Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Sailing to Tristan...

On Thursday, September 5th 2013, we rushed down to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs berth near the Waterfront in Cape Town. Here we boarded South Africa's newest research vessel and ice-breaker, the SA Agulhas II (henceforth in all my blogs Agulhas). Candace and I, along with my Mom and Dad, were all sailing down to Tristan da Cunha, a remote community in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. We were going not only to have a holiday, but also to explore my family's connection with the island and follow in my Grandfather's footsteps. We were looking forward to experiencing this isolated outpost of the United Kingdom. Soon after clearing customs and having our passports stamped out of South Africa, we were casting off our mooring lines and sailing out of Table Bay Harbour, bound for Tristan da Cunha!

The Agulhas is essentially a research ship, and so while the amazing crew does a great job keeping passengers well-fed and happy, oceanographers and other experts take water samples at various depths of the ocean and perform other experiments, including releasing weather balloons every night. One of the primary reasons that the ship sails to Tristan every September is to take a new weather team to relieve the previous team at South Africa's weather base on Gough Island. (The photo here is of the new team at a ceremony on the dock prior to sailing.) The ship calls at Tristan on her way to Gough and performs other scientific work in that region for several weeks, before returning to Tristan to take on passengers and sail for Cape Town. All in all, passengers to Tristan can expect a full three weeks on the island.

The voyage was a little rocky at times, but Candace and I soon settled into the routine of shipboard life. We visited the ship's gym, read in the library, and relaxed in the lounge. We also had a tour of the bridge, the engine-room, and the ship's well-equipped hospital. It was interesting having served with Mercy Ships to see another ship in action! I particularly enjoyed being out on deck watching the albatrosses soaring above the wake of the ship - when I was not getting blown around too much by the strong winds into which we were sailing! We even saw Rockhopper penguins swimming near the ship, as well as whale spouts in the distance. It was a great sail!

After a week at sea we arrived off the Settlement of Edinburgh, Tristan da Cunha - but I'll leave that for the next blog post!

 Sailing out of Table Bay Harbour.
 Leaving Cape Town behind.
 Candace and I in front of Table Mountain.
 Our four-berth cabin - quite similar to the Africa Mercy.
Working out in the ship's gym.
Engine Control Room.
 The Hospital onboard is equipped with a surgery...
And a ward with space for four patients!
View of the bridge of the Agulhas as seen from the bow.
 An albatross bobs along on the ocean... Also visible are two Rockhopper penguins swimming just below the bigger bird!
 Albatross soars overhead.
Close-up view.
 The ship's helideck at sunset.
Sunsets at sea are so beautiful!

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