2021 St Helena End of an Era and Zoonie Continues Onwards for Home

Mon 19 Apr 2021 10:05

End of an Era – and Zoonie Continues Onwards for Home

One hundred years after Boney’s passing a boy was born to the doomed Greek Royal family who would make history as the tall handsome figure who always stood just behind England’s longest serving monarch, Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth or Lilibet as her father, King George VI would call her. Prince Philip was many things to many people but to the Queen he was her prince for 73 busy years. My sympathy goes to her.

He died at 5.00am on the 9th of April, two hundred years after Boney’s passing and in the centenary year of his own birth; the day before we left beautiful St Helena and I was inspired to write this by way of paying my respects; I hope you don’t mind my sharing it.

‘From the shore the young boy watched, while sitting cross-legged under the Gumwood tree, as the elderly couple sailed northwards in their yacht with the white hull; their only sail, a multi-blue cruising chute, swaying gently by the bow. The boy’s name was Philip.’

The Prince’s passing marks the end of the era of Lilibet and Philip.

We are on route to the Azores now, three days out and the winds are light. The Chute is pulling us along without fuss for the most part and for once we are choosing our route as we go, across the ITCZ, the Equator, towards our outgoing track; from the Cape Verdes westwards in 2016.

Zoonie left St Helena in fine style, the island’s rugged bijoux outline falling quickly behind us into a fine weather mist. Our next waypoint was a watery one on the Equator at 24’W, 1357 miles away.

We heard from home that our Christmas postcards sent from Richards Bay in November had finally arrived, I wonder where they spent the last five months, perhaps in the scruffy, gum clad post box outside the Post Office in RB?

The days have gone past with the Diva pulling us along a long gentle swaying motion conducive to sleep. How much longer can this last?

At night, under starry skies as the fingernail moon has only just started waxing it is a joy to see The Plough (part of the Ursa Major constellation) on our starboard while in the same sky the Southern Cross reminds us that we are still in the South Atlantic, just, and getting very near that imaginary Lion, as I used to picture it as a child, running around the middle earth.

Rob discovered one night that by shining a light onto the white wash at Zoonie’s midships not only was the luminescence obvious, although far from as bountiful as I have seen it in the past, but in the darkness beyond specks of brilliantly lit creatures were leaping from the sea towards our wash to avoid us. Were they krill or some other form of plankton we wondered?

Far away from the wind gusling Southern Ocean systems, we are now in the SE Trade wind proper and it is constant and trustworthy and proves to be so until we get to within 3 degrees of that puffing Lion. This is the weather we had been promised from Cape Town, but that eluded us because the summer was in its decline and La Nina was lurking around. So enjoy it we did.

I reserve my watch period from 11.00pm to 02.00am for reading and have just finished Mark Bostridge’s great book ‘Florence Nightingale’ which is about much more than her 20-month spell as ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ at Scutari Hospital in the Crimean Campaign. She was also a brilliant statistician and hospital reformer, a woman for all ordinary people especially the poor and ordinary soldiers; she had an acute insight into the causes and relief of human suffering and plenty of contacts in the aristocracy and government of the day to facilitate her reforms. Mark writes about her with respect and affection as if she is his older sister, even standing her deceased corner when she was under attack for her radical ideas. In the 1930’s a government department was praised for its accurate financial record keeping, laid out by Miss Nightingale fifty years before.

Ben Zephaniah’s ‘Windrush Child’ is a short read intended to make a point. It has a surprising ending leading straight into information about the work of Amnesty International. Imagine going to live in a foreign country at that country’s invitation as a child, growing up there, marrying, having a child who eventually goes to University, arranging to go home to Jamaica to visit one’s mum and ending up in a detention facility classified as an illegal immigrant because 60 years before the government said you didn’t need a passport. No wonder Amnesty International is so busy.

Zoonie continues her wind surfing northwards, sometimes it is so smooth it’s like being pulled along over ice.

We spend afternoons sitting in the cockpit, looking to where we have just come from, chatting and reading until 4.00 when the kettle goes on and we have tea and a small piece of cake. Then at 5.00pm it’s Sundowners and a glass of wine, music and more chat as the sun moves across in front of Zoonie and starts it obvious descent. During one afternoon a shoal of salmon sized fish escorted us for more than an hour. A definite blueness on their back suggested they were small tuna but as they never surfaced, we couldn’t be sure, we just felt privileged that they were interested in us.

The growing moon assists with our squall watch at night and we hear terns squawking just outside the cockpit, “You in there, what you up to?”

During the day there is the occasional Mollymawk, sometimes in pairs and most likely to be the Yellow-Nosed Albatross species as they are small, or possibly the Black-Browed Albatross variety, Frigate birds pinching fish from the flock of Terns hunting their supper, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, so easily identified with the white band across their rump; even a lone and lost Red-Billed Tropic Bird, “Thataway,” I point towards Ascension Island, the nearest of the remote mid-South Atlantic Islands behind us.

It is getting warmer of course and we close the curtains against the sun which helps keep the cabin cool and there is always a nice breeze in the cockpit from the following wind.

Rob does a daily deck check of the rigging and has replaced two shackles that were shedding filings into the scuppers.

A diurnal weather pattern is becoming obvious to us; the wind rising in the morning to around midday and then dropping by late afternoon with a possible drum roll as the sun sets. At first, we would change rig to the poled-out genoa for the windy spells but by careful experiment we found the Diva is comfortable up to 20 knots of wind and the motion she provides is so much more comfortable than the more durable but confined genoa. Where the Diva leads Zoonie willingly follows.

On our seventh day, a Friday, we learned of the arrival of our second granddaughter, Clara; 10 years and 10 days after our first, Ruby. In short, she is beautiful, bouncing, blonde, baby Clara, BBBC. Described by her lovely mum, Charly as a gorgeous, chunky monkey she arrived screaming and weighed in at 9lb 3oz. Look out Milo here she comes!