Graying dawn had barely begun to lighten the sky when we left St Helena under a nearly full moon. The distance to Ascension – a little over 700 nautical miles – was slightly awkward. Leave in the daytime, and we’d arrive at night, something we really did NOT want to do. So we departed in darkness, to assure a daytime arrival.
Totem’s 75hp Yanmar chugged through the first hour and a half, but the genoa was rolled out by the time the sun began to rise and the breeze filled in. It’s light, so rather than put up the main and bang gear around slatting, we make way under headsail alone. The rhumb line toward Ascension is dead downwind; pointing north for a better angle, 160 miles glide under the first 24 hours.
The second morning the main is hoisted and jib poled out. This wing-on-wing combination carries Totem for the remainder of the trip, about four days. It’s uneventful: a couple of birds visit the last night, brown noddies we think, but they fly off just before sunrise and too dark to really see them. The wind blows a steady 22-25 true for nearly the duration. Preventer on the main, headsail poled in place, the on-watch crew doesn’t need to touch the sails, just ticks our course a little one way or the other to keep the wind behind the boat.
The wind fades as Ascension comes into sight, and we motor the last half hour into Georgetown’s Clarence Bay. From a distance the island looks almost crown-shaped: cone spires of red earth rise at intervals from a band of lowlands. As the water turns turquoise, and friends welcome us into the harbor.
The harbormaster was tipped off to our arrival by the crew of Obelisk, who stopped in briefly the day before we got in. We’re grateful for their help because we’ve arrived near the front end of Easter weekend, and the holiday is taken very seriously here! From Friday through Monday, business is closed, and it might have been more complicated to finish clearance without Jesse’s help.
Dead downwind can be relatively rolly point of sail, but the seas are mellow and we have a comfortable ride. We’re not eating quite as well as we did with our passage meals out of Namibia, but once again we have mellow conditions that make it easier to eat better, and didn’t require any advance meal prep or eating from cans.
- Oatmeal & raisins (it was chilly in those wee hours of the morning!)
- Chicken salad sandwiches (fast/easy with chicken I canned in South Africa and corn relish made on the passage to St Helena)
- Saint fishcakes procured from Queen Mary in Jamestown, homemade tartar sauce, steamed green beans, cole slaw and WARM BROWNIES (because chocolate is so good on watch at night!)
- Herb-onion frittata (in addition to island-grown herbs, we have a bounty of spectacularly fresh eggs from St Helena, thanks to a generous resident, who has chickens with names like Omelet and Souffle and Bearnaise!)
- Chili bean, cheese and enchiladas
- Seared yellowfin steaks (gorgeous fresh yellowfin tuna is a bargain in St Helena), curried carrots, cucumber salad, sushi rice
- Bullseye toast (egg cooked in the middle of a slice of bread)
- Big green salad (gotta use up the last of the fresh lettuce)
- Larb (Thai “salad” of minced pork with lots of cilantro and mint, in limey sauce), rice, breaded eggplant, carrot cake
- Granola (or, carrot cake!)
- Grilled cheese sandwiches (courtesy of the kids. I’m not in the mood to cook)
- Homemade hamburger helper (Niall craved pasta, and bulk; he made this with elbow macaroni, ground beef, in a cheesy-creamy sauce)
- Breakfast burritos: bacon, eggs, cheese, and onion. Because nothing says landfall like bacon.