Saint Helena

“There’s a red light in front of us” says Merel as I take over the watch at 0500. On deck I can see a distinct slow flashing red light, then a white light – St Helena.

As the dawn light grows, the outline of the island slowly emerges from the grayness. At first it could be a strange cloud on the horizon but before long it rises from the sea as a large, steep-sided, hilly island, still and blue in the distance. An enigma in the deep waters of the middle Atlantic. What massive forces conspired to create this 4km high peak in the middle of the ocean? The surrounding sea, just a few km from the island, is all 4,000 m deep, and the island explodes from the depths with near-vertical cliffs that fly 150m and more above the water. It is a fairy-tale island – unexpected and unrealistic. It should not be here.

As we get closer Ice Bear catch us up and offer to take photos of Anjea against the island. I jump at the chance, put up all the sails and manouver for best effect. Then we swap positions and I take photos of Ice Bear, a beautiful boat that I first met in Cape Town.

We keep all the sails up as we approach the island and a huge pack of big dolphins approach. At first we’re not even sure they are dolphins, but as they take up their escort positions just under the bow, zigging, zagging and jockying for position, it is clear that they are – no other animal of the sea looks like a dolphin or behaves that way. Why do they play in the bow wave like that? We lean over the rail madly snapping away; they turn and look up at us, speed off to jump meters into the air! It’s clearly for us! But why? Their display is full of energy, joy and fun – Merel has to be restrained from jumping in to play with them. Eventually, I leave the bow to check our course and talk to the Harbour Master on the radio.

The Harbour Master is very organized and exceptionally clear that he wants us to stay on the boat until we pass a health check. When we arrive we are in quarantine and must fly a yellow flag until we’ve been tested for covid and cleared to come ashore for immigration and customs. Covid tests happen once a week on Thursdays. It is now Tuesday so we have a couple of days to kill before we can come ashore. That suits me perfectly as I am hanging out for a full night’s sleep.

At 1600 we back up to a large yellow mooring ball, slip a line through the ring (why is no line provided?) and walk the line forward to the bow. There is no anchoring here. It is rather deep and the moorings are free and seem to be well-maintained. The yellow ones are rated at 20 t and we are only 10 t so I will sleep well.

We pour a celebratory glass of wine – our first since we left Namibia 9 days and 8hrs ago, 1,224 nm to the South East. It has been a slow passage with light winds, but mostly quite pleasant.

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