Tristan da Cunha, Second day landing in the island. In the evening starting our way to Cape Town.
Yesterday's landing at Tristan was a success. Several days at sea prior to arrival we were not even sure if we could make it to the island, it was very satisfying to set foot ashore. One day visiting the town and its surroundings was already good enough, and that was the initially planned itinerary based on weather conditions. Although Captain and Mate had a second look at the weather forecast and historical sailing data from Tristan to Cape Town, concluding that we could stay one more day and attempt another landfall.
The landing yesterday was definitely an adventurous one. There was a hope for calmer seas today, but this is Tristan and the weather is in charge. Although the Europa tried to hold on her anchor, the night wasn't calm at all. Those who managed to sleep didn't feel it so much but those of us with light sleep we definitely felt the rolling and pitching. And so it happened that this morning we woke up to the same conditions as yesterday. Heavy swell and lots of waves breaking on the cliffs but also at the harbour entrance. The first feeling we had at the sight is that the landing wasn’t going to be possible in these conditions. Yesterday's message from harbourmaser reported swell 30cm higher than we had yesterday. But to our surprise he declared the port open for today as well. As usual, we don't get frightened at Europa on the first sight of a challenge. If there was a slightest chance of landing, we were going for it.
Conditions were little colder and windier than yesterday. After all, Tristan’s climate is classified as cool temperate. It lays on the edge of the “Roaring Forties”, and have a reputation for being rather cold, wet and windy. We launched both zodiacs and started the shuttling ashore. Same as yesterday, the embarkation was little challenging, but everybody did very well and managed to embark zodiacs safely. Ride through the high swell was also quite exhilarating. The bit of yesterday's practice made subjectively this landing a little easier. On the comings and going back and forth the harbour, a couple of local visitors too the chance to visit the ship too.
Once ashore, we all gathered at the local post office again to enjoy some coffee, refreshments and wifi connection. Same as yesterday, there were couple of activities planned for today. The golf tournament, fishing factory tour and also local school tour. Some went on a self guided walk around the settlement, some little bit outside town for some hike and some even for a run.
The first activity started at 9:30 morning. A bunch of golf enthusiast decided to have a little tournament on the famous remotest golf course in the world. Couple of hours practicing yesterday sure came handy today. Weather, although gloomy and windy didn't break up the activity by showers. Joined by a local guide/referee the tournament started and at the end the general consensus was that the fellow voyage crew Marco was the best man on the pitch.
The fishing factory tour scheduled at 11:30 was still some time away, long enough for a stroll on the beach, or to visit the local pub and supermarket. Beach offered a remarkable sight today. High swell and stronger winds were responsible for a scene of breaking waves, with Europa rolling and pitching in the background. Sky was overcast just like yesterday, but with lot more detail and occasional pool of sun light coming through. A true joy for every fan of photography.
Soon it was time for joining the visit to the fish factory, located just next to the harbour. The Manager guided us through the facilities, explained the interesting details about fish and lobster processing and patiently answered all our questions.
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 fulfil the yearly quota for the much appreciated local lobster.
After the Second World War, Rev. Lawrence, interested a South African company in a venture to fish lobster at Tristan. The lobster fishing industry was established in the early 1950’s. The seas around Tristan da Cunha are very rich in marine life. Besides the main fishery business based on the Tristan crayfish, there is local fishing fleet of small powered boats. The fish catch is processed at a factory ashore. Octopus is also exported to European markets. A New Zealand fishing company holds the rights for fishing Alfonsino and fishing licenses are issued each year. Many different species of whitefish are caught privately for local consumption.
There is 15-20 permanent staff at the fishing factory. The number sharply raises up to 100 on a fishing day where more locals join in during the busy times. There are certain jobs done only by women such as packaging, while "heavy lifting" is mostly done by men. But is is only when the conditions are favourable when fishing boats leave to sea. Swell conditions, like we had today or yesterday are just not suitable for it.
The season around the whole of the archipelago starts in the July and last till April. As we were told today, this year they already reached the allowed fishing quota of 400 tons in November. A very short season indeed.
We also learned that the factory is powered by diesel generators which they have four of them. Two are constantly running while the rest is on stand by or backup. The excess energy produced by generators is the used to keep the entire settlement "powered up".
There was one more activity planned for the day, to have a look at St. Mary’s School, after a quick coffee or snack. Those who stayed back enjoyed the wifi connection and used the opportunity to call the loved ones. Others, still itching for some exploration, embarked on a self guided settlement tour or little bit out of the town towards potato patches. The weather still held up and the day continued without a drop of rain. It was also nice for some to chat with the locals at the pub and community centre.
Unfortunately good things don't last forever and our time ashore came to and end. At 16:30h zodiacs were on their way to bring us back on board. The swell conditions seemed to improve just a little bit and by 17:00h we were all back on board. But we were not done yet. Just as we put zodiacs back on sloop deck the crew started heaving anchor. Europa was about to leave straight away. Hands were sent aloft to unfurl the sails while others pulled ropes on deck to brace set them. All square sails, Inner jib and middle staysails went up and Europa started slowly moving away from the island. By the time we were finished with sailhandling dusk fell upon the conical shape of Tristan da Cunha, that slowly merged into the darkens and disappeared from sight. Only the street lights of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas gave away the location.
It is now sailing time. The next stop is our final destination, Cape Town. But the high island in the middle of the ocean, of course produces lots of disturbance on the general windfield. The afternoon watch dealt mostly with the sail setting, while the first night watch had it difficult to get away from the shadow of Tristan, its local wind wind shifts and direction changes as it turns around the island. Pulling braces back and forth and setting the remaining canvas to reach at the end of the day steadier off shore Southwesterly good breeze of about 15kn.
Ricky and Jordi