Harvey & Sue Death
Wed 30 Jan 2019 15:08
trade winds and after only one day of sailing we ended up motoring for the
next three days. This persuaded us to stop at Ascension Island - to take the
opportunity to refuel and provision, and we were really glad we did because
it gave us a chance to explore this extraordinary island.
At this stage of the rally the fleet is very spread out across the South
Atlantic. Some boats were late leaving Cape Town and have only just arrived
in St Helena, others decided to skip Ascension and are well on their way to
Brazil. Us and three others; Tienelle, Altair and Metiorite are all
Fishing was very disappointing again on this passage but we soon discovered
why, out in the middle of the ocean in International waters we came across
fleets of Asian fishing boats, trawling the seas indiscriminately for
anything they could hoover up. Consequently we did not get a bite until we
were close to Ascension when we caught a lovely yellow fin tuna which was
delicious grilled for dinner.
First glimpse of Ascension island from the sea is of a barren, volcanic land
scape fringed by pure white sandy beaches and littered with aerials,
satellite dishes and radar domes. It is a communications and military hub
for the US and UK. The airfield which was built in 1942 by the Americans was
an important staging post for the Americans planes in WW2 on their way to
Africa and the middle East, it also played a strategic role during the
Falklands conflict for RAF flights between the UK and the Falklands.
Like St Helena it is a British Overseas Territory, about the same size as
Guernsey with a population of less than 1000, mainly UK and US military
There are no actual Ascension residents, everybody who lives on the island
is on contract to work there, hence there is no unemployment!
There is no tourist industry, the only people who visit are yachties,
friends and relatives of the people who work there and the occasional cruise
ship. Therefore there is no tourist infra structure and very limited
facilities. With no hotels or restaurants and just one bar, we were
obviously going to have to provide our own entertainment!
The very friendly bar owner had a BBQ that she let us use one evening and we
did a joint BBQ with the three other boats.
The second night we were there it was her husband's birthday and she invited
us to his birthday party where she cooked a fantastic curry and the
entertainment was D.I.Y. in the form of a karaoke machine. After a few vinos
the Oyster lot could not resist showing off their vocal skills!
We also joined the diving club for their Sunday morning dive, a shore dive
in the clear warm water. Even under the water the landscape is volcanic,
with no coral but an amazing variety of fish. We had a really lovely morning
and the members of the diving club could not have been more friendly and
We hired one of the islands two rental cars and drove around the island,
visiting the RAF base where the NAFFI store sold all manner of British
brands that made us feel quite at home. We drove past the islands only golf
course where the greens are called 'browns' and are made of compacted lava.
Its claim to fame is that it is in the Guinness Book of Records as the
world's worst golf course!
In the centre of the island is Green Mountain, so called because it is an
oasis of tropical vegetation. At 900 metres above sea level it is almost
permanently shrouded in cloud. We drove up to the top where the difference
in temperature was incredible, damp and cold and such a contrast to the
barren moon like landscape surrounding it.
We did an Island tour arranged by the conservation department who are
heavily involved in protecting and preserving the islands endemic plants,
sea birds and the thousands of green turtle who return to the island every
year to nest and lay their eggs. We were lucky enough to see two turtles who
under the cover of darkness lumbered up the beach and laboriously excavated
a large nest pit into which they laid over 100 eggs each. When they have
finished laying the turtles carefully cover up the hole and return to the
sea. They repeat this process up to 6 times in one season.
After four days in Ascension it was time to move on. It was a lovely place
to rest before we complete our Atlantic crossing to the NE coast of Brazil.
While we were there the winds picked up and we're now on day two of our
crossing with lovely flat seas and a nice breeze pushing us along. We've got
our bright orange spinnaker flying and we are making very good progress.