Friday, 29 April 2011

Sailing to Ascension

[Originally posted by e-mail from the ship and edited on my return to the UK]

Thursday, 28th April

Last night, the ship set sail just before 6.0 p.m. and headed NNW towards Ascension Island with 67 passengers and 58 crew. On this leg, the majority of the passengers are 'Saints' (inhabitants of St. Helena) travelling to work on Ascension Island or the Falkland Islands or perhaps the U.K. Only a few were, like me, tourists. The 'feel' on this part of the voyage was a little different, slightly more that of a passenger ferry. But the splendid standard of meals and service was unchanged. With fewer passengers, only one dinner sitting was required and this was at 7.30 p.m. I had been placed on a table with my two friends from Texas and three 'joiners' - entymologists who had been conducting a preliminary study of the unique insect life to be found on St. Helena with a view to specifying follow-up studies to be carried out later. The entymologists, the Texans and I all hoped to catch the 1815 hours flight from Ascension to Brize Norton on Saturday. Originally, I was to stay on Ascension for 3 nights and catch the Tuesday flight but we had all been told some time ago that the flight had been cancelled and this still appeared to be the case - an English couple who had hoped to return to the UK on the Tuesday flight had now been told they would have to stay on Ascension until the subsequent flight on Friday. We were all aware that these RAF flights are subject to delay or cancellation at short notice and we were keeping fingers crossed that our arrangements worked out.

I gathered that we'd been running on one main engine for some time (with the other variable-pitch propeller 'feathered' to prevent drag) both for fuel economy and to ensure that we didn't arrive at Ascension in the middle of the night.

Breakfast on Thursday was the usual full English spread I'd become accustomed to. I realised that returning home would be something of a shock to the system. During the morning there was another cricket match between the Passengers and the Officers. Although the Officers won again, the margin was much closer this time.

After a bit of pottering about, checking e-mails, sorting photographs and completing my write-up for yesterday, it was time for lunch. During the afternoon, I decided to have another swim. The sea was definitely a little more active than it had been south of St. Helena and the movement of the hull meant that the water in the pool was regularly 'sloshing' from one end to the other. The shop had discounted its Easter Eggs, so I decided to treat myself!

Dinner on Thursday had been advertised as a 'Fish and Chip Supper' on the Sun Deck. Around 6.30 p.m. the crew started to set up a serving line in the Sun Lounge and tables with red and white check tablecloths on the open Sun Deck. The Chef had prepared a vegetable soup to start. Fish was served with proper chips, peas and (if you wanted) various other vegetables. There were various sauces and (for the purists) Sarsons malt vinegar. The chef told me they'd cooked 24 kg of fish! There was a dessert to follow, completing another splendid meal.

After the meal, many of the passengers remained at the tables as the evening was very mild. We were joined by a young couple, Marcus and Crystal from Canada who had boarded at Cape Town and were travelling to Ascension where they intended to join an RAF flight to the Falklands. Crystal hadn't been very well on the first part of the journey but recovered sufficiently for them have a Civil Wedding on St. Helena. One or two passengers had given them bottles of champagne or similar and the newly-married couple kindly insisted on sharing a couple of bottles with my table.

Sailing to Ascension pictures.

All my pictures from the trip are here.