Napoleon Bonaparte died in St Helena on May 5th 1821 The day is commemorated in a number of Gallic enclaves including the original tomb of Napoleon. He was buried here and then some years later the French Government of the day requested that his body was repatriated to France. The remembrance ceremony on St Helena was a simple affair with the local honorary French Consul Monsieur Michel Dancoisne-Martineau leading the occasion. Prayers were said and the last post was sounded followed by a laying of wreaths by France the UK and St Helena. I was impressed by the location of the Tomb and how peaceful the surroundings are, no wonder this is where Napoleon requested he be buried.
Later that week we expected the arrival of another cruise ship, this time the MV Athena who had sailed from Australia to be with us. The seas that day were more choppy than when the P&O ship the Arcadia visited and failed to let its passengers disembark. This indicated there may be another occasion when all the efforts made by the locals were to no avail. We should have known better!
The Australian spirit of adventure was alive and well in the shape of tenders full to the brim with eager tourists. Looking at the tenders one could see they had a few knocks and scuffs on them which should have alerted us that these tourists had every intention of landing. And land they did. Five hundred or so feisty Australians with ages ranging from 40 to 85 were taken on tours around the island, served meals and drinks and sold souvenirs. Feedback from them was very positive considering they only had around five hours to sample the delights of St Helena. No sooner had they arrived than they were gone.
Yellowfin Tuna and Thresher Shark
My final weekend on St Helena had a treat in store with the annual fishing competition. This gives all the opportunity to see the wide variety of fish available in these seas around the island and also gives the fishing community a chance to pit their wits against each other to hook the largest catch. All fishing was from boats which were given from Midnight until 4.00pm to catch whatever they could. All fishing is done by rods and line. The day culminates with awards for biggest fish, biggest annual catch, biggest catch of the day and a host of other trophies. Following on from this there is a great party which must have attracted half the island. The largest catch was a thresher shark although I have no idea whether it was a large version of that species; it was certainly the biggest shark I have seen out of the water. Other fish caught included Conger eel, Yellowfin tuna, Grouper and bullseye which is a local fish and bright red in colour. It was a great afternoon with heaps of sights, sounds and smells. Very memorable.
I am writing this blog on my way to Ascension Island from where I am flying back to the UK. This is the only other commercial route home and will be a first for me. I left my St Helena friends on the quayside vowing to see them all again in August when I return for another tour of duty. The RMS St Helena sailed at 4.00pm which meant the afternoon light was just beginning to colour, making our departure quite memorable. It was as if the island was putting on a final show for those departing.
St Helena from the Galaxy
The past two weekends have presented opportunities to see and enjoy St Helena as a tourist which has been a real treat. The weather has been lovely most of the time with blue skies and white picture perfect clouds.
The first opportunity was to spend a day on the Galaxy which is one of the yachts moored in Jamestown bay. She is awaiting her crew to take her to her permanent home in the west of Scotland. Until that time she needs to go out on a sail every now and then just to keep all parts in working order. A picnic was packed and with the promise of some fishing to boot off we went.
As the air temperature here is a pretty constant 18C to 23C being out in the open on the water is no hardship. In fact the breeze and scenery make any outing memorable. Sun protection is a must as is plenty of water to drink.
We sailed (well motored under sail as we were heading into the wind) along the coast to the far eastern end of the island which took around 3 hours at a very leisurely pace. The island from a boat looks quite formidable as the brown volcanic cliffs are void of vegetation and life. It’s not until you look inland that the green abundant interior can be spotted. Sea birds come and go, some perching on the vessel. A pod of about 30 or so dolphins rushes past in pursuit of a school of fish I presume. I think the dolphins had more success than we did as our attempt at catching anything was scuppered by the speed of the boat which according to our skipper needs to be at least five knots before anything will bite. The most important fish in this area is tuna which is caught most of the year. Perhaps more success next time.
Getting ready for the great meal!
Last Sunday I was invited to a very special weekend event and one I had been looking forward to since my first visit here: A Saint Picnic! This is a very popular tradition, with the fabulous weather (when not raining) and countryside offering the perfect setting for dining outdoors. Now a Saint Picnic is not quite the same as our UK equivalent. This is because basically its Sunday lunch taken to a lovely location and then spread out (table cloth and all) and eaten outdoors.
Pam who is one of my main contacts on the island and her family took me to Sandy Bay on the south side where we unloaded, hot roast chicken, stuffing, curry, rice, veggies including roast potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, pasta and sausages. The table was set with cutlery and a cloth and looked just like it should have been in someone’s dining room. Two servings of curry and chicken and I was feeling pretty relaxed and also quite full. It was at this stage that the desserts were revealed! Out of a cool box came jelly with fruit, cakes and a lovely pecan pie. No wonder we all managed to eat these. Knowing Pam as I now do I wasn’t surprised to see her next offering out of one of the many bags and boxes: A choice of teas or coffee to follow the meal…brilliant!
The quality of life on St Helena is so rich with such a strong foundation on family values. There were four generations of Pam’s family at the picnic, and one tourist. It was a real privilege to be a part of their weekend and a memory I will cherish for a very long time.