On a slow boat to Somalia
It is a special trip to meet 76-year-old Shivji Bhuda Fofindi at Mandvi, as he is a rarity for two reasons. First, he is a Hindu sailor and second, he is among the last of a generation who used to pilot purely wind powered ships. Shivji, since retiring, has set up his own makeshift simulator to train young ship pilots.
He says that a pilot is most crucial as the wooden hull doesn’t take kindly to scraping against the sea bottom. He recalls that the challenge was tougher when they had to dock in a headwind, testing the nerves of even the most experienced pilot. A stickler for the basics, he says there is one thing he enjoys drilling into his pupils — using the sextant. “It is easy to use the compass. But navigators today are lost if the GPS battery dies. They are finished for good,” he laughs.
It is reassuring to note that the future of the industry is getting the right bearings.
An interesting article. In modern western history, it is usually glossed over that the British, Portuguese, Spanish navies used boats and boat builders from India. Indian boats made of Indian teak lasted longer and were built better. Extractive colonial rule sapped this industry which could no invest in modernization. The European industry built on a protected industry, bloomed.
The Portuguese word for a type of boat is nau – the Indian word for a boat.
And this boat building industry still survives – and the boats and trade continues.