We departed Luderitz at 0730 on Sunday the 23 February 2020 bound for St Helena, 1400nm to the West North-West. We enjoyed great trade wind sailing, fine weather and good visibility as we headed for Saint Helena. Winds averaged around 15 to 20kn for the first two days and saw us making 7 to 9kn of boat speed. The winds eased after a couple of days to 5 to 10kn which saw us intermittently motor sailing to make progress towards the west. We crossed the Valdivia Banks on the 27 February of which we were warned by many South Africans to steer clear of due to the possibility of rogue waves that are created in certain swell and wind conditions. As the wind was light and swell very low we decided to sail straight over them. We always kept a good lookout and crossed the banks without incident. With the banks behind us we continued our way toward Saint Helena crossing the Prime Meridian at 1300 on the 1 March. The 2 March saw us in the middle of a huge high pressure system and the sea turned to a deep blue glass. Zero wind and zero swell. We decided at sunset to stop Pacha mid ocean and setting some safety lines and fenders we all went for a dip in the South Atlantic Ocean. The weather was very warm and we all welcomed a swim. We allowed ourselves a sundowner and watched a beautiful sunset before cooking our evening meal, tidying up before we again got underway. We caught Mahi Mahi on the 3 March, many of which were following beneath and astern of Pacha. The water was so still and clear that we could choose the one we wanted and cast a lure straight in front of it, watch them light up with their fluorescent blues, greens and yellows and strike. We also had tuna riding on the bow like dolphins. Something I’d never seen before! The tuna were harder to catch as they rarely came further aft than the bow meaning I had to cast forward of the bow for them to take a lure. I got one strike but the tuna spat the lure and that was that. We were however very satisfied with our Mahi Mahi. We sailed with full main and #2 gyb poled out for a couple of days in light winds. We had some squall activity on the 4 March as we approached St Helena with winds up to 20kn for short periods as the squalls passed close by us. We welcomed them and used them as much as we could to help us along. The 5 March at 1400 saw us on one of the new moorings in Jamestown harbour. We were excited to go ashore and explore the place of exile of Napoleon from 1815 until his death in 1821. First we needed to clear in which is when we got our first wiff that something was awry in the world with a virus called Covid19. During the clear in procedure we were asked if we had been to China in the last 3 weeks and also had to fill in a declaration saying we hadn’t! We didn’t think too much of it at the time and thought it would all blow over like any other bird or swine flu….
We spent 3 wonderful days on St Helena. It is a truly special place. Jamestown is situated in a North West facing valley up which Main Street runs. The Main Street is filled with shops, cafes and restaurants in which we spent an afternoon or evening drinking and eating with locals and yachties visiting the island. We rented a car for the day and explored the island. A trip to the infamous St Helena airport was a must. I believe that the airlines and pilots have slowly come to grips with the wind sheer that plagues the airport and flights to and from the island are now regular and reliable. Beaches on the island are few and we visited the only one that we heard was ‘swimmable’ at Sandy Bay. We didn’t brave a dip due to the brown colour of the water from the volcanic sand and also the dangerous swell that was running at the time. A climb to the top of Diana’s peak offered some well appreciated exercise and a spectacular 360 degree view of the island. We also visited Napoleon’s grave where he rested before being moved back to France. We also visited Longwood house where he lived while in exile. I caught up with a friend of a friends from South Africa in Jamestown for the afternoon. Mike Olsson has been on the island for over 30 years and is a real character who runs the local FM radio station. We enjoyed a couple of beers and shared some yarns in The Standard which is one of the two local pubs in Jamestown.
Our last day saw us swimming with Whale Sharks that frequent the island. We were lucky enough to be able to swim with them right off Pacha in the midst of the mooring field. We grabbed our fins, masks and snorkels and swam with them for about 30 minutes. It was an amazing experience to see these wonderful animals so close up.
Unfortunately I lost my mobile phone (and all photos of St Helena on it) in an incident that saw me end up in the water whilst trying to board a ‘nutshell’ of a dingy (belonging to solo sailor Jakob Campforts). That’s life but it’s also why I have so few images of St Helena.
After 3 wonderful days on the island and our refueling, provisioning and watering up were completed we cleared out and headed North West again bound for Ascension.