THE BLOG
12/18/2014 10:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Aboard RMS St. Helena in the Vast South Atlantic: Getting Really, Truly, Terminally Away From It All on the Looney Front (Part 4)

I'm a total disgrace! I've just puked all over the wall and carpet on Deck A - on the port side. Of course it wouldn't have been any better if it had been on the starboard side, even if the lady deputy purser did mix up her ports and her starboards.

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RMS St. Helena riding off shore

The purser told me to get an injection when I asked if it would get rough. He said going to St. Helena from Ascension Island is like surfing against incoming waves, while coming back is like surfing with the waves.

I knew better. I looked at the splendid five-course dinner menu, noted with glee that I was at the captain's table, and only took one Dramamine. But I was feeling a little bit whoozie in the head already and, as they say, it doesn't help taking it once it's already started.

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Wake of RMS St. Helena as she leaves Ascension

By the time the splendid 7.30 p.m. dinner heaves into sight, its splendor is becoming less and less splendid, and I'm heaving more and more. I rush down to my cubicle in the ship's bowels on C Deck and deposit my heart into the loo.

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Site of the first great puke out

I weave my way up to A Deck, desperately seeking the doctor. He's at dinner, says a crew lady, whereupon I deposit a whole lot more of my heart than I thought I ever had in the first place.

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Site of the second, even greater puke out

She rushes off to get an Amazon jungle's worth of serviettes, but not enough to staunch the flood that is now pouring down the beige wall and onto to the nice red carpet. She directs me to the surgery at the end of A Deck, rushes off to get the doctor - and I deposit another full load on the now linoleum floor.

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Main lounge

The doctor gives me my injection for 20 pounds, and I stagger out along the corridor, passing a whole shovel brigade armed with buckets, mops, cloths and sanitizers to clean up the mess with which I've staked out my territory. It's straight back to fetal position on C Deck for me, and curtains for my splendid five-course dinner with the captain.

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Sun lounge bar

Recovered, I'm now visiting the bridge on one of the many activities - crossword competitions, quoits, Euchre card games, films etc. - that RMS organizes to stop the passengers from getting bored and mutinying, when an extra aggressive wave sends me dangerously close to the levers on a domed gizmo marked Fins Out. These are the ship's stabilizers. I'm clearly channelling Mr. Bean as I stagger up within a hair's breadth of unleashing Lord alone knows what mayhem.

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The bridge

There are multiple arrays of dials, levers, computers, screens, a black box, emergency SOS beacons, rocket parachute flares, and a thousand other gizmos and knobs with which my idle Bean-like hands could amuse themselves.

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Them knobs

There's also a door proclaiming; 'Ladies Bathroom. Using the toilet, please don't shoot' - a reference to South Africa's notorious Pistorius case.

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Speaks for itself

Dinner at the Captain's Table is most genteel. Captain Rodney Young is a squat middle-aged Saint with a warm, authoritative voice, amusing as he regales us with the tale of the Burundian who stowed away in RMS's funnel in Cape Town in 2000.

He stayed in the funnel for three days - the Burundian that is, not the captain - eating fruit he'd brought with him, until he came down exhausted to the shock and awe of all aboard. In the end the authorities turned their generous cheek and allowed him into Britain, a refugee from his massacre-ridden homeland.

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View from the sun deck

Dress code is to follow that of the crew. Red Sea Rig, named for the short sleeves and light attire needed in the broiling Red Sea, translates as 'Informal, open necked short-sleeved shirt for gentlemen - tie not required.' Sundown Rig means 'Semi-formal, long sleeved shirt with tie - jacket not required.' And Mess Dress means 'Formal' with no other explanation.

I hear some people have their tuxedos squirrelled away. Fortunately tonight is Red Sea Rig, so I make the cut.

For fun we have a darts Knockout Tournament in the Sun Lounge at 9 P.M., ably orchestrated by purser John Hamilton, who should be getting danger money as sharp winged missiles from well-oiled hurlers fly past on the bucking deck, missing the board altogether and almost pranging him in the bonce.

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Darts night

The winner is a young Saint resembling a perambulating iron monger's store with metal rings piercing both eyebrows, four other implements protruding from his lips, and his ears bristling with fine Sheffield cutlery. The sight and sound effects will be interesting indeed should a stray lightning bolt zap him. Anyway, a great time is had by one and all, and the bar does a roaring trade

For the really energetic there's a nice, leisurely jolly old shuffleboard tournament on the sun deck tomorrow.

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Shuffle board, any one?

After two and a half days at sea with nothing but the vast expanse of the sometimes grey, sometimes blue Atlantic tossing out in all directions, a rugged mountainous mass with sharp pointed pinnacles, deep folds and narrow ravines looms out of the dawn haze and clouds, a brilliant yellow sun gilding all: St. Helena, 1,200 miles from the coast of Africa and some 2,000 miles from South America.

I miss the Captain's Cocktail Party, held on the Cape Town segment, but do make the final night sun deck barbecue on the trip back to Ascension in 16 days' time, as will be recorded in a later blog.

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Land Ahoy - approaching St. Helena

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Captain Young takes RMS St. Helena to anchorage

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Lighter approaches to take us off

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Bound for terra firma

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By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon.

And Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.