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Ascension Island - Clearance & Cruising Information

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 15, 2016 12:20 PM
The following port clearance and cruising information is provided to help sailors visiting Ascension Island. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42 foot catamaran YOLO with no pets.

Published: 2016-06-14 23:00:00
Countries: Ascension Island

Ascension Island - Clearance & Cruising Information

Ascension Island Landscape

ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE:  Friday, April 8, 2016

ARRIVAL PORT:  Georgetown, Ascension Island

DEPARTURE DAY/DATE:  Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DEPARTURE PORT:  Georgetown, Ascension Island

Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions, and rely on your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.

INTRODUCTION

There aren't many places to stop and take a breather when crossing the South Atlantic Ocean.  The British owned and micro-managed island of Ascension is one of them.  You will be hard pressed to find a friendlier place to visit on the globe.  During my stay the local census was just tallied, and the final answer was...714 humans occupied the island.  Walk the streets, do a little shopping, tour the island, and rent a car.  No matter what your land based activity is, the locals smile, wave, and chat you up.  "Island time" and "hospitality" must have had their origins on Ascension Island.  Consider your visit a gift, because less than 40 yachts visit this mid-ocean oasis each year.  If you are heading off to Brazil, the Caribbean, or points towards Europe, Ascension will provide you with wonderful respite.

PASSAGES TO ASCENSION ISLAND

There are a very high percentage of "perfect passages" when making for Ascension Island.  Most yachts leave Saint Helena, assume a rhumb line COG of 313 degrees true, sit back and relax, and truly enjoy the 710 nm down wind ride.  During the six or less day passage the winds seldom drop below 10 knots or blows more than 20 knots.  Utopia, in the middle of an ocean.  With the southeast trades pushing you along, most yachts sport their largest headsails and reefed mains, often going wing-on-wing.

Georgetown, Ascension Island, is the administrative center of the island, and it is located on the northwest corner of the island.  Most yachts sail past the east and north coast of the island before making a brief drop south to the Georgetown anchorage in Clarence Bay.

My Navionics and C-Map electronic charts were very accurate in Ascension Island.

ASCENSION ISLAND RADIO

When you are about a mile from Georgetown (Clarence Bay) call Ascension Island Radio on VHF channel 16.  Ascension Island Radio is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Don't be surprised if nobody answers after 1800 and before 0800.  The controller, if monitoring the radio, will ask you three questions: Name of your vessel, number of crew on board, and your last port of call.  They will also give you instructions for clearing in.

GEORGETOWN PIER HEAD (PORT CONTROL)

The guys working the "Pier Head" control the comings and goings in the harbour and wharf areas.  You can hail them on VHF 16, but they use VHF channel 8 for communications.  They work from 0800 to 1600, Monday through Friday.  If an ocean liner, military vessel, or cargo ship is in port outside these hours and days, they will also man the radio and be working from sun-up to sun-down.  If one of these large vessels are in port during your stay, the Pier Head Shuttle boat will be operating.  Use VHF channel 8 to call the shuttle for a free dry ride between your yacht and the wharf.  Prior to calling the shuttle, place fenders near your boarding area and be prepared to fend off the large shuttle boat.

ANCHORAGE AREA

I anchored at 07.55.211 S and 014.24.788 W in Clarence Bay in 14 meters of water.  Anchoring at night shouldn't be an issue for most sailors, given these considerations...

1.  In practical terms Georgetown (Clarence Bay) is the only anchorage available.  If you review charts you might think otherwise.  However, the other bays usually have a considerable swell rolling through them day and night.

2.  Just north of where I, and others anchored, is an extremely long fuel hose/boom floating on the surface of the ocean.  The hose basically runs east to west between two large moorings.  During the day it is impossible to miss the large, long, flag covered black snake.  The hose is removed from its two end point moorings, and connected to the wharf and a fuel ship, when the fuel ship is off loading its carbon based liquids.  Pumping fuel seldom occurs, so the hose ebbs and flows north and south while attached to its moorings, because of wind, waves, and tides.  Keep an eye on this obstruction during your first few days at anchor.  You might have to re-anchor further south. to avoid the "snake's spasms".  This obstacle was listed on all three of my electronic charts, noted as two moorings with a doted line between them.

3.  Just south of where I anchored are dozens of moorings, some continuously used and others seldom used.  These are for the local recreational and commercial boats.  Many of the mooring floats are two meters across.  Do NOT tie up to a local mooring.  If you do, the Pier Head will ask you to move.  My charts noted seven moorings.  In reality there several dozen moorings.

4.  The anchorage area for visiting yachts is between the floating fuel hose and local mooring field described above.  It is narrow, but can easily hold 10 yachts.  Most experienced sailors could slowly approach the anchorage area at night, with someone with a torch on the bow looking out for the noted hazards, and successfully anchor.  You would approach the anchorage area from the northwest.

Considerations when anchoring:

A.  The sea bottom of the yacht anchorage area is foul.  I swam for hours in this area cleaning my boat bottom, chasing fish, and looking at the turtles. I observed dozens of items on the sea floor poised to grab an anchor or chain.  The items located on the bottom included, abandoned mooring blocks, huge ship anchors, the mast of a sailboat, chains larger than my arm, low profile coral/rock, large cables, etc.  During my stay several visiting yachts snagged one or more of these items, which might be considered a good thing as you read on.

B.  Most yacht owners prefer to anchor in less than 14 meters of water, especially if the bottom is foul.  You can anchor further to the east in shallower water.  However, the motion from the southern swell tends to be greater the nearer you get to shore.  There are other trade-offs when you anchor closer to shore.  Near shore you are more likely tol find a sandy patch for setting your anchor and the number of underwater hazards decreases.  How bad is the swell closer to shore?  Some monohulls who choose this area found the continuous pitching unacceptable and re-anchored in deeper water.

C.  There aren't a lot of sandy patches for anchoring and because of the deep water they are difficult to locate.  Standing on the bow or up in the rigging won't help you locate the sandy spots.  You really need someone snorkeling in the water to spot the small good anchoring areas, and to confirm that the sand is deep enough to set the yacht's anchor.  Many of the sandy spots are deceiving, a little bit of sand over a hard rock or dead coral pan.

D.  There are fewer underwater obstacles and less swell in the waters 16 meters or more deep.  Most of the obstacles were seen between 12-15 meters of depth.

Conclusion:
Georgetown is NOT an ideal anchorage.  OK, after being used as an anchorage for over 500 years there are a few underwater challenges.  Good news - you can mitigate the anchoring issues by:

1.  Anchoring in deeper water.

2.  After setting your anchor take a warm swim and verify that your anchor is set.

3.  If your anchor or chain has grabbed something nasty, you might want to consider your anchor set.  Perhaps the obstacle will hold you better than the thin sand.  When it is time to raise your anchor, have someone in the water giving you directions for an easy release.  Or, contact someone in one of three dive clubs on the island to assist you in major problem solving, if need be.

4.  Since you are anchored in the lea of the island, strong winds very seldom occur.  And, it is extremely rare that the winds will come from the west or north, which would put you on a lea shore.

YACHT MOORINGS

Moorings do NOT exist for visiting yachts.

DINGHY DOCK/WHARF

The dinghy dock/wharf is located at the very large concrete wharf area, which is piled high with shipping containers.  The wharf is located south of the yacht anchorage area.  To get there you will have to motor through the local mooring field avoiding all the long mooring lines.

The landing area at the wharf has a gallow and rope arrangement, similar to Saint Helena and Nuie.  Timing the swell is the primary factor when trying to load and off-load your dinghy safely.  Given the challenges of anchoring a dinghy near the wharf, dinghy-pooling with other yachties is a common practice at the Georgetown wharf.  Often, the guy driving the dinghy returns to his yacht after dropping sailors off at the wharf.  His sole purpose for the day is that of acting as a shuttle driver for the cruising fleet.  We rotated the shuttle driver role among the fleet during my visit.

Anchoring your dinghy at the wharf:

If you plan to anchor your dinghy at the wharf you'll need to prepare your dinghy in advance.

First, the bow painter on your dinghy must be very long, 12 meters minimum.  Second, you need to attach a NON-GRABBING anchor or weight to a 5 meter long line at the stern of your dinghy.

After off loading your dinghy (people and things going to shore) at the wharf you will motor back out to sea.  The area near the wharf has a sandy bottom.  When you are about 20 meters from the wharf steps drop your stern anchor/weight over the side of your dinghy, keep motoring towards the northern set of steps on the wharf, throw the bow line to someone on the wharf, stop your motor, have the person on land pull you and your dinghy to the northern steps of the wharf, and quickly jump out of your dinghy and onto the wharf during the top of a swell.  If you are safe and dry on the wharf at this point you should genuflect.  Tie your bow painter to the step handles and watch the current and swell take your dinghy out to sea where the dinghy's anchor will hold it in place away from the wharf and out of the way of small boat traffic using the wharf.

NOTE: This procedure will NOT work if you stern anchor sets and holds in the sand bottom, so you MUST have a non-grabbing anchor or weight that can be pulled across the surface of the sandy bottom.  During my stay, yacht owners used scuba weight belts, dinghy anchors with their flukes tied to the shank (so that the flukes did NOT dig in), and other heavy objects as dinghy anchors. Your dinghy must stay out of the way of local boats coming to the wharf.

When large ships are off-loading people or cargo, the Pier Head men will tell you that anchoring a dinghy at the wharf is prohibited.  When a ship is in port, off-loading occurs sun-up to sun-down.  However, this is not a big deal, just call the Pier Head Shuttle on VHF 8 and get a free ride to/from your yacht.

During high tide and large swell periods, the base platform of the dinghy wharf surges with water.  Dress appropriately. And, watch that people and objects don't get washed off the wharf steps when the swells flood the landing area.

Some yacht owners have anchored their dinghies in the area I described and swam to and from the dinghy wharf.  In settled conditions this is a possibility for the average swimmer.  During rough periods of wind, waves, tide, and swell, Mark Spitz would find this alternative impossible.

CLEARING-IN PROCEDURE

First stop, Customs Port Authority:
Land at the dinghy wharf and walk to the east among the shipping containers.  Just before you leave the secured container port area on the right you will see the "Shipping/Flight Booking/Tourist Office."  The Customs officer resides within.  The officer, a nice lady named Kitty, will have you fill out three forms (Masters Declaration Form, Ascension Island Port Authority Form, and Ascension Island Port Authority Notice of Yacht Arrival Form).  He/she will review your passports, ship's papers, and last port-of-call departure papers.

After you pay 15 Pounds (Saint Helena or British) and get a copy of the processed forms noted above, you are good to go.  During my stay this fee was for Lights and Harbour Dues, and equaled about $23 USD.  A payment receipt will be provided.

This office is typically open 0800 to 1230 and 1330 to 1630, Monday through Friday.  If you have a burning desire to clear in during the weekend, Customs will make an appointment with you at no additional cost.  To make a weekend clearance appointment contact Ascension Island Radio on VHF channel 16, and the radio operator will contact the Customs officer for you.

NOTE: If you fail to have official exit papers from your last port-of-call you will NOT be permitted to clear into Ascension Island.

Second stop, Police Department (Immigration):
The police station is located in the center of Georgetown and is open 0800 to 2400, and fills the role of Immigration.  The guys in the uniforms are great, they had me laughing with tears in my eyes...they made me think about the slapstick antics of the Keystone Cops.  You will complete an Ascension Island Enter Control Order form for each crew member, show them proof of medical and evacuation insurance for each crew member, and give them your passports.

If you have medical insurance, your passports will be stamped and immediately returned to you.  If you do NOT have medical insurance, your passport will be locked in the police department safe and you will be required to purchase a short-term policy.  See the Medical Insurance section below for further details.  Upon payment you will be given a receipt for the Immigration/Tourist fee of 20 pounds ($30 USD) per person.  You can pay in Saint Helena or British pounds.  You are NOT allowed to roam freely around Ascension Island until you have medical insurance.

MEDICAL INSURANCE

Everyone who steps foot on Ascension Island must have medical and evacuation insurance.  No exceptions, period.  If you do NOT have proof of medical insurance you are required to purchase medical insurance during the clearing-in process.

To purchase medical insurance:
Go to the grocery store, "The Shop" in downtown Georgetown.  It is located across the street from the police station and post office.  Fill out a Medical Expenses Insurance Application form for each uninsured person, which is then faxed to the Saint Helena Insurance Cell Captive company.  FYI, the term and coverage amount of the policy is up to you.

Make sure your policy term covers all of the days you will be in Ascension waters.  If you try to fake-out the locals by applying for a short-term policy and remain in the anchorage for a longer term, the police and Pier Head personnel will inform you that you have to immediately leave Ascension waters, or apply for another medical policy.

Upon review and approval of you application in Saint Helena a return fax will inform the Ascension store if insurance will be granted and what the cost of the coverage will be.  Obviously, the higher the sum insured, older people, and those with medical conditions will pay higher rates.  So far, this part of the process takes 4 to 8 business hours.

Your next stop is "the bank" in downtown Georgetown to pay for your medical policy(s).  In most cases the bank will accept Saint Helena pounds, British pounds, or US dollars.  Wire transfers are also accepted.  Pay for your policy(s), get a receipt, and return to the store.  The store personnel will make a photo copy of your bank payment receipt and give you a copy of your insurance policy.  Final stop...return to the Police station and present them with evidence that you have paid for and secured medical insurance.  At this time your passports will be stamped and returned to you.  The above process typically takes two or more business days, during which time you are expected to stay on the yacht.

The cost of short-term medical insurance varies.  Only the Saint Helena insurance underwriter, brother of the Wizard of OZ, knows how to calculate the cost of each policy.  During my stay the cost of a policy varied between $9 and $13 USD per person per day.  This did not include the fax fee of $2 USD charged by the store.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FAILED TO LEGALLY CLEAR OUT OF THE LAST FOREIGN PORT?

You MUST have exit papers from your last port-of-call to clear into Ascension Island.  No prior clearance papers...no visit to Ascension.

AGENTS

You are NOT required to have a shipping agent when clearing into or out of Ascension.

VISA AND BONDS

Upon arrival you can stay up to six months as a Tourist (versus the 72 hours allowed for a Transit visitor).  A prior to arrival VISA is NOT needed.  A bond is NOT needed.  However, you should fill out the on-line Ascension Island Government Entry Permit Application in advance and get pre-approval to visit the island.  Some yachts have arrived without pre-approval and been granted clearance.  See http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac for the permit form. Send it off with proof of insurance before departing for Ascension to smooth the way.  You can pay the 20 Pound fee upon arrival at the island.  You can contact aig.admin@ascension.gov.ac with updates or questions about your permit.

YACHT INSPECTION

During my stay in no yachts were inspected.  Local law prohibits the importation of honey, firearms without a valid license, or obscene pornographic items.

TIDES

The tides max out at about one meter. 
Caution: The waters near the shore line have nasty undertows and surges.  Earlier this year a healthy young man was swept out to sea, never to be seen again, while swimming at English Bay (northwest corner of the island).

And, I looked at several pictures taken by locals that showed surging waves over 6 meters high breaking on the container wharf.  This type of event is EXTREMELY rare, and only occurs when storms approach the island.

PETS

Cruising furry, scaly, and feathery friends are NOT permitted on Ascension Island.  As the Customs lady stated, "No exceptions at any time," end of topic.

GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE BUSINESS OFFICE HOURS

Ascension Island Radio is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, in theory.

Pier Head/Wharf employees work 0800 to 1800 Monday through Friday.  If a ship is visiting the island they will work sun-up to sun-down.

Customs and ALL Ascension Government Offices:  0800 to 1230 and 1330 to 1600, Monday through Friday.

Police: 0800 to 2400 seven days per week.  They are available after hours for emergencies, call the cell phone number posted on the front door of the police station.

Businesses: They are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 0800 to 1700.  On Wednesday and Saturday they are open 0800 to 1300.

"The bank:" The Bank of Saint Helena is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 0900 to 1500.  On Thursday and Saturday they are open 0800 to 1300.  Note: The bank may or may not exchange foreign currencies.  It all depends on whether the bank has "reached its monthly limit for that particular type of currency."

The few businesess that exist on the island are closed on Wednesday afternoons, Saturday afternoons, and Sundays.

CLEARING-OUT PROCEDURE

Clearing-out is quick and easy.  Start at the police station and get a departure stamp in your passport.  Next visit Customs and get a departure stamp on your Masters Declaration form.

CLEARANCE COSTS

All fees must be paid in British OR Saint Helena pounds.  Credit cards and checks are not accepted.  The various fees are:

Customs lights/harbour/port dues: 15 pounds ($23 USD) per vessel.

Police/Immigrations: 20 pounds per person, about $30 USD.

Medical Insurance: This expensive varies according to your age, accidental history, medical history, and the term of the policy.  Price per day per person ranged from $9 to $13 USD.  Add several dollars to this for faxing your insurance application to Saint Helena.

There are no costs for clearing-out.

TOURIST OFFICE

You will need to make two stops to gather tourist information and island road maps.  The Shipping/Flight Booking/Tourist Office located on the wharf has many brochures and handouts.  For the full enchilada on tourism you will have to go the the Conservation Department office which is located near the hospital in downtown Georgetown.  The conservation personnel will give you a bucket of info. and make arrangements for their inexpensive tours.  They offer all kinds of flora, fauna, seabird and terrestrial bird watching, jungle hiking, turtle nesting, land crabs, etc. tours.  The island's lunar looking landscape is covered with dozens of bare volcanic cones, the one exception being the Green Mountain National Park.

The contact information for tourism is:  www.ascension-island.gov.ac, or call (+247) 6244 or (+247) 66359, or e-mail tourism@ascension.gov.ac

TRANSPORTATION AND LAND TRAVEL

At this time, one cargo/passenger/mail ship from Cape Town visits Ascension each month.  This service will cease operation within a month or two.

Each month a scheduled cargo ship leaves the UK and visits Ascension Island before heading south to the Falkland Islands.  There are no passengers on this ship.

Several cruise liners stop by the island each year, weather dependent.  If the swell/surge at the dinghy wharf makes it challenging for the paying passengers to transit to land safely, the ship's visit to Ascension will be measured in several short hours with nobody going ashore.

Military ships and other random cargo ships visit Ascension Island.

Twice a week a military plane with limited civilian seating departs England and lands at Ascension Island before going to the Falkland Islands, and making the return.  You book a seat on the plane by visiting the Shipping/Flight Booking/Tourist Office on the wharf or consult flight.bookings@ascension.gov.ac

Once a week a USA military plane departs Florida and lands on the island.  Civilians are not permitted on these flights.

When the new Saint Helena International Airport opens, there will be one flight per month between the two mid-South Atlantic Ocean islands.

Once on the island you have several options for getting around:

1.  Hitch-hike: You are sure to get a ride if a privately owned vehicle is going your way and has an open seat.  Unfortunately, the mass majority of vehicles on the island are company owned vehicles which prohibit the transportation of hitch-hikers.  In my case I was picked up by one of the police cars and taken to my destination, without the used of handcuffs...darn!  There are very few roads on the island and the guys on police patrol were glad to help out and have someone to talk with.

2.  Car Rental/Hire: Two companies hire out cars and pick-up trucks.  The Solomon Fuel Station which is located mid-island rents vehicles for half the price of those offered by the Obsidian Hotel (The Obsidian Group Ltd.) which is located in downtown Georgetown, the only hotel on the island.  Both companies have a very limited number of cars/trucks, so try to make a reservation in advance.  Sometimes all vehicles are booked for the next ten days, or more.  I.e., it would be wise to book an Ascension car hire prior to leaving your last port.

To book a Solomon car contact the tourism office via the e-mail or phone number listed above.

To reserve a Obsidian rental vehicle call (+247) 6246 or e-mail accommodation@atlantis.co.ac.  To drive on EVERY road and see the entire island takes one day and about 4 liters of fuel.  A compact Obsidian Hotel car hire costs about $45 USD per day.

3.  Tours: Island tours are offered by the Conservation Department.  The cost varies according to the tour you select.

LANGUAGE

English is widely spoken and is the official language.

GIFTS/PAYOFFS/CONSIDERATIONS/ETC.

Ascension Island government employees will NOT ask you for a back-hander.

YACHT RELATED SERVICES AND FUEL

Traditional yacht parts and service are not available.  If you are in dire need of something yacht related, ask the owner of one of the two fishing charter boats for assistance or direction.  The fishing charter boats use the nearby moorings and they go fishing daily with their clients.  You will certainly see them with their prize winning catches at the cleaning station on the wharf when they return from the sea.

There is only one fuel option, Solomon fuel station which is located mid-island.  You will have to make transportation arrangements for your fuel cans.  The cost of fuel is pricey, to say the least.

WATER SPORTS

Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching, and fishing charters are available.  I swam and snorkeled in the Clarence Bay anchorage area, away from the shoreline.  The visibility was over 15 meters.  I also enjoyed snorkeling in the calm and fish studded waters of Comfortless Cove.  Comfortless Cove is just north of Clarence Bay, is a well protected cove, accessible by car or dinghy, and has an interesting quarantine history.

Contact one of the three local dive clubs via the Conservation Department if you want to go scuba diving.  Scuba diving and whale watching requires a local guide.

You need zero skill or luck to catch a fish off the side of your boat in Clarence Bay.  Within a minute of anchoring your yacht will be surrounded by dozens of dark blue trigger fish.  Any lure and line will bring them onboard.  The number of Trigger fish near my boat certainly exceeded the number of their collective brain cells.  Cruisers collected the Triggers by bare hooks, dipping buckets, or via hand during my visit.  Groupers are too numerous to count in Clarence Bay, and are delicious.  The trick to bringing them on board is to use a heavy weight on the end of a fishing line.  Place a lure (literally any kind will do) or a baited hook a meter above the weight.  Drop the fishing gear to the bottom of the sea bed as QUICKLY as possible, with the goal of getting past the surface feeding Trigger fish. When you feel a nibble or strike, bring dinner aboard.  The Trigger fish are considered inedible by the locals and have a very tough skin.

MEDICAL AND DENTAL CARE

The basics are covered by the local Georgetown hospital.  The hospital employs two doctors.

BANKING, CURRENCY, AND VAT

Saint Helena has it's own currency (paper and coins). 
Caution: Don't stock up on SH pounds because they are only accepted two places on the planet, SH and Ascension Island.  British pounds are also widely used on Ascension Island.  Some local businesses and at times the bank will also accept U.S. dollars.  One SH pound equals one British pound.  During my stay one pound equaled 67 cents USD.

There is one bank on the island, the Bank of Saint Helena.  The bank is affiliated with Lloyds Of London.  The bank is located in downtown Georgetown.  Given its monopoly status the fees for banking services are high, except for SOME foreign exchange transactions. 
Warning: Always request Saint Helena pounds which have no foreign currency exchange fee.  There is a 2 percent exchange fee if you ask for British Pounds in exchange for other popular currencies.  And remember the bank won't always accept US Dollars for exchange if they've reached their limit for the month.

Ascension Island does NOT have a single ATM.

The bank will give you a cash advance on a credit card, yet prepare yourself for the following fees:  A $10 USD cash advance fee, PLUS at 2% foreign transaction fee, PLUS a VISA or MasterCard transaction fee (typically 1%), PLUS interest charges starting day one.  I.e., bank robbers dressed as bankers!

Credit cards are sparingly accepted by a few businesses.  The merchants which do accept VISA or MasterCard often INCREASE YOUR PURCHASE PRICES BY 5 PERCENT, to cover their "handling costs." This additional expense is in ADDITION to the VISA and MasterCard international transaction fee and your bank fee.  Net net, cash remains king on Ascension.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

The trash cans/bins are located on the waterfront wharf.

DRINKING WATER

Drinking water is considered liquid gold on the extremely arid Ascension Island.  You have three options for filling water containers.

1.  On the wharf near the top of the dinghy dock steps and fish cleaning station is a three sided shed.  It looks like a bus stop.  Deposit a one pound coin in the slot located on the INSIDE of the shed.  Then go outside the shed a use the water tap on the western wall.  You will get 45 liters of metered drinking water for one pound.

2.  On the wharf prior to the tourist/customs office is a restroom and shower/laundry room.  Deposit a one pound coin in the slot for the SHOWER and you will get 20 minutes of drinking water from the shower AND the large stainless sink facet.  Both the shower and the sink facet can be used at the same time for the same price.  Slip a short section of standard garden hose over the sink facet to make filling jerry cans easier.

3.  If you take an immediate left after leaving the secured wharf area, walk 75 meters, and look on your right you will see the public swimming pool.  Free showers and drinking water are available at this location.

GROCERIES

For practical purposes only one store exists on the island and it is located in downtown Georgetown.  Selection is very limited, many of the items on the shelves are past their "best buy" dates, and few fresh food items exist.  Goods arrive here by ship from South Africa via Saint Helena or from the UK.  The store accepts credit cards without a fee. 
NOTE: You must be one of the two US Air Force employees on the island or one of the 80 Air Force contract employees to use the commissary/PX (store) located on the US Air Force Base.  Visitors are allowed to purchase goods at the small European military base store in the middle of the island.

DINING OUT

There are very few places to eat out on Ascension.  Almost all of them require 24 hours advance notice concerning your menu selection.  The three island bars will serve you drinks and a snack or two upon demand.  The Volcano Club is the largest dining and drinking establishment on the island.  It is located near the baseball field at the U.S. Air Force Base and is open to the public starting at 1700 each day.  Step-up to the counter and order anything you want from their extensive menu without prior arrangements.  The Club accepts Saint Helena pounds, British pounds, and US dollars.  Most of the meals would be categorized as "fast food" (pizza, burgers, onion rings, fries, fish and chips, etc.).

SECURITY

Crime, be it minor or major, very seldom occurs on Ascension.  The two jail cells on the island remain empty for years-on-end.  As a local noted, "We don't remove our keys from our vehicles, we don't lock our homes, and if anyone on the island even thinks about committing a crime they are banished from the island on the next passing ship or plane."  Several police officers confirmed this generalization.  "Drunk driving is about as exciting as it gets on Ascension, and that is rather rare since there is a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shuttle bus driving between the three bars on the island."

FYI, there are no permanent residents on Ascension Island. There is no "right of abode" on this island.  Upon reaching 18 years of age, every adult must have a job or leave the island.  EVERY person on the island was pre-screened, hired under a two-year work contract, or is related to a spouse or parent working on a contract basis.  By law EVERY contract employee (and family) must be and remain squeaky clean so to speak.  As a condition of employment, all employees receive full medical insurance, housing accommodations, a food and utility allowance, travel allowances, and often other benefits.  Many contractors get their vehicles and furnishings transported to Ascension at no cost, and they also get free transportation to and from the island one or more times per year.  Many of the adults on the island have more than one official job, some wear three or four hats.

Looking for a job?  Check out the Ascension Island Government (AIG) openings, there are usually numerous opportunities, http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac . Other island employers also sport job opportunities.

COMMUNICATIONS

Globally, Ascension occupies a tiny chunk of land.  However, it is teeming with every type of advanced radar, antennae, and satellite dish ever designed.  Some of the high tech stuff exceeds a hundred meters in height and covers acres and acres of land.  Ascension's mid-Atlantic and near the equator location has the sophisticated global communication firms and agencies clambering for communication and tracking stations.  Despite all this cutting edge technology supporting the rest of the world, the local phone and Internet services are firmly entrenched in the 1990s or earlier.  Four digit phone numbers and painfully slow Internet connections are the norm.

You have one option for connecting to the Internet on Ascension.  Go to the Obsidian Hotel in downtown Georgetown and pay for Wi-Fi access to their router.  You can pay 5 Pounds for 1 hour of access ($8 USD) or 10 Pounds for a full day of access ($15 USD).

NOTE: If you get a connection it will be slow and unstable, so don't plan on doing a lot of surfing.

TELEPHONE COUNTRY CODE

The country code is +247 when dialing long distance.

LAUNDRY AND SHOWERS

A laundry and shower room exists half way between the wharf's fish cleaning station and the wharf's Tourist/Customs office.  A twenty minute very hot shower will cost you a one pound coin.  Place the one pound coin in the appropriate slot.

The other coin machine is for the washing machine. 
Caution: Make sure you read, understand, AND follow the posted instructions for using the washer.  If you have questions ask the Customs officer for assistance BEFORE inserting a coin.  You MUST select the "Time Saver" option when using the washer.  FYI, Time Saver will enable your load of laundry to complete a full wash and rinse cycle.  This takes approximately 1.5 hours!  Failing to select Time Saver option will result in your clothes running through a PARTIAL wash cycle, NO rinse cycle, and the door/lid for the washer will be locked with your dirty clothes inside the machine.  If you cannot access your clothes at the end of 1.5 hours you made a mistake and will have to have the Customs agent unlock the washer.

Free air temperature showers are available at the public pool.  See the Drinking Water section above for directions.

PRICES

Good-bye African bargain basement prices.  Welcome to small remote island monopoly pricing and a very limited selection.  Prior to arrival at Ascension Island you should stock up on EVERYTHING.

TIME ZONE

The time in Ascension is UTC/GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), 00:00, all year round, the same as Saint Helena.

SUMMARY

Consider stopping at Ascension Island, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  The island is the world's second largest Green Turtle nesting site.  Each year during February, March, and April over 3,000 turtles come ashore to dig their nests and deposit their eggs.  Each night over a dozen green turtles leave the sea shortly after the sun sets on Clarence Bay beach.  Many of these turtles measure 1.5 meters in size and weigh hundreds of kilos!  At the same time while watching these giants drag themselves up and over the beach under the cover of darkness, I was surrounded by an army of recently born baby turtles marching to the sea for their first swim.

Amazing...Ascension...go there!

SUBMITTED BY:  Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO (You Only Live Once, life is not a rehearsal)

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