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St Helena cruising report 2002

By webmaster last modified Aug 22, 2002 11:24 AM

Published: 2002-08-22 11:24:59
Countries: St Helena

This 2000 ft high island can prove a very pleasant choice for yachts who wish to find a stop-over in the middle of the Atlantic. After about 10 days sailing from Cape Town or 9 days from Luederitz, this historic island offers a natural harbor, not completely sheltered and never completely free of swell and surge, but comfortable enough especially during the trade wind season. The island is almost 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. The anchorage is 15-20 meters deep with good holding. Clearing in and out of St. Helena is a pleasant and easy experience. The authorities are very helpful and happy to give you any information you need for your further stay.

Ships of the spice trade and pirates stopped here for water and supplies. These days it is for the same reasons that sailors and even some launches come here. Though replenishing is not always easy.

The supply ship is scheduled to come here 6 times a year, but that cannot always be achieved. About 5,000 inhabitants rely on the supplies brought by the ship plus whatever they can grow themselves. The island has more than enough fresh water available. However, it can be a challenge to get it on board. The same goes for fuel.

Getting ashore can either be attempted by using your own dinghy or by using the shuttle service provided by the port authorities (6$/day) . As the landing in your own dinghy at the one and only landing place is quite hazardous, we do suggest the safer option with the shuttle boat.

Once ashore the descendants mostly from the English settlers are very welcoming. Throw in a few ancestors of African slaves, Chinese coolies, Portuguese merchants and some Boer prisoners, and you have a complete picture of the population on St. Helena. Sailors are a welcome distraction and everybody seems to have time for a chat. The language has a deep English influence, though there is a local dialect as a mixture of all the languages brought by the early settlers.

With almost no crime on the island and more than 30 police to watch that, it makes a welcome and magnificent change when coming from South Africa. There is enough supplies and food, though it's not cheap. However, you can use your VISA card to worry about it when you are back at sea. Changing money is no problem either, even though there is no bank.

For 8 USD/hr you can entertain your Internet needs and there are international phones available. A handful of doctors are willing and very able to help sailors in distress.

A good 50 miles of road on the island plus many walking paths take you around the hills, the rugged coastline and the fortifications built when Napoleon Bonaparte lived here in exile. To prevent him being rescued and freed, the whole island had cannons placed at strategic point. Not that it would have been easy to land anyway. Jamestown, the only town on the island, is nestled safely in a beautiful valley, reminding everybody of merry old England.

For those interested in hiking, there will be many eventful days, i.e. visiting the famous "Jacob's ladder" with 700 steps to climb almost 800 feet of sheer cliff. The "Nightlife" is somewhat limited and getting back to the boat in darkness can be anything from challenging to dangerous, but a few pints in such friendly company after so many ocean miles are not easily turned down.

It comes as a surprise to learn that still so few boats stop at St. Helena. Is it because today's sailors are in such a hurry ?

Lilly Vedana &Thomas; Mueller, Yacht MIZMAE,