Lt Commander Pratibha Jamwal was the member of an all-women Navy crew which recently returned after circling the globe on INSV Tarini. She started sailing in 2012. DefenceLover in an exclusive chat with Lt Commander Pratibha Jamwal spoke about various things from what motivated her to be in the navy, and how the journey has changed her life.
Question: What motivated you to join the armed forces and was navy your first choice?
Ans: I hail from a land locked area Himachal, due to which I wasn’t very well aware about Navy. During our school days Kargil war was on and every morning on the way to school we use to see all those trucks loaded with soldiers going to the battlefield,which brought a sense of responsibility and an inclination towards defence. Though defence primarily meant Army or Airforce for me as I hail from a land locked area,let alone sea or ocean people are scared of rivers, and I was no exception.
Q- Training is a time for memories, we are sure it must have given you many reasons to be proud of. Would you like to share some memories of that time? How did it feel to fit in a hugely male dominated profession?
Ans: First of all the idea was never to fit in, while you can stand out. We started to train in 2015 it was a small team of 3 initially and eventually it grew into a team of six. The initial phase of the training included the theoretical training, we were taught about navigation ,communication, meteorology and seamanship. There after we started our hands on training onboard INSV under the guidance of Capt. Dilip Dhonde, SC(Retd.), he was himself India’s first solo circumnavigation. The first thing that he taught us was that sea does not know your gender, it is not going to show any mercy because of your gender, so you have to train hard as nature knows no genders. That had a huge impact on the entire team ,we got trained in a fashion that prepared us for any adversity whatsoever we were supposed to face.
Q. Please tell our readers about what is Navika Sagar Parikrama? Which boat you used for this Journey?
Ans: Navika Sagar Parikrama is the third voyage in the saga of Sagar Parikramas done by Indian Navy. Project Sagar parikrama involved going around the world in an Indian built boat using no non renewable resources of energy for propulsion but just wind. It was a brain child of vice admiral Manohar Awati(Retd.) which was accepted by navy and first executed in 2009 when Capt Dilip Donde (Retd.) went around the world in an Indian built boat named INSV Mhadei, there after in 2012 on the same vessel Cdr Abhilash Tomy went around the boat non stop. Indian Navy was looking for further more challenges, so the idea of circumnavigation by an all women team cropped up. When we talk about circumnavigation it has some rules which involves covering a distance of atleast equal to the circumference of earth that is 21600(NM) (1Nm).
Q. It has been 254 days, and you almost covered 21,600 miles. How does it feel to come back home after such a long journey?
Ans: We were very excited as our family and friends have already arrived to welcome us. Despite of this happiness there was also a void as we were approaching since this journey of three years(Training phase and voyage) was coming to an end, earlier we had a goal to work towards when we woke up in the morning but now as we were on the verge of achieving it we started craving for more.
Q. How was the training like for the journey? What you have done extra from routine naval training to prepare for this Journey?
Ans: The training was very well structured and we were provided with the best of facilities and instructors and mentors by the Indian Navy. As Indian Navy has very vast role, so the officers are qualified in various branches as per the requirements, I am an air traffic Controller in Indian Navy, and have never been on a sail ship or boat before, same was the case with others. So the training started from very basic, which initially included theoretical training in various Naval schools at Kochi in seamanship, navigation, meteorology and communication etc, there after the responsibility of training is for this project was handed over to Capt Dilip Donde(Retd.), who is India’s first solo circumnavigator. He taught us each and every aspect not just of sailing but also the technical requirements of the boat, how to repair each and every small equipment on board which was much needed as in the middle of Ocean you can not expect any help from outside, you are on your own.
Q. What was your Specific role in Six-member team?
There was no specific role assigned to anyone onboard as the number of people were less and the quantity of work was more. It was mandatory for everyone to know everything. We followed a three watch system in which two crew members are always outside steering the boat maintaining a lookout for traffic and attending to the needs of boat, where as rest of the crew members will either be engaged in repair works maintenance or daily chores, which involved clean ship and cooking.
Q. You had 5 port calls in all different countries, and had different experiences every time. On which port visit you felt the most special and learned new things?
Ans: We had a very grand welcome wherever we went ,people were very keen to meet us know about our journey especially people of Indian diaspora. Picking our one favourite place would be very difficult because we got lot of love in all the ports wherever we went. As far as learning is concerned ,we were very lucky to witness and learn about so many diverse cultures and traditions.
Q. What was the most difficult phase or time you faced while on the journey?
Ans: There were lot of difficulties that we faced but eventually the our threshold to cope also increased. In first leg we ran out of water and our reverse osmosis plant also went faulty so we had to resort to rainwater harvesting, we faced three huge storms, we had a steering gear failure due to which we had to take our fifth technical halt at Port Louis, Mauritius. Apart from that when we were about to reach there, there was hardly any wind in the western coast of India so we were hardly making any way, we were able to see the land but were not able to reach it.
Q. Covering so much in the journey, on personal level, what changes you find in yourself after this Journey?
Ans: Patience is something that you definitely learn in such voyages. As one of the criteria for circumnavigation is that you can only use wind as a mean of propulsion and no engine or auxiliary means can be used, hence whenever we were becalmed we use to stay at a place for days all together.
Q. If you get chance to again on expedition for circumnavigation the globe, would you volunteer yourself?
Ans: Yes definitely, even if not circumnavigation I would definitely like to make sailing a part of my life. It is one addiction which is hard to get rid off.
Q.- What will be your message to the youth and also girls who feel inspired by you?
Ans: To set standards and thresholds for yourself,don’t allow anyone to tell you that you are less or unworthy of something because of you class ,gender or creed.Always have a goal in your life, doesn’t matter big or small, work towards it, achieve it and set another one,this will keep you young and motivated.
We wish best of luck to Lt Cdr Pratibha Jamwal for her future endeavors.
While returning towards the Indian Ocean, the team had a chance to encounter whale shark with its two newborn.
— Pratibha Jamwal (@PratibhaJamwal1) May 18, 2018