08.10.2008 - 19.10.2008
The trip to Ascension. All waypoints (except the first after leaving Portland) are accurate
Certain people, and you know who you are, have been commenting on my lovely blog layout. Specifically, why idiot me, the confirmed non flyer who has just spent 16days on a ship, is using an airport backdrop. The answer is why the heck not. Or alternatively, why the heck not.
It had been strange. I had felt nothing leaving Sweden (no excitement, pleasure, disappointment, sadness). Just nothingness. Ignoring a brief moment of very deep "eeek" as i watched Calais, and Europe, disappear at 4am one windy morning, this had continued through my time in the Uk. Surely I should be feeling more anticipation or excitement, before such a long and new trip? But i wasn't, and that worried me!
As I sit in the glorious sunshine in a clear blue sky, sipping a cold beer whilst awaiting the dinner call and sunset, I watch the wake of the ship and mesmerising small waves, and seeing absolutely no ships in any direction, I can't help but laugh at all those flying fanatics. This is just fantastic. It's amazing just how quickly 14days at sea can fly by, and how little you do, whilst still seemingly having no time whatsoever.
Bizarrely, I had a perfect journey down to Portland with not a single hiccup an even discovered that i had arrived on the correct day. I watched some of the cargo being loaded – there seems to be a lot – and had dinner before heading up on deck in time to see us finally depart at 20.36, roughly 4hours late and over 6hours since i first boarded.
The crossing of the notorious Bay of Biscay was a bit rough, but by far the calmest I have ever seen it, and in mostly good weather. A few days later we steamed between Tenerife and Grand Canaria in early evening, allowing us to see if both in daylight, with the sunset, and with the night lights. The weather has been mostly clear and hot and gorgeous, and the occasional short patches of rain, or whipping winds have been welcome as a way of refreshing yourself.
Life onboard the RMS St. Helena is not the most stressed. There are vast quantities of food available, with meals offering up to 7 courses, should you so desire. There are 2 bars on board with rates being very reasonable indeed, though having set up a tab for the journey, i hope i don't get a nasty shock at the end....
After a fairly timid first night, i started moving around to try and get talking to many of the other 90passengers. I seem to fill a niche half way between the Saints and tourists, of whom there are roughly 30, mostly retired, who are continuing to Cape Town after a week on St. Helena. The rest of the passengers comprise a half dozen or so consultants or Brits being sent out to work on the island for fixed terms, a half dozen British enthusiasts/St. Helena fans who have been out a number of previous attempts, and maybe 50 saints (or honorary saints) returning home for either short/shortish visits or permanently after spells of between 6months and 12years away. As soon as I started to mention who I was, word got out and I was welcomed with increasingly open arms like a long lost family member, as indeed i am to a couple of passengers.
Days are spent eating, dozing, talking to other passengers (and crew, most of whom are Saints themselves and know many of the passengers very well), and just gazing at the sea, something that has long been a favored hobby of mine. In between, the excellent cheery South African purser Claude arranges any number of entertainments to keep us occupied or drunk or both. All are voluntary participation, but most are well attended. They range from videos, relevant documentaries and talks, to movies, music, card games, quizzes and chess, to numerous deck sports: cricket, quoits, deck tennis, shuffleboard, bowling, frog racing and more. Evenings often have special receptions, but also include after dinner activities such as a casino and pub nights, fancy dress, cabaret and disco. Relatives have been discovered, acquaintances made and friendships forged.
But really, the best part is just sitting here in the glorious sun. Not just the realisation that i could be stuck in an increasingly chilly Sweden and sat at work (he he he), but gazing out over the rythmic waves and sea slide past, punctuated only by the occasional passing ship, whale or migrating bird, the boatloads of illegal immigrants (only once), wisps of cloud or sunset, and vast schools of dolphins or flying fish.
THIS is the life.
((photos will follow))