St Helena

St Helena is a British Overseas Territory in the middle of the South Atlantic. The language is English (with a distinctive St Helena lilt), the currency is pounds, you can use U.K. ones but St Helena notes and coins don’t work at home, they drive on the left and strangely the time zone is GMT, just at the other side of the world. The island was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. Later it was a Dutch then a British possession. For many years ships needed St Helena as it was a vital staging post until the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steam ships; later St Helena needed the ships as they were the only means of supply. The airport (subject to much controversy when first built as the wind shear was found to be too great for planes to land) has only recently opened. St Helena is famous as the place where Napoleon was exiled and died, our tour of the island included the house where he lived, his original tomb (his remains were later removed to Paris) set in a scenic peaceful Glen, Plantation house where the Governor lives, and also the islands oldest inhabitant at 150 years, Jonathan the giant tortoise, launching the daily meteorological balloon, High Knoll Fort, the Arboretum and various scenic views. Jamestown is a picturesque old Georgian town with a castle, entered from the harbour area via an ornate archway and with narrow streets with lots of small shops. Contrary to our advance information we were able to buy provisions here, including fresh meat and some vegetables, fruit did not seem to feature. Of course it is expensive and you have to visit all the small shops rather than one big one. The island also boasts a distillery and an exclusive coffee plantation. At the prize giving and pizza social on Thursday night we and Airpower were awarded a bottle of St Helena gin each for assisting Pinta. On Friday night there was a fish fry at the St Helena yacht club down near the Wharf – very sociable. The club and also St Helena Yacht Services is run by the redoubtable James and family. We did the checking out with Immigration, Customs and Port Control on Friday afternoon, the official start for the leg to Salvador in Brazil was on Saturday morning, but because Steve had not yet seen anything of the Island being busy getting the mainsail furling gear fixed (we were lucky to find Larry who welded and fabricated a part for us) we elected to stay an extra day, as did Misto. This gave us a chance for a tour of the interior of the island, a look round the little museum in Jamestown, and for Anita to do Jacobs ladder – the 699 steep steps up to the upper town at Half Tree Hollow. Her time of 8.34 for the ascent seemed fairly creditable; fastest in the WARC fleet was Jack from Blue Pearl, followed by Suzanne from Emily Morgan (8 min dead). And we got to go to the Australia Day Barbie held that evening on Influencer along with the group of boats also leaving later taking an alternative route via Ascension Island and Fernando di Noronha. We will meet up with them again at Cabadelo our final Port in Brazil.

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