St Helena Online

Tag: Hazel Wilmot

Ocean slog ends with a man overboard

Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off
Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off

Yachtsman Malcolm Russell reached St Helena exhausted but unharmed after a gruelling 1,600-mile voyage – then fell overboard in James Bay.

He couldn’t climb up out of the water, and his brother Rusty no longer had the strength to haul him in.

Now Malcolm has told how the pair were taken in by “the angel of the island” when they finally got to dry land, because they were in such a bad way.

Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy
Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy

The two “trade wind gypsies” were recreating a voyage Malcolm and his wife undertook 40 years earlier.

They left South Africa on 1 May 2014 in the yacht Ambre and soon found themselves wallowing in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions off uninhabited Dassen Island.

Then Neil developed a throat problem, so they put into Saldhana Bay in South Africa, where they took on board “the worst tasting water”, before turning towards St Helena.

“We went straight into the heaviest seas we had seen so far,” says Malcolm. “They were all over the place. We got banged around and hammered.”

During the storm a pulley failed and jammed the steering, meaning a difficult repair job.

Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard
Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard

Then continuous cloud meant the solar-powered engine battery ran down, and the auto helm stopped working.

“Now we were stuck with our biggest fear, that we would have to helm 24/7,” says Malcolm, describing the voyage on the YouTube video website. “Rusty would helm for four hours I would helm for four hours, and we would switch and switch about.

“It meant our sleep pattern got down to two and a half hours. And rusty had to call me if there was anything that needed my attention – ships close by, or something going wrong with the sails.

“I felt it.

“We finally arrived at St Helena. We lost the steering altogether and the auto helm blew up. The last three days of helming was in no wind.

“We were absolutely shattered. I had lost a huge amount of weight; so had rusty. We battled our way in, picked up a mooring and I thought our troubles were over.”

The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches
The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches

But they were denied the sleep they craved when customs and immigration asked them to go ashore.

“So these two shattered tired old guys decided to get the dinghy over,” says Malcolm. “Neil was working below decks while I went to get the dinghy and I fell overboard.

“You can’t believe what a shock it was.

“I gave rusty a yell. There was no way he could get me out, no way I could pull myself up. I was absolutely exhausted. Finally I said ‘Get a piece of rope, put a knot in it, and at least I’ve got a foothold.’

“After a lot of sweating and trying we managed to get me aboard.”

They got ashore instead on the ferry service and cleared customs.

“That’s when we decided to go and see the angel of the island.”

Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate
Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate

When they turned up at the Consulate Hotel to find old friend Hazel Wilmot, she was appalled.

“She took one look at these two old wrecks and she said, ‘No way: you’re not going back to the boat, you are staying here at the hotel as our guests. So we have a huge debt to Hazel.

“We had a really rough ride. But we are here now and loving St Helena once again.”

Part of the purpose of their voyage is to observe the state of the oceans and compare it with what Malcolm saw on his first voyage, 40 years ago, in a yacht he built for himself “in the middle of Africa with no idea how to sail”. He chronicled the trip in a book he has never finished, because “the voyage isn’t over”.

He says they saw lots of bird life this time, but only one flying fish. “That’s very scary because flying fish are prolific around here. We saw one dolphin, only one. That’s very different from last time – we had lots of sea life all around us.”

Next stop for the two mariners: the West Indies, “hopefully in time to beat the hurricane season”.

With their luck…

Watch the videos
Start of the adventure
Cape Town to St Helena

Gallery – from YouTube
Click on any thumbnail to see images from the Trade Wind Gypsies videos

How a gift from a lost tribe helped island jewellery take shape

Close up shot showing "beads" of rolled-up paper, with some of the type still visibleEye-catching paper necklaces link St Helena with a lost tribe of bush people in Botswana. They are based on a piece of jewellery that was passed to the island’s craft enterprise, SHAPE, by Hazel Wilmot, owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown. Her father had been a member of an expedition in the 1960s to record the tribe’s disappearing lifestyle. The story is taken up by Hazel’s sister.

map showing Okavango Delta and St Helena, with pictures embeddedCLICK THE MAP for more pictures


A couple of years ago, my brother and I attended the funeral of one of the last of the River Bushmen to roam and live a nomadic life in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

1960s photo shows two men standing in dug-out canoe
river bushmen of the Okavango Delta: 1960s photograph. Click the pic for more

Their existence was well documented by Mr Clive Cowley, in a book recording his search for the remnants of this dying-out tribe.

The man who had died was well known for being the head of his village, deep in the Okavango, where very few foreigners ever went.

It was a sombre affair at the grave side, but the wake was well attended by many friends and long-lost relatives arriving from across the width of Botswana.

The only access was by dug-out canoes, or mokoros, as we call them. Gliding through the crystal clear channels of the meandering waterways, these few villagers gathered honey and wild dates from the palm fringed islands and fished with home-made nets. They lived a peaceful life, living in harmony with ways of nature that sustained their very existence.

Detail of a 1960s newspaper article on the "fabled tribe" of river bushmen
1960s newspaper cutting

At the funeral, I greeted many familiar faces and offered our condolences. During lunch, an elderly lady came up to me and presented a gift of a paper bead necklace. I was intrigued at the beauty and simplicity of the making of it.

She had cut strips of the Ngami Times newspaper (our local weekly newspaper) and rolled them to perfection, glueing them to make a final ball with a clear sealant. I thanked her and told her I would treasure it always.

Knowing that Hazel, my sister on St Helena island, was always looking for ways of helping others with little home industries, I packed this necklace and took it with me to St Helena, for her to give to SHAPE.

I am happy to see that they have perfected the technique, and that today they sell many beautiful necklaces, bracelets and trinkets of all sizes, colours and shapes.

So, the team at SHAPE had been inspired by the gift from Hazel and Daphne, but that was only the start, as LOLLY YOUNG explains.

A group of people sitting round a bowl full of paper for rolling
SHAPE staff and members at their base in Sandy Bay

We had the sample, but Woody (a member of the team) figured out how to make the beads. He cut a large paper triangle and rolled the beads very finely along a toothpick.

Ashley George became the main bead roller – very fast and efficient. Wendy Anthony, who is blind, threads the paper beads with other donated beads and makes the jewellery.

Wendy does the making at home. She also sells at Reading Sports (the biggest annual UK gathering of St Helenians) as a little sideline.

We use any paper. We started using TV guides, because of the colours, such as yellow and pink. Now we re-use glossy wrapping paper, and we are making the beads much smaller for a more sophisticated look.

And Daphne Wilmot has a message to pass on to readers:

By buying one of SHAPE’s necklaces, you will be supporting a whole industry – and helping others with special needs to help themselves.

  • Lolly’s use of Woody’s nickname alone is in keeping with a strong cultural tradition on St Helena. Everyone has a conventional name, but they don’t necessarily have much use for it. Perhaps one day, someone will research the stories behind the names, which are often passed down within families. 

SHAPE:  St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise
SHAPE on Facebook
IN GOOD SHAPE – feature

Tourism leaders welcome more sailings, but not the selling

A new strategy for operating the RMS St Helena has been given a mixed response by tourism leaders on the island.

A proposed new sailing schedule was welcomed at a meeting with Enterprise St Helena officials, but there was strong criticism of “counter-productive” marketing.

Julian Morris, head of economic development, said he had intervened since joining the board of St Helena Line in early 2012, and that the results of his work were starting to show through.

He told St Helena Online the new schedule meant more sailings to St Helena and increased potential bed nights on the island.

A report by tourism association chairman Vince Thompson bears out complaints by the owners of the island’s two hotels on marketing failings over the past two years.

They said marketing by Andrew Weir Shipping for the RMS St Helena was, in some cases, at odds with the objectives of the island’s own fledgling tourism service sector. The ship should be bringing them more guests, but instead, tourists were being encouraged to spend more time on the ship than staying in accommodation on the island.

Vince said: “At present, public money is being spent to market berths and beds in entirely seperate and often counter productive ways.

“It was pointed out the new RMS brochure heavily promotes a flight from UK to Ascension including a short stay there, ship to St Helena for a two-night stay and then back on the RMS to Cape Town.

“Heavily promoting a two-night stay at St Helena does nothing for accommodation providers. Passengers taking this particular cruise will, in almost every case, stay on board the RMS and just take a ferry to the island for a tour or a stroll along Main Street.”

In fact, said Vince, the new schedule would give only a one-night stop in James Bay because of speeding-up of cargo operations.

Hazel Wilmot has told St Helena Online she would close tourist accommodation at the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown after Christmas because of a massive drop in overnight stays, and Stephen Biggs of Farm Lodge has threatened to do the same.

The July 30 meeting took place after Stephen issued a call to action in the St Helena Independent.

Vince said: “The schedule was looked at from the point of view of maximising the inevitably limited opportunities for giving access to St Helena for tourists who wish to stay for a week, primarily in hotel accommodation but also in self-catering.

“It was generally agreed the schedule is an improvement compared with previous years.

“As the two UK voyages are no longer in the schedule and loading time at Cape Town and St Helena has been reduced, there are extra calls and therefore more opportunities for visitiors to St Helena to set sail in the RMS.

“This is the case despite the short stays at St Helena when the shuttle to Ascension is excluded from the schedule and the diversion to Tristan da Cunha is included.

“There has been and still is a disconnect between marketing the RMS and marketing St Helena as a place to stay for the maximum amount of time offered by the schedule.

“The standard pattern voyage, Cape Town – St Helena – Ascension – St Helena – Cape Town, is the voyage which offers visitors eight nights in St Helena. Packages based on that pattern should be heavily promoted by the RMS and St Helena Tourism in a coherent and synergistic way.

“At present, public money is being spent to market berths and beds in entirely seperate and often counter-productive ways

“Julian said he has started get things moving in the desired direction, but cautioned there was more work to do.”

Ascension voyages saved in new RMS schedule
Consulate beds ‘to close until 2015′ as tourist numbers sink

Tourist cash sails away – in a ‘millpond’ sea

Arcadia lies off Main Street, Jamestown
Off-shore funds: tourist cash stayed on board P&O's Arcadia (picture: Hazel Wilmot)

She came, we saw, she left – the words of hotelier Hazel Wilmot after the P&O cruise ship Arcadia left James Bay without allowing passengers ashore.

Questions are now being asked about why the island traders lost the chance of tourist income,  despite “millpond” conditions at the landing steps. It is understood some passengers were too elderly to be able to manage conditions at the wharf.

“We were left with catering for 1,800 passengers and a mini market, with no buyers. Such is life,” said Hazel, who owns the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown.

She declined to rush to judgment without knowing the reason for the failure.

She cited the case of the Aurora, whose captain declined to land passengers even though the sea was calm – because he knew conditions were due to worsen later in the day and some might be stranded ashore.

P&O's Arcadia in the bay
Tantalising: passengers weren't allowed to land

The adults-only Arcadia stayed in the bay long enough to pick up eight passengers who were joining the ship at St Helena.

Earlier this month, councillors were told there was a shortfall in funding needed to build a breakwater to reduce the risk of the island losing income – up to £10,000 a day – when passengers cannot land.


‘There was a murmur of frustration and discontent’ – Derek Richards
‘A sombre reminder how hard it is to make a living here’ – Gillian Scott Moore


I think we should also express our sympathy for the ship’s passengers, who missed out on what would doubtless have been the highlight of their holiday – seeing the delights of St Helena!

John Turner, St Helena

Funding shortfall delays safer landing stage
St Helena cruise passengers stranded in the cold

P&O ship Arcadia
St Helena Tourism

Chamber leaders are re-elected

Stuart Moors is reported to have been comfortably re-elected as president of the St Helena Chamber of Commerce, with John Styles continuing as vice president.

Brenda Moors and Pat Williams will serve as secretary and treasurer, and nine other members were elected to an expanded chamber committee at the organisation’s annual general meeting on 12 April 2012.

They include Hazel Wilmot, owner of The Consulate Hotel in Jamestown. She was censured a week earlier for publicly calling for Mr Moors and Mr Styles to resign over their involvement in establishing a government-funded media service in competition with the privately-owned St Helena Independent, which has now closed.

The previous committee rejected her complaint.

The new committee members are: Gary Stevens, Ian Gough, Nigel George, Michael Benjamin, Geoffrey Clark, Hazel Wilmot, Chris Bargo, Geoffrey Knipe, and Greg Cairns Wicks.

Hotel owner is censured for chamber resignation call

Hazel Wilmot has been formally rebuked for publicly demanding the resignations of the leaders of the island’s chamber of commerce, over the closure of the St Helena Independent.

A statement from the chamber – sent to this website by Ms Wilmot – says the owner of The Consulate Hotel in Jamestown has been given a “public censure”.

It says she treated the chamber council with contempt by going public without first discussing her concerns with fellow members.

She wrote an open letter about the chamber leaders’ involvement in the launch of the state-funded Sentinel newspaper, which prompted the closure of the privately-owned publication on 30 March 2012.

The government’s involvement in the affair led to a report in a UK national newspaper, The Independent.

Ms Wilmot says the chamber’s ruling council – of which she is a member – has ignored her concerns that the actions of the president and vice president, Stuart Moors and John Styles, have undermined confidence among potential investors in St Helena.

She has also sent this website copies of emails – some with the senders’ details removed – which she says are from would-be investors who have lost confidence in St Helena Government because it funded The Sentinel and allowed it to compete with a privately-owned company for advertising. It also switched its own advertising to the new newspaper, which launched on 29 March 2012.

The chamber council’s statement, issued nearly a week after a special meeting about the affair, says:

“Ms Wilmot expanded on the detail of the items in the list of accusations. The council discussed all of the issues but, as a whole, recognising that the Chamber is a voluntary body, felt unanimously that there was no case to answer.

The council also determined that the way that Ms Wilmot went about the raising of the issues was unacceptable. By not first raising any concern with the president or vice president, or indeed with the council, she has treated her fellow council members with contempt.

“She has publicly besmirched the names of two individuals, brought the chamber itself into disrepute, and openly impugned the integrity of the chamber council members.

“The council resisted more severe actions and were content to deliver a public censure to Ms Wilmot for her ill-advised action.”

In fact, the open letter was specifically aimed at Mr Moors and Mr Styles, and made no references to the integrity of other members of the chamber council.

The letter also said the leaders’ actions had:

  • sown division among chamber members
  • brought the St Helena Chamber of Commerce into disrepute, by [permitting] legislation to be formed that endangers the principal of free enterprise on St Helena, whilst in the positions you hold.

Ms Wilmot also accused the president and vice president of failing to tell members about the way in which The Sentinel’s publisher – the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation – was being set up.

However, it emerged at the censure meeting that members had been informed, but Ms Wilmot was off the island at the time and the discussion was excluded from the minutes.

The agenda for the chamber AGM includes the election of officers, and representation on outside organisations. The chamber is a member of the “community-owned” new media organisation, and Mr Styles and Mr Moors are both directors.

Mr Styles proposed the setting up of the corporation after being asked for his advice by St Helena Government.

SEE ALSO the Media section of this website for a full list of stories and statements

St Helena Chamber of Commerce
The Sentinel
St Helena Independent

Men behind The Sentinel face call to resign

Front cover of The independent says "Resign"
GOING DOWN FIGHTING: The final issue of The St Helena Independent

An open letter is calling on Stuart Moors and John Styles  to resign as heads of St Helena’s chamber of commerce, because of their role in the closure of the island’s only private-sector newspaper.

Hazel Wilmot says that if they don’t step down as president and vice-president, then all the other members should walk out in protest.

Mr Styles set up the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation (SHBC), which launched the new Sentinel newspaper yesterday (29 March 2012). He has said he will cease to be a director once it is established. Chamber president Stuart Moors is also a director of the new organisation.

Ms Wilmot, owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown, has told this website she was “appalled” at the way the SHBC was set up with government funding, and allowed to compete for advertising with the Independent – which announced its closure from today as a result.

In a statement to this website, Stuart Moors says: “The president and vice-president are in receipt of the open letter from Ms Wilmot, and we will be discussing the issues she raises within the Chamber Council before deciding how next to proceed.”

AGM advert
IRONIC: Chamber AGM is in critic's hotel

The annual general meeting of the chamber takes place on 12 April 2012 – ironically, in the Consulate Hotel.

Mr Styles has pointed out that the SHBC and The Sentinel are owned by a community trust representing organisations across the island – including the chamber of commerce. It’s hoped it will eventually become self-supporting as the island’s economy grows.

The open letter says the chamber leaders acted “in the knowledge that a conflict existed between the function of the chamber to nurture existing businesses, and the establishment of a private company that has precipitated the demise of another existing business.”

It also tells them they have:

  • sown division among chamber members
  • brought the St Helena Chamber of Commerce into disrepute, by, without comment or intervention, permitted legislation be formed that endangers the principal of free enterprise on St Helena, whilst in the positions you hold.

And if they do not step down from their chamber roles:

“The alternative is for me to propose that all members of the Chamber of Commerce resign their membership of the Chamber until a satisfactory reply can be provided, by yourselves, on the conduct currently alleged.”

The open letter is published in full in the final issue of the St Helena Independent.

Hazel Wilmot says she is “reassured” by a pledge from the CEO of The Sentinel that it will be robustly free of government influence. “I will reserve judgement,” she says.

St Helena Chamber of Commerce
The Consulate Hotel