Farewell to a lovely steam ship, and a great seafaring dream! The eccentric voyages of the RMS St Helena - not really a steam ship, of course - will end when the last voyage arrives in the island of St Helena, en route from Cape Town, in the middle of February.
The ship is named after the island famous for the imprisonment of Napoleon and where he died, perhaps murdered. The island, though, has a greater right to fame thanks - among other attributes - to the breath-taking views of the heavens it offers.
|Farewell to a fine vessel ... St Helena in calmer waters than most of her sailing.|
As I tell in Sailing to Purgatory, I called at the island at almost the end of my very last ocean voyage. 'I radio’d the St Helena authorities to give my ETA and came up into the cockpit on a wonderfully clear evening to enjoy a rare sky event.
Wonders of Space
'It seemed a fantastic way to end my final voyage. With a view right into the heavens, I watched Venus and Jupiter merge in conjunction, seeming to dance with each other.
'Your narrator nearly strained his even older neck enjoying the wonders of Space from these latitudes.
'St Helena has been a major location for astronomy since the 1760s, of course, hosting such celestial notables as Neville Maskelyne, Edmund Halley, and Admiral Duperry. Now I understood why.'
The retiring ship carried my yacht on a glorious voyage down to Cape Town, even though going south is certainly against the elements, mostly the South-East Trades.
The ship helped out on another voyage, too. I was adrift for 30 days after being turned over in a mad-cap open boat voyage record attempt. The only provisions that survived the capsize were nuts and raisins and a collection of small fruit juice packets. The RMS St Helena took Homeward Bound 2 back to Cape Town, and treated her solo sailor to a very different diet.
Long way from anywhere
A £285 million airport has been built on the mountainous island, thanks to the generosity of UK taxpayers.
However, this is no simple airport. The island notoriously fierce winds will require great skill from pilots. And as far as I can discover, there simply is no alternative airport for emergencies. Well, not surprising for St Helena is a very long way from anywhere.
I gather the price for flights has still to be announced. St Helena is well worth the visit, but the cost is unlikely to be of a budget nature. The cheapest price of a shared cabin on the St Helena was £429, one way. To enjoy a cabin on your own, you would have paid £2,069, one way.
However, the grand old lady of the southern trade winds will be missed, without a doubt. Happy retirement, RMS St Helena!
Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.