s/y Nine of Cups
Second Atlantic Crossing - St. Helena Island
20 Feb - 2 May 2007
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Second Atlantic Crossing
It's always hard to figure out why people do the things they do? "Why ever would you sail from Cape Town to the US if you could fly there?",
people asked us. Well...because we could! Our oldest son was getting married and we wanted to attend the wedding and all the associated
festivities AND we wanted to bring Cups home for awhile. This would be our longest passage ever...some 7300 nautical miles we estimated. It
would also be our second Atlantic Ocean crossing within less than six months.
  We departed South Africa all too soon. We had spent exactly two months, arriving 21 December 2006 and departing for the USA on 20
February 2007. It was a beautiful, calm morning and backing out of the slip and down the canal was not difficult…until the gearshift lever broke off
in David’s hand. Yikes! He managed to maneuver us away from the other boats and against the sea wall (all in reverse gear, mind you). We
scrunched the rub rail on the starboard aft quarter, but otherwise we were no worse for the wear.
  Heading out into the harbor, the autopilot began doing 360s…what’s going on? It settled down after a few miles. Things come in 3s! As we let the
jib out, the furler seemed stiff and wasn’t working correctly. David found the problem immediately…it was broken and definitely needed repair
before attempting a 7,000 mile passage. Rather than return to Cape Town, we opted to motor-sail to Saldanha Bay, about 60 miles north. We were
able to pick up a free mooring, compliments of the Saldanha Bay Yacht Club where we spent two lovely days while
Farewell, Cape Town, loveliest of Capes.
Hospitable, Saldanha Bay Yacht Club
Our passage would take us on the
diagonal from Cape Town to
Charleston, SC via St. Helena and
Ascension Islands...about 7,300 nm.
Who says no gardening at sea? Here’s a
perfect example of what can be grown with  
a sweet potato in a hammock.
We caught flying fish regularly in the scuppers…
23 was the passage record.
David and Jelly off-watch. Jelly seemed to be
"off-watch" rather frequently.
Jelly could smell the land before we could and she paced
back and forth like a big cat waiting for something to
come into view. She was enthralled with the sight of St.
We left Saldanha Bay on 22 February. Our route was pretty
much northwest to St. Helena from Saldanha Bay. We covered
some 1,700 in 12 days averaging 140+ miles/day … a pleasant
downwind sail for the most part. We saw very few ships (3),
no planes and after the first few days, very few birds. We were
NOT seasick which we attributed to extra days on Stugeron
because of the laydays in Saldanha. We did lots of reading as
usual. The days went by quickly and before we knew it
“Land ho!’.
St. Helena Island
(British Overseas Territory)

Capital: Jamestown
Population: ~5,000
Area: 47 sq miles (10.5 miles long x 6.5 miles wide)
Highest point: Diana’s Peak  (2,675’)
Currency: St Helena Pound or British Pound Sterling  £1= $2.11 US (ouch!)
Political: Island is divided into 8 districts; islanders vote for island Councillors, but
  The governor is appointed by the British crown; residents are UK citizens;
  Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha are dependencies of St. Helena.
Exports/Industry: None; minimal tourism due to limited island access; no airport
We stayed aboard the first night and came ashore in the
Jamestown ferry the next morning. The Jamestown Ferry
is a small boat used primarily by fishermen to get back
and forth to their boats. For us, it was £1 each per
roundtrip and saved hassles with a dinghy. Hanging
ropes helped to pull yourself ashore.
Portugese explorer, Joao da Nova commanding four caravels on his return from India
sighted St. Helena for the first time and landed on 21 May 1502. It was Emperor
Constantine’s mother’s (Helena) birthday and thus the island was named St. Helena.  
The Portugese lost their influence and the Dutch and English vied for the island. In
1659, the English East India Company annexed the island, a castle was built and
Captain Dutton was commissioned to “settle, fortify and plant”.
The view along wharf with imposing cliffs behind and most whitewashed buildings
built into the cliffs.
A view from the wharf shows the imposing volcanic
rock of which the island is comprised. The white
slanted  "line" is actually Jacob’s Ladder…one option
for getting to the high ground.
Jacob’s Ladder was built in 1829 as an inclined plane used to haul manure up and
goods down. It is 600’ high stretching from Jamestown to the top of Ladder Hill
and has 699 steps. It’s lit at night and made a good  town landmark from the
boat. It’s still used, but not frequently. Looking up or down, it was staggering.
Residents of St. Helena are called St. Helenians on the
outside, but among themselves, they’re referred to as
“Saints”. They refer to leaving the island as going “off
island” and to the “big world”.
The archway through which we entered
Jamestown was built by Governor
Dallas in 1832.
We were expecting the rustic nature of
Tristan and were surprised when we saw a
small Victorian town with lots of modern
conveniences like internet and DVDs…no
ATMs though, only the Bank of St. Helena.
Our first day ashore was spent checking into the various
agencies required. Customs on the wharf first, then the Police
station for Immigration to get our passports stamps
(£11/each) and finally the Harbormaster to check in the boat
and pay landing duties of £25. With the poor dollar exchange
rate, it cost nearly $100US to clear in.  
Once cleared in, we had to return to the boat. We found we
were too close to the fishing boat, Portzig, which had arrived
during the middle of the night and tied up to its mooring. The
move was complicated by the fact that we had no working
windlass…again…so David had to haul the anchor up
manually. We managed in about 1-1/2 hours and resettled a
bit closer to shore in a spot safe from other boats and
comfortably positioned. Here we swung at anchor for the
next 6 days.
The second day, David worked on the boat and I
went into shore alone. It was a sunny, warm day and
I reveled in taking photos of my new surroundings
and  exploring sights I’d share with David later. The
church door was open and I peeked in. St. James’
Church is the oldest Anglican church south of the
equator. Completed in 1772, it has undergone
changes and repairs, but basically remains the same.
Folks from St.Helena love country-western music! They
have two radio stations, the most popular being Saint FM
which plays light music and country-western selections.
Here is the entrance to the castle of
St. John. Originally built in 1659, it
has been reconstructed over the years
due to termite damage. St. Helena
Government administrative offices are
housed here.
While in Saldanha, we were told of the
“tradition” of leaving a rock from
Saldanha in the Castle Gardens at St.
Helena and we were given a rock. One
of our first duties was to place the rock
in the Gardens as instructed.
We then headed for the small island museum
housed in a beautifully restored late 18th century
provisions warehouse. The two floors held
exhibits and island memorabilia which we found
most interesting.
We met Gilbert Legg via email. He works for
the Cable & Wireless Co. on St. Helena as its
Communications Manager and is the “voice” of
St. Helena Radio. He met us one afternoon and
gave us a tour of the island. We headed up, up,
up to High Knoll Fort. The present fort dates
from 1894 and was built on the site of the
original citadel built in 1720. It was considered
the last refuge in case of enemy attack.
Diana’s Peak, the highest point on the island, was
proclaimed a national park in March 1996. This
area is extremely ecologically valuable as it has
one of the last remaining relics of the natural tree
fern and cabbage tree woodland left on the island.
Plantation House, residence of the island’s
governor, was built in 1792 and modified in
1816. . The Governor’s offices are in the
Castle in Jamestown, but he hosts several
social occasions each year at Plantation
House. The area and grounds are open to the
public and we walked around at our leisure.
Probably Plantation House’s most
famous resident is “Jonathan”, a 200-
year old giant tortoise believed to have
come to the island in 1882. Above, he
poses with Gilbert's daughter, Juliana.
Donkeys were in constant use over the years,
but have been replaced by cars and trucks now.
What to do with the donkeys? Those left have
been gathered in a green field known as the
Donkey Sanctuary and lead a pretty lush life.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon I (1769-1821), also known as Napoleon Bonaparte, crowned himself emperor
of the French. He was the greatest military genius of his time and perhaps the greatest
general in history. He created an empire that covered most of western and central Europe.

1769      (Aug. 15) Born at Ajaccio, Corsica.
1796      (Mar. 9) Married Josephine de Beauharnais.
1799      (Nov. 9) Seized power in France.
1804      (Dec. 2) Crowned himself emperor of the French.
1805      (Dec. 2) Crushed the allied armies at Austerlitz.
1806      (July 12) Set up the Confederation of the Rhine.
1806      (Oct. 14) Defeated Prussians at Jena & Auerstedt
1807      (June 14) Overwhelmed the Russians at Friedland.
1809      (July 5-6) Defeated Austrians at Wagram.
1810      (Apr. 2) Married Marie Louise of Austria.
1812      (Sept. 14) Occupied Moscow.
1814      (Apr. 11) Abdicated his throne.
1814      (May 4) Exiled and arrived on Elba.
1815      (Mar. 20) Returned to power in France.
1815      (June 18) Defeated in the Battle of Waterloo.
1815      (Oct. 16) Exiled to St. Helena.
1821      (May 5) Died at Longwood on St. Helena.
Napoleon’s tomb (sans Napoleon) to the right
has no markings on it. The French wanted
“Emperor”, the Brits would only allow
“General” and they agreed to disagree.
The tomb in which Napoleon was originally
buried is situated in the Sane Valley and was
chosen by Napoleon himself as his final resting
place in St. Helena.  It is said that he used to
ride his horse in this area and found it a
pleasant place to meditate and read. It is
located about ½ kilometer down a steep
grassy road and not well marked. The
flowers, birds and general peacefulness of the
place was extraordinary. Napoleon chose
well. The French exhumed his body in 1840
and returned it to Paris exactly 25 years to the
day after he first stepped ashore on St. Helena.
There are about 2,000 privately owned vehicles
on this 47 sq mi island. They are transported via
the RMS St. Helena from the UK or South
Africa, brought to the wharf on lighters and then
a crane is used to lift them ashore.
Saints refer to the lush, green interior of the
island as “up country” probably because
everything is “up” from Jamestown.
Originally a barn, Longwood was converted into a
house in 1752 by Lt. Governor Adamson and then
further extended and renovated 60 years later when
Napoleon was exiled here in 1815.
The groundskeeper and gardener at
Napoleon's tomb, Charlie, was very
pleasant and offered us a drink of fresh
spring water served in a rolled green leaf.
A pleasant “up country” road in Longwood
leading to Napoleon’s St. Helena home.
The views from “up country” were spectacular.  
Above a view of Sandy Bay.
Hutt’s Gate Store was for sale.  It needed lots
of renovation and repair, but our tour guide
thought it might sell for $120,000US. The
land, however, on which it was situated would
be sold separately. Land currently sells for
Edmund Halley visited the island in 1676 to
catalogue stars of the Southern Hemisphere.
Built in 1851, using an “early English” design, St.
Paul’s Cathedral sits in a lovely country setting.
Signs are located at strategic road inter-
sections that criss cross the island. They’re
for “tourists” we were reminded as the
locals know their way.
From our vantage point high above, the view of
the town below was stupendous. Jamestown
spread out below us like a picture postcard.
We could even see Cups at anchor very clearly.
Back in town, The Market is a pre-fabricated
cast-iron building shipped from the UK to the
island in 1865.  Vendors sell fresh produce, fish
and meat at exorbitantly high prices.
Gilbert invited us to go “up country” for
an outing. Together with Joan and Juliana,
we all went to Colin’s Bar in Sandy Bay.
Joan  made curry and vegetables. We
brought "American" brownies for dessert.
The view of Lot in the foreground and Lot’
s Wife in the background was stupendous
from our vantage point at Colin’s.
During the Anglo-Boer War fought in South
Africa, many Boer POWs were sent to St.
Helena. As many as 6,000 prisoners were held
in camps here from 1900-1902. A typhoid
epidemic took its toll in the camps. The Boer
dead are buried here in Knollcombes cemetery.
This little church, Sandy Bay Baptist
Church, looked almost surreal, but is
still used each Sunday.
Above is White Gate, the entrance to
Plantation House and currently a police
office. There are several similar “gates” on
the island once used for keeping animals
from roaming off designated properties.
Birdlife on the island is abundant, but seeing
the “wirebird” was outstanding. Only about
300 of these birds remain in the entire world,
a species endemic only to St. Helena. We
saw them at Levelwood.
Flowers and flowering plants/trees are
abundant on the island. Above, an ebony
tree in bloom.
St. Helena Impressions…
  • Visiting the island was like taking a look at another time and place that we
    will probably never see again as progress makes its way there. It was
    quaint, charming and old-worldish.
  • The people are hospitable, gracious and truly friendly.
  • We paid the most we’ve ever paid for diesel ($6/gallon) and internet (20
  • Hard and crusty on the outside…soft and luscious on the inside.
  • A distinct accent all their own and when talking to each other, a distinct
    dialect which most times we could barely understand.
  • Surprising amount of amenities such as tourist brochures, supermarkets,
    internet which we really hadn’t expected.
  • Wish we would have had the time to hike along the paths, trails and postbox
    walks located throughout the island…maybe next time?
Continue on with us across the
South Atlantic to Ascension Island.
Tristan da Cunha
Ascension Island