If it’s Saturday it Must be Khanderi

Mumbai-Khandheri, December 29th-30th 2018

Saturday 29th December

Today is the day of the sailing cruise to Kanhoji Angre Island a.k.a. Khanderi, not to be mistaken with the uber-Mumbai suburb of Andheri. On the Saturday of Christmas week, three sailing clubs of Mumbai come together to host this annual event.  A thirty-some bunch of sailors assemble in the sailing room of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club at 7.30am. After a short debriefing by cruise leaders Bejon Madon and Deepak Shah, we are at mooring and all set to sail.

My crew consists of my cousin Pradeep; his son Siddhanth and Sid’s friend Sagar. Our course is to get to Sunk Rock and steer 190° south. We leave mooring at 8.30am and our aided by a steady breeze to get us out of the harbour. It’s a hazy day but not as hazy as my sail a month ago. The smudge of land is visible and we can see the lighthouse at Mandwa on our port side. Slowly, the island that is Khanderi appears and starts growing bigger and bigger but the next thing I realise is that our boat has stalled. We are in striking distance of Khanderi and its twin Undheri Island when the wind drops dead. We succumb to getting towed by another boat that has an outboard motor.

We reach Khanderi around noon. This is my second visit here although after a gap of sixteen years. Much has changed. The island hosts a solar farm and a spanking new modern jetty in anticipation of Maharashtra Government’s plans to promote it as a tourist spot. The island is most famous for its Shivaji-era fort. It’s incredible that this fort, built during 1660-78, is maintained in near perfect condition except for some of the cannons which have fallen by the wayside. But what’s alarming is that with the onset of tourists the pile of litter has grown by leaps and bounds.

Kandheri is also renowned for its mega lighthouse and its super powerful beam which directs shipping traffic hailing from the Arabian Sea to the port of Mumbai. The only people who reside on the island are the lighthouse keepers.  We spend the day exploring the island and the fort. We stumble upon several places of worship that include a Lord Shiva-offshoot temple, a Dargah (mosque), a Buddhist shrine and a Cross. Interesting that this relatively uninhabited island is so inclusive in its culture.

We spend the evening checking out the lighthouse -built by Barbier & Benard Constructeurs of Paris in 1866- and with friends who have brought their kites to fly. The cooks of the Yacht Club arrive in a separate motor powered boat with half-baked food, burners and utensils and we soon settle down to a sumptuous buffet dinner. Am feeling very spoiled. Post dinner, time flies singing in the company of stars and constellations and being wholly with nature, far from the excesses of civilization. Purvi, a fellow sailor described it so beautifully “Nobody can capture the sound of music of a dozen singing sailors belting out songs whose words they’ve long forgotten yet were sung uninhibitedly in a dozen different keys under a starry sky, those songs will reverberate forever in the wind and waves of Khanderi. They will always call out to happy sailors to return to Khanderi again and again”

It’s approaching midnight and my crew and I crash out in the open in our sleeping bags. It’s cold but warm enough to give us a good night’s sleep.

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Our Contingent of Happy Sailors

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Getting a feel of the Island

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This 1866 Lighthouse doesn’t cease to impress

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National Integration on Khanderi Island

Can someone please play the bugle with a discarded water pipe?

Sun 30th December

We are up before sunrise and Pradeep, Sagar and I decide to go for a walk on the eastern side of the island to catch the first rays of sun. The island has two watch towers that allow you to take a peep at the rising sun. The eastern side of the island is also endowed with groves of banyan trees.

Brunch follows and one again the Yacht Club cooks are out to please. My sailor buddy Sohrab delights us playing the bugle with a discarded water pipe and some of us sitting on a bench form a massage train with each person massaging the person-in-front’s shoulders.

It’s now 12 noon and we are back in our boats ready to sail back to Mumbai. The course to Mumbai is zig-zag as we are sailing on a reach* with the wind pretty much coming from the direction of our destination. We sail past Thal and nearing Mandwa the wind dies again. It’s flat but we are entertained by a flying fish which jumps into our boat. I am concerned about the fish but my crew is way too excited and squeeze in a short video before we release it some 30 seconds later. We are towed again till we pass Mandwa and enter the harbour limit. We get back to mooring around 5.30pm.

This has been an amazing weekend! I can hear the wind and waves of Khanderi beseeching us to get back as I step onshore. For all nature lovers, I suggest start by checking out what’s in your own backyard. And, for all readers of this blog, may your New Year be filled with Smooth Sailing and Fair Winds. Cheers to 2019!

* A sailing course which runs perpendicular to the direction from where the wind is hailing

Shakti Saran is a Senior Fellow with PYXERA Global. All views expressed are his own

Photo & Video Credits: Anand Halady, Deepa Nipane, Pradeep Saran, Siddhant Saran

 

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