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A second nice day ashore at Tristan da Cunha and departure to Cape Town in the evening

Yesterday evening Jordi, Sarah and Janke had a look at weather predictions for upcoming days. Together with Tristan’s Harbour master they checked that wind and swell will be quiet today, allowing us to have another full day at the island, but afterwards Europa will have to heave the anchor and leave the island. If we stayed any longer than that, we could get into a zone of unfavourable wind direction which would mean switching on the engine, rather than sailing. Having two full days at Tristan is already welcoming news, and a situation that doesn’t always happen. Cloudier than yesterday, the conditions still allowed for light clothing, but being aware of its changeable weather is always advisable to take with us some spare garments. With the sunny conditions we tend to forget that Tristan’s climate is classified as cool temperate. It lays on the edge of the “Roaring Forties”, and has a reputation for being rather cold, wet and windy. This is well deserved for Gough Island but it is rather misleading for Tristan. It is often windy, but Tristan is only 250 km south of the southern tip of Africa, and is often, but not always, decidedly warm in the summer. The average air temperature at sea level is 15°C in Tristan, with relatively little daily or annual variation due to moderating effects of the ocean. It gets considerably colder in higher elevation with snow regular on the peaks of Tristan and Gough in winter. Rain falls throughout the year, linked to the passage of cold fronts, a thing not to forget when visiting the island. But again benign conditions made for continuing our visits in the same fashion as yesterday. People who signed up for tours went guided by local guides. We had two new activities for the change. The first one was a long hike to The Bluff for those who wanted to stretch their legs before setting sail again in the evening. The second interesting activity was the deep water fishing. The group willing to do this activity remained in harbour waiting for fishermen arrival while the rest went onto their on-shore activities that were organised by Dawn, Sarah and Richard. Jordi has joined the deep fishing tour. They got a great insight into fishing activities on the island, the techniques they use and also plenty of photo chances not just of fishing but birds that were surrounding them in hope to get some easy food. All the albatrosses and petrels were fearless and they were coming very close to the boat creating great opportunities for some wildlife photography. It took about 30min in the small boat to reach the submerged reef where the fishing was about to take place. Octopus used a bait didn’t last long on the hooks, as soon as they were thrown overboard and reached 80m in depths, a strong pull indicated our first catch. Muscle work pulling the bare thick nylon line brought to surface two big fishes. Using two lines at a time, the five of us that joined the trip got a chance to fish some of the local delicacies, the largest ones being two Yellow King and a Barracuda, fished by Dirk, Norbert and Ben respectively. Fishing is one of the main occupations for the locals. Trying to be a self-supported community from immemorial times the daily activities always involve cattle rising, growing vegetables at the designated areas  for every family at the Potato patches and when the weather allows, launching the boats to catch some fish or trying to fulfill the yearly quota for the much appreciated local crayfish. But it’s just about once or twice a month that locals go on deep water fishing outings, catching enough fish to be distributed for all settlers. About 40 days a year is often enough to catch the lobsters that will be consumed locally and shipped mostly to South Africa for their distribution. Much of the local income comes from those sells. As they do with the fisheries, Tristanians always have been a sharing community, where they help each other and trading goods between them overcomes the monetary transactions. This has been working well for the small settlement since the 18-hundreds, when the island population firmly established when in 1826. By then Tristan was an island of bachelors, as he waters around the island have never been easy with the rapid wind and weather changes. And so several shipwrecked sailors arrived, deciding to stay. But soon things changed for the pioneering inhabitants, they asked the captain of the Duke of Gloucester, Simon Amm, to bring them some woman from St. Helena. He would supposedly be paid one bag of potatoes for each. Surprisingly, the next time he passed the Island, he did bring 5 women with him. The rest was pretty straight forward; by 1832 there were 6 couples and 22 children inhabitants. That was the beginning of what we can see today. But Tristan da Cunha history began earlier than that. The first proper attempt to settle was by the American Jonathan Lambert.  He renamed the islands 'The Islands of Refreshment', and called Tristan 'Reception'. He was planning to sell fresh provisions and water to passing ships. It did not take long until he changed his plans and started sealing instead, selling the skins and oil to passing ships and earning plenty of money. It is from this time that a story regarding a hidden treasure chest derives – probably buried amongst the rocks between two waterfalls. As it was not found before 1961, it will probably never be found, since the eruption covered that area by a good 20 meters of lava. In 1816 the British Crown decided to colonise the island and establish a military presence with the main goal of preventing the French to use Tristan as a base to free Napoleon - who was exiled to the island of St. Helena. However, after about a year the British had decided that it was rather unlikely that the French would want to use an Island 2334 km south of St Helena to free him - especially because they would first have to sail South, and then North again to do so. So they called all the man back. The first ship that would pick them up shipwrecked. When the second ship came the year after, 6 people asked to stay on the island. These were William Glass, his wife, two children and two more man. They laid the foundation for a joint project they called 'the firm', based on equality and cooperation. But what yesterday and today looked like an easy and wonderful place to live and prosper, have many hidden and dangerous sides. Stormy winds and big seas usually hit its rocky coasts, and so it happened that in 1885, Tristan, once an island of men, became an island of woman. On a day early in December almost all man went out in a lifeboat, in harsh weather - to trade with a passing ship, the West Riding. Possibly out of necessity, rats had damaged the potato harvest and they would need to trade to survive. They never came back. Whether they were taken aboard as slaves or all lives were lost when their boat capsized was not known, but it was entirely clear that Tristan had instantly become an island of widows. There were only four men left, off which two around their seventies. For several years, the woman and children had to run the island. In 1892 a shipwreck brought a crew of Irishman, who stayed for a while, helped out and took over the potato production. In the same year an Italian shipwreck brought 2 new settlers; Repetto and Lavarello. By now all the seven surnames that make up the population of Tristan have arrived: The original Scottish settler Glass, the English sailor Swain, the two American whalers Hagan and Rogers and the two new Italians. It will be until 1986 before a new member arrives – the Scot Patterson who married an island woman.

Until today these are the only family names in Tristan, and we actually met people from all the families while walking along the town and surroundings. Being an isolated community as they are, their developed their own variations on the English language, hard to understand for foreigners. But when communication with us they speak a very proper and polite English. Also all the  different geographical features in the island have been baptised by the locals, most of them being extremely practical but rather poetic at the same time, with a glance at the map you will soon find places like
'down-where-the.-minister-landed-his-things', 'Ridge where the goat jump off' and 'runaway beach'. They were all mapped and put together in 1937-38 during a Norwegian research and mapping expedition. It was during this time that Allan Crawford drew his famous map – noting down all the place names that were used at the island. Having enjoyed yet another pleasant day ashore in Tristan, soon it was getting close to start making our way towards the harbour.  It has been again great journey for walking and sitting outside the post office or the albatross pub, and enjoying a tasty bite with some beverages. The most tours finished by 4 o’clock afternoon. The deep fishing tour returned to the shore about 13:00h with their good catch, that were filleted on the shore by islanders and some of us also put the hand to work. It was a great success. Europa is stocked with fresh potatoes, salad and now with fresh fish. As activities ashore came also to an end, the guides called in the zodiacs and started to shuttle passengers to the ship. By 6 pm it was all ready to take the last remaining group back to Europa. We said goodbye to Dawn and Jack and other islanders waving back at them until
they disappeared from our sight. The day ended with great dinner at Europa, short visit from Jonathan crew aboard and then “8 o’clocky” where Janke revealed the final plan and weather situation for upcoming sailing days on our way to Cape Town. That was also the time to switch back to watch system and the first group already reported for duty after the dessert. We are leaving Tristan da Cunha with lots of impressions, memories of good times pent on the island and with the locals. The watch is already setting sail and Europa start slowly moving onto the last stage of our voyage. Cape Town, we are coming for you. As we heave anchor, the crew is already busy unfurling topsails. To get off the hook the engine is turned on for about 30 min. Straight away sails are starting to be sheeted down and hoisted. First the Top Sails and Top Gallants under a light 10kn of SW-ly breeze. Then Dekzwabber follows together with Fore Top Mast Staysail as we brace between Square and Broad Reach. But being at the lee of the island, it took a while until getting some more proper wind unaffected by the coastline and the huge volcanic building of Queen Mary’s peak, with its towering 2060m in height, and the engine has to be used a couple of times when we round the Northern coast of Tristan. Getting offshore, what we first start feeling is the rolling under the increasing swell. 1550nm of open
oceanic waters are between our position and our final destination in Cape Town, a long stretch of water not to be under estimated, where often squalls, strong winds and high seas are encountered.

Written by:
Sarah, Jordi and Richard | Guides

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