City anchor: Sailor begins solo six-month journey around the world

On Wednesday, Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy had a hard time at the Immigration Office at Yellow Gate police station to get his passport stamped. He tried convincing them about Sagar Parikrama II. "I am going around the world in a boat, alone," he told them. They did not believe him and asked him to get a "senior's endorsement".

At 12.30 pm on Thursday, the 33-year-old skipper and his boat INSV Mhadei were flagged off from the Gateway of India by Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, Flag Officer Commanding-In-Chief, Western Naval Command.

As shore-support team for Sagar Parikrama I, Lt Commander Abhilash had sailed 2,700 miles. An aviator with 1,300 flying hours in Dornier, he would be the 80th in the world and the first Indian to traverse a solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation, south of three Great Capes (Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope), covering over 40,000 km in an India-built sail.

Minutes after his boat became a blip, his father Lieutenant Commander (retd) VC Tomy asked a naval officer for a Sagar Parikrama II poster with his son's photograph alongside the Indian Navy's Crest. It was a gift for his wife Valsamma (53) praying in Chennamkary in Allepey's for her son. She will be at the Gateway when he returns. "She is still uncomfortable. She said she did not have the courage to see him off," he said.

"Even I am shocked at his guts. It will be a long wait," he says of the six months ahead.

A bottle of pickled fish picked by Abhilash's grandfather P J Philip (83) and books and a cross from friend Commodore G Prakash had been sent to Abhilash. A team of National Geographic Traveller gifted a DVD of all the editions since 1889 to Abhilash if "he feels lonely". "He read somewhere that a circumnavigator jumped into the water out of frustration. He has been doing yoga to fight mental pressure," said his father.

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