A story about the new “world-class” moorings installed below Ladder Hill Fort has been picked up by the yachting press in several countries – including Australia.
They were commissioned after the loss of the vintage yacht Queequeg, which broke up on rocks after an earlier set of moorings failed.
Project manager Hedge Shuter skippered one of the first yachts to use the new facility when he and his island crew moored up aboard Patches at the end of the 2012 Governor’s Cup yacht race.
He praised contractors Graham Sim, Keith Yon and Craig Yon.
Graham said: “It wasn’t an easy mooring field to put in place. Although we did a lot of planning, we still had to change some things as we went along.”
Hedge said: “St Helena now has a yacht mooring field of world-class quality. Word will spread around the yachting community and it is hoped that this will lead to more and more visitors arriving by sea.”
Landing fees are to be waived for crews of yachts spending less than three days at St Helena.
The move follows a determined push to encourage more visits to the island under sail. In December 2010, the tourism department reported that it had put in new facilities at the landing steps, including a solar-powered shower, and laid new moorings.
It suffered a setback last summer when a mooring severed and the yacht Queequeg was washed onto rocks and broke up – landing St Helena Government with a bill approaching a quarter of a million pounds. New moorings are due to be laid.
The fee waiver is aimed especially at professional crews transporting yachts across the Atlantic on behalf of their owners, who have often passed the island without stopping up to now.
“With only anchorage to pay,” says a statement from St Helena Government, “it means crews of yachts that are passing through will be able to take advantage of the island to re-stock with supplies, fuel and water before sailing onwards.”
The number of visitors arriving by yacht rose by 11% last year, and 15% the year before. In 2010, yachtsmen accounted for more than a tenth of all visits to the island.
The tourism department is evidently making an effort to improve its offering to yacht crews, following criticism in the past about what they receive in return for the fees they pay.
“Facilities are continuing to improve on the island,” says the SHG statement, “and many yacht visitors end up staying for longer periods before tackling the route north or across the Atlantic.”
The initiative launched in 2010 included publication of a yachting guide that was promoted through clubs in South Africa and on specialist websites.
Director of Tourism Pamela Young was quoted in 2010 saying word-of-mouth was also important. “We will continue to work hard to improve our yachting product so that visitor numbers will increase,” she said. “It is therefore very important that all our visitors enjoy the St Helena experience, as ultimately it is their voice that will promote the island.”
As a director of Moonbeams, a shop which provides services to yachties and other tourists, I naturally welcome this news. And as a resident I would also be delighted to meet more of the yachting community, who like all visitors bring additional colour and variety to life here. St Helena is an ideal stopover for an Atlantic crossing and I hope more will take advantage of what we have to offer.
The wreck of the classic yacht Queequeg in James Bay in 2011 has resulted in an out-of-court settlement approaching a quarter of a million pounds.
The veteran racing yacht broke its mooring and was blown onto rocks at the Needle’s Eye within five minutes while owner Graham Elliot and his two crew were ashore.
They were just clearing Customs, ready to sail for Ascension, when the alarm was raised.
An investigation found the St Helena Government’s moorings had been condemned as unsafe months earlier.
The Attorney General, Ken Baddon, has confirmed to Saint FM radio station that a settlement of £228,000 has been accepted.
St Helena Government has advertised a contract to lay – and maintain – new moorings in time for the Governor’s Cup yacht race at Christmas.
Yachtsmen have spoken of being unable to relax while at the island because of unreliable moorings, and it is not uncommon for drifting yachts to be retrieved by the ferry crew.
The Queequeg was built by a famous designer in Australia in 1972 and had competed in the Sydney-Hobart race. Mr Elliot bought her only 18 months before the wrecking and had her fully restored in Thailand.
She had arrived at the island on passage from South Africa to the UK, five days before she was wrecked.
Local ferry staff had directed her crew to a mooring, not knowing it had been declared unfit for use.
It later emerged that the moorings had been commissioned only as a short term project by St Helena Tourism a year earlier.
No one was made responsible for supervising the moorings and they were not rated for the size or weight of vessels using them. No maintenance schedule was put in place.
Within weeks of the moorings being laid by a diver it was noticed that they were starting to fall apart because copper wire fittings were corroding.
Parts were replaced, but by January 2011 – eight months before the wreck of the Queequeg – all 20 moorings had been affected and the installer said they should all be taken out of use.
A police investigation found that despite this, no updated advice was published by the Tourism Department, and yachts continued to use the moorings.
Examination of the wreck found a rope had broken from the shackle attaching it to the chain on the seabed. A diver found shackles had corroded.
The wrecking was triggered by a change in weather conditions on the day.
The police investigation was carried out by Sergeant Chris Shuter, a qualified yachtmaster and former yacht club commodore.
He made a number of recommendations, including that any new moorings should be professionally designed.
Queequeg owner Graham Elliot and his crew spoke of wrecking on Saint FM the day after it happened.
“We rushed to the dock and saw the mast waving from side to side as she was trounced on the rocks,” said Graham.
They had watched as the rescue boat crew tried to tow her free, but the swell had lifted her above the surf-line.
Laptops, cameras and other electrical equipment were destroyed but a couple of bags of clothes floated free and were salvaged.
“There’s no point in crying,” said Graham. “We can be thankful that we’re all safe and there’s nobody hurt.”
One of the crew, named Ted, said: “I’ve worked on boats for the last 40 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a boat break up. I’m devasted for Graham because he’s lost everything.
The yachtsmen said the understanding shown by Saints had been “very, very kind”.