Eye of The Wind - Newsletter
News from Tiger
As one looked astern, Table Mountain began to emerge from its mantle of cloud, which had shrouded the famous peak for the past few days as gale force winds and large seas rolled in from the Southern Atlantic. Our compliment of trainees and voyage crew had begun to get restless at our still being tethered to the wharf. Not wanting to sail on Friday 13th, we finally departed Cape Town on the late afternoon of 12th October 1995.
Motorsailing into the a large swell, many of the crew and trainees suffered the usual malaise by the time we had cleared Robbin Island with its own spectacular view of Table Mountain, and where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for many years.
A colourful dawn broke on 13th and with multitudes of albatross and cape pigeons soaring over the waves, we set sail for St Helena. - South Africa was a fantastic experience for us all. The rugged beauty of Cape Province never failed to astound us. On one of our forays to the Cape of Good Hope National Park we stood at the top of the lighthouse - as one looked seaward towards Cape Horn to our right and to our left across the Southern Indian Ocean was Australia, the closest we had been to it since our departure in 1991. A few of the crew would have liked to set sail and made Australia by Christmas!
Whilst having a picnic by the seashore, Emma had her first experience with Africa's wildlife, when a troupe of baboons decided to invite themselves to the repaste. The older ones even peeled the wrappers off the chocolate bars before devouring everything in sight, and the picnickers had to buy a sandwich on the way home.
On completion of the maintenance on the foreyards, we departed the Naval Dockyard at Simons Town on a misty morning, and ghosted around the Cape of Good Hope and headed for the bright lights of the waterfront Complex in Cape Town. This has been a successful dockland refurbishment, and is one of Cape Town's main tourist attractions, with its many cinemas, restaurants, bars and boutiques.
Most people managed to spend a couple of days in Krüger Park, and although the vegetation was very dry and scrubby, it made for good viewing of the animals as you could spot them at a reasonable distance.
Of course you don't get the intimate details shown on documentaries on TV, but there is still nothing like actually seeing the animals live in the wild, and most got to see the 'big 5' - elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard.
We were very sad to leave Cape Town, as we had been overwhelmed with friendship, hospitality and helpfulness.
It wasn't long before everyone settled back into ship's routine, with Ross giving his seamanship lectures on our 13 days 1,820 mile passage to St Helena. We managed an average speed of 5.9 knots, and only had to motor sail for 16 hours of the passage.
Off the anchorage at St Helena lay the 'RMS St Helena', which is the British Government supply vessel for the islands of Ascension, St Helena and Tristan da Cuhna. They called us on the VHP radio as soon as we were sighted rounding the headland, as Gary Wilson had done a stint aboard her, and they were wondering if he was with us, while at the same time we were wondering if he was back aboard her. Unfortunately they didn't have time to visit, as they were due to depart that morning.
The quaint village of James Town was a welcome sight, and we spent 4 days exploring the island, with some bird watching enthusiasts actually sighting the quite rare but local 'wire bird'.
No visit to St Helena is complete without the day trip in the 1932 Chewy bus (most of the bodywork is now timber, and it even boasts a fold up plastic awning for rainy days) as we bumped along the island roads.
St Helena was the place of internment for Napoleon Boneparte after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. He was transported here and he spent his remaining years in a mansion especially built for him. It is now a museum, and one can view his death mask and other personal belongings and memorabilia. On his death he was entombed in one of the most peaceful valleys imaginable, before his body was exhumed and taken to Paris many years after his death. There is still great speculation as to the cause of his death, and there are conflicting opinions. A high degree of arsenic was found with modern DNA testing, and Ridley Scott was very intrigued by the whole affair, and may be doing a movie of it in the future. Jonothan, the oldest known living animal is still at residence at the Governor's home (it is known to have "been" 180 years ago that he was brought to the Island, and was alive in Boneparte's time), and still enjoys having his tummy (or the tortoise equivalent of) scratched.
Favourable winds made it possible for us to sail from the anchorage at St Helena to the anchorage at Ascension Island, at Clarence Bay. The timing of our visit was not really ideal, as they had just discovered an unexploded ordinance whilst doing extensions to the only wharf. A bomb disposal expert had to be flown in from the Falklands, and until he had given his verdict, the wharf was closed. This meant a very long and hot walk to town from the closest beach landing point at Desolation Cove. It is as bleak as its name suggests, and anyone with a fever on passing ships was offloaded here and left to die. There are even a few unnamed graves scratched out of the rocky, dry ground and the place is quite eerie.
On a more friendly note, the 'Maersk Ascension', which is a fuel supply vessel that has been anchored at Ascension for the past 11 years, invited us aboard for an evening get together. We all got a tour of the ship, and John nearly cried when he saw their engine room - 12 years of not moving and an ample supply of yellow paint made everything very pristine. Emma arrived back with lots of Christmas treats, and a pleasant time was had by all.
During the next section of the voyage, we would be departing southern latitudes and crossing the Equator to bring us in to the northern hemisphere once more. As always, the uninitiated lived in fear and dread of that moment when the water would go down the plug the opposite way, the Equator was crossed, and Neptune and his motley crew would appear over the bow.
The punishments were severe and swift, as Neptune metered out his justice to the astonishment of the pollywogs aboard. Luckily, everyone survived with their hair intact (due to the fact of the Barber's scissors being a little rusty and dull), and a good day was had by all, helped along by a good dose of rum punch after the proceedings.
Even though we trawled a fishing line for most of the daylight hours of the 5,647 mile passage, our record reverted to its usual level, and we caught 2 fish. One was a beautiful blue sail fish (which we put back), and one dorado. Every combination of lure, colour and size was tried, but to no avail.
Our first port of call to the West Indies was Trinidad, which was a new experience for us. It is a bird lover's paradise, and many saw both rainforests of the interior, and extensive coastal mangrove areas, which are home of the pink ibis.
Whilst there, we ran into an old friend of the ship, 'Spider' Anderson who was aboard from 1977 - 1980. He certainly left his mark on the ship and was responsible for the flying fish in the galley, the 2 wonderful paintings in the lower saloon, and many other touches. He was also accompanied by his wife and new 8 week old baby "Holly", and they were getting ready to sail back to Australia in their yacht.
From December we have cruised extensively through the Windward Islands, being able to visit many of our favourite islands, and experiencing some great sailing, snorkelling and diving. Christmas was spent at Bequia, and Helen was able to join us this year. Emma played the Christmas fairy and gave out all the gifts under the tree (Santa couldn't make it as he was running late with his deliveries), and after turkey, lobster and the usual Christmas cheer, (much of it from South Africa) everyone collapsed for the afternoon.
Everybody's fears of a year ago, when the Windward and Leeward Islands experienced abnormal weather and higher than usual water temperatures, were unfortunately realised. 1995 turned out to be one of the worst hurricane seasons this century, with extensive damage throughout a lot of the island chain.
St Martin was worst hit, and even now 6 months after the event, many of the buildings still lie in ruins, and hulks of yachts are still at anchor in the harbour. In Simson Lagoon over 1,000 yachts were damaged or sunk, which must have ended the dreams of many people, as a lot would not have been insured.
It was a shock for us after the long passage to go ashore and find that 2 major suppliers we use were both in ruins - one survived the storm, but was burnt down after about a week later.
We are now at anchor at Grand Bay, St Martin doing the last minute maintenance and preparations for a homeward passage to Gloucester. This is a little earlier than planned, but there is a new survey body in the UK (Marine Safety Authority), and while under the Old Department of Transport you automatically received a 3 month extension if applied for, the rules with this new body are different. We now have to be in the UK by the end of April, and will be in dry dock in Gloucester for approximately 4 weeks.
The ship will be participating in the Festival of the Sea at Bristol from 24-27 May 1996. It is billed as the largest gathering of traditional sailing vessels in the UK, with numerous special events connected with the sea being staged during the festival, including a screening of 'White Squall' and other well known nautical films. We gather that there will be a substantial admission fee to the dock area, which was a surprise to us. Please feel free to make yourself known, but please be aware that at times we will have charter guests aboard, and may not be able to invite you aboard as would normally be the case. Unfortunately I do not think we will be able to get free passes for visiting friends of the ship.
We seem to be involved in a spate of Festivals, and we have been invited for the Commemoration of the 50th year of the Irish Navy, which will be held in Dublin on the long weekend in June. No doubt the Guinness will be flowing.
Sea and bird life should be an added bonus to the majestic ruggedness of the Western Isles. Weather permitting, we will call at Rhum, Skye and some of the outer Hebrides on the way to the Orkneys. It is imperative we are on time, as we will be bringing the groom (and flower girl, and maybe even the best man) to the wedding of Angela and Benny. We are hoping Angela's family are prepared for a bit of an influx of old crew and ship friends.
We hope to join up with Jamie on his family's restored cutter 'Eda', and sail in company for at least part of the way to the Tall Ships gathering in Rostock. As we cruise the Norwegian and Swedish coastlines we should come into contact with many Scandinavian sailing vessels heading for this event.
As you are no doubt aware, this year's Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race is visiting Russia for the first time, when the ships visit the historical seaport of ST Petersbourg in the Baltic. We have been chartered by a Yorkshire Schools group, so we are sorry that many of you will have missed out on doing this very interesting itinerary. Denmark is alive with festivities as Copenhagen has been designated the Cultural Capital of Europe for 1996. Owing to this fact, we have decided to stay in the Danish Archipelago for 2 weeks exploring the islands, and visiting Horsens for the International Match Race and Music Festival. Scores of traditional vessels ranging from sail, oar and steam will be competing in these friendly events with associated activities. We hope you will find this an interesting alternative to the Tall Ships Event.
Many thanks to everyone that helped Helen at the London Boat Show - she certainly appreciated the support, and we appreciate Fred finding all the interesting bits to go on the stand. As mentioned previously, 'White Squall' will be screened at Bristol, and for general release in the UK in May. Do be prepared for the fact that it is a disaster movie, and we hope it won't make you book a bus trip instead!!
We will be having a soiree/party(et) on Saturday 18 May at Gloucester from 2pm to 6pm, so anyone that is able to join us is welcome. This will probably be our last opportunity to invite you to the ship, as Penzance and the Southern ports will be too far away form most people to call.
In our next newsletter we will be sending details of our proposed itinerary in Australia. Whilst we realise it is a long way to go, some of you may be interested in joining us, as we will be doing an exciting programme down the east coast onto Hobart in Tasmania, and visiting the Port Davey area, which is one of the last designated wilderness areas of the world.
We would like to pass on special thanks to Sue, who continued to man the office when Lisa's baby was due (she had a girl Bryony) and both are happy and well).
Perhaps by now you will have spoken to Jacci Jourdan, who has joined the office in Crediton. Jacci's enthusiasm and previous sailing and diving experience has already proven to be an asset to the shoreside operations. She is available in the office to speak to you between 9am-1pm Monday - Friday, and the answerphone and fax are for use at other times.
We are now all busily trying to dig out the winter woollies for our passage back. Hope we get the chance to see many of you in the UK
News from Fred...
I think Tigers fascinating Newsletter is one of his best and I for one enjoyed it. Things have gone well for the "Eye" of late and from my point of view things have eased up a little at last. It is really nice to have Jacci in the office and her enthusiasm is like a breath of Spring; anyhow down to business.
As Tiger says we have had to change the schedule to get the "Eye" back to Gloucester by mid April, this will give us 4 weeks in dry dock to complete our marine survey. We will be looking for help during the dry dock so dig out your overalls and come and get abused! We will be in Nielsons Dry Dock in Gloucester Docks.
Due to our early dry docking, we have our September dry dock period to fill. We had so much interest in the Western Isles trip and had to disappoint so many people so we have decided to add the following to our schedule. T5 will now be Penzance to Milford Haven in Wales, T5a will be Milford Haven to Oban 14-26th September, taking in Dublin, Isle of Man and as much of the Western Isles as possible. T5b will be Oban - Penzance, the above in reverse and taking in Lundy 26th September - 6th October. This will be your last chance to sail on the "Eye Of The Wind" in the U.K for a few years, so don't miss it.
Individual trips will be £600 or why not combine the two for a very special price of £900....WOW! what a trip. The Western Isles is really special in the Autumn.
We will then have a week in Penzance for our final preparations before we leave the U.K. for our trip back to Australia. Berths are filling fast for the trip back to Oz so if you are tempted, check it out with Jacci in the Office. She is there 9am-1pm Monday to Friday.
Well, that's about it from me. I look forward to seeing many of you in Gloucester for work or play.
All the best