Mumbai has been blessed with a natural harbour. Located on the West coast of India, the city has witnessed a lot of maritime activities since its ancient days. During the medieval times, Mumbai was a halting point for trading ships that arrived all the way from Basra, Mecca and Europe. In 1292 the Italian traveller Marco Polo’s fleet of thirteen Chinese ships passed by the Mumbai Harbour! A modern day traveller possessing the spirit of Marco Polo, may desire to flirt with the waters of the Arabian Sea and feel the adventure of exploring the Mumbai harbour. I explored if such a wish could be practically fulfilled and was delighted to know that it certainly is possible!
Amrin Ansari, my friend and owner of Oyster Sailing Services, Mumbai, invited me for a weekend lunch. In a discussion that followed after lunch, I realized from Amrin as to how the Mumbai sailing front has recently opened up for people other than the elite class. It was during the British colonial rule, sailing as a sport, was introduced to Mumbai (then known as Bombay) and the first recorded sailing race was flagged off on 6th February 1830. Established in 1846, The Royal Bombay Yacht Club,http://www.rbyc.co.in/ has been actively involved in promoting the sport. Situated just opposite the ‘The Gateway of India’ monument in South Mumbai, in its pre-independence era, the club was frequented by British officers, royal families, celebrities, wealthy merchants and defence personnels, who were its proud patrons. The majestic club continues to have an elite membership registry even today.
Sensing the need to encourage & promote sailing activities to all sections of society, entrepreneurs like Amrin have come up with services that aim to attract, both Mumbaikars and tourists, to either learn sailing or to just experience the bliss of enjoying it as a leisure activity, that to at prices that an evolving middle class can afford!
I got an opportunity to actually sail in a keel boat over the next weekend (Courtesy Oyster Sailing Services). Getting to know about the J/24, which is an international One-Design keelboat class, was a fantastic experience! With enthusiastic fervour, the skipper, Chetan Rane, along with his crew, informed me about the basics of sailing and few maritime facts of the Mumbai harbour. Never before had I admired the beauty of Mumbai’s skyline from over the waters of Arabian Sea, with the Sunk Rock lighthouse in my background!
Watching the silhouette of fishing boats returning home at sun set is a mesmerizing sight as one sails with the wind in the bay. Though not a usual sight, the dolphins from the bay are seen popping around as one sails deeper. The hovering of the sea gulls over the docked motor yachts, speed and sail boats reminded me of all the sailors about whom I had read in my history books. It is nice to know that busy Mumbaikars now won’t have to go on a prolonged voyage to get a first-hand experience of a sea adventure. Besides learning to sail, Mumbai is gradually gearing up to make the best use of its maritime culture and add value to their life. An exotic candle light romantic date along with music and champagne on the deck of a yacht, corporate deck parties and business meetings while cruising around Mumbai harbour is no more a fantasy! Click here to know more: http://www.oystersailing.in/packages/
As I got back to the jetty, the shimmer of the moonlight graced the waters behind me. I couldn’t stop admiring the view of the multi million dollars boats and yachts docked below. Just then, an underprivileged kid asked me to buy a plastic toy boat which he was selling to the tourists around. The kid’s tshirt read ‘I love Sailing’! As the kid was pitching the toy boat to me, in a carefree attitude he expressed his desire to sail one of the yacht docked below!! Well, in the ‘city of dreams’ anything is possible, especially when, out of social responsibility, elite clubs like Royal Bombay Yacht Club organize events that expose underprivileged kids to the sport of sailing. Here is a glimpse of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpvMt56Oqo8. As the sport of sailing gradually seeps in all strata of Mumbai’s social fabric, who knows a future Marco Polo is in the making, all set to discover uncharted sea-routes that begin from Mumbai!
Photo courtesy and edits: Aditya Chichkar & Shraddha Sankulkar
Photos and Captions:
View from below the J/24 sails!
Tracking Marco Polo!
Serene view of the boats at Mumbai Harbour.
All set to cut the waters!
The iconic ‘The Gateway of India’ overlooking the boats.
Beauty and the boat!
The setting sun over the Mumbai skyline.
Luxury cruise docked in the Mumbai Harbour.
Sunk Rock Lighthouse directing the ships beyond the oil rigs at Mumbai Harbour.
Old Bombay Harbour- 1731
Fishermen returning home with their catch.
Mumbai touched by Marco! Marco Polo’s sea-route travel included the West coast of India.
Shraddha sailing at sunset!