When it comes to sports and entertainment, Mumbai’s shores remain mostly unexplored. Barring a few clubs like H2O which are now trying out fun activities like night para sailing over the ocean, there is very little of the sea that a Mumbaikar really enjoys (not including the unclean beaches and crowded chowpattys). That is why, when Rushikesh mentioned that his friend Sagar’s Pelican Sailing School and the sailing trips they organise daily, I jumped at the opportunity to find out more.
I met Sagar Kudale near the Gateway, at the small private jetty opposite the Taj. A thoroughbred Mumbaikar, Sagar is deeply passionate about sailing and gave up a decade long career in Information Technology to pursue it full time. “I grew up in Mazgaon near the docks, and that is where my love affair with boats began. I spent every spare minute of my growing up years understanding boats and sailing, and hoped to build my own one day” he remembers.
Finally in 2007, with six months of hard work, he built his first boat himself, from scratch. A beautiful rustic purple, Seabird sailing boat, called the Pelican. “There are only 20 privately owned Seabirds in the country today and ours is one of them” he adds with a glimmer in his eye. “A lot of people opt for fibre glass to build boats these days but I’m more old school when it comes to design and use, so our boat is all wood” he declares.
Once the boat was ready to sail, nothing could keep Sagar away from the sea. He would find himself at the Bombay Harbour every weekend and slowly friends started whisking him away on weekdays as well nudging him for sailing lessons and trips around the light houses off the Gateway.
Sagar says, “I realised that over 30 years of sailing, sail boat racing and numerous long trips to Goa and Mangalore living the sailing life, I had enough experience to take it on full time and it gave me the courage to give up a steady job. That is when Pelican Sailing School was formed in 2007. There has been no looking back” adds Sagar as Nagesh our skipper ‘releases the jib’ for him.
Not a huge fan of the diesel run noisy and polluting ferries, I have always fancied quaint little sail boats. On this trip I realized that they are not only eco friendly but also offer a more up close and natural experience of the ocean. The ocean is just an arm’s length away and you can enjoy the sea spray as you sail. Run purely on the power of winds managed by the sailor, these boats don’t have the noisy motor and hence not a threat to the sea fauna as well. And if you are lucky, you can actually spot dolphins racing around your sail boat like we did (yes, really!).
I enquired about how affordable is sailing as a hobby and how easy or difficult is it as a sport for someone to take on? “It’s a misconception that sailing is difficult and that it is a rich man’s sport. If I can sail, so can anyone else. It’s really that easy. Plus there are clubs and folks like me that are happy to lease out a sail boat and sailing schools like ours that offer training and learning facilities.”
Pelican Sailing School currently runs a Basic Sailing Course and an Advanced Sailing Course. The Basic course trains students in the basics of sailing with information on boat theory, manoeuvring the boat, boat management, understanding wind and tidal patterns and rigging and unrigging the boats. The Advanced course is all about racing technique, navigation at high seas, finer aspects of tuning the boat and optimising speed. Sagar soon hopes to start an Intermediate course as well.
Besides courses, the beautiful purple Pelican and Samsara, a larger boat that Sagar built in 2009, are also available for charter trips around the Bombay Harbour where Sagar or Nagesh will take you on a guided tour around the ancient light houses, oldest Dolphin, the Sunk Rock and Prongs, and tell you all about the Bombay Harbour and the lesser known islands on it, Middle Ground and Oyster Rock. A beautiful chilly evening at sea when the sun sets… the simple joys of life… it was indeed therapeutic; I know I’m going back soon!
Pelican charter: Can carry up to 4 persons. Hourly charge of Rs 2600 per hour on weekends and holidays and Rs 2300 on week days. You can also lease it out for day trips at a cost of Rs 6,000 per day.
Samsara charter: Can carry up to 10 persons, has two bedrooms a kitchen and a restroom. Hourly charge of Rs 12,000 for an evening. Day trips at Rs 18,000 per day.
Basic and Advanced Sailing Course: Both consist of ten sessions of 90 mins each. Cost Rs 10,000 per course.
For daily evening charters call BreakFree Journeys: 9820023362
For Sailing Courses and Longer Charters Call Sagar: 9820557063
Photos Courtesy: Sagar Kudale, Garima Sharma