St Helena - too good to leave

St Helena is a stunner!! This Atlantic thing is only getting better - first Namibia, now this!

I don’t know where to start.

We met up with the ARC again here and got to spend some time tripping around and partying with them. But ourselves and four other boats decided to take the route to Brazil via Ascension Island and Fernando de Noronha, rather than go straight to Salvador with the others. This gave us more time on St Helena and it couldn’t have been more welcome. I was in love with the place in an instant. A hikers paradise, with 21 Post-box walks (an English system where a stamp is placed in a post box on the walk for you to collect as you do the trails), the gentle giants of the seas - whale sharks to swim with, spectacular windy cliffside roads and views, Napoleon’s tomb and his last home, Jonathan the tortoise - the oldest living creature on earth, gorgeous English cottages and georgian architecture, plus Jacob’s Ladder of 699 steps to climb in the capital Jamestown, just to start with. I could easily stay months!

The most incredible underwater experience of my life to date - swimming with whale sharks (twice).

Jacob’s Ladder (the remains of a cable railway) is 699 steps straight up. The record (at the time of writing) is held by Graham Doig at 5 minutes, 16.78 seconds! More like 15 minutes for me - and I received a Jacob’s Ladder Certificate at the excellent little museum at the bottom of the steps!!

Napoleon’s last years were spent in exile here at his home - Longwood House, and Jonathan, the oldest living being today, still lives here at the Governor’s House.

Diana’s Peak Walk - absolutely stunning ridgeline walk complete with the red, or otherwise known as the blushing, snail found only in St Helena!

The Blue Point walk was an absolute favourite - with fog rolling in and out it was hard to capture - but this seacliff walk at the southern end of the island is a must do. As is the short and sweet High Peak Walk with its stunning views.

The first walk we did and clearly enjoyed, was the Flagstaff walk. I also loved the Heart Shaped Waterfall walk - despite the fact that there was no waterfall at the time - and its close by to the lovely buildings of Jamestown.

A Drama a Day: Onward to St Helena

From Walvis bay it was a mainly downwind eight-day sail of 1250 nm to St Helena Island – a British territory famous for Napoleon Bonaparte’s imprisonment, and Jonathan the tortoise – the world’s oldest living animal. There was only one thing on my mind though - whale sharks. It was the season and I couldn’t wait to see them and swim with them!

Meanwhile we had to get there. We left Namibia in the morning fog, escorted by a lone dolphin, and motor-sailed most of the day, very happy to see flying fish again, which we hadn’t seen since we hit Africa. In the evening the wind came up suddenly to 20-25 knots and we were off at a pace. I was doing the nasty night shift - from 2am to 8am. But I liked that better than short three-hour watches by far. It meant I could actually get some sleep. I managed to keep myself in fairly good form until just before I finished my shift when once again I fed the fish. But it wasn’t bad and nothing at all like I’d been used to.

This seemed to be the journey of mishaps. We can’t really complain as we hadn’t had too much happen to date, but as they say, ‘when it rains, it pours.’

The next day we had our first little mishap - furling in the genoa, the furling line snapped. There was one heck of a rush for us to get the sail down and keep it out of the water while the wind whipped around us at about 20 knots. Sore hands from that one!

Next mishap; (fortunately while I was asleep) a rogue wave hit us broadside and managed to kill the chartplotter. It went haywire and Matt had to reset the whole system so we lost all our data from the journey so far. Bummer to say the least.

Third mishap - not for us, but for the three flying fish and one squid that landed on our deck in the night. Sad but true - most nights we have unwanted ‘road-kill,’ and there’s not much we can do about it!

Fourth mishap - us again - the winds had eased to 15-17 knots so we had the genoa poled out and were cruising downwind nicely. Suddenly the pole track simply snapped. Boom done, that was that - no more poleing out for a bit.

Fifth mishap - the generator overheated! Seriously, this was becoming silly. We got it cooled down though so all is good.

Sixth mishap - we pulled out the beautiful pink spinnaker (did I mention I chose that colour) and were getting it ready to put up, when we found a rip in it! Nothing too dramatic but it wasn’t going up until I’d done some sewing.

Seventh mishap - this was a good one. We decided to get the spinnaker up after my repairs, only to find after the checking it had had in Cape Town it had a rope the wrong way. Total disaster - one shredded spinnaker in the water and the two of us exhausted having had a mighty old time trying to keep it from wrapping round the keel or anywhere else. We managed to get it out and then both just sat there on the bow getting our breath back, and I must say, enjoying the beautiful day that it had become.

Well fortunately that was it for our trip of mishaps!! We got the code zero out, after the spinnaker was thrown into the skippers cabin in disgrace, and it went up like a charm and sailed us along beautifully. In the end though, our final few hours into St Helena were under motor.

What an amazing sight St Helena was as we got closer and closer, huge looming cliffs reaching up from a beautiful sea, a whale shark to greet us, and then a stunning anchorage. Hoisting the flag and coming into the island I think we lost the plot, music up loud and silly photos ensued. Once safely anchored in a really beautiful spot - good for swimming too - Customs and Immigration officials came out to the boat to clear us. As soon as we could we radioed the ferry, which is a good little local system plying back and forward from the anchorage to shore, and went in to celebrate with our friends. It seems we weren’t the only ones in a bit of a silly mood, were we Aurora Polaris! I think we were all glad to complete that little leg of the journey!