Andaman Expedition: Rowing & Windsailing (1991)

Sampriti O Anusandhan Abhijan (Calcutta-Andaman)

The year was 1991 and history was in the making. In the name of friendship and discovery, a crew of five young men and one woman resolved to row to the Andamans over a distance of 760 nautical miles in a humble sailing boat. The craft chosen for the perilous journey of Calcutta to Port Blair was a 20 non-motorised wooden boat of yacht design with a spectacular red and white sail. The boat, named Pinaki after the founding father of the Institute, started for the sea from Outram Ghat on January 5th, 1991.

It was smooth sailing till Sagar as the Pinaki, with Sona Ghoshal, Subha Ranjan Saha, Ranjit Karunakar, Nasiruddin, Arindam Bose and Sub Lt. S.R. Ayyar of the Indian Navy on board, sailed at a fair speed. The said Expedition under the leadership of Arindam Bose. Sub Lt. S.R. Ayyar from Indian Navy shared the leadership as Joint Leader of the Mission.  Of course, there were the routine hazards like precarious shallow patches of waterways, wrecks and fishing stakes and nets, but none of these proved to be any serious obstruction. At Sagar replenishments were procured and the Pinaki set sail for Sandheads on January 12th.

The sea was rife with dolphins, flying fish and sharks and the shores of the Andamans seemed like a distant dream. Violent gusts of wind flung the vessel from troughs to towering crests of four to five metres in height. The boat drifted off westwards by about 110-112 km. Finally, as the sea pacified, the crew contacted the warship — I.N.S. Kirpan — which was responsible for provisions. The Kirpan commander instructed the Pinaki to approach the stern side of the ship instead of the starboard side as planned.

The blow fell as the Kirpan drifted towards Pinaki. The giant hull of the gigantic ship banged into the boat and Pinaki’s mast got stuck in the deck hooks of the ship. Within minutes, the foredeck of the humble boat was shattered and other fittings destroyed beyond repair. The voyagers were rescued but the tragedy lay in that they could not reach their destination, which now lay only 200 km away. The expedition was thus called off, and the explorers returned home with leaden hearts, but several firsts to their credit and plucky tales of survival to narrate.

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