It’s all smooth sailing with the premier club called Clube Nautilus de Goa. Even if you’re a landlubber, you won’t feel so much at sea and should learn the ropes quite quickly.
The quiet out at sea is broken by a dull buzzing. There’s a drone above our heads, recording our maiden sailing trip in Goa. We are able to ignore it, focusing on the sound of the waves lashing against our boat and the wind fluffing up the sails.
The seagulls, however, aren’t impressed with what they rightly view as an unknown threat to their territory. In a few minutes, the drone is surrounded by a flock of gulls, who circle it slowly. Luckily, before they make their move, the drone is recalled back to safety. Down on deck, we watched fascinated. Anything can happen out at sea, we’ve been told. An almost drone v. seagull fight wasn’t on the list!
A few days before New Year, when people make resolutions for the year ahead and share posts about looking ahead, I am indeed looking forward. Ahead of me is the deep blue sea: still, mighty, and beautiful. It’s a situation that always makes me contemplative but today, I have other things on my mind.
Like the use of a rudder and tiller, and just what exactly that little red thread tied to the mast does. Sailing with Clube Nautilus de Goa isn’t just about taking selfies at sunset. With Hemant Arondekar as our guide, it is much more: a lesson in wind speed, physics, geography, and the impact of climate change.
I’ve only been sailing once before, in the waters off Colaba in Mumbai. It was a different experience, out with my girlfriends, enjoying some quiet from the city’s chaos. Here, I am with my family, and we are all curious about the process of sailing.
Our adventure begins from Dona Paula jetty, where we are happy to leave behind thronging tourists out to capture pictures of the ‘Singham jetty’. A small motorboat — the only carbon footprint of the trip — takes us a little way out to Nemo, a white sailboat. The boat is anchored out at sea by a counterweight dropped to the seabed, which is called mooring. Our skipper is Manoj, who begins the process of unfolding the sails, pulling up the anchor, attaching the rudder and tiller, and getting us into our life jackets.
Arondekar likens the centre board and the mast/sails to the two wings of a plane, just that one is above, and one is below. He points out the small red thread attached to the shroud, which shows the direction from where the wind is coming from. It also indicates which direction the wind is moving, so the sails can be adjusted accordingly. The boat begins to move once we move 40 degrees away from the wind direction.
Initially, our movement is slow because the jetty and the rocks are acting as buffers to the wind. Once we cross that section, the speed picks up. This is where Arondekar tells us, you play with the tiller (a long handle) and the rudder. After that, it’s mostly smooth sailing.
It hasn’t been that way for Clube Nautilus de Goa. Arondekar started sailing back when he was part of the National Cadet Corps. The architect (he manages a design and construction company) reignited his love for sailing thanks to a French client, in 2008. “They were looking at tourism products in Goa and I suggested nautical tourism using yachts,” he recalls.
He even went to France to study how to design and build marinas. In 2009, he brought a French-built Catamaran Fast 60 and showcased it at Kala Academy to the tourism fraternity in the hope of developing Nautical Tourism, and also invested in a guesthouse at Hollant in South Goa to be converted into a sailing club.
In 2018, he and his partner, Kenneth Pereira, started a sailing club and purchased a sailboat, a Sea bird named Nemo and got a yacht owner to lend them another, Taanti, a 25.7ft cruiser by Beneteau. Clube Nautilus de Goa began sailing trips in October 2019. “The main goal was to promote sailing as a sport to locals and also give visiting tourists a completely environmental-friendly sailing experience,” he says.
As Arondekar talks to us, his hands move the tiller so that we maintain our course. The movement is similar to car reversing — to go left, you turn it right and vice versa. “The winds have been really mild this season. Usually, the speed changes by mid-morning, these days it remains constant till two pm. It’s a very clear sign of climate change,” he says.
We are moving at a steady speed of five knots. As the sun sinks low over the horizon, and the seagulls and drones fly overhead, we get a lesson in sailing. To ‘tack’ is to go into the wind, gybe is using the wind to turn; the closer you are to the wind direction, the tighter should be your boom so the wind just glides off the sails. To stop the boat, you move into the wind and luff (sails begin to flap).
Clube Nautilus de Goa plans on starting sailing classes for people interested in leisure and hobby sailing, and an international yacht master courses for those keen on learning the next level of sailing. “We want more locals to come onboard, and for people to take this up as a sport. We do get a lot of queries about learning sailing,” he says. These sailing experiences attract those who enjoy adventure activities, says Arondekar. There are many families too, and corporates who look at it as a team-building activity.
After the sun sets, we make our way back. Arondekar trusts us enough to hand over the tiller and let us manoeuvre. Some of us make our way to the bow (front of the boat), dipping our toes in water and ruminating on the abundance of jellyfish out in the sea. The lights come on, and the sounds of habitation drag us back reluctantly from the quiet we’ve been enjoying out at sea.
Cost: Sunset sail Rs 4,000 (for an hour), Rs 6,500 (for two hours); any other time of the day Rs 3,500 (for an hour) and Rs 5,500 (for two hours); half-day island experience with snorkelling Rs 9,000 | Group: Maximum five people.