I started departure day at Blackheath Lodge worrying about two things – lack of ‘real’ money in my purse for the boat and weight of my baggage.
My current purse contents were:
Sterling (I had £10 in total given to me by a keen philatelist who has
requested that I send him stamped envelopes from the ship, St Helena and
Ascension Island), Euros (5 still in my purse from Kosovo) and Rand (about to be none once I’d paid the taxi and left a tip at the guest house). So to be clear about what currency I should draw out, I called the ship’s office in Cape Town. After a confusing couple of phone calls, Skype conversation with Alan and rechecking the website, I decided to go with
what I had and hope for the best. This proved to be the best outcome as I was able to set up an account on the ship and pay with a cheque on reaching St Helena.
Regarding the luggage problem, it seemed sensible to put everything I thought I would need on the boat in my small case. This I did. Then I read in the instructions: no case
should be more than 20 kg. I now had one case at nearly 30 and the other around 13 kg.
Time for a rethink.. To solve the problem, I filled the small case with every book, piece of surgical equipment, food supplies, CDs and toiletries I had with me. The clothes and shoes I needed on the ship ended up in one part of the big case.
The end result was that the big case was no heavier, possibly lighter, than the small case. In the end, no one seemed to be at all interested in what weight my bags were so all that juggling for nothing!
There was then a potential catastrophe as I succumbed to the age old problem of forgetting that I had replaced a bottle’s contents with something other than the original. The mouthwash that I poured liberally into my mouth turned out to be nail varnish remover!!!!! Thank goodness I did not swallow it in shock. I can’t begin to describe the
taste or horrible sensation. After several minutes or rinsing my mouth out I felt a little more reassured that the tooth enamel was not going to dissolve and I was not going to be sick.
Rass, the taxi driver, chatted freely all the way down to the dock as we passed the World Cup stadium and the Waterfront. Thus, in next to no time, I was at the Mission to Seamen building with my suitcases loaded into a minivan for transfer to the boat, meeting the other passengers who were beginning to gather. An hour later a minibus took us in bus-fulls to the St Helena.
My first impression was that the ship is obviously old and a lot smaller than I expected. The welcome on board was cheery and efficient. In no time, I was being shown to my cabin,which, conversely, is larger than I had pictured. No free showercaps, nail files, Moulton Brown
or Bronnley etc here; my complimentary bar of Lux soap was sitting on top of
the towels and, on the floor, several paper shower mats. The first edition of the Ocean Mail for
Voyage 161 of the RMS St Helena was on the desk with, as the top story, the
information that the ‘Rig of the Day’ for the Captain and Officers is ‘Red Sea
Rig’. From another ‘Welcome Aboard’ information sheet, I understood that this means I can dress casually for dinner.
During the compulsory session for telling us the fire and safety muster procedures, during which we all got a chance to don our lifejackets, I met some more passengers and began
to feel that this experience could actually be fun though I had my Seabands securely in place for the first few days.
The ship sailed just after four. I was on deck for the
departure and enjoyed the retreating and enlarging view of the amazing Table
Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, Lion’s Head and Saddle Hill.
Dinner, although informal clothing-wise, was silver service and five courses, if you could
cope. Over a cup of tea in the lounge, I chatted with one of the midwives who had been over to Cape Town with a doctor (who I’d also met at dinner) from St Helena accompanying a patient who needed transferring. It was a useful time for me to start to
understand how the women’s health service works on the island.
After quite an eventful day, I was more than ready for sleep, deciding not to keep the
Seabands on all night. In retrospect perhaps I should have….