Friday, July 4, 2014

On board the RMS St. Helena

It is very odd to be here, on a working ship, miles out into the South Atlantic, with an expensive and intermittent wireless access' of course, having any access at all is pretty unusual, but these are unusual times.

There are 100 passengers on board the RMS St. Helena, including one gentleman who is lying in the hospital bed attached to a drip. We are a curious group, comprising Afrikaans workers heading (presumably) to work in the tuna processing plant, or in construction perhaps, “Saints” heading home after a visit to the mainland, officials dispatched from London to ensure an orderly existence on the islands, a few tourists and us; “us” being a motley group of four heading to St. Helena to seek our fortunes in the travel industry.
That is not entirely accurate.

We, Clive Stacey from Discover the World Travel and Erik Brown from Halcyon Collections, both London-based, and I are the guests of the St. Helena government. We are travelling with the most able and delightful Janet Shankland, the UK representative of the St. Helena tourist board to look at the possibility of developing some more activity in this sector. The question has become more relevant now that an airport is being built and by 2016, there will be air service to this most remote island. Currently only accessible by ship, and this a five-day, 1,400 mile voyage each way from Cape Town, the island’s visitors are a determined bunch.

The ship is rather fun; she was built in Aberdeen, apparently the 1,000th vessel to have passed through the shipyards of A & P Appledore (Aberdeen) Ltd, and launched in October 1989. She carries a crew of 59, including a doctor, and up to 155 passengers in addition to a few hundred tons of freight, snugly plied up on a forward deck.

Unprepossessing, and not unattractive, the RMS St. Helena is a working ship; the cabins are comfortable, the public areas convivial, the food plentiful and the bar well-stocked and inexpensive. The voyage is slow, and our stately progress of 15knots will put us into Jamestown in four-days’ time; we have sailed 280 miles so far, and have 1433 to go.

Time to go en explore yet again.


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