01-Jun-2008 -- Having been introduced to the Degree Confluence Project by Alison Drummer, a colleague who has moved to India from our company operations in Egypt, a number of us often pondered a nearby confluence point as we drove to our New Mumbai office each morning across the Vashi bridge. The bridge, crossing the Thāna Creek, lays just some 7.5 km north of the 19N 73E confluence point.
With reference to a previous unsuccessful visit by fellow confluencers Praveen and Bharath, we knew that a land entry was not possible, the point lying some hundred plus metres offshore at low tide. The only guaranteed way to reach the point was by sea at high tide, so this was the method chosen. With a Google Earth image of the surrounding area we located several villages where we thought fishing boats might be moored and from where we might be able to hire one.
As two of our party have spent many (many) years working in some of the world's remotest desert enviroments, essential equipment redundancy is something close to our hearts. So, on 1 June 2008, armed with a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSX, Garmin 12XL, Garmin eTrex Summit, and a couple of GPS-enabled Blackberrys, we left our homes in the Mumbai suburbs of Bandra and Santacruz and headed to the Navi Mumbai west coast. Our trip timing was based on a plan to reach the confluence point at around 10 am, the time of high tide.
The first point from where we though we might hire a vessel turned out to be a dead end. There was a small unused jetty with only a couple of local fishermen tending canoes, not capable of carrying our party of four. Not a wasted journey though as there was a lot of bird life in and around the mangrove swamps. Lapwings, egrets and herons were spotted.
The second village site we traveled to proved much more successful with a number of fishermen tending their nets on the shoreline. Their boats - small wooden craft powered by basic diesel engines – were ideal for us and most likely not going to sink. From this village the distance to the confluence point is only 3.5 km. Using our driver to negotiate in the local Marathi language we secured the services of boat, skipper and deckhand. It's India, so we bartered and settled on a what we thought was a good price for a waterway cruise...
Once onboard, the skipper maneuvered out and around the mangroves and uncannily headed to the confluence point in almost a straight line. It was only as we drew closer to the point that we guided him with clear and not-so-clear hand gestures. The basic diesel engine in the vessel meant that once started it was not wise to stop it while offshore. We could not come to a complete stop to position ourselves on the confluence point exactly but we took a number of runs over it, getting as close as we could. We took a number of photos of the position readings on the three GPS receivers. The closet reading was 18°59'59.9"N 73°00'00.2"E, a distance of ~7 m from the confluence point (± 4m stated Garmin error).
Once we were satisfied that we had bagged the point, we took photos from the confluence point looking north, south, east and west, before using our best sign language to indicate to the skipper that we wanted to head back to shore. He seemed a little perplexed – "why did the bunch of goras want to come out here where there's nothing to see, stay for a few minutes and then head back?" Despite his offer of a further tour of the mangroves, we went back to his waterside village, paid him and his deckhand son, and thanked him for their services. All up, the boat trip took a little over an hour. We were back at home in Bandra in time for a late Pani Puri lunch.