Category Archives: Port posts
Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 St Helena became a Dutch and then a British possession first under the East India company then the crown. Situated in the South Atlantic ocean it was a strategically important port of call during the British Empire until the opening of the Suez canal. It is now a British Overseas territory forming a dependency with Ascension island and Tristan da Cunha. The island’s remote location meant it was used as a place of exile for key prisoners including some 6000 Boers, Chief Dinizulu, Bahraini princes and of course Napoleon.
This is the view of the volcanic cliffs behind us.
A volcanic outcrop the island is a 47 sq mile and has sheer barren cliffs that are intersected with deep valleys, which slope steeply from the central ridges.
Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, was founded in 1659 when the English East India company built a fort and established a garrison at the site of James bay naming it after James II. The quintessential Georgian seaport consists of little more than a single street stretching for a mile inland nestling in a deep-sided volcanic valley. It retains a remarkable heritage with the likes of the Duke of Wellington, Captain Bligh, Charles Darwin, Captain Cook, as well as Napoleon, having walked its streets. Main Street has some of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the world. There are also a significant number of fortifications, remains, and historic buildings around the island.
Having arrived safely early on Thursday 2nd February we were keen to go ashore and explore. Once the customs had left us we packed up our bag to go ashore to see immigration. There is a very useful ferry service here to save you taking your dinghy ashore. It’s only £2 return each. As we approached the jetty this is what we were faced with. There’s a lot of swell here and it would be impossible to land our own dinghy but the ferry boat is also quite difficult so to the yachties behind us be ready for this.
As you walk along the sea front you pass this beautifully restored customs building.
We continued towards the entrance to the town over the dry moat and through the arch doorway built in 1832.
The first building in front of you is the beautiful St James church the oldest Anglican church in the southern hemisphere dating from 1774. The steeple was added in 1843 but it looks very new so I think it’s recently been replaced again.
Next door is the prison, which apparently has some dozen or so prisoners. Then there’s the immigration centre where we had to produce our passports for our St Helena stamp and check in.
We had a glimpse of Jacobs ladder through the alley in between the immigration centre and the little museum – but that’s for another day.
Opposite the church are the castle gardens where you will find Anne’s place, a local eatery popular with the locals as well as yachties. It’s one of the three places where it’s possible to get onto the Internet although it isn’t free. £3.30 for half an hour is probably the most expensive Internet we’ve used on our travels and it’s the same price throughout the town. We decided to have burger and chips as it isn’t the sort of food we usually eat on passage.
The fire escape was very quirky; there was a ladder leading back into the gardens on the outside.
Friday we stayed on board sorting out the boat. Bill had some small jobs to do and I wanted to clean through after all the rolling around on passage. We had a heavy shower of rain, which washed all the salt off and saved me washing it.
Saturday we went ashore on the 4pm ferry to have a delicious pig roast at Anne’s place, which at £12 a head with all you can eat plus a doggy bag to take home was good value. It’s only once a month but to our friends behind us this is a great evening. We booked a late ferryboat at 8pm to take us back to the boat.
Sunday morning we decided to go to church, as it was the first C of E church we had seen in a long while. The vicar and the parishioners welcomed us. We had coffee afterwards while looking up at Jacobs ladder. As we didn’t have anything to rush back for we thought we’d attempt it in our Sunday best.
We didn’t race up and did 50 steps then stopped to look at the view, another 50 steps and took a photo, another 50 steps and had a drink and so on until we made it to the top.
The view was magnificent. We had a good view of the supply ship RMS St Helena that had arrived with passengers, containers and supplies.
At the top were the remains of a Napoleonic fort built in 1873.
The old barracks were now derelict but some of the out buildings were being used by the local fire brigade to store their vehicles.
We walked further along and noticed some gun inplacements that were from either WW I or II.
Looking out over the edge gave us a superb view of Camomile in the mooring field. The rocks below us at the bottom of the cliffs didn’t look very friendly. There aren’t any beaches around St Helena.
We walked back to the look out by the steps and the town below looked like a model village but from that height it was possible to see the main street in all its Georgian glory.
Coming back down was harder than walking up because of the pounding your knees get. I was lowering myself down as carefully as I could.
It was a relief to get to the bottom of the 699 steps.
We walked back along the quay to the water ferry. The whole area was a hive of activity with the unloading of the RMS St Helena taking place. Everything but everything on the island arrives on the ship including vehicles. The RMS has her own cranes and can lift her cargo onto a flotilla of flat bed barges, which may their way back and forth to the quay where a local crane is used to unload them.
We watched as a lorry was being unloaded. These set of photos make it look easy but there’s always a metre or two of swell running and the timing is critical.
As the barge dips down with the swell the crane started taking up the slack then as the barge came up the crane lifted the vehicle clear of the barge and kept going up over the sea wall and onto the quay. Very clever.
The highlight of our week was swimming with Whale sharks. We had arranged for Johnny who runs the ferry service to take us out on his big boat. We went with Martin and Elizabeth on Caduceus and a guide and that was it – so lucky. The ferry boat came alongside Camomile picked us up and transferred us to the bigger boat waiting just offshore for us and off we went. Within an hour the call went up there were whale sharks ahead. Two of them were basking on the surface. We had gone in our wetsuits all ready to get in the water.
As soon as we were alongside them we jumped in. The first thing that strikes you is their size, they are enormous at about 12 meters long – bigger than Camomile! Bill and I saw a third whale shark on its own so swam over to get a closer look.
I got an amazing video of Bill swimming underneath it but unfortunately I can’t upload in St Helena maybe in the Caribbean. We watched it for a while then it twisted and dived out of sight. We swam back to the boat to find a forth whale shark swimming nearby at an even bigger 14 metres. Karl the guide got a wonderful clear shot of Bill swimming above it. After about three quarters of an hour we got back on the boat, exhausted with amazement at what we had just seen, totally awesome!
Johnny drove back along the coastline for us to get a good view of the construction of the island. It was possible to see the layers and layers of volcanic activity that took millions of years to form.
There were different colours in some areas. There are also parts of a Napoleonic fort built into the cliffs and we could see a walkway had been carved out of the hill to take the soldiers back to Jamestown all those years ago.
Having gone to bed surrounded by fishing boats, the next morning they had all gone. By 8.15 we left the anchorage. There wasn’t any wind so we had to motor. There are quite a few lobster pots on this coast so to the cruisers behind us, be careful. The fishermen were moving between them.
The feature of the day was wildlife. We saw lots of seals and birds, several pods of dolphins but the real treat was whales and a lot of them. Sometimes it was just a water spout but we had several breach right by the boat, which I wasn’t happy about, with the full tail display. Whales are something we haven’t seen a lot of so it was a real treat. Of course as soon as I got the camera out they disappeared.
This was our second day sail and the anchorage in St Helena bay around from cape Columbine was our goal. As we were rounding the cape the wind piped up and we managed an hour of sailing. Unfortunately the wind kept building and by the time we got to the anchorage we had 30kts over the decks. There’s a fishing harbour in the bay and we anchored on the north side of the break water for shelter. The waypoint was 32 44.37S
There was quite a good signal so I was able to have a nice chat with Thomas and pick up our messages. Once we leave the anchorage there will be no more facebook or internet for a while. The wind continued to blow most of the night and the forecast for continuing north wasn’t good. We had traveled 57 miles.
By the morning the wind had gone but the forecast wasn’t good for our 3 day passage to Nimibia. We listened to cape town radio. Firstly they were giving fog warnings for the area we would be traveling through plus Bill had noted that by the end of our journey there would be strong winds blowing off the Nimibia coast. We spent several hours trying to decide what to do. Eventually we decided that we would miss Nimibia and go straight to St Helena. It was a shame but we didn’t want to continue north that day and we didn’t have the time to sit and wait in the anchorage for the weather to improve. The forecast might change again, they often do, but the decision was made and we motored back out around the cape towards St Helena. Once I put our waypoint in it gave us a distance of 1645 miles to go. ARRRGGGG.
Within an hour the sails were up and we were making speeds of 7 and 8kts over the ground with a beam reach in a F4 SSW wind. By 4pm the wind was up to F5 and Bill decided to put a reef in the main and pull in some of the genny but we were still cracking along at 8 to 8 1/2kts, at least a knot or so of this was current in our favour but the sea was very lumpy. For the cruisers behind us the area between the 200m and 300m contour lines had Indian ocean style ‘washing machine’ waves and our beautiful clean and salt free decks were soon bathed in sea water coming right across the decks. All hatches were closed, even the little cockpit one that we leave open for ventilation. As the sea was still only 15.2C, it was making the wind cold.
That evening to do my night watch I had on 3 top layers and 2 bottom layers plus my UGG boots, hat and mittens! The wind picked up to F6 by 9pm so neither of us got much sleep with the boat being throw around by the wind, sea and our speed. We choose not to put another reef in because the forcast showed the wind was going to die down in the early hours so we decided to stick it out. By 2am the wind started to drop and by 6am it was back to F4 and we both took it in turns to get a bit of sleep.
At 10.00 this morning our position was 31 20.6S 014 58.9E with 1459 miles to go to St Helena. In 24 hours we had traveled 186 miles, an average of 7.75 an hour, this is a new record for us beating our top speed in the Pacific ocean in 2010.
So the journey continues. I hope these blogs are going through to our facebook page but remember we can’t see facebook or your kind comments. If you wish to contact us please use mdqf6 @ sailmail.com (but take the gaps out) I love to hear from you. xx
After our rainy boat trip to see the hippos we awoke the next morning to a better day – although at 4am it was still dark! We packed up the car and waited for the safari jeep to arrive. We didn’t want to stay in St Lucia for a second night and had booked a place near the northern gate of Hluhluwe. The plan was to follow the jeep to the eastern gate, leave the car inside, rejoin the jeep for our safari after which we could drive ourselves through the park to the northern gate. Our jeep arrived with Steve our guide. We had booked an elite safari with Euro Zulu safaris. This meant there were only 6 in our jeep and the middle seats weren’t filled. We had our friends Davina and Antony with us and a couple called Andy and Emma also joined us. At 6.15 the sun was out and we were ready to see some animals. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a little girl.
Hluhluwe-iMofolozi (pronounced shloo-shloo-wee-im-for-lozi) park covers 960 sq km (3 times the size of the Isle of Wight) a lot of which is mountainous landscape so unlike ‘safari parks’ (read zoos) back home it’s quite difficult to spot the animals. Its possible to drive yourself but you’re much higher in the jeep. The first animals we came across were impala, pretty little things, as common a sight as sheep in our countryside, but Steve said their tails form a letter M on their bottoms which he said stands for MacDonalds, yes these dear little creatures are the fast food of the game park. All of the big cats eat them.
I had already told Steve my favourite animal was the giraffe and I really wanted to see one so as we continued along the road several were spotted in the distance grazing with some zebra. Their long graceful necks were very distinctive. There was a 4×4 track heading off towards them which Steve took. It was a bit rough but the jeeps are built to take it, a hire car wouldn’t have been able to use the track.
As luck would have it as we were driving along the track a crash of rhinos were spotted (sounds like a Camomile quiz question to me!) the collective name for a group of rhinos. They were white rhinos, black rhinos are smaller and very hard to spot, sadly we didn’t see any of those. Despite the parks best efforts these creatures are still hunted for their horns. As we watched the rhinos helicopters were circling in the distance watching out for poachers from Mozambique. Steve said there is zero tolerance towards poachers and they are shot on sight. No beating about the bush in South Africa These were our first sighting of one of the big 5.
The Big 5 are Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. I asked why those particular animals and its because they are the ones most difficult and dangerous to hunt, in other words they are the ones that bite back! This group were all female with one male rhino standing on his own close by. One of the ladies was particularly attractive to him and he wanted his way with her but her sisters were having none of it and wouldn’t let him near her despite several charges. We sat and watched them for about a quarter of an hour before they ambled away with the big fella following them.
In the distance Steve spotted a herd of buffalo – our second of the Big 5, and he drove closer to them. Even though there are quite a few roads around the park there aren’t a lot and it’s difficult to get close to some of the animals. Remember none of these animals are fed in any way, it’s not a ‘safari park’ but part of the wilds of south Africa. The outer fence (which we didn’t get any where near) is to protect them and keep poachers out.
As we got closer a dazzle of zebra (hope my sailing buddies are taking notes) appeared. They didn’t seem to be worried about the buffalo behind them. Zebra really are the most striking animals. Their makings are unique to each animal. Many of the females were pregnant. These ungulates (hoofed animals) weigh between 230 – 380kgs and their length is 260 – 300cms but they are not ruminants (haha, look it up)
In amongst the zebra were some wildebeest. Another ungulate and these ruminate, and as they have horns they are bovine. Wildebeest also find themselves on dinner menus of the big cats.
We were doing really well for animal sightings and we hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Steve drove to the top of the track where we were all allowed to get out and stretch our legs while he laid out a breakfast for us on the little drop down shelf on the back of the jeep. We had yogurt and cereal, fruit, muffins, rusks and tea or coffee while we were busy looking out on the surrounding area. The buffalo heard were getting closer. My camera was in the jeep but suddenly we turned round and we were being stared at by several hundred buffalo no more than 50 meters away from us. Steve wanted us to quietly and slowly get back in the jeep, just in case, but fortunately they crossed the path and went down the other side of the hill and melted into the undergrowth.
Steve packed up the picnic and we continued on our journey. After returning to the main road our journey took us over the Black Umfolozi river which was very swollen after the rains of the previous couple of days. A lot of debris had floated down the river and was caught up by the bridge. The water was only a few inches below the bridge. Once on the other side the scenery flattened out a bit and many of the smaller trees had been bent over and snapped as though a storm had gone through.
Steve explained it was the elephants, the males were ‘in must’ and wanted to mate. As some of the lady elephants have other ideas the males get frustrated and go stamping around the bush. Steve was certain there were some males close by. You think it would be difficult to hide elephants but we spotted this big boy hiding.
A second elephant appeared and they both started moving closer to us, so lucky. The third of the big 5. You can see the elephant on the right was definitely looking to mate but these two were both males. Oddly enough they both had a tusk missing. We sat and watched them for ages while they were tearing us grasses and pulling leaves off trees. They looked so much bigger than the ones we had seen in Sri Lanka. Male African elephants can weigh between 4000-6300kg and are 3-4m in height. Often referred to as King of the Beasts but it’s actually the elder females that rule in elephant society – can’t argue with that.
His ears were so big. The Asian elephants have smaller ears but the African elephant’s ears are much larger.
As we drove on we came across a family of giraffes, a little closer this time.
We drove for about an hour without any sightings then suddenly Steve stopped the jeep and started reversing. ‘What’s he seen’ we were all thinking. Steve said to look through the bush to see what we could see. It was a lion – A REAL LION our 4th Big 5. A wonderfully handsome male lion. How Steve saw it from the cab I don’t know but that’s why we had paid for a guide. We watched him for a while through the bush then realised there were two of them.
Steve said they were probably a mating pair the way the female was behaving, she kept rolling around and putting her legs in the air. It was difficult to photograph them because we just had a shielded view through the bush. Sadly some cars came along and stopped to see what we were looking at but didn’t turn their engines off, an absolute golden rule. So the lions got suspicious and started looking around. Steve said they mate every 20 minutes when the female is season!! But there were too many cars and they were getting distracted so we carried on.
All we needed now was the leopard to complete the 5 but Steve was doubtful because it was coming up to midday and although it wasn’t that hot it was sunny and the leopards go for shade that time of day. There were lots more impala with their stunning horns….
…. and an even closer giraffe. They are such elegant creature. They walk like solders – both the left feet forward followed by both the right feet. This one is a female because she’s got little pom poms on her mini antlers.
We had completed our circuit and it was time for lunch. Steve cooked a delicious braai (bbq) with steak, sausages, salad and a bottle of wine. We were so lucky because right next to our braai site by the river there were a pair of rhinos grazing completely ignoring us although Steve warned against going any where near them. As we drove back towards the gate Steve was scanning the trees for a leopard but sadly we didn’t spot on. Maybe another day.