leg 10: Walvis Bay to St Helena
We left the protection of Walvis Bay to find a bigger swell than we’d expected, which seems to be becoming our thing, but there was a period of no wind coming later in the week so we decided to keep going. We had a bumpy few days with up to 30 knots of wind and overcast skies which meant we didn’t have a lot of electricity. Looking back in my diary now there are pages that just say ‘same as yesterday’ but by the halfway mark the wind and swell finally started calming down and we were able to get our asymmetrical gennaker up. It’s becoming our favourite sail, with it flying Irene becomes quite nippy and the motion is much smoother. We were even brave enough to leave it up overnight. On the tenth day out we crossed the Greenwich Meridian to finally enter the Western Hemisphere and we reached St Helena two days later, attaching ourselves to a mooring buoy just before sunset.
We woke up to the most spectacular morning coffee under the cliffs and a feeling of disbelief that we were actually really here. After port control and customs paid us a visit onboard we took the ferry service to the pier and explored a bit of Jamestown. The first steps on land were quite interesting, the kids were weaving about all over the place and I felt land sick, but it didn’t last long. The town is extremely pretty with narrow streets and historic buildings, we spent a lot of time at the Consulate Hotel where we found coffee, chocolate cake and possibly the most expensive wifi on the planet.
All the other boats we’d met in Namibia were in the anchorage with us which made things quite festive and we were joined by Erica and Donald on Wasco, who’d sailed straight from Cape Town. A tour of the island was organised with an entertaining local who squeezed us all into the back of his open van and drove us around the island dispatching anecdotes as we went. For a tiny island a lot of famous people have lived here, Napoleon being the obvious one, but also Charles Darwin and the astronomer Halley (of Halleys comet) who came here to observe the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Apparently St Helena seemed the perfect base for him because it was far enough north that he could still see some of the northern stars that he needed for reference, and it was in a secure British colony. Unfortunately for him the skies are overcast more often than they are clear.
This fact was reiterated when we climbed Diana’s peak, the highest point on the island. After a pretty steep slog up we were expecting to be rewarded with a 360 degree view of the island but instead we stood inside a damp cloud and then dejectedly tramped back down. In a fit of rebellion on our walk back to Jamestown we ignored the stern sign telling us to make an appointment and went to see Napoleon’s grave. Disappointingly there wasn’t much atmosphere though, possibly because his bones have actually been repatriated to France.
Denzell and Callum climbed the 699 steps of Jacobs Ladder which lead from Jamestown vertically up the cliff to the settlement on top. I thought Callum must surely hold the record for the youngest to climb it but it turns out he had already been beaten to it by a two year old.
The island was in the full swing of festive spirit with the shops loaded with imported treats from England, we stocked up with some Christmas goodies in preparation for Christmas at sea and Angelica and Callum left their letters to Santa pegged to the mast so that the elves could collect them. Although we would have loved to have stayed longer in this incredible part of the world, it was time to set sail for Ascension Island and new adventures.