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Hey guys 😀 Guess what??? Today my blog turned FIVE!!! 😀 😀 😀 Thank you 😀

So, a special day calls for a special day, right? 😉 Here it is!!! And I’m super excited to share this post with you!!! Very recently, Mumbai welcomed a magnificent visitor to its shores. And I’m highly privileged to be the only one covering her spectacular entry to the city and the welcome ceremony held in her honour with photographs and videos. Yes!!! I have exclusive footage for you guys 😀 😀 😀

And now, ladies and gentlemen, may I proudly present to you, the world’s most spectacular tall ship…drum roll, please 😉 ….the Mexican Navy’s Buque Escuela Velero ARM “CUAUHTÉMOC” (BE-01) 😀 😀 😀

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Isn’t she simply WOW? I was present at Indira Docks to welcome her. Ooh… I’m so lucky to have witnessed her arrival. For this, I’m very grateful to Mexico’s ambassador to India, Melba Pria and the Mexican Embassy in New Delhi. And now, through this special post of mine, you will get to see it all too. You’re welcome 😀

The 220 feet tall, three-masted Buque Escuela Velero ARM “CUAUHTÉMOC” (BE-01) arrived in Mumbai for a five-day stay from June 21 to 26. ARM stands for Armada República Mexicana. She is not only the largest instructional vessel in the Mexican Navy, but also its only tall ship. Her visit to Mumbai is part of a 289-day global circumnavigation carrying the message of peace and goodwill from Mexico to 15 ports in 12 countries.

El Buque Escuela “CUAUHTÉMOC” was primarily built for training cadets of La Heroica Escuela Naval Militar – the Mexican Naval Academy, but she is also a sailing ambassador for her country and a frequent visitor to international ports for the past 35 years. In fact, she had last visited Mumbai 15 years ago, in 2002.

Dubbed as El Embajador y Caballero de los Mares (The Ambassador and Knight of the Seas), this beautiful floating naval academy sails on instructional trips every year as part of the training of young Mexican Navy cadets. She has been to 59 countries, clocking over 705,012 nautical miles, which is equivalent to 33 circumnavigation tours. As a matter of fact, she has circumnavigated the globe three times, and this is the fourth time.  Besides imparting training to the cadets and enlisted members, the trips have established relations of mutual trust and respect between the Mexican Army, Air Force and Navy and the navies of host nations; facilitated collaborations in educational and operational areas; and provided an opportunity to showcase Mexican culture and traditions.

This year, in commemoration of 100 years of the Constitution of Mexico, she embarked on her fourth circumnavigation named Crucero de Instrucción 2017 “Centenario de la Constitución” (Instructional Cruise 2017 ‘Centenary of the Constitution’).  This year, it’s her 35th anniversary as well.

Commanded by Captain Rafael Antonio Lagunes Arteaga, the magnificent ship sailed off from her homeport Acapulco on February 6 with a crew of 234 (17 women and 217 men) which includes 8 captains, 47 officers, 43 cadets, 133 non-commissioned officers and sailors, and 9 guests: three from the Mexican Army and Air Force, one from the Merchant Navy, and one each from the navies of Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Italy and Peru.

During the nine-and-a-half month journey, “CUAUHTÉMOC” will make port of calls in Balboa (Panama), Boston (USA), Huelva (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Civitavecchia (Italy), Crete (Greece), Port Said (Egypt), Mumbai (India), Singapore, Manila (Philippines), Shanghai (China), Busan (South Korea), Kobe (Japan), Honolulu (USA) and Los Angeles (USA), before returning to Acapulco on November 21.

Indira Docks is the place where all ships, commercial as well as those of international navies, are docked. So there I was at 11 AM (the scheduled time of arrival) waiting for the sailboat in the fine company of the Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria and two members of the Mexican Embassy in New Delhi.

Before pulling into the dock, “CUAUHTÉMOC” was received with the traditional naval gun salute.

Here’s a photograph posted by the Indian Navy on its Twitter account…

Minutes later, the beautiful sail-training ship made an appearance from the restricted naval area.

11:25 AM…

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12:02 PM. And she made her way into the dock…

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A small contingent of Indian Navy Band began their wonderful 30-minute performance, providing musical support to the approaching enchanting beauty. Oh, it was all so very beautiful….

I couldn’t resist snapping a selfie with the Mexican beauty in the background 😀

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And another photograph with her making the most spectacular entrance I have ever seen 😀

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

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Crew members in blue-and-white striped tops and white pants, stood in formation on the ship’s yards. From far, they looked exactly like star-shaped decorations 😀

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

12:12 PM. And ARMCUAUHTÉMOC” was anchored 😀

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

El Buque Escuela “CUAUHTÉMOC” is named after the last Aztec emperor Cuauhtémoc (meaning “swooping eagle”). The ship’s figurehead is dedicated to him. His headpiece, a jade-coloured eagle, and his body covered in golden leaf while holding a weapon in his right hand, fire coming from his feet.

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Commissioned in 1982, this steel-hulled, three-masted barque was designed and built in Bilbao, Spain by Astilleros Celaya S.A. which had constructed similar tall ships for the navies of Columbia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

A hybrid sail-and-diesel vessel, she weighs 1800 tonnes and is 220 feet, 4 inches (67.2 metres) long at the water line, and has a beam of 39 feet, 4 inches (12.1 metres). Her draught in the water is 17 feet, 7 inches (5.4metres).  As for the masts, she has 2368 metres of sail and 90.5 metres of aluminium spar length. Her 1,125 horsepower engine reaches a speed of 9 knots, while the sail speed is 17 knots. She carries 220 tonnes of diesel fuel and 110 tonnes of fresh water in a tank below the deck. Food and fresh water supplies last for 45 days. Her accommodation capacity is 186 for officers and crew members, and 90 for cadets.

“CUAUHTÉMOC” has participated in important regattas like the Columbus Race, the Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Races and the Osaka Port Race, among others, and has been the proud winner of many prestigious awards and trophies. Female personnel became part of her crew for the first time in 2011.

Each year prior to embarking on an instructional cruise, the ship undergoes repairs and maintenance for high operational efficiency and impeccable appearance at the naval shipyard in Oaxaca. This keeps her in perfect condition to represent Mexico in the high seas and international ports. No wonder she looks so gorgeous 😀 😀 😀

And she looks even more gorgeous with her sails on 😀 😀 😀

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Image Courtesy: http://www.sailboston.com/event/visiting-ship-cuauhtemoc/

She carries a huge Mexican flag while at sea. It is taken down after she is docked 😀

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A great fan of the Mexican flag, I tried to get a good video clip of it dancing beautifully in the breeze 😀

Check this video 😀 😀 😀

A back-side view of the sailboat 😀

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The Indian flag in the centre 😀

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

12:27 PM.  The naval band performed the Indian patriotic song Saare Jahan Se Achhaa and at the end of it, the ship’s boardwalk was thrown open 😀

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The few present at the time of the ship’s arrival included the Mexican ambassador, the Honorary Consul of Mexico in Mumbai and his wife, two officials from the Mexican Embassy in New Delhi, and Navy personnel.

Meet the warm and beautiful ambassador of Mexico to India, Melba Pria 😀

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12:32 PM. The Mexican ambassador was welcomed aboard the ship…

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And then, the Honorary Consul of Mexico in Mumbai, Rajju Shroff and his wife…

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A few leading industrialists with interests in Mexico were invited too…

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12:38 PM. A solemn moment was observed for the young cadet Eva Lidia, who fell overboard on June 11, at around 2:00 PM, when a huge wave dragged her into the rough sea, about 560 nautical miles west of Goa. Weather conditions were adverse and she was not wearing life saving gear.

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The Indian Navy had promptly responded to the ship’s alert and launched a massive search and rescue operation for the cadet.

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Image courtesy: Indian Navy Twitter

Boeing P8I aircraft sorties were undertaken from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM and 06:30 AM to 10:30 AM on June 11 and June 12 respectively. In addition to maritime patrol aircraft, its frigate INS (Indian Navy Ship)“TEG” which was en route to Mumbai from Port Louis, Mauritius was diverted and arrived in the area at 6:00 PM on June 12. Additionally, the destroyer INS “MYSORE” (with two integral helicopters) sailed from Mumbai and arrived in the area at 8:00 PM on June 13. After 120 hours of joint search operations, 96 hours as per international laws and 24 additional hours requested by the Mexican Navy, the search was called off. The cadet is “lost-at-sea”.

12:43 PM. The Mexican ambassador delivered the welcome speech…

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

12:56 PM.  Arrival of the Minister for Railways, Suresh Prabhu accompanied by his wife and son…

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

And then, I made my way to the ship’s deck hoping to get an insight into life on board this magnificent sail-training ship. She had left Port Said (Egypt) twenty-five days ago on May 27, so I wanted to chat with the crew members.  Well, I had already done a bit of it with the first two sailors who had climbed out on the ship’s arrival. One of the first things they asked from me was the accessibility of foreign currency exchange, communication through their mobile phones, and of course, a cybercafé. I realized that they were probably missing their loved ones back home, so I assured them that everything would be taken care of.

13:01 PM. The Flag Officer of Maharashtra Naval Area, Rear Admiral Sanjay Mahindru being welcomed aboard the ship…

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Check this video 😀 😀 😀

Looking up to the impressive sight of structures and ropes holding everything together…

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The crew members were busy carrying out their post-arrival duties…

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A few were wrapping a Mexican flag, when I requested for a picture with it. So sweet, they readily complied to it and unfurled the flag for me 😀 😀 😀

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A little later, I discovered that this was the place, right behind me, from where the young cadet Eva Lidia fell into the sea. A huge wave suddenly washed into this central deck area and the cadet lost her balance. Unable to grasp on to the ship, she was thrown into the rough sea. The navigation was switched from sail to motor. Lifebuoys, life-jackets and strobe lights were thrown into the sea for rescue and survival. This was the first accident aboard the ship in her 35 years of service. Life-saving gear is not donned by the crew as it hampers their movement. Instead, prior to the trip, they are trained in sea-survival techniques in case of any such eventuality.

Lifebuoy…

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On board the ship, a study programme incorporating modern teaching aids, is followed to complete the formation of the future Mexican Navy officers. The crew is not only involved in the teaching-learning process but also in maintaining the ship in perfect condition of working and appearance. The ship is well-equipped with food and water supplies, electricity, medical and dental service.

The crew members I spoke with hailed from different states of Mexico. The cadets change every year. The tall ship serves as a training platform where they are trained to be the future officers of the Mexican Navy. They learn the fundamentals of sailing and manoeuvring the tall ship. They get to practice a lot of navigation, astronomical navigation, electronic navigation and engineering.

The youngest crew member was 17 and the oldest around 40 or so, one of them told me. It is an adventure tour that demands hard work. Training for five to six hours a day and looking after the ship’s maintenance as well. But it is hard to live at sea.

During their stay, the Mexican crew and cadets were going to participate in activities to bond with their counterparts from the Indian Navy. And of course, take a guided tour of the city. One officer asked me about the city’s popular tourist destination – Hanging Gardens. They were going to visit the park. I must have last visited it more than 35 years ago, so I had nothing to add to what he had already seen in a video on board the ship 😀

It was 1:30 PM when I climbed down from the beautiful sailboat. By then, the huge Mexican flag had been taken down.

Check out the cute little wooden lifeboat to the right 😀

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In honour of the five-day visit, Captain Rafael Lagunes and the Mexican ambassador were to host a dinner reception for invited guests on board the tall ship on the night of the ship’s arrival i.e. Wednesday, June 21. It was cancelled as a mark of respect to Eva Lidia, her family members and Navy colleagues. A luncheon for the invited guests was kept for Saturday afternoon, three days later. I was one of the invitees. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it as I succumbed to sunburn after getting exposed to the UV rays of the sun on the day of the ship’s arrival.

Looking back, I have fond memories of the chivalrous crew welcoming me aboard and offering their hand while climbing in and out of the ship (I did it twice 😀 ), and climbing up and down the stairs of the deck. I felt like a queen 😀 😀 😀

As I’m writing this, the magnificent sailing ship is on her way to Singapore. Here’s wishing everyone aboard her a happy and safe journey! Buen viaje, ARM “CUAUHTÉMOC”! Hope to see you again someday, hasta la vista 😀 😀 😀

 

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