Skyelark of London - 4. St Helena Ahoy
4. St Helena ahoy
Before Skyelark left Cape Town there was a get together for those in the ARC
'fleet'. The party continued in the bar of the Cape Grace Hotel afterwards.
The evening strangely is a blur, meeting interesting people -mainly 'more
mature', from everywhere, and great conversations. So it is hard for me to
put names of people to boats. Although not a race as all the boats are
different lengths, shapes and sizes, there is a bit of a handicap system so
we all know roughly where we should come. On paper Skyelark should come
about 7th of the 11 - but Dan likes to punch above his weight. Speedy
Russian Arabela, 30 miles ahead, is the fastest - having to get to St
Helena 15 hours before Skyelark to truly win! On Owl, 'Bill, from my home
patch of the UK north east, is 20 miles behind and has only to be four hours
behind us to beat us and Lexington - feisty and charming Captain Bob - is on
our tail. We watch them all closely . Motoring hours are also taken into
account. The prize is paying for the first round. As the average is 7/8
knots an hour and there is around still 150 miles to go, it will be close.
There are two official fleet broadcasts a day when locations and weather
and other information are exchanged. And of course the 4pm quiz. I have
fallen in love with the voice of Val from Tullamore, she and her husband are
both doctors from Edinburgh, and am intrigued by the charming Sandra on
Solo from Germany and lovely Eileen from Aurora..
The trade winds have been blowing from the south east - behind - at a decent
15 - 20 knots. The sails are 'goose wing' and there is usually hazy sun.
Perfect. Apart from an hour or two early on in the voyage, the engine has
not really been used. With the wind still behind us today, gusting at up to
25 knots and a moderate sea, 20 tonne Skyelark is reaching up to 12 knots
planing down some of the larger swells - no need for the birthday kite
today. The potency of the combination of wind, sail and seamanship continues
to amaze and delight.
None of us has sailed the South Atlantic before. We were asked to bring a
rug/sleeping bag for the first few days and then sun cream, hats and light
long sun cover ups. We are now well into the tropics, north of Capricorn,
in high summer. A blanket is still needed and getting up today I put on my
sweater. It is generally overcast and when the sun comes out it is fierce -
but does feel a little odd. As I was concerned about the heat, it is a
The overcast skies mean that we have only had one or two nights of brilliant
stars; often very dark with the only light being the phosphorescence of the
plankton in our bow wave and wake. The nights however are always special,
a time for soul searching and contemplation. This Wednesday (17th) is my
younger brother George's funeral. I am sad not to be there. My lovely three
daughters and ex wife will be - so I will there in spirit. George and his
twin sister Annie had joined the family in their early teens when both their
parents had died and they had no-where to go. Annie was at school with my
sister Sal. George was a good and generous man who loved his hunting,
shooting and whisky and would have fitted well into the 18th century. He
never stopped saying how grateful he and Annie were to have been given a
home. In the dark recesses of the night watches, thinking particularly of
his caring wife Jane and lovely Annie, I can only hope he knew how much
they had added to the colour and love of our lives too. Things unsaid. The
crew of Skyelark will raise a glass on Wednesday to George. He leaves a
We have crossed the Greenwich (Prime) Meridian so are back in the West!
Steaks and dauphinoise potatoes - good old Hermann - and a beer are consumed
to mark the occasion. Sharon has a sweet potato.
And St Helena is nearly on the horizon. We will be there tomorrow, picking
up a mooring in Jamestown bay and using the dinghy to get ashore. We have
been advised there may be no mobile signal or wifi.
There will then be a three day stop on Napoleon's lonely isle. We hope to
swim with 50 ft whale sharks, if they are in residence, climb the 800 metre
central peak and the 45 degree 600 steps of Jacob's Ladder to the old fort,
and visit the house where Napoleon saw out his days. Skyelark will be
thoroughly cleaned - as will our clothes and the sometimes smelly crew
(speaking only for myself of course). And then the glories of Brazil beckon.