subsequently, I tried in vain to get back in). So I broke a new case open, got my glares out and was ready to hit the water by 9. A good warm up and I hauled my kayak down to the water. The plan was simple. Cut straight across to Uran following the flames. I sent my spectacles and my contact lens box with a friend who would join us in Uran. 100 metres in, I felt my right eye twitch. I felt my contact travel down my cheek and fly into the water. Good luck finding that again.

I had two options. Head back to the club house and open another contact lens box or paddle to Uran. So began my 8.5 km trip with one eye. Now, I know it’s probably romantic thinking of an eye patch and a wooden leg, but the ground realities are that when your kayak is being washed by waves on starboard and a nice morning wind is slapping your right cheek, the depth perception of two eyes is a good thing. I had to veer off quite a bit, and like Frodo & Sam, make a circuitous route to the eye of Mordor. (Flames of Uran) It made for a fun trip and my brand new waterproof earphones, that Saurabh kindly gifted me for my birthday, dubstep blaring, was a bit of a distraction keeping me from hearing the waves. I changed course and made more for Karanja, planning on hugging the coast when I got there. It meant a bit of headwind and I learnt to make peace with that. Little by little I corrected my course till I was staring right at the flames. Keeping them to my right, I carried on, past the dargah, across a line of rocks and in between the fishing lines. An old couple on a rickety green boat was making for shore. As they saw me, they enquired who’s boat this was. As my reply went – mine, they asked me where I came from. I said Mandwa, and got an incredulous question back – is there a motor attached. I said – No. Bewildered he went – Chappu? I wished them a good day, and paddled on past the broken jetty that was our decided point to meet with Sandeep.

Landing at Uran
Landing at Uran

As I disembarked and walked my kayak to shore, I was happily reunited with my spectacles. I swapped out the lens and sat to admire the stretch I’d just bested. While Sandeep couldn’t meet us, his brother Sanjeev and his wife, Anita had brought their boys, Dishant and Mohit, down to the water. I took Mohit out on the kayak and he loved the way it ran on the water. He looked a natural taking my club carbon paddle and even stroking the water. A passing wave rattled him a little but only for an instant, and when we finally took him out of the kayak, he had the paddle stuck in his right hand. #startingyoung

Sanjeev, very graciously took us to coffee to a lovely place overlooking the water and it was a welcome break, talking about NDA and sailing and my upcoming trip. It was an hour well spent. I wanted to cast off, since the afternoon wind wouldn’t be in my favour and I didn’t intend on being stuck in the sun for any longer than I needed to.

Coffee table at Uran
Catching up

I set off and skirted past the fishing lines, pulling my rudder up in the ones I couldn’t avoid. It seemed to be going well enough, when I realised my right eye was leaking. I contemplated washing it out, but thought it would probably pass given time. I was wrong. As I waded deeper into the water, crossing into the channel, the irritation got worse and I found myself keeping my eyes shut for longer durations of time. The glare off the water was immense and very soon, I could keep the right eye open just for a few seconds. Again, I found myself paddling blind in one eye. There were a few things in my favour though. For one, the water was calm. Secondly, the wind hadn’t picked up considerably. Mid channel it was anyone’s guess where the waves were coming from, but I kept the pace. I barely braced, but corrected my course multiple times. Starting with Gull Island to my starboard, I ended up crossing it at port, something that was necessitated by a series of rocks on it’s east side. Past the island, I figured I needed to correct my course further, and the ferry from Bombay helped a blind man remap Mandwa. When I was past Gull Island, with a couple more kms to go, the glare was blinding, and with just my spectacles(spectacle to be honest) I had a tough time keeping an eye out for sudden waves. When I arrived at the jetty, I was a little more at peace. I rushed ashore and washed out my eye. It felt so good, I even did away with my PFD and did a km run within sight of shore.

I’m not one for standing and waiting, but paddling hard over Land and Ocean without rest seems just fine.

Post over land and sea
Post over land and sea
The delight of being on the water

The delight of being on the water

I woke up later than I intended to. The sun was way past that time that we ignore each other’s existences.

I turned and I felt my back throb. I reflected on last evening and decided a prolonged evening out is not for me anymore.

I felt the laziness kick in, and just as I was about to spur myself to leave it in bed, dad yells out – “Mom’s made methi for you. You better have lunch and go.”

Foiled. By mom’s marvelous methi. We can take a moment to reflect on how beautiful a thing it is. When I make my big debut on Masterchef, I’ll make a methi so fine, people won’t need desert. And then I’ll shrug it off and say “You should try my mom’s.” (End of digression.)

I’d luckily purchased and packed a host of healthy food and groceries for Mandwa. And after a nice sumptuous methi lunch, I set off on that 3 hour journey to training. In the attempt to get there, I take a rick to Vikhroli, a train down to CST, a bus to Gateway(Why, because buses are cool) and a ferry to Mandwa. In the middle of all this, I manage to make time for a pack of popcorn freshly made, and a medium glass of sugarcane juice from Gupta’s (that most awesome of sugarcane juicers). In my ‘oh-can-we-just-get-there’ morning melee, I hadn’t accounted for the punctuality of our ferry men, and I had to grumpily acknowledge the growing heat of a Bombay afternoon. (Safe to say, despite the Starks and ravens from the citadel, summer is coming)

The ferry ride was mostly uneventful, apart from a couple that were conspicuously dressed to match, in their white shirts and black trousers and black shoes. I wouldn’t have paid too much attention if not for the copious amounts of chips they were so eager on tossing to the passing gulls. One can only imagine a more health conscious seagull taking much issue with our penguin draped friends. In a fit of rage, I can picture him / her hovering precariously close to penguin man’s face and saying – “I say old chap, I do hope you’re feeding your children better than that.” Flap, flap, flap.

Sea Gulls flying past the oil rig
Sea Gull Health Inspectors take flight.

Seeing as how this didn’t really happy and these hapless gulls lapped up all the Balaji wafers offered up to them, I felt it was time to get down to the task at hand. Offloading my supplies I trudged down to the club house. A chance encounter with Randhir Behl was a welcome break to my otherwise slow day and after exchanging notes on our plans for the remainder of the weekend, I got down to changing into gear.

I must, at this point, remind you about the state of my muscles and the soreness it felt. I returned to trudging and picked my kayak from it’s housing. With a heavy foot, I pulled it down to the water. Did my stretches. A few muscles that had had the snooze button on, were rudely awakened. I took the kayak in, assembled my paddle. Eased into it, and gave it a few strokes. My Suunto didn’t kick in for the first 500 meters, and that’s when I felt it.

A rush of wind coming from just beyond the jetty. Smack on my port side. A wave splashed right along the side of the boat, and dragged me a good 5 metres wide. And just like that I was awake again. And I was paddling. Sometimes, all it needs is that first jolt.

Kayaking into the sun
Sunset, Kayak and a touch of wind

I did roughly 8 kms of paddling, quite a bit into the wind. It was a quick sea and it let me know that I needed to have my wits about me. In the distance I could spot a bunch of sailors enjoying the wind. I could agree with them, if not for my rude awakening. I paddled till the sun had had enough of me, brought the kayak 100 metres off the beach, and did my capsize training. 10 successful reentries and a jug full of sea water later, I called it a day and hauled my kayak back to it’s home.

From Mandwa, on my 5th day, this is Kaustubh Khade, Paddling Hard.

Dolphins at Mandwa

Dolphins at Mandwa

Today was the first day waking up at Mandwa. I’ve been, very kindly, put up as a guest at the Bombay Sailing Association Club house by the gracious and extremely affabale Randhir Behl. A long evening of kayaking yesterday, aggravated by a heavy wind and rocky waves, meant I woke up with a touch of soreness. Since no one likes waking at the clock, I snoozed till 8:10.

I stumbled out of my room and was greeted by the extremely caring attendant, or mama, who enquired about my breakfast. I was happy collapsing into the chair and awaiting a double omlette, I downed a cup of coffee laced with a strong dose of sugar. Good morning world.

Kayaking into the sunrise
Into the sun

Passing past Battery Park, I waved to the circle of friends I’d made the day before. And headed to pick up my kayak. The good natured Sridhar helped me take my beauty out of the housing and I took it straight down to the water. I had an idea of what I wanted to do today, and a good warm up after, I was in the kayak paddling away. The waves were kind today and after a few practice drills, I set off for the fishing village just off the cliff at mandwa. And what a glorious sight it was. The sun was out and it paled everything that the mist hadn’t already conquered, but through it all, one could see the outline of an army of fishing vessels. Anything else would be a gross understatement as I stared at 20 big fishing trawlers. But only for an instant. Then I was gone. It was a good route with a 2 km downwind stretch that let me test out my kayak. Heading back I got the headwind, but it was quick going and I had no complaints as the sun hadn’t set the air on fire.

On the run back, I was plagued by fishing nets. Not wanting to jump in and have to release it from my rudder, I chose to paddling through the minefield of bobbing thermacol. Pulling up alongside one, I found that I was not the only person avoiding it. 10 metres off my kayak, a grey creature emerged, took a deep breath and dove back in. As always, everything stops for dolphins. And I slowed to watch him do it again. He, like me, was looking for a way out. Every now and then you find a kindred soul in another species.

I made a couple of runs and ended the morning session with 15 kms in just under 2 hours. It wasn’t my fastest and I found myself bracing in the downwind conditions. But it was fun. A couple of seat adjustments and a deeper seating meant I was more in control.

Lunch was very welcome. And I dug into the rice, dal and bhindi that made me nostalgic about Kolad. I wolfed down on it, and it helped that the moushi had asked me twice over the amount of rice I’d requested. (My own estimations of how much rice I eat, were grossly exaggerated) So I ate as much as I could, and took a walk down to the jetty. My friends from battery park were in the process of leaving, so I took the time to say goodbye and headed back home.

A group of very bubbly women had recently checked in to the club house and I set about welcoming them (including agreeing to take one of them on the water in the afternoon). I then retreated to my room to catch up on some rest. My body had been asking for it. A quick nap and that alarm I’m getting so used to loving, chirped.

My clothes from the morning were sufficiently dry and I picked my kayak and dove into the water. As the evening high tide swung in, I found the going more fun. The evening wind was strong and my short forays were met with much resistance. I clocked another 7.5 km and then brought the kayak in for my capsize drills. The water was a lot calmer than yesterday, so I enjoyed a fair amount of success. All in all, I spent about 2.5 hours on the water. Then I hauled the kayak back and decided to call it a day.

The evening has been kind. And I’m finding out how much I adore a hot water bath. There is probably nothing sweeter after spending 5 hours on the water in various degrees of being soaked to the bone. I polished off my rice and moushi produced some fried fish that I used as desert.

An old sailing friend, Muruggan Nadar, is holding a beach party it would appear, so I’ll sign off and see if I can soak in some of the bonfire. From Mandwa, feeling good, this is Kaustubh Khade Paddling Hard.

Rolls Training

Rolls Training

Day 3. Rolls Training.

Pali. 04.01.2015

Blue Pyranha Play Kayak
Weapon of Choice: Play Kayak

The day started well with a slow breakfast at our not so favourite haunt. A good poha later, our merry band headed down the Unhere road in quest of the ‘dharna’ that’s the elusive beauty of Pali. After a good deal of going the wrong way and providing ample amusement for the villagers going about making their pukka houses in the heat, we found the misleading turn just-yonder the temple.

Finally after a bit of running around, we arrived at the foothills of that most august of dams. And the wonderful overhanging valley. It served as a fitting end to a day with the best of company.

After that it was back to business as usual and a drive down to Kolad saw us arrive shortly before lunch. I’ll admit a touch of sunday laziness kicked in and we took a leisurely lunch that is soon becoming our staple diet here. Rice, dal, bhindi and roti. And a laddoo I was most glad to donate to the eager crow. While we lazed awaiting the water levels to rise,we were subjected to HS’ brand of humour. One that we are all beginning to fall in love with again. Shortly after it was time to get our feet wet. As I skirted up, the others got ready to take a couple of sit on tops out on the water. Rajesh, my exceedingly patient and terribly talented kayak instructor was ready to save my drowning behind, and in all honesty, and at the cost of sounding immodest, I didn’t let him early on in the day. By the time I was into my 30th roll of the day, I looked comfortable doing it. I felt I was doing a better job of sticking to the kayak right after finding myself in the drink. A couple of the drills from Day 2 rally helped and I found myself more at ease at looking at the world upside down from under the water. I found myself taking my time even after Rajesh’s customary tap telling me it’s time to roll. The sweep of the arm was longer and I felt I carried the blade along the edge a lot better. There was still a fault in the distance between the arm and the ear and the angle of the blade on the water, but towards the end of the day I found I as cutting it a lot closer and had to lean and push back a lot less. The kayak continues to resist my lower body and mishearing Rajesh’s concerned statement that ‘it’s small’ provided amusement for the juvenile company I’ve been keepinmg this weekend.

We ended the day with some tired shoulders and arms, and it was a good decision. I left content in the knowledge that I could do a guitar roll unassisted. Mahesh’s comforting words that I had achieved a lot in the span of 3 days were welcome.

Tomorrow we graduate to the eskimo roll. And perhaps, back to basics.

PaddleHard.