St Helena Opens Up

Thu 1 Apr 2021 10:01

15:55.42S 5:43.47W


St Helena Opens Up

Usually when we approach a new destination there are at least two reasons to be happy. For one the current voyage is nearing its successful end and our planning and tailoring of the journey has proved satisfactory, and second there is the excitement of exploring a new place; but with St Helena in our sights from early morning on the 28th March, we thought at the time we would not be going ashore, which left us with a sad and empty feeling.

We saw first a few lights and the cool light from the full moon outlined the island; a charcoal black modest sized volcano without its eroded peak.

As daylight spread its tentative fingers over us so various shades of magenta materialised and then hints of green amidst the dark rusty rock and one big caldera and a number of smaller ones enclosed by sharp peaks with houses dotted around. Red lights showed aircraft solid ground to avoid and the familiar turning propellors of a wind farm told us modern technology was at home.

We were in no hurry to arrive; we were in no hurry. Too early into the Northern Atlantic and we would come across the remaining winter storms and as we couldn’t explore the island we’d just be waiting on Zoonie for the right time to leave, so we slowly motored around the east of the island to the little mooring field where Rob was all ready with our long-handled mooring device, whose cunning design used a heaving line attached to it to pass both sides of a metal loop or ring. We had heard the buoys are almost at water level and so reaching them to secure a line requires some thought.

Then by clicking the closed part of the catch to the other side of the little horseshoe over the ring, he was able to retrieve said heaving line to which Rob had tied the mooring line previously. It’s quicker and easier to do than to write about! Hey presto we were attached. Except one pointy end of the horseshoe then became stuck between the ring shackle holding it on and the light line already on the buoy and Rob didn’t want to pull it too hard for fear of breaking it.

“You’ll have to stand on the buoy to get it back.” I suggested and Rob, with acrobatic skill proved that the buoy was indeed sturdy and buoyant enough to take his skilfully balancing weight while he reached down and eased the device clear of the crablike jaws of the buoy.

We handed the device over to Anna Caroline and she used it to perfect effect. When Henk and Marjolein arrived on Jori they used another method by moving alongside the buoy until it was alongside them where the freeboard is lower and the buoy easier to reach. Simples.

Soon after we got in, two gentlemen from Port Authority (one from Portsmouth and the other from Swindon) arrived and were delighted to be able to tell us that if we were going to stay around a few days then we could have a Covid test on April 1st and depending on negative results we could go ashore as they were opening their borders again from that date. We had planned our departure from CT with the hope this might happen while we were nearby and we knew that they had taken delivery of enough vaccine for the entire population before we even left Cape Town. But we were still thrilled with the news.

So we had four days to prepare Zoons for our next longest voyage of around 4,600 miles to the Azores before we were given the freedom of the island.

Rob has scrubbed her hull, taking three days and after he did the keel yesterday was rewarded with fresh baked scones topped with jam and cream for tea. Zoonie is now using 2 litres diesel per hour even at only 1500rpm so a clean bottom will help. It was last done at Emu point and wasn’t at all bad, or not as bad as it has been before.

During the passage here at one point I went up onto the foredeck in calm weather and laid down to gather some rays for a few minutes. Rob came up on deck and couldn’t see me and had that dreaded moment of dread until he spotted my foot idly swinging with Zoonie’s roll.

Well, when he was scrubbing the hull wearing only his snorkel for breathing, I tuned in to hearing him blow out the seawater from his mouthpiece every few seconds, roughly after 13 seconds down there scrubbing. Then I noticed I hadn’t heard it for a while so I dashed up on deck to see him lying face down and totally motionless in the water, “ROB!” I yelled, he rolled over smiling, lifted his mask and said “It’s OK hun I was just looking at the next section.”

So we both know how it feels to think the other one could be in big trouble.

The other reason for feeling Zoons is lacking some of her usual speed could be the engine needs a big, 1000-hour service, the only one of which she had done after her NZ submersion at 1360 hours, she has now done 3156 hours so she is overdue.

We had to alter our clocks back two hours so we are now BST and UTC, so no more changes needed! Also, we used that two hours gained by having a nice uninterrupted snooze.

As Zoonie turned the corner towards the mooring field I became convinced there must be some football practice going on. We listened to lots of whistles being blown as if youngsters were under the benevolent control of some footy maestro, but they turned out to be the cries of the beautifully elegant white tropic birds with their long tail feather. We are also in the company of booby birds, terns and noddys and a thirty-foot sailboat manned by five likely young lads. Who have in fact just left missing the opening up of the Island. There are 6 visiting boats including Zoonie who are now waiting to venture ashore and the medical team are due to arrive in less than two hours, today the 1st April, so I’d better get up!

Things are looking good; the bread is rising well and Rob has just tuned in to the BBC World Service, the sun is out and the swell not too bad, at least not as keen as in Vanuatu and Woody Island, South Australia.

So, it is April Fool’s Day and we are sitting on Zoonie’s coach roof as the medical team are rolled by the sea in their little wooden ferry boat alongside and the nurse is offering up our nasal swabs on their little plastic sticks so we can do our own test. Much better I found than wondering just how much further up my nose the lady in Richards Bay was going to push it before it started to affect my thinking. Not wishing to make a fool of myself I carefully and slowly inserted the stick, surprised by how far up it actually would go.

Today and tomorrow are a public holiday so we will get our results this afternoon but we cannot in fact go ashore until Saturday when the little ferry will be running from 4.00am until 7.00pm and later by request. Taking the dinghy ashore from here would not be a safe idea in this ocean mooring field.

Then from Monday we can call in to the hospital and get our first free Covid vaccination with a little vaccination passport to show to the authorities in The Azores and Falmouth, by which time they may well not be interested anyway.

I was thinking a couple of days ago about the plight of the younger generation today and how, like us they will be looking forward to a difficult future because of the dire state of nature and the world we live in. But unlike us they cannot look back on a childhood when nature was so much healthier than it is now, and if the shifting baseline syndrome is working, they will think how the world looks today is similar to how it always has been.

Chris Packham mentioned in his book ‘Back to Nature’ how mental health care doctors; psychologists, are being trained to help children suffering from depression about the future of themselves within the environmental problems that surround them and I worry that they do not have our wonderful memories. Our children’s mental health is our country’s future wealth is a quote I have just heard on the radio and I think it is true and our responsibility.

Rob and I have been so lucky to spend six years going to sea, that beautiful natural element, and during those times being comforted by the lack of human evidence. The sea will always be there to be travelled by humans under sail, as much as possible and there is also a comfort in that, an unchanging element and the means of using it.

I distracted myself from such thoughts for a while by making dahl for supper, with lentils and split peas, starting a glossary for my book and chatting with Marjolein on channel 77.

Fingers crossed for our results in five hours!