Location: St. Helena
The dawn light revealed a dark storm cloud on the distant northern horizon. But as Argo’s crew emerged to slide into a topside yoga session with Jayda, a column of color grew to earth the heavy cloud to some far-off sea. The rainbow may have been a hundred nautical miles away, but nobody could stand before such a sight and not be present in the moment. “Majestical,” Uncle Hector would surely have said. Further grandeur came in the form of another cooked breakfast, by which time the tone had certainly been set for the day.
Shore-time was the breakfast topic – the first taste of shoreside freedom since gathering our shoes from the dock in Cape Town. Jamestown is known for its histories, centuries of settlers, and passers-through who have sought refuge from the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean in the deep valleys which radiate outward from the center of the island. The town is concentrated along a single street, skirted by a row or two of quaint and colorful buildings, built into the crumbling rock of sheer cliffs which tower some 200m towards the heavens. How one slept at night with the weight of the island hanging in the cliffs above their head was a curious thought, until many of the shipmates summited Jacob’s Ladder, a near-vertical flight of (reportedly) 699 concrete steps leading to the top of the rock face. Achieving this monumental climb took more than many had bargained for, but the view was surely worth it. A gentle slope leads from the crest of the cliff towards a pointed peak slightly further inland. Upon the slope, overlooking the mighty Atlantic is the town’s residential suburb – a small collection of buildings, homes to the 850 residents of Jamestown. What a place to live, a view complete with the luxury of sound slumber, caring not for falling rock! The cliff’s crest falls away to the sheltered leeward side of the island, a suitable, though deep, anchorage for Argo. As if facing towards her, the crest is lined with historic batteries of guns placed between stone walls. The locals were all-too-willing to point out this spot as an ideal place for us tourists to hang out, and “get stuck in with playing on the guns!”
They are a friendly people; glad, one supposes, to meet visitors from the strange and distant lands which are our lifelong homes. It is humbling to see how a true St. Helenian is so utterly content with a life free from the hustle and bustle of mainland dwelling. Happy is the face of a local lifer, and beaming is the face of one who has decided to move from distant shores.
The afternoon was much anticipated by those who are previously certified divers, for a spectacular adventure awaited, which certainly did not disappoint. For some who remained, a curious whale-shark was certainly the recurring highlight of the day. It seemed not the slightest bit concerned about our boiling excitement as it passed back and forth along the vessel’s length, feeding for over an hour. Camera reels are certainly full by now!
Finally, a signed out evening for dinner at Anne’s Place was the most sterling way to wrap up a day of St Helena. A quick group dance to the live music of a local band was the final order before returning to Argo. Imagine trying to dance on a heaving deck; oh! The luxuries of being ashore!