Well, on Saturday afternoon we were all sitting ashore saying our goodbyes to friends on the island when we heard, on the handheld radio, St Helena Radio answering a distress call of a local fishing boat that was drifting off the island with loss of it's engine. There were two persons on board. Now, up to about two years ago the island had a small rescue launch but, due to costs, had not replaced the boat when it became too old for service. So, as we were a large boat with powerful engines, we were asked if we could assist in rescuing the folk on board and towing the boat back to James Bay.
So, instead of up anchor and departing St Helena, it was a quick ferry ride back to the boat, up anchor and off to Egg Island, a small island off the western side of St Helena. At 8 to 9 knots it did not take us too long but we did have difficulty trying to find the small boat as it had drifted a few miles offshore and was directly in the setting sun. However, after a short time we had the little boat visual and soon after two very happy faces were looking up to us and taking our tow line for the six mile ride back to James Bay.
The whole episode was covered by the local media and I am sure you will find some mention of it in the St Helena Independent newspaper if you go to http://www.saint.fm/independent/ after noon UTC on Friday 15 January 2010. You can then download the entire newspaper for free - it also makes a very interesting and humours read on what happens on a small island in the middle of nowhere.
So, as I type this blog report, we have already upped anchor (for the second time) and left St Helena for our next waypoint, which is just off the Brazilian coast and 1812 nautical miles away. Unfortunately, the winds have not set in as yet and we are motor-sailing. Hopefully we pick up the trades soon and have a pleasant downwind sail for the next two weeks or so.
Let me get back, briefly, to St Helena. It has always been my best destination and stop-over when delivering to the Pacific, Caribbean or Mediterranean. It is expensive to stop over but is worth every cent, dime or penny. It is an amazing island with amazing people who live a strange (to us outsiders) life. Stopping off there is like going back 50 or 100 years in time. It is unfortunate that the British Government have not invested more in the island to keep the fantastic historic sites and forts maintained and give the 3500 to 4000 odd inhabitants access to modern communications and transportation. The islanders have been promised an airport which is "on pause" until the world economy improves. This is something they really need to boost the economy with tourism, the only way for the island to survive in the long run.
So, while you folk go about your week, we will attempt to have a private chat to the wind Gods and get a gentle breeze to sail by. Regards from Greg, Louis, Joy and myself, John.
We arrived in James Bay on Thursday 7 January at 07:00 UTC and had the anchor down a quarter of an hour later, not too far from where the RMS St. Helena is anchored (picture above). After notifying the port authorities that our anchor was secure, it was a quick shower and then a wait for the Chief Medical Officer to come out to the boat and check us all for symptoms of Swine Flu. Dr Bloem (from Pretoria) did a quick check and also had a look at Joy, who had been flung through an open doorway a few days out of Cape Town. He wanted to have a better examination and asked that we visit the local hospital for an x-ray.
So, into the ferry and ashore we all went. First stop was the customs service where we started the check-in process. Next we took a slow walk along the waterfront to Bill and Jill's St Helena Coffee Shop where we all enjoyed a good cup of pure Arabic coffee that Bill and Jill grow on their small farm here, pick and dry the beans, roast and grind them and then sell at their coffee shop. Nectar of The Gods and the purest Arabic coffee available anywhere. Then it was off to the Immigration office at the police headquarters (right next to HM Prison). We were quickly processed and then went to visit Mike Ohlson, owner of the local St Helena Independent newspaper and local FM radio station. After a brief chat Joy and I went off to the hospital for the x-ray. Well, she has two broken ribs and the only solution is to live with it as the ribs will heal themselves.
Nothing much to do during the afternoon so we all visited Ann's Place and had a snack and a few drinks (to ease the pain of Joy's broken ribs) and then back to the boat for an early night and some welcome sleep. Ah, what bliss it is to not have to get up at odd hours during the night to stand watch.
Today, Friday 8 January, Louis and Greg are off with Robert, a local tour guide, to "visit the country". It is a tour that lasts about five hours and takes in Napoleons houses and other places of interest on the island, including the governor's house and the islands giant tortoises that live in the governors garden. Later today I will do some work on the boat then head ashore for some more good coffee at the St Helena Coffee Shop. Joy has decided to take it easy for the day and stay on board the boat.
This afternoon we are expecting the French yacht Siwa to arrive in James Bay and then tomorrow the US yacht Prism. We will most likely depart tomorrow afternoon if all our boat tasks have been completed. I will do another blog update just after we depart the island so, for now we bid you well from John, Joy, Greg and Louis.
It is now Monday night and in the early hours of this morning we passed from the Eastern Hemisphere into the Western Hemisphere, when we crossed the "zero" meridian. I must admit that the west is pretty much the same as the east - no wind!
One thing that has not been plentiful over the past few days is wind. We had a cracking sail over the first week at sea and then the wind disappeared as if somebody had turned a tap off. At the same time we found that the halyard for our delivery sail (a twin genoa that we fly opposite the furling genoa) had chafed through just inside the mast and was about to snap. I had to go up the mast to disengage the snap-shackle to drop the sail. I was nearly bashed to death up there and am black and blue from the bruising from being flung against the mast. We will have to sort out the halyard problem when we arrive in St Helena, which should be this coming Thursday morning.
Joy also has suffered with a bruised rib. She was flung through the open heads door and caught her back on the bulkhead step. Fortunately it is not a broken rib, as she would be in great agony if so. However, I think a quick visit to the hospital in St Helena to make sure that nothing is broken or cracked will be on our priority list after arrival. We seem to be a bunch of crocks as Louis has been suffering from very acute indigestion on the trip. I think he may have stomach ulcers as he is complaining that acidic food makes the situation worse. So, there will be two for the doctor in St Helena. The only person not suffering from some affliction is Greg, who appears to be enjoying himself immensely, keeping an eye on the elderly!
Our fishing has not been the best I have experienced. I think we were most likely going too fast during the first week for the fish to catch our lures. Now that we have slowed down due to the loss of the extra sail and are motor-sailing at about 6 knots, we have had a few takers of our lures. Today we had two small Dorado landed by Louis. The bigger of the two we kept for dinner tomorrow night whilst the smaller was returned to the ocean to grow a bit bigger. Maybe we will nab him on the next delivery in March. Louis is not a born fishing person but is learning the ropes quickly. He has now also filleted his first fish and is eager to learn to cook the fish as well. Not to leave Greg out of the picture, for a 19 year old, he is an excellent cook and has already put together some delicious meals.
Since leaving Cape Town, we have been in daily contact with Graham ZS2ABK who is running the South African Maritime Mobile Network on behalf of Alistair ZS5MU. Graham supplies us with the weather forecast and keeps tabs on our progress and life on board. At the moment we have two other yachts within a couple hundred miles of us. One is Prism, a US boat with Ed and Dorothy on board. They are en route from Luderitz to St Helena. The other boat is Siwa, a French boat with Bernhard and Anne on board. They are also bound for St Helena and left Simon's Town on Christmas day. So, although we have not seen any ships for the past week, we know that there are two other yachts "out there" and heading in the same direction as us. Maybe we will all meet on St Helena over a nice cold beer.
So, as we plod along under both motor and sail, I bid you well until I put finger to keyboard in a few days time. Regards from the three crocks and the young one. John.
Tonight sees us toasting the new year - we will do it quite early and then hit our bunks as we have to keep our watch system running 24/7. I brought a bottle of bubbly along for the occasion and we will crack it during our evening meal, which today will be Karoo Lamb chops with baby marrows and baked potatoes with cream cheese and chives.
Since leaving Cape Town we have made some pretty good progress with daily runs of 166, 169 and 174 nautical miles. Most of this was under twin head sails, running before a 15 to 22 knot south easterly wind. We have our main genoa to starboard and a second, but smaller sail, rigged to port.
We had our first flying fish land on the boat yesterday, just after noon. The poor sod flew right into the port aft steps and, I think, killed it's self instantly. We did put it back into the sea immediately but it made no attempt to swim away. The sea temperature is still bitterly cold and I think the fish was a few hundred miles south of its normal territory, which is normally much warmer water. Yesterday morning we caught our first fish. Unfortunately, it was a skipjack, which is not the best of the tuna family to eat. However, it was dinner last night, together with a nice green salad. Cooked in some butter with lemon and a touch of black pepper, it tasted quite good. In the afternoon Louis caught the second skipjack, but after being photographed, it was returned to the sea as our freezer is full and there is no place to store it.
We have already changed one time zone on our journey and should make a second change tomorrow night, bringing us into the UTC or GMT time zone. It will then be a couple of days and we can crack our second bottle of bubbly when we pass from the eastern hemisphere into the western hemisphere. The third remaining bottle will be kept for our equator crossing, still many weeks away.
At noon today we had 1000 nautical miles to St Helena, which we should be able to cover comfortably in the next seven days, meaning we should arrive in James Bay around first light on Thursday 7 January 2010 (or, to put it another way, early next year).
So, while we plod on under twin head sails, may all the folk out there have a festive night and may your 2010 be a special year with health and happiness. If you are the sailing type, may you also have fair winds and following breezes and safe landfalls. If you are an armchair sailor, may your chairs padding remain comfortable, but not as comfortable as my bunk when underway. Regards from Greg, Joy, Louis and myself, John.
I had intended to depart Cape Town on Saturday December 26 but, due to the boat not being completely prepared, we only threw off our mooring lines at 07:30 on Sunday morning and motored out of the Elliot Basin and ultimately, the Port of Cape Town.
We spent the first five hours motoring into a 5 knot north westerly breeze before the direction changed and we were able to roll out our genoa. The wind picked up over the following hour and we have been able to sail on the genoa alone since lunch time yesterday, with our noon to noon run being a comfortable 166 nautical miles - not bad as we had no main sail up!
Shortly after 10:00 this morning (Monday, December 28) we had the main up and are averaging 6.5 knots. About six miles to our port we have a large bulk carrier that has been overtaking us for the past few hours but, other than that, only the occasional fishing trawler was spotted during the night.
Nobody was feeling too bright last night and thus our main meal for the day was sandwiches. However, everybody appears far more comfortable today and I have planned a pasta dish for tonight - baked macaroni and cheese. I also assembled one fishing line this morning and we have that trailing off our port hull. Maybe we will end up having baked tuna pasta instead - let's see what the fish have to say about the matter!
The distance from Cape Town to St Helena is 1699 nautical miles. However, I have plotted a course to the east of the Valdiva Banks, an underwater mountain that lies exactly half way, which should add an extra 12 miles onto the distance. Often there are a few fishing vessels over the banks and we want to avoid them and the extra swell that is generated around the banks. We should then make landfall in St Helena on Friday or Saturday next week, hoping that the winds stay more or less favourable for the first leg.
So, from Joy, Greg, Louis and myself, John, I bid you well until the next report in a few days time,