For five days and nights we live together cheek by jowl, from different parts of the world, backgrounds, languages, economic backgrounds, some young but most a little more mature, many with maybe just a little more the spirit of adventure than most. Each of us anticipating not only this very special journey but the longed for sight of a rock rising out of the ocean far away. There are doctors, a vet, a scientist or two, an actor, nurses, social workers, a computer geek, teachers and many more different and unique people on board. Many Saints are returning home after an extended time away from home, for a variety of reasons….medivacs having recovered enough after surgery or treatment, a 16 day old baby, holiday makers, business men and some after many years away coming home wanting to be a part of the future of their Island. There is more than a little sadness that this special ship might be on her last sailing from Cape Town and there is a great sense of denial in the air. She has been a vital link to the outside world for so long and to see her go will be deeply felt by all.
The journey is a truly wonderful experience, early mornings in the gym for me to watch the sunrise over the huge and endless sea, a big breakfast and a lazy day of reading, watching fascinating documentaries about St Helena, getting to know interesting people, drinking beef tea at 10.30am, lunch for those who feel the need to eat some more, afternoon naps and various deck games for those keen to join in. There is something quite special about the isolation and lack of communication with the rest of the world. Each morning a daily mail is delivered to your cabin with all you need to know about the day ahead including the dress for the evening. I find myself very happily seated at the Captains table as we were very lucky to have got to know him on our last two sailings. Also at the table is a Saint’s couple that I hope to see more of when ashore, a couple returning to a place that they fell in love with a few years ago and another couple who have spent a year there with another year to go, who got engaged whilst on board. After five nights of great conversation, not such great success in the quiz, very little winnings in the casino evening (10 pence is the minimum stake and all proceeds to charity) and pretty much losers in the beetle drive, we are friends and I look forward to keeping in touch with all of them.
I am lucky as I get to share my cabin with an incredible 85 year old lady who had been on the ship when Graham sailed, loved it so much decided to go again 6 weeks later this time all the way to England. I hope when I get to that age I will be as adventurous and at least half as interesting as her. What a fascinating life she has led and continues to live, not afraid to get out there on her own living life to the max. Inspiring, knowledgeable, funny and so very interesting and I am sure she was a great asset to her quiz team. We had many a long conversation and I hope to spend some time with her during her 10 day stay on St Helena.
The night before our scheduled arrival is Barbecue night up on the deck with tables laden with food and a sense of anticipation in the air. Everyone is excited and happy to be closer to our destination and it is a very festive night indeed. It brings back the memories of a night like this just over 3 years ago when the moon was shining and I danced under its light. Since then I have danced under it in weird and wonderful places each time indelibly printed on my heart…and now on my body too. I fell in love on that journey and I get to do it again….how blessed am I. My heart is heavy though as each nautical mile I travel takes me further away from those that I love so very much but as I look out over the sea I feel alive and look forward to the vision of the Rock rising out of the depths and the sight of a silver haired man who awaits his Josephine.