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9-12th March St Helena - "An emerald set in bronze"!

Greetings from 'Nereida' at the start of a long ocean crossing - 1 month to Trinidad across the S.Atlantic from St Helena (where I arrived late afternoon on Saturday, after a 10-day passage from Namibia in SW Africa)

St Helena proved every bit as enjoyable a place as I'd been led to expect - with lovely, friendly, helpful people but a lot more rain & strong wind than I anticipated. But with air temperatures around 28-30C, I soon dried out after each shower.

I was at anchor with 3 other single-handers I know.... & another couple came in from Cape Town Sunday evening. Unfortunately for us, the rockface above the Jamestown wharf is being made safe. Rockfalls over the years have regularly demolished or damaged buildings on the front, and people have been killed both there and elsewhere on the island, the volcanic rock strata being very unstable, especially after heavy rain. (In fact, we couldn't clear in with Immigration on Monday morning because they had had to evacuate their building after an overnight fall of rock onto their roof.) This means that the only time we are allowed to use the jetty for shore landings (I used the highly convenient 'ferry service' in the anchorage) is when work is not in progress - before 7am, 1215-1245 and after 5pm (but 'ferry service' only runs tooup to 7pm) - which is very restrictive.

On Sunday, after a very good sleep-in, and despite the threatening weather, I went on a walk-about/hitchhike around the interior of St Helena. The coast is so very barren & rocky, with steep, stratified bare, brown-grey rock that it came as a very pleasant surprise to see how very lovely & green the island is away from the coast, with a great variety of trees, bushes, flowers & birds (lots of delicate fairy terns, tiny warblers & finches, cardinals, mynahs & tropic birds) - but it was mostly too misty/cloudy for the good views normally had from many highpoints. My first lift was from the very friendly Jamestown Police in their van, up the steep, winding road of Ladder Hill (and the 699 steps of Jacob's Ladder) to St Paul's, from where I started walking. The second was from a lady named Tracy who went out of her way (even though on her way to Sunday dinner with her mother) to show me far more of the lovely countryside (reminiscent of Devon & Somerset) than I had intended walking. (I think she felt bad about my walking in such showery/rainy weather, even though I assured her I was used to getting wet on the boat!!) She dropped me off on Sandy Ridge where I had a lovely walk past the beginning of the footpath to Diana's Peak - which I'd been warned off attempting in view of the wet conditions, but it was far too misty up there to see much anyway. Lower down, I got my third lift from ex-Governor's wife Delia and after another walk past some beautiful wild flowers, the last, in to town, was with a local Cable & Wireless guy Kevin with lots of interesting perspectives on a possible airport here (there is none at present - all people & supplies have to come by sea!!) & the highly-dependent possible cellphone network & mast coverage problems caused by deep little valleys between several good highpoints...

Monday turned into a boaters' group tour, with all of us joining forces to get a good price on a day tour of the island, including the sites associated with Napoleon's exile. Our guide/taxi driver was Peter Roberts who is a very well-informed local man with a good sense of humour who took us to Napoleon's houses and his tomb site which is in a lovely setting, full of flowers. We ended the day back at Ann's Place for a meal under the 'ceiling' of ensigns and burgees donated by passing 'yachties'...

Tuesday was work day for me - I had several things I needed to see to before leaving on Wednesday: re-fuelling, with the ferry man helpfully bringing the diesel out to our boats at anchor, 'mending' the frayed outer of the Spectra topping lift (I used amalgamating tape!) & a few other jobs, including a new Line Isolator installation on the antenna line to the tuner from the SSB radio, after yet more helpful, practical suggestions from Jim Corenman (He's given me a lot of good advice about various radio/Airmail problems I've had). That job actually took all evening & well into the night, I was so determined to finish it but do it properly. The most time-consuming part was getting in behind woodwork to get at the well-hidden ATU and then extracting the unit itself so I could work on it. I made sure that all connections were good and clean and added in some more ferrite 'chokes' at the end of some cable runs - all this effort to try to reduce the radio interference problems I've been having for some time.

I'm hoping I'll have enough water for the 1 mth passage to Trini from here - the watermaker is not functioning (among other thing...!!) I'm having to make sure I use the seawater tap as much as possible .... having to re-train myself in the galley!

Wednesday, I had to clear out with both Immigration and Customs after getting cash to pay for the fuel, but did not want to be stuck onshore for hours on end so arranged to go in at lunchtime. That meant a mad dash around, trying to do everything in half an hour - impossible... there was a time-consuming problem at the bank, ...the Immigration lady had just gone out for lunch (but someone was sent to find her for me)... there were several forms to be filled in...!!

Fortunately, the late start to the French workers' lunchtime turned into an even later return to work, although I suspect that there might have been some helpful connivance on various kind people's part, knowing that I was trying to Clear Out ready to leave that afternoon. The net result was that I was able to get the ferry back out to my boat well after it would normally have stopped running... so an hour or so later, I was ready to raise the anchor and start heading for Trinidad.

P.S. I forgot to mention - my new Sony computer refuses to 'wake up'.... completely unuseable ... can you believe my bad luck with computers...?? It's charged up (light kept flashing while charging), but when I press the 'on' button to start up, the battery light & 'on' light both light up - but the hard drive doesn't start up & so nothing happens - black/blank screen...!! Unbelievable - I can't fathom out why it's happened. All I know is - I can't use that computer!

Written by : Mike

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