Sailing St Helena to Brazil. Whale Sharks, Poetry and Mystery Yachts. 15 51 South 8 04 West

It’s 630am. Paul is on watch and sitting at the chart table. Willow who rose
half an hour ago and cuddled up on my lap has gone in search of Nichola and
I think is doing her best to wake Nichola [not an entirely good move after
she’s just come off night watch].We’ve 12 knots of wind on the beam, calm seas and are gliding effortlessly
to Brazil at around 7 knots, exactly on the great circle route (because of
the earths curvature, the fastest route is actually a curve heading slightly
south).

Catching up on St Helena and the highlights:

We did a one day tour in a charabanc which was built in 1929 with wooden
floors. Truly remarkable vehicle and a wonder it made it up the steep steep
hills of St Helena.

I reflect. Imagine you had an extremely high profile political prisoner.
What would you do with them? Well, I’d try to find a rock in the middle of
nowhere which was incredibly hard to find. Then, when I’d found that rock,
I’d travel over mountains and into deep valleys into the most impenetrable
place I could find. That’s where I’d put that person. Et Voila. That’s
exactly what the Brits did with Napoleon. For the final 6 years of his life,
he was held at Longwood House and when he died he was buried here (albeit
later removed and moved to Paris).

Longwood House is extremely well preserved and full of interesting artefacts
and stories from Napoleons life – a lock of his hair, the bed in the exact
spot where he died, his letters, his writing desk. All tucked away in this
tiny island in the middle of nowhere. Apparently he chose where he wanted to
be buried some days before he died in a quiet valley surrounded by willow
trees and wildlife. We walked there and saw the tomb and sitting down you
imagined it was as peaceful back in 1821 as it was today. There was a sentry
box there – for many years, a gendarme was posted here to protect the tomb.
I’m guessing budget cuts have taken the toll as it was empty when we were
there. I left there curious to learn more about this man who clearly was a
powerful leader and had a big influence on history.

From there to the Governors House to meet the worlds oldest inhabitant –
Jonathan a giant tortoise at 183 years old. It’s strange to think he was
born only 12 years after Napoleon died. It really does connect the dots in
history.

Other highlights were seeing the new runway for the airport due to open this
year, the castle where they hold open air events now, Jacobs ladder and the
699 steps from top to bottom overlooking JamesTown and seeing the mountain
peaks capped with hard rock and lush green vegetation as you descend down
the valleys.

Without doubt the biggest highlight was swimming with Whale Sharks. There
were 15 or so of us on the fishing boat (picture the fishing boat used in
Jaws and you’re pretty close) and accompanied by a whale shark whisperer –
Katie from Leeds who has spent the past 4 years studying them. Katie was a
mine of information and the children and I spent hours quizzing her and
learning as much as we could. You spot them by their tail fin lazily finning
above the surface and then you see the domino spots of these monsters of the
deep. We dived in – only 5 at a time with instructions to stay at least 3
metres away from them as these 8-10 metre monsters glide along hoovering up
plankton and tuna eggs in the water.  We were assured these are gentle
giants were quite safe, although we weren’t entirely convinced – one swish
of that tail would certainly give you a headache. Columbus jumped in before
I could turn my head and was off chasing the shark (and they are sharks, not
whales as they have gills, not a blow hole). Bluebell a little more hesitant
clung onto me and then followed Katie around.

It was impossible to stay 3 metres away as the curious shark kept swimming
near you and once i knocked the tail with my fins. When we tried to return
to the boat, the whale shark was between us. We headed left to go around
her. She turned left and cut off our route. We swam back and then headed
right of her. She headed right. This went on for some 5 or 6 times. I’m sure
she was playing with us but it was a little disconcerting.

Truly incredible and up there in the Top 10 experiences of our whole
travels. Bluebell and Columbus were full of excitement and a mountain of
pictures were taken.

We had two lovely evenings at the yacht club – a curry night and a braai –
super fun and the chance to meet some of the locals watching the sun setting
over the yachts moored underneath the massive imposing cliffs.

So, back to sea again.

Jani woke me at 4am today to let me know we had a yacht fast approaching us
from astern. It wasn’t on AIS or Radar and he was concerned. In a flash I
was on deck with him. It took me a few seconds to figure it out before I
smiled. I could imagine the radio conversation.

“Unidentied vessel at 15 51 South, 08 04 West, This is Sailing Yacht Aretha,
we are on a collision course. As the overtaking boat, can you please take
action to avoid us”

and then I imagine the answer coming back.

“Sailing Yacht Aretha, this is Unidentified Vessel at 15 51 South, 08 04
West, we are Planet Mars. Your call!”

I’ve been caught out by this before – sometimes the stars and planets when
low in the sky and are so bright look like ships lights. First time for
Jani!! Much amusement for all.

I’m absolutely blown away by the response from so many people to our request
for poetry. Our inbox is bubbling with elegant words from Yeats, Tennyson,
Kipling, Stevenson, Lewis Carrol and Ogden Nash as a sample of the many
writers as well as a wealth of anecdotes, stories and witticisms. We love
them all and appreciate so much you all taking the time to write and send
them to us. Every single message will be read to the crew – please keep them
coming – we all love hearing from so many of you.

So, back to watch – I have a very active Willow next to me, writing time has
come to a natural close,

Team Aretha, in the South Atlantic, Out,

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