Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – India chapter Gujarat has to say about Mandvi’s shipbuilding:
“Mandvi is an hour down the road from Bhuj and is a busy little place with an amazing shipbuilding yard. Hundreds of men construct, by hand, these wooden beauties for faraway Arab merchants. The massive timbers apparently come from Malaysian rainforests.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We had seen a number of boats high and dry along the mouth of the Rukmavati River as we crossed over a bridge and into the old part of Mandvi. From a distance, the ships looked derelict, and we couldn’t see any activity in the vicinity. We carried on looking for our resort, but ended up at the wrong place because our driver had usually taken guests to the Heritage Blues and Greens Resort out in the direction of the Vijay Vilas Palace as former summer abode, built in the 1920s for the Kachchh rulers.
As it turned out, we had another opportunity to see the ships as we returned to cross the bridge after I used Google Maps to locate the Serena Beach Resort, to the east of the mouth of the River, we had gone almost 7km out of our way to the west. In the end, it didn’t matter, because we passed through the old part of the city and decided it didn’t warrant exploring. When we learned they were actually building ships where the Rukmavati dumps into the Gulf of Kachchh, we knew we wanted to come back the following day.
Our guidebook says little about the ship building, but does mention that there are usually hundreds of workers on the site. When we returned to explore, at first we thought the place was absolutely deserted. There didn’t seem to be anyone around that could answer questions we might have posed to them, but eventually we did see a man sawing lumber, but he didn’t acknowledge us, and we didn’t want to interrupt his work.
It was fascinating to think that the lumber comes all the way from Malaysia, and that these ships are being constructed along the western coast of India for Arab merchants on the other side of the Arabian Sea. Our attention was drawn to a loud squawking noise, further down stream from the shipbuilding site. We peered towards the ruckus and saw hundreds of gulls swarming a couple of ships listing a little on their sides.
These were obviously fishing vessels, perhaps offloading their catch from the previous night. They were listing to the dock side because the tide was out and the were high and dry. I thought it might be interesting to walk down to the dock and see the action, but when we came to a large gate across the entrance to the dock area, the guard was gruff and unfriendly, pointing repeatedly to a sign that said this was private property, no visitors allowed. Strike One!
Too bad. We turned back and headed to a little building that looked like it might be a small museum that housed model ships. It turned out to be a bit of a dud. Strike Two!
There was the option of driving all the way out to see the Vijay Vilas Palace, but we weren’t at all sure it wouldn’t turn out to be Strike Three, and as our resort and the beach was certainly much more appealing, we headed back to make good use of the late afternoon light. A walk on the beach and maybe a swim in the pool would be a great way to end a day of sightseeing.
I found a terrific video on YouTube of the shipyard taken with a drone, click the link below to give you a perspective I could share with a handheld camera: