of ill-fated expedition returns home
Twenty-eight-year-old Mahesh Padmakumara, the sole
survivor of the five-member crew of the Dinusha II
trawler whose fishing expedition on high seas off
Somali coast came to a tragic end, was miraculously
rescued by the Maldivian coastguards on October 20.
Mahesh, who was later handed over to the Sri Lankan
High Commission in Male, was flown back home last
Wednesday. Mahesh recounted his four-month long
ordeal on high seas in an interview with our sister
Rainy weather no deterrent
March 19 was a rainy day.
The downpour that began in the morning was
continuing with no let-up when the multi-day trawler
with its five-member crew set off on their fishing
expedition from the Beruwela fisheries harbour about
The skipper was Ajith Priyantha.
The other four fishermen were U K Nihal, Ranjith
Nimalsiri, Amal Premaratne and Mahesh who was the
youngest and the least experienced of the crew.
Some of their kith and kin and the owner of the
trawler Nalin Chandrakumara were at the gangplank to
see them off.
They had in the trawler’s hold raw provisions and
drinking water which were sufficient for about four
They were also carrying adequate stocks of fuel and
also salt to preserve the catch.
The trawler was equipped with the usual navigational
aids including the GPS facility.
The sea was rough due to strong winds that
accompanied the heavy showers. However, they were
used to rough seas. Besides, they knew that braving
inclement weather was part of their life.
Heading for Murusi fishing grounds
They were heading towards the rich fishing grounds
around the well known Murusi rock close to Mauritius
between Madagascar and the Maldivian archipelago.
They reached the Murusi fishing grounds in 18 days
and began trawling with gusto. They harvested a
large catch every time they laid the trawl net.
Mahesh, Nihal and Amal were tirelessly trawling
while Ranjith was busy cooking in the kitchen. They
also lost no time in salting and packing in boxes
the catch they hauled aboard...
When the blissful night comes after the day’s hard
work, they would relax listening to recorded songs
or playing cards after a sumptuous meal prepared by
Ranjith. Though a night-long sleep was quite
welcome, they each had to keep a two hour vigil
Passed the AL in Commerce stream
After passing the GCE AL in Commerce subjects,
Mahesh began looking for a job. His immediate goal
was to build a house where his mother, two sisters
and younger brother could live in reasonable
comfort. When all his efforts to secure a job proved
futile, he decided to take to the readily available
Trawling for three months
They spent three months on `Murusi’ fishing grounds.
They had finished 250 bags of salt they had brought.
All the three freezing holds were packed with fish.
Part of the catch was packed in an empty water tank
at the stern and in a corner of the bridge area
close to the engine room.
Now that they had successfully completed their job,
they felt buoyant.
Of the four fuel tanks they had brought, two were
already empty and the third one was now connected to
the engine. The leftover of the raw provisions was
sufficient was another month. Now that their mission
was over, they began feeling some-sick. They all
began talking about the loved ones back home.
Priyantha, Ranjith, Nimal and Amal were married and
they knew that their wives and children were eagerly
waiting to see them safe and sound back at home.
Mahesh was not married. But he knew that his mother,
two sisters and the brother were yearning to see
him. They turned back on the homeward journey upbeat
and light- hearted on June 4.
1,800 nautical miles away
The GPS (Global Positioning System) on trawler
showed that Dinusha II was positioned about 1,800
nautical miles away from the Beruwela coast.
They had been operating the trawler taking turns and
Mahesh was in the engine room when it happened.
The time was about 3am. The boat moving fast cutting
through the choppy seas suddenly stopped and Mahesh
realised to his consternation that the engine had
For Mahesh, a novice to sea fishing, stalling of the
engine was an unprecedented experience. Panicked, he
ran to the cabin where his mates were fast asleep.
He shouted: “Priyantha Aiye! Priyantha Aiye!
But Priyantha did not seem alarmed. “Mahesh Malli,
don’t get frightened .The engine may have run out of
oil,” Priyantha said giving a reassuring pat on
Mahesh’ back. He presently entered the engine room
and turned round after making a brief check.
“The oil tank is exhausted. I connected the
remaining tank. Now go and start the engine to
resume the journey,”Priyantha told a highly agitated
(To be continued next week)