blank [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

RMS St Helena

The last ocean-going Royal Mail Ship

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Sailing o’er the rolling billows, Sailing through the azure vapors, Sailing through the dusk of evening, Sailing to the fiery sunset, To the higher-landed regions, To the lower verge of heaven
The Kalevala, a Finnish mythological poem

At present you can’t fly to St Helena{1}. Instead you can travel on our dedicated mail ship, the RMS St Helena.

This page is in indexes: Island Detail

The RMS St Helena, seen here in James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
The RMS St Helena, seen here in James Bay{2}

Ways to get here [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Other ‘getting here’ pages:

• Getting Here

• Yachting

• Cruise Ship Days

• Fly here?

• Fly Yourself Here

• Visitor Information

Below: Why ‘RMS’About our RMSAudio Clips25th AnniversaryRMS in London, 2016What next for the RMS?Earlier shipsNot without incident…Read More

Due to the delay in opening the airport the RMS schedule has been extended. Details below.

Why ‘RMS’

Crowds greet the RMS [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Crowds greet the RMS

So why is our ship the ‘RMS St Helena’? Why not just the ‘St Helena’?

RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship, and shows that she is a seagoing vessel that carries mail under contract by Royal Mail. The designation dates back to 1840 - also the year in which the Penny Black stamp was introduced{3}. Famous ships carrying the designation RMS have included

Having the designation "RMS" was valued by ship owners because it was seen as a mark of quality by customers - the mail had to be delivered securely, and on time. For more about the history of Royal Mail Ships see the Royal Mail Ship page on Wikipedia.

About our RMS

The RMS St Helena off St Helena, © (reproduced with permission; contact the artist to purchase) [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
The RMS St Helena off St Helena, © (reproduced with permission; contact the artist to purchase)

RMS Logo [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

RMS Lifebelt [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

The RMS St Helena is one of only four ships with the right to the prefix or its variations{4}, and one of only three that actually carries mail (the Queen Mary 2 has the designation but is a cruise ship and does not provide a scheduled mail delivery service).


  • was built for the purpose in Aberdeen by Hall, Russell and Company;

  • cost £32,420,000{5} to build, against the original contract price of £19.5 million{6};

  • was launched by Prince Andrew on 31st October 1989 (making her years old) and entered service in 1990;

  • was scheduled for retirement in or around 2012, the original proposed opening date of the St Helena Airport; the project was then ‘paused’ and later restarted so it is now assumed that the RMS St Helena will be kept running until at least the Airport Opening date;

  • is said to be the last ocean going passenger ship built in a British shipyard;

  • is British registered, 6,767 gross tonnes and originally had berths for a maximum of 128 passengers plus 56 officers and crew, this capacity being extended in 2012 by the addition of 24 extra cabin berths and a new gym;

  • is 105m long and has a cargo-carrying capacity of 1,800 tonnes.

Nameplate [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

The RMS maintains many of the traditions of the ocean liner era, including the captain’s cocktail party in the main lounge, the traditional crossing-the-line ceremony{7} and a cricket match on deck between passengers and crew. The images below illustrate your trip to St Helena:

Leaving Cape Town [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Leaving Cape Town{a}

Flag, aft [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Flag, aft

Cabin [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Deck sports [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Deck sports{b}

Deck sports [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Deck sports

Deck sports [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Deck sports

“ It’s definitely a mermaid! ” [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
It’s definitely a mermaid!

RMS arrival at St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS arrival at St Helena

RMS unloading [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS unloading

Onboard departing RMS [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Onboard departing RMS

For more information on the RMS St Helena, or to book a passage, please see her website at

RMS dwarfed by MV Amadea [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS dwarfed by MV Amadea

RMS’ 2015 Christmas Card [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS’ 2015 Christmas Card

RMS Float [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS Float

Final UK voyage [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Final UK voyage

Disabled Passengers

Air Taxi [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Elsewhere we describe how, at St Helena, passengers descend from the RMS to a small boat, are ferried across to the Wharf, and climb onto land swinging on ropes. This begs the question: what about less able-bodied passengers?

The answer is the ‘Air Taxi’. This is a small-ish cage which is lifted like cargo onto and off the RMS using the crane, travels to shore on a barge and is craned onto land, again like cargo. This is used for anybody who has difficulty walking, not just the wheelchair-bound. It was also used for the more severe medical patients, though nowadays these mostly travel by air.

Mail ship turns back…for mail!

The RMS St Helena caused a stir within Jamestown on Wednesday afternoon after news quickly travelled through the street that she had turned back toward James Bay an hour after her departure at lunchtime. The reason for this was to collect important documentats that could only be sent to Cape Town as hard copies. The transfer of the documents was made between the Wideawake and the ship, whilst the RMS had stopped in the harbour. Within minutes of the transfer engines were started and she was on her way again bound for Cape Town.{c}

Audio Clips

Arrival: 30th November 1990

You can listen to an extract from a broadcast made on Radio St Helena recording the arrival of the new RMS to St Helena on her maiden voyage from the UK:

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena] (1.2Mb)

Our lifeline

Governor Gurr speaking on Saint FM in 2010 about the importance of the RMS to St Helena:

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena] (652.3Kb)

‘Blowing Off’

Hear the RMS ‘Blowing Off’ prior to departure (a single blast signifies arrival):

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena] (86.2Kb)

The RMS unloading passengers [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
The RMS unloading passengers

25th Anniversary

Published on The St Helena Wirebird 28th October 2014.

The legendary Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena celebrated its 25th year in operation this month. The RMS, one of only four surviving Royal Mail Ships in the world, connects St Helena with Cape Town. To mark this special milestone, Master Rodney Young welcomed guests on board the ship moored in Duncan Dock, of the Cape Town Harbour.

Young, who was born on St Helena, is one of two shipmasters who share the responsibility of sailing the ship. The second captain of the RMS is Young’s cousin. He has been the captain of the ship since 25th October 2000. “I was married exactly one month prior to my appointment. For every year that’s gone by, I’ve worked for six months on board the RMS. The RMS is very much part of the Island; it’s an extension of the Island. I know the passengers, I know who the cargo is intended for, and I know the store owners.

Over the weekend the RMS St Helena was featured in The Sunday Times’ ‘Small Ships, Big Adventures guide’. This shows that the RMS St Helena holds a prestigious place in the highly competitive UK cruise market, offering a truly unique journey.

In 2010 the Government of St Helena and the United Kingdom announced plans to construct St Helena airport, which will be operational by 2016. The airport project continues to run on time and on budget. With the opening of the airport, the future of the RMS St Helena has yet to be determined but Young is optimistic about the crew’s prospects.

The crew has worked together for a long time. They are very close, and in fact some are family. We have a brother and sister, mother and daughter and a father and daughter on board. Whatever the plan following the completion of the airport, the RMS St Helena crew is very well trained and service orientated - they will be an asset to St Helena as tourism develops.

RMS 25 Years stamp issue [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

RMS in London, 2016

When the Airport was scheduled to open in May 2016, it was planned that the RMS would go on a sort-of ‘farewell tour’, up to London and back before sailing down to Cape Town to be decommissioned. Despite the delay in the airport opening, the London trip went ahead. On 7th June 2016 the RMS sailed up the River Thames, through Tower Bridge and moored alongside HMS Belfast for a stay of around a week.

You can see below a gallery of images of the RMS in London:

RMS in London: lower Thames [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS in London: lower Thames

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

RMS in London: at Tower Bridge [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS in London: at Tower Bridge

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

… [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

RMS in London: with HMS Belfast [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS in London: with HMS Belfast

RMS in London: Welcome! [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS in London: Welcome!

RMS in London: nighttime [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
RMS in London: nighttime

What next for the RMS?

When the RMS St Helena is decommissioned, what will happen to her? Will she, as has been stated in the press, “take a cruise northward to England and then be sent for scrap”?{8}

There is certainly very little use for a ship of her very specific purpose. She was converted to meet the very particular needs of St Helena. There is really nowhere else she could meaningfully serve. A dedicated vessel for Tristan da Cunha is just not an economically practical consideration. And because of her age, the cost of converting her back to a general purpose vessel would probably well exceed her value.

One idea that has been floated{9} is to moor her in James Bay for use as a floating hotel. While the idea has merits - including the nostalgia such a project would inspire - it has some practical difficulties. James Bay is an ‘open’ mooring, exposed to the worst the South Atlantic can offer, so obtaining a stable mooring would be a challenge. There would also be the cost of keeping her permanently seaworthy.

An alternative plan envisages fixing her in a dry-dock, much as was done in Long Beach, California to the RMS Queen Mary. This would attract some initial construction cost, but would be far less expensive to maintain. Finding a suitable location could also be an issue. A Facebook™ campaign to promote this idea, Save Our Ship, was started on 9th July 2015. Read more here.

Whatever happens, it is certain that when (if?) the RMS makes her final departure from St Helena, the seaside will be absolutely packed with islanders wishing to say farewell to the ship that, for over 25 years, has been the “lifeline of St Helena”.

The Last Christmas of the RMS St Helena 1 [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

For Christmas 2015 the • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]Moonbeams Shop Christmas decorations had the theme ‘The Last Christmas of the RMS St Helena’, reflecting that with the opening of the St Helena Airport in 2016, the RMS St Helena would be decomissioned, so 2015 would be her last Christmas serving St Helena.

This theme was also used by Pilling Primary School in their 2015 Festival of Lights.

However, as the Airport opening was delayed the RMS was actually continued through Christmas 2016.

The Last Christmas of the RMS St Helena 2 [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

For Sale

In April 2016 St Helena Line, apparently the owners of the RMS, announced that she would be put up for sale, with London shipbroker CW Kellock & Co Ltd handling the sale. No ‘asking price’ was announced. Prospective purchasers should contact Paul Willcox at CW Kellock & Co Ltd, Tel (+44) 207 448 1395 or email She was originally expected to be ready for delivery to buyers in Cape Town during July/August 2016, but the service extension has clearly changed this…

James Bay from the top of Shy Road, with the RMS in harbour [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Schedule Extended!

Due to the delay in opening the airport the RMS schedule was extended, and it was extended further on 12th June 2016. To see the new schedule, go to

The RMS, in LEGO [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
The RMS, in LEGO{10}

Earlier ships

The first RMS St Helena

The current RMS St Helena is not the first to carry this designation. In 1977, faced with the closure of the Union Castle Line services between the UK and Africa which called at St Helena, the British government found in Vancouver and purchased the part-passenger, part-cargo 3,150 ton ship Northland Prince, originally built in 1963 and previously used between Vancouver and Alaska, for a price of £940,000{11}, to fulfil the role of servicing St Helena.

After being refitted with room to carry 76 passengers and supplies at a cost of £1,500,000{12}, she was renamed the first RMS St Helena{13}. She arrived for the first time at St Helena on 5th October 1978, on her maiden voyage. Five years later a serious fire in the ship’s engine room while at sea was, fortunately, brought under control by the crew.

The ship was used by the Royal Navy during the 1982 Falklands Conflict as a minesweeper support ship{14}. The RMS arrived at Avonmouth in the UK on the 22nd May, where the passengers and cargo were off-loaded. She then sailed that evening for Portsmouth where she arrived the following day. It was here that she was to be extensively modified for her new role as a support ship. A flight deck was built aft for the Wasp helicopter (which carried AS12 missiles). Four 20 millimetre Oerlikon guns were fitted, extra fuel tanks were installed and the derricks were replaced with Rasing gear. The RMS sailed south on 13th June 1982. She saw action supporting minesweepers, off Stanley from 9th June, and from 15th July off San Carlos. She completed her duties on 14th August and set sail for the UK, calling at St Helena on 25th August to drop off Saint crew. Inexplicably, there was no welcome. While she was away, Curnow Shipping chartered the MV Centaur as a replacement vessel to serve St Helena.

By the late 1980s it was becoming apparent that the ship was too small and too old for the island’s needs. In November 1989, an article in the St Helena News stated:

Because of the age of the present RMS St Helena, it is reaching the stage where she’s becoming unreliable for the Island. The need for a more efficient and reliable new ship is inevitable.

The new (current) RMS St Helena was built and the old RMS was sold to South African based interests. She was renamed the Avalon and traded for a while in the Mauritius and Mozambique areas before going to Singapore for scrap. More of her more recent history can be read here{15}.

Northland Prince [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Northland Prince

Northland Prince [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Northland Prince

Original RMS, in the UK [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS, in the UK

Original RMS, in James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS, in James Bay

Original RMS, unloading in James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS, unloading in James Bay

Original RMS in the 1982 Falklands Conflict (centre) [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS in the 1982 Falklands Conflict (centre)

Original RMS with Falklands fittings [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS with Falklands fittings{d}

Model of original RMS in the Museum of St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Model of original RMS in the Museum of St Helena

Original RMS 1988 [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS 1988

Original RMS on a postage stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS on a postage stamp

Original RMS renamed Avalon [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Original RMS renamed Avalon

Old and new RMS together in Cardiff, 1990 [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Old and new RMS together in Cardiff, 1990

The ‘SS Saint Helena’

Also in the 19th century a ship called the ‘Saint Helena’ was used by the British East India Company as a packet ship, sailing between St Helena and the Cape of Good Hope. She did two tours of duty at St Helena, from 1814 to 1821, and again from 1822 to 1830 carrying, cattle, grain and stores to St Helena. More on the Wikipedia.

RMS, Embossed [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Not without incident…

The RMS is a mechanical device lovingly cared for by humans, so the occasional failure is inevitable:

Give us an airport, say islanders

People on the remote island of St Helena are pressing to be given an airport after their only supply ship broke down. Panic-buying has started in shops in the South Atlantic territory, where nearly all food is imported. Margarine and long-life milk are already selling out.

The Royal Mail Ship St Helena was taking cargo and passengers to the tiny British territory, more than 1,600 km off the coast of Angola, when one of its engines failed. It is now awaiting repairs in the French port of Brest. It will be about at least month before she reaches the island.

Around 60 of the passengers bound for home are sitting out the delay; 35 tourists have abandoned their cruise. Some islanders are stranded in South Africa with little money.

The breakdown has intensified the long-running debate over the island’s lack of an airport. It has come only two weeks after a cargo ship diverted for 36 hours to pick up six-year-old Danni Clifford, who’d collapsed with acute leukaemia. She is now in Cape Town and is expected to recover - a great relief to the 5,500 island residents.

But the front page of the St Helena News is asking, “Does it take a death to end our isolation?” The new Governor, Governor David Hollamby, has said it may make economic sense to build an airport when the ship needs replacing, but that’s 10 years away.

More immediately, there’s a chance some Christmas mail will arrive late. St Helenians are used to this - last year’s presents only arrived in April, because the British Post Office missed several sailings.

The residents of St Helena, best known as the site of Napoleon’s final exile, depend for a living on fish exports and ship maintenance.{e}

propeller failure, 2017

On 25th February 2017 the RMS reported a problem with the starboard propeller. The ship completed its voyage (254) and returned to Cape Town, running on only one engine. In Cape Town the RMS was put into dry dock in Simonstown, as a consequence of which the following voyage, 255, was cancelled. On 14th April the engine problems were reported to be worse than originally thought. The RMS had left dry dock on 12th April, the repairs having been certified by both the Rolls Royce engineer and the surveyor from Lloyds Register, but had to return immediately because the ‘fix’ apparently had not worked. Voyage 256 was therefore also cancelled. A flight was chartered by the Government of St Helena to bring stranded passengers back from Cape Town and deliver people stranded here to South Africa.

The RMS eventually left dry dock on 3rd May and sailed for St Helena at around 2am on 5th May, arriving on 9th May. It should be noted that this breakdown occurred approximately seven years after the RMS’ original scheduled decommissioning date.

Read More

Below: Article: “Royal Mail Ship St Helena to Retire”Article: “Royal Mail Ship St Helena - saying farewell to the beating heart of a community”

Article: “Royal Mail Ship St Helena to Retire

By Wendy Laursen, The Maritime Executive, 20th January 2016{16}

RMS in James Bay (Evening) [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

The RMS St Helena will be missed dearly when she retires this year after 26 years of service.

The RMS St Helena is one of the last three remaining Royal Mail Ships in operation and has been servicing the British Overseas Territory Island of St Helena Island and her dependencies for the past 26 years.

St Helena lies in the South Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 kilometres east of Rio de Janeiro and 1,950 kilometres west of the Kunene River which marks the border between Namibia and Angola in southwestern Africa.

The RMS St Helena first came into service in 1990 and primarily shuttles between the St Helena Island, neighboring Ascension Island and Cape Town.

Other than the sporadic international cruise ship visit over the years, the RMS St Helena has been St Helena’s only constant link with the outside world. It’s a legacy that will come to an end this year as the island will open its first airport.

The current RMS St Helena was built by Hall, Russell & Company in Aberdeen, and is Registered Class 1 passenger/cargo ship. She is British registered, 6,767 gross tons and has berths for a maximum of 156 passengers plus 56 officers and crew.

She is equipped to carry all manner of cargo to meet the needs of the Island’s small 4,000 population. From wind turbines to automotive parts; sheep, goats, and Christmas turkeys to furniture, food and paint, everything has to be carried by ship to the island.

Her industry and freight importance aside she provides St Helenian’s the world over a connection to their home island.

RMS 1990-2016 Poster [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Resident Emma-Jane Richards has created a commemorative poster to mark the vessel’s retirement. She reminisces:

When I was younger I always hesitated when someone asked me ‘where are you from? I can’t quite pin down your accent’. Not because I am embarrassed of my heritage or the way I sound.

On the contrary I am very proud of where I’m from. No, my hesitation comes solely from explaining, what often is met with bewilderment, that I am from a small isolated, obscure island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. That remote outcrop of volcanic rock is one of a few remaining British Overseas Territories around the world; St Helena Island.

The bewilderment and disbelief quickly changes into pure excitement when people find out just how isolated St Helena is and the logistics of how you get there. Up until now the only way to access the island was via sea. Yes, you read right, in a world where the other side of the world is just 24 hours flight away or you can jet off for a weekend to any major European city in the course of just a few hours, you still have to make an epic journey to reach a place like St Helena.

At its quickest route you fly for some nine hours to the closest land mass, its sister island Ascension Island, where you board one of the last remaining Royal Mail Ships in the world and sail for two to three days. Or alternatively, you fly to Capetown in South Africa and catch the ship there to sail for five full days before the island looms on the horizon. In the course of my life I have made the journey to and from the St Helena many times, four of which were on a long 14 day journey direct between the Island and Portsmouth.

Some journeys have been through record high waves, others on ocean so still and expansive it feels like you’re not even moving. The constant in all those journeys has been a vessel that holds an endearing place in many hearts.

A vital physical link for islanders to the ‘outside’ world, the RMS St Helena has, for generations, been a steady, loyal friend who offered a welcomed break from the isolation island life offers.

To some she is just a boat who simply transports cargo and mail to and from our island home. But to many the RMS St Helena represents far more than that, she has tirelessly served the people of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Bringing long lost friends and family back home on triumphant returns. She’s been the backdrop to childhood adventures and given Saints everywhere something to be proud off. If you have had the pleasure and privilege of travelling or working on the RMS St Helena you, my friend, have been a part of a beautiful history.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

Article: “Royal Mail Ship St Helena - saying farewell to the beating heart of a community

By John Honeywell; published in The Daily Mirror 23rd August 2014.{16}

Dwarfed: RMS St Helena meets the Queen Mary 2 [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Dwarfed: RMS St Helena meets the Queen Mary 2

No one could quite understand my determination to visit the remote island St Helena.

Why would I take three weeks out of my life - a week to get there, eight days on a speck of rock in the South Atlantic, and a week to get home?

I wasn’t even sure myself, although once the seed had been planted it began to grow and grow; nothing would stop me.

Here was an opportunity to visit one of Britain’s last remaining outposts before it changes forever and the opening of an airport drags it into the 21st century.

I was invited because I write about cruise ships.

The only way to reach St Helena - unless you happen to own your own yacht - is by passenger ship.

The sturdy RMS St Helena is the vessel that makes the journey regularly.

Not long ago it ran a scheduled service from the UK, now it is reduced to shuttling from Cape Town, sailing onwards to Ascension Island and occasionally making a detour to Tristan da Cunha.

It is one of only two remaining passenger vessels designated Royal Mail Ships - Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the other; they once ‘met’ at Tristan da Cunha - and who knows what might happen now our post offices have been privatised.

Community: View over James Bay and Jamestown waterfront [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Community: View over James Bay and Jamestown waterfront

The hefty subsidy that the Foreign Office lays out each year to keep the service afloat is one reason why we are pouring £250million into building St Helena’s first airport, which should open in about a year.

Once flights become established, the 344ft RMS St Helena - built in Aberdeen in 1990 - will be pensioned off and the unique experience of its passage across the South Atlantic will be gone.

The ship is more than just 6,767 gross tonnes of steel capable of carrying 156 passengers, 55 crew and up to 1,800 tonnes of cargo.

It is the beating heart of the small community.

When the ship is in James Bay the 4,000 islanders smile more broadly than usual.

When it bobs at anchor, life in the sleepy capital, Jamestown, perks up; shops and bars open specially, or for longer hours, than during the rest of the month.

The RMS is the residents’ lifeline. The ship is the only way to get to Cape Town when islanders need treatment beyond the capabilities of the island’s small hospital.

It transports them to the outside world for education, training and employment.

It brings them back for family celebrations and when they decide to return home for good.

It brings everything needed for daily life - food, household goods, cars, tools.

You name it, it’s all there in the containers winched off the ship and on to pontoons to be floated ashore.

For many Saints, a regular job on the ship has set them up for life.

History: Catching some sun on deck [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
History: Catching some sun on deck

Like the island, the ship is a journey back in time, but it would be wrong to pretend it offers a luxury cruise experience.

The cabins, some shared by four people, are as basic as those on a cross-Channel ferry.

The extras-indulging occupants of the few suites are limited to a fridge and a bowl of fruit.

No balcony, or even picture window, from which to survey the ocean; just a simple porthole within splashing distance of the swell.

No television, just a radio with a choice of two channels - BBC World Service or music.

There’s a small gym somewhere up near the funnel - climbing the steps to reach it would be enough exercise for me.

The view forward from the ship’s main lounge is of containers on the cargo deck; the Sun Lounge looks out across a small swimming pool to a large area of open deck and the seemingly endless wake trailing behind the ship.

The emptiness of the sky is only occasionally broken by an albatross or a pair of petrels.

Highlight of the journey is the fiercely competitive cricket match between passengers and crew.

Nightlife: Barbecue night on RMS St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]
Nightlife: Barbecue night on RMS St Helena

Whether it was thanks to the presence of Governor Mark Capes on board to cheer from the boundary we will never know, but the passengers scored an exceedingly rare victory.

Just as on a cruise ship, the captain holds a welcome cocktail party; officers share tables with guests in the compact dining saloon, and there’s a quiz which is almost as cut-throat as the cricket.

The crew seem to have abandoned the habit of putting on a cabaret, although they still serve hot beef tea at 11am.

Entertainment is limited to deck games, the well-stocked bar and a few film nights.

Days are spent reading, sleeping, and scanning the empty ocean with nothing to see but sea and sky.

My journey coincided with Remembrance Sunday and the captain and the governor held a moving service on the afterdeck.

Eerily, an albatross flew over the wake as the Last Post sounded and a wreath was dropped on to the waves.

Before long, the Last Post will be sounded for RMS St Helena.

There are precious few opportunities remaining to make the journey before the ship sails into the sunset for the last time.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]

Laugh at funny rms humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:RMS St Helena]


{a} 20th August 2016, by Christopher L Godden

{b} Mail Online

{c} St Helena Herald, 10th February 2012{16}

{d} Robert Wilson, via Facebook

{e} BBC News, November 1999{16}


{1} See our page Fly here? to read more.

{2} You may recognise this photo - it appears all over the Internet. Can we please just claim credit for it? John, a Director of Moonbeams took the photo in the evening of his first arrival on St Helena on 28th January 2005. It is released into the public domain on Wikipedia (just thought you should know…).

{3} In the UK. The first St Helena stamp wasn’t issued until 1st January 1856.

{4} See to learn about the others.


{6} But our Airport will, apparently, be completed with no cost overruns…

{7} Though since calls to the UK were suspended the RMS no longer crosses the equator.

{8} Actually the current proposals are for a round trip via the UK but ending in Cape Town, plus three more trips.

{9} Sorry!

{10} We don’t know who made this model. If it was you, please contact us so we can attribute this fine creation!



{13} Though sometimes referred to as the ‘RMS St Helena Island’.

{14} The book ‘Falklands War - Get Stuft’ by I H Milburn tells the story. “A sailor’s diary from the Falklands War 1982, telling the truth with tongue-in-cheek humour. The book charts the voyage taken by the RMS St Helena (a ship taken up from trade - STUFT). She supported HMS Brecon and HMS Ledbury in minehunting/sweeping, and other ordnance clearance, including diving on the wrecks of sunken warships.”.

{15} See more blogs.

{16} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.


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