During our voyage from St. Helena, we had wonderful, sunny weather and a long, moderately steep south-westerly swell. We had our stabilisers out and the motion was a gentle rise and fall.
As dawn rose on the 10th, my eyes were gauging that swell, wondering if it would ‘sneak’ around the corner of the west side of Ascension Island and into Clarence Bay itself, the one and only tender option on the island. My fears were well founded, for as we made our final turn around the lurking reef and headed into the intended operations area, one could see the surf breaking on the beaches and on rocks adjacent to the pier. As I mentioned at the end of my ‘St. Helena’ post, no luxury of a marina, or any form of shelter for that matter. The high, stone pier was open to the elements.
The only way to confirm whether we could conduct operations was to physically send a tender to the pier, so #12 was manned off it went. On the Bridge, we knew we had problems as we watched its progress, every now and then we could only see ½ of the housing, the remaining ½ being hidden by the swell. Sure enough, once the tender was near the landing area on the pier, our 1st officer reported back that they were ‘ranging’ forward and back about 3 meters and going up 2 meters, “it’s not going to work”. The decision was made, once again, unfortunately we would not be able to land guests safely.
With our Islanders on board, we commenced a circuit of the island for a ‘scenic cruise’. (If the truth be known, we saw far more than any visitor could, the roads are few, the south side is militarised and off limits, as are many other areas with installations. The islanders brought stamps, (for which the island is famous), conservation information and curios, all of them available, (for a price), to our guests. It was quite a ‘bunfight’ when the stalls opened, I am told.
I knew the island well of course, having spent a week here in the 70’s, after being picked up from our lifeboats by a passing tanker and taken to Ascension. Later we would leave to look for the drifting ship and, having found it, being brought back as there was nothing we could do at the time.
We are now heading towards Praia, Cape Verde. Tomorrow we have our ‘crossing the line’ ceremony, King Neptune will board and initiate those who need to be welcomed into his realm. (The fact that this is the 4th and last time we have crossed the equator seems to have escaped him). 😎