VISAKHAPATNAM: On International Women's Day on Tuesday when the Indian Air Force proudly announced to commission country's first women fighter pilots in June, the first all-women crew of Indian Navy created a history by clocking a smooth sail on vessel 'Mhadei' to Goa from Visakhapatnam, a voyage that started a month ago.
'Mhadei', a sail training vessel of the Indian Navy, arrived in Visakhapatnam from its home port Goa, to take part in the International Fleet Review that concluded on February 8.
For the return journey, the Indian Navy decided to entrust the responsibility to a five-member women crew.
Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, a Naval Architect, was appointed the first woman skipper of 'Mhadei', prior to the vessel set sail for Goa on February 9.
With Vartika, four women officers Lieutenant P Swathi, Lieutenant Pratibha Jamwal (Air Traffic Control specialists), Lieutenant Vijaya Devi and Sub-Lieutenant Payal Gupta joined the voyage.
All the crew members are volunteers who are driven by their passion for adventure and a love for sailing and the seas.
"A boat or the sea doesn't differentiate between a man and a woman and there are no shortcuts to physical and mental fitness required to sail the open seas," Lt. Commander Vartika Joshi said before the voyage began.
Before being entrusted with the task, all the crew members underwent rigorous training under the able guidance of Commodore Dilip Donde,the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe solo in 2009-10 on the same boat, Mhadei.
The crew members learnt the nitty gritty of navigation, communication, seamanship and meteorology at the Navy's various training establishments based in Kochi in August last year.
During the voyage, the gritty women officers encountered moderately rough weather and heavy seas in the Gulf of Mannar. But, their previous experiences and rigorous training to tame any difficulty in the sea came in handy.
The skipper, Vartika, was part of the crew on board Mhadei for the return leg of the Cape to Rio race in 2013-14.
Swathi was part of the crew for the return leg of the boat from Cape to Goa.
The crew anchored the vessel in Chennai and Kochi, before reaching Goa on Tuesday, marking the International Women's' Day.
But, for these adventurous women officers it was just the beginning of their voyage as the team is all set to pursue a bigger dream.
To begin with an independent voyage to Mauritius probably in May and finally the ultimate: to circumnavigate the Globe next year.
Meanwhile, the women crew is expecting its sixth member, Lieutenant B
Aishwarya, a naval architect, to join the boat shortly.