Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Farewell to a brave ship

Farewell to a lovely steam ship, and a great seafaring dream! The eccentric voyages of the RMS St Helena - not really a steam ship, of course - will end when the last voyage arrives in the island of St Helena, en route from Cape Town, in the middle of February.
The ship is named after the island famous for the imprisonment of Napoleon and where he died, perhaps murdered. The island, though, has a greater right to fame thanks - among other attributes - to the breath-taking views of the heavens it offers.
As I tell in Sailing to Purgatory, I called at the island at almost the end of my very last ocean voyage. 'I radio’d the St Helena authorities to give my ETA and came up into the cockpit on a wonderfully clear evening to enjoy a rare sky event.

Wonders of Space

'It seemed a fantastic way to end my final voyage. With a view right into the heavens, I watched Venus and Jupiter merge in conjunction, seeming to dance with each other.
'Your narrator nearly strained his even older neck enjoying the wonders of Space from these latitudes.
'St Helena has been a major location for astronomy since the 1760s, of course, hosting such celestial notables as Neville Maskelyne, Edmund Halley, and Admiral Duperry. Now I understood why.'
The retiring ship carried my yacht on a glorious voyage down to Cape Town, even though going south is certainly against the elements, mostly the South-East Trades.
The ship helped out on another voyage, too. I was adrift for 30 days after being turned over in a mad-cap open boat voyage record attempt. The only provisions that survived the capsize were nuts and raisins and a collection of small fruit juice packets. The RMS St Helena took Homeward Bound 2 back to Cape Town, and treated her solo sailor to a very different diet.

Long way from anywhere

A £285 million airport has been built on the mountainous island, thanks to the generosity of UK taxpayers.
However, this is no simple airport. The island notoriously fierce winds will require great skill from pilots. And as far as I can discover, there simply is no alternative airport for emergencies. Well, not surprising for St Helena is a very long way from anywhere.  Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Waste not want not must have been one of the first lessons life had for me. I arrived into a world of destruction and rationing. When parents weren’t trying to shoot strangers out of the sky, they were trying to feed a very young family on very little, because very little is what people were paid in the war years.
What we learn in toddlerhood seldom leaves us - look at religion, of course - so it’s probably only natural that when I leave a room, I turn off the light, and always have.
Perhaps it’s not so important these days because life is very different now. Most Britons don’t have to count the pennies, as another curious expression from those days went.
As readers of Sailing Purgatory know, a crooked justice system stole my property and life-savings.


So if it’s not to be survival on the streets, parsimonious behaviour is vital.
When electricity suppliers began offering smart meters, gadgets that tell you what you’re being charged for power, you can be sure I said, ‘Yes, please.’
A good fellow arrived at the abode today and within an hour a smart meter let me in on exactly what the price is for any and every minute of the day. There’s no charge for the service, and no change to the rate I pay.
The advantage is that future bills won’t be any surprise, and that I have the choice to keep them low.
The highly skilled engineer who made a really professional job of installing the equipment is Southern-Electric’s Geoff Watson.


The meter soon showed that I constantly under-guess the price. Turn on the kitchen lights, and that’s 5p an hour, which is at least five times higher than I thought. Boil the kettle – the meter has risen to 15p.
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


 Cape Town is brimful of tourists, South African holidaymakers, and squatters by the thousands yet is about to run out of water. Water for drinking, cooking, washing – all water.
At last - at last!- the local council has asked the government to declare the severe drought a national disaster.
 ABC News reports that the Cape province premier, Helen Zille, has written to South Africa President Jacob Zuma to say that the drought has escalated from a threat to an imminent crisis.
That ‘imminent crisis’ affects over three million residents and the great army of tourists, holidaymakers and squatters … and the dear lady has written to Zuma. As the expression goes, it could only happen in Africa.

That postal service

That’s what the report states. She has written. If the letter goes by South Africa’s postal service, the not-wildly-revered leader is unlikely to see it, not this side of Easter, anyway.
And the intended recipient is the very Mr Zuma who is present so often in the news, but not normally in the most flattering way.
I’ve just been visiting that beautiful city, and only on arrival discovered that I had chosen the scene of a pending disaster. It’s true that there are polite notices at the airport and in public places to remind visitors to go easy on the water.
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com