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    Pondy Nautic gives you an alternative look at The Promenade, with a cruise.

    Away from the bustle of the North Boulevard, past the New Lighthouse, across a short bridge, a bumpy road ends in a quiet expanse of backwater fringed by mangroves. A tiny boat with white sails drifts on the Thengaithittu estuary, heading towards where the Ariyankuppam River empties out into the Bay of Bengal. Another spanking new boat bobs in the water, contrasting with the colourful fishing vessels moored on the river bank. Newly-launched Pondy Nautic’s sea cruises take off from this tranquil spot.
    In the deep
    “When I used to drive my son to his playschool, I’ve often stopped on the seafront and thought it was a shame that there was no sailing in the sea,” says Cécile Hoorelbeke, who founded Pondy Nautic with husband Nathanaël Mallard, who runs Ultramarine Boats that builds custom-made boats and yachts. The enterprise was born out of the idea to offer more activities that allow travellers to engage intimately with the sea. “We already know how to build boats and handle them, but Pondy Nautic is about sharing the pleasure of sailing in the deep sea,” says the Normandy born sea-lover.
    While all-day sailing on catamarans and game fishing will be launched in the months to follow, speedboat sea cruises have already taken off with the 10-metre Naarei (Tamil for heron). The 250-HP motorboat, modelled on the south-eastern American-style fishing boat, can seat 20 passengers. The one-hour cruise begins at the Thengaithittu estuary, with the guide pointing out egrets and herons, and sharing tales of Arikamedu much further along the river, before picking up speed to cruise along the harbour and the New Lighthouse.
    All for the view
    It is only when the boat crosses the pier that one gets a rare perspective of the Pondicherry coastline — a view from the sea of The Promenade flanked by heritage buildings. The boat, on its return from Gandhi Thidal, treads deeper waters and revs up to the estuary, for an extra thrill. “More than the view, it is the physical experience that travellers have found exhilarating — you can feel every wave in the sea along with the salty spray,” grins Hoorelbeke. The morning tours can be extended for an extra half-hour where even non-swimmers can dive into the sea near the old pier and float with life jackets on, while moored to the boat.
    Customised tours offered. Speedboat sea cruises can be booked for 6.30 am, 8 am and 4 pm. From `900 per head. Details: 8220125027

    — Olympia Shilpa Gerald

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