St Helena Northwards - Day Six - Arrived Ascension Island - 07 55.124S 014 24.892W

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 9 Apr 2014 22:13
Arrived at 15.30 this afternoon after another lovely night and perfect day. A total passage distance of 710.3 miles covered in just over 6 days. After the first relatively quick 250 miles it was a slow passage, but one of the most delightful that we have ever made. Once the wind had dropped down on Saturday, it stayed down around 5 to 10kts and just didn't change for 4 days. Sometimes it would go up a bit and sometimes down, but all within the 5 to 10kts. And the boat just kept ghosting along, generally making around 4kts, but sometimes a little less and sometimes a little more, all in a slight sea, and all in perfect sunny weather with hardly a cloud in the sky. It doesn't get much better!

The island is quite spectacular to approach from the sea - it's volcanic, like St Helena, but it's quite different in appearance. It all looks like it only erupted yesterday. There's a big white volcanic cone and several volcanic pinnacles that are perfect in shape and deep red in colour - like the red crater in the Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. From what we've heard, there's lots of cinder ashore. It's another dream place for budding geologists to visit!

We're at anchor, there are no buoys here, and a fair way out in deep water (62ft). There are two reasons for this. Firstly the anchorage is affected by swell and the shallower you are the bigger the waves. So staying in deep water minimizes the affect of swell. Secondly, the chain jammed in the gypsy before the anchor hit the bottom, so the wind blew us back before I managed to un-jam it. So we should have lifted it again and moved in a bit closer, but one of the 3 yachts already here is leaving tomorrow so we decided to stay where we are and we'll move up and take over their space after they leave. There's not a huge amount of room as there are local work boats/barges on buoys to avoid, and two floating hoses. Not encountered one of those before. They are big diameter hoses that float on the surface and used when the tanker comes in to pipe aviation fuel ashore for the American and UK Air Force bases. The hoses are attached to buoys at either end, but snake across the surface of the water and get blown by the wind. So if they come too close you have to re-anchor a bit further away.

Not that we've been ashore yet, but when we do go (tomorrow morning to check in) you have to use the steps on the wharf - you're not allowed to land on the beach, and it does look a lovely sandy beach. There are two reasons (again!) for that. Firstly the swell - when it's up it would be very dangerous. Secondly, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach and they don't want them or their eggs disturbed. We've already seen a couple of turtles swim past the boat heading for the beach.

Saw more wildlife as we approached the island - Masked Boobies, more Brown Boobies, Frigate Birds (they have their own variety here - not surprisingly called the Ascension Frigate Bird!) and smaller sea birds. Not sure what they are - could be juvenile tropic birds - no long tail.

Had a success on the culinary front while on passage - Banana bread. Not new, but not something Liz has made for a very long time. The Tourist Office in St Helena got in touch with a local banana grower (some individuals on the island grow there own) and we ended up with a load still on the stalk. And, as is always the case, they all start to ripen at the same time, hence the banana bread - 2 lots and they were both delicious!

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