Diane Selkirk was utterly enchanted by the remote island outpost of Saint Helena
Saint Helena still strikes me as an enchanted place and we knew it would be tough to leave. I was afraid that if we left we’d never find our way back. So we delayed.
I met the new Governor, Lisa Phillips while walking retired donkeys at the Saint Helena donkey home. Our hour-long chat led to an invitation to Plantation House. The house was off-limits during the last Governor’s tenure, but Phillips has opened it back up to tours. We saw the chandelier that once hung in Napoleon’s Longwood Estate, and noted the portrait of Napoleon hanging directly across from a portrait of his jailor, the governor of the time, Sir Hudson Lowe – humorously positioned so they could scowl at each other through eternity.
Saint Helena is a reminder about all that is wonderful about voyaging. Remote and unknown, it’s hard won. It’s most certainly not a place that is full of attractions and ‘things to do’. To enjoy such happy days on the island we had to be our best selves, reaching out and meeting local people and learning the rhythms of the island.
We left on Saint Helena day. Our plan was to enjoy the day, see the parade and leave at dusk. When fireworks lit up a small but very special portion of the sky we were ten miles out. The sail was a gentle one: soft tropical breezes from astern, easy seas and a moon each night.
Again, we sailed with Cook: “Sunday, May 5th 1771. Gentle breezes and Clear weather. Weigh’d, and stood out of the Road in company. North 50 degrees 30 minutes West; distance 71 miles; latitude 15 degrees 5 minutes South, longitude 6 degrees 46 minutes West.”
Arrivals and departures
There are currently no commercial flights to and from the airport, only private jets and charter flights. Early indications are that even this limited service is benefitting the locals.
The RMS St Helena is slated for decommissioning and, thanks to the new breakwater and pier in nearby Rupert’s Valley, freighter operations, cruise ship landings and fish processing will all be moved off the historic Jamestown Wharf, which will be reconfigured as a public space. The Saint Helena Yacht Club is looking forward to an increased presence on the wharf, providing a warmer welcome to cruisers. There’s also a plan for a short-term haul-out facility on either the Jamestown Wharf or Rupert’s Pier.
Costs: Well maintained moorings are £2 or £3 (GBP) per night. Ferry service runs £2 per round trip. Port fees are £40 and visas are £17 per person.