➥ Loading Saint Helena Island Info




A convenient stopover in the South Atlantic

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… ‘cruising’ it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.{c}

Since its discovery St Helena has been a convenient stop-over in the South Atlantic

Why Visit?

Apart from the warm and friendly reception and delightful scenery, St Helena’s strategic position makes it an ideal stopover for calls by yachts making the passage from the Cape en route to the northern hemisphere or to South America (as it did for sailing ships in times gone by). Virtually all visits are made when travelling northwards, on the Trade Winds, though the island is equally welcoming and just as beautiful, whichever the direction of travel!

The Island offers yacht travellers a safe haven for rest and recuperation after long periods at sea, and the opportunity to stock up on provisions or carry out repairs and maintenance (the island’s mechanics make up for the limited availability of spare parts with extraordinary ingenuity, which also explains why so many Classic Cars remain in daily use on St Helena). There are also Internet and email facilities available. For more about the kinds of yacht that visit us see below.

I arrived at St Helena on a yacht from Cape Town and ended up staying a month. The Saints are the most friendly welcoming people, the Island a haven of peace. I hope I get to go there again one day.{d}

Our first clear view of St Helena{1} gave the singular impression of a huge mummy lying on its back - the King & Queen peaks on the left giving the idea of feet; the Turk’s Head in the centre looking like hands folded in front; and the great Barn Rock representing a monster head.{e}


Set your GPS to 15°55’24.3”S; 5°43’3.5”W{2} and you should arrive in James Bay

St Helena Radio{3} (callsign ‘ZHH’) can be found on VHF Channel 16 and should be contactable from 20 nautical miles out. The harbourmaster can be contacted on VHF Channel 14.

Customs building
Customs building

When you arrive you will need to check-in with Immigration. This is conveniently located in the Customs Building on The Wharf - the one with the clock tower (picture, right).

If this office is closed you may need to make your way to the Police Station, not-so conveniently located in Coleman House{4}, about half-way up town towards the General Hospital…enjoy the walk!

Also download this leaflet for arrival procedures.

Yacht visits tend to be concentrated in the first half of the year, perhaps for the better weather on the island but more probably to avoid the hurricane season in the Caribbean and western mid-Atlantic, though you are almost certain to find a mooring even at the busiest times. If you want to stay on the island (and sleep in a proper bed!) you would be wise to book accommodation in advance please see our page Where To Stay.

Simon’s Town to St Helena 2,800Km

Cape Town to St Helena 2,700Km

This has the reputation of being an easy passage. The most favourable conditions are usually November to April, although the passage can be made at any time of the year. SE winds predominate during the summer, which makes it an enjoyable and fast passage. The course to steer is directly for St Helena. Most yachts will hardly notice the transition from the SE winds of South Africa to the SE Trade Wind. Later in the year strong NW winds are associated with the fronts which reach the coasts of S Africa. If you are departing at that time of year, watch the forecast carefully. Try to leave immediately after the passage of a front, when the next one appears a long way off, and stay well offshore.

Some yachts choose to call into Namibia, at either Lüderitz or Walvis Bay (port). Sailing up this coast puts you into the cold Benguela current and the area is subject to offshore fog.{f}

See our page Visitor Information for more useful information and things to do while you are here.


Local money - the St Helena Pound

The local currency in St Helena is the Saint Helena Pound (SHP) which is linked at parity to the British Pound (Sterling; GBP). The £ symbol is used. Notes and coins are similar in denomination and appearance to their UK counterparts, though St Helena is not yet using plastic banknotes. Learn more about the money we use on St Helena. A currency converter is available from XE.com.

Banking services on St Helena{5} are provided by the Bank of St Helena from whom further information may be obtained.

The financial year for the Government of St Helena and all businesses/organisations runs from 1st April until 31st March. We are currently in financial year .

In Emergency

St Helena Radio{3} keeps a continuous watch on International Distress Frequencies MF 2,182KHz and VHF Channel 16. It also monitors HF channels ITU channel 1217, ITU channel 807 and ITU channel 414, providing radio assistance to visiting ships or yachts as well as local boats. It also acknowledges, relays and assists with distress calls for St Helena, Ascension Island, or for any vessels at sea within the reception range of St Helena.

If you have a medical energency and access to a Satellite Phone you could also try calling the General Hospital direct on (+290) 22500.

Some Statistics

Yachts arriving178207191229159196186184203
Yacht passengers539671595695551647671630748

Nationality of Vessel: UK Flag of The United Kingdom 15%; S. Africa Flag of The South Africa 15%; USA Flag of The United States 13%; France Flag of France 12%; Germany Flag of Germany 8%; Australia Flag of Australia 6%; Canada Flag of Canada 5%; The Netherlands Flag of The Netherlands 3%;Others 23%

Note that these omit the period 2019-2022 because the island was effectively closed to visitors due to Covid‑19.

Virtually all arrivals were from the West Coast of Africa, the top three ports being: Cape Town; Walvis Bay (port); and Lüderitz. A small number of vessels make the journey down from the north via Tenerife, Cape Verde or Ascension Island.

The most popular destinations for the next port of call are: South America, 38%; Ascension Island, 31%; The Caribbean, 17%; and Cape Verde, 6%. A handful make the journey back to South Africa and the remainder list destinations such as The Azores and various mainland European countries (via unidentified intermediate ports).

The chart below illustrates the seasonality of yacht visits:

‍Ann’s Place‍

Set in the south-western corner of Castle Gardens, in a building that was originally the Government Stables, ‘Ann’s Place’ (a.k.a. ‘Anne’s Place’) started in 1979 as a take-away but grew over the years. Now it’s a restaurant, café, meeting place, entertainment venue, yachties hangout, and doubtless many other things too.

It has a fascinating nautical atmosphere, largely due to the ‘ceiling’ which is actually a canopy constructed from flags from all over the world, many signed by the vessel’s crew and telling the story of their visit. Further stories can be found in the visitors’ books.

Ann’s Place is a bit of a legend in the yachting community, and has been providing a home-from-home for passing travellers for decades. A quick scan on the Internet reveals postings saying things like a visit to Anne’s restaurant is not to be missed{6} and Nothing compares with Anne’s fishcakes [᠁] we had a couple of cold beers and Fishcakes that I will never forget as long as I live. Maybe it was 23 days at sea, but they were just so good. Made with fresh fish and chillies, they are to die for{h}.

Racing & Rallies

Below: Governor’s Cup Yacht RaceWorld Arc RallyOyster World Rally

The Governor’s Cup Yacht Race

Black Cat, off St Helena in The Governor’s Cup
Black Cat, off St Helena in The Governor’s Cup

The Governor’s Cup (a.k.a. The Cape to St Helena Race) is a yacht race run every two years from South Africa to St Helena. For more go to our page The Governor’s Cup.

World Arc Rally

World Arc, 2014-15
Geotracking, 21st January 2017
Geotracking, 21st January 2017{i}

The World ARC is a round-the-world adventure taking place over 15 months and covering 26,000 nautical miles, run every year.

Following the classic Trade Winds route, the rally avoids regions of political instability, piracy and the storm seasons in both hemispheres.

The pace of the rally allows the fleet to stay together, and to enjoy shore-side activities as a group, mixing together cruising and time to explore.

Anyone who has recently looked out to sea has undoubtedly seen the vast collection of yachts in the harbour. Following the Governor’s Cup racers we now have yachts from the World Arc Rally. The World Arc Rally are a group of yachts that continuously sail round the globe and yachts come and go as they please. It’s not really a race but more of a group cruise. They are stopping off here before the next leg of their round-the-world tour.{j}

The rally visits St Helena in January/February each year. The 2024 visit coincided with that of HRH Edward, Duke of Edinburgh.

Oyster World Rally

The Oyster World Rally 2017-19 reached St Helena in mid-January 2019, after a 27-month journey starting in Antigua, staying around two weeks. The 2013-14 (inaugural) Rally also visited in January 2014, where the participants were particularly impressed by our Whale Sharks.

The St Helena High

In full, the “St Helena High Pressure System”. ‘Yachties’ will know about this, as it is a factor in their successful navigation of the eastern South Atlantic. It gets mentioned in the Wikipedia as the ‘South Atlantic High’ but otherwise only seems to be discussed in relation to yacht races (Search on Google™…). But if you think that ‘high pressure system’ means sunny skies it’s not as simple as that - we get our fair share of rain (why else would the island be so green?)

(If you thought this was going to be an item about magic mushrooms or other substances then we’re sorry to disappoint but we don’t know anything about such things. Honest)

For more about our climate see our page Weather and climate.

The St Helena Yacht Club

Yacht Club logo

The St Helena Yacht Club supports local and visiting yacht owners, and anybody else that has a non-commercial interest in boating in St Helena’s waters. It is also involved in organising The Governor’s Cup.

Read More

Below: Article: the trip up from Cape TownArticle: Ready Set Sail in St Helena

Article: the trip up from Cape Town

The following is taken from the blog ‘Sailing Saviah{7}{8} and illustrates the passage up from Cape Town to St Helena:

After waiting close to a week for the winds in Cape Town to settle down, we headed out on January 31st. Our next stop would be the island of Saint Helena, 2,700km to the northwest. The strategy for this leg of the trip is to wait for a few days of light winds in Cape Town and make it as far north as possible before the next big blow comes. In the case of Cape Town, light winds usually mean 20-30 knots.

This passage is normally quite boisterous for the first few days, and our trip was no exception. We had S to SE winds at 20-25 knots for the first four days, with a sizable SW swell, and Saviah carried us along at over 6 knots, knocking off 240Km a day. At this pace, we began to think we could reach Saint Helena in 11 days.

On our fifth day out, the winds lightened, which typically happens near the tropics. We did everything we could to maintain our speed, but our average daily run over the next six days dropped to a disappointing 175km. We sailed with our big spinnaker for two days, until one night a very mild squall with gusts up to 15 knots swept through. This sail was already near the end of its life, and a little bit more pressure from a gust caused the sail to rip all the way across, about four feet from the head. No longer held on top, the sail went forward and into the water.

This happened around 2am, when Di was on watch, and she ran forward and pulled in all 500+ square feet of sail and piled it on deck. It was good that she got it out of the water quickly before we ran over it, which could have created a tangled mess under the keel. By the time Andrew woke up and ran up top, the whole thing was pretty much over.

We discussed switching out to the smaller gennaker, but the halyard was stuck at the top of the mast, along with the head of the spinnaker. So we did our best with the poled out genoa, although this is our favourite sail and hearing it luff for days on end is very frustrating. By day 11, we had almost no wind at all and averaged only 100Km for the following three days. It seemed that the current was likely responsible for at least half of those miles.

During these periods of very light winds, we tried to be patient and wait it out rather than motor. We were uncertain of refuelling options in Saint Helena{9} and decided to save our diesel for crossing the ITCZ (doldrums) on the next passage. This made for some very long days, but at least the seas were flat.

On day 14, the SE Trade Winds filled in at 10-12 knots, and Saviah was finally moving along a bit faster. We approached Saint Helena at night after 16 days at sea on what ended up being one of our slowest passages, averaging only 170Km per day. We opted to heave-to for the night and sailed around to the leeward side of the island the next morning after sunrise.

Approaching the city of Jamestown, we were a bit nervous as the information we had showed the primary anchorage in 30m of water with a very steeply sloping sea floor. In order to anchor in water that deep, we would need to put out all 250 feet of our chain, at about a pound per foot, in addition to our oversized 25Kg anchor. Our windlass is still broken and the thought of pulling up all of that weight by hand when it was time to go was daunting. We also read that because of the steep ocean floor many boats have problems dragging off to sea.

As we neared the anchorage, we were pleasantly surprised to see seven other cruising boats there, and all were tied up to moorings with another 15 available nearby. We called the port on the VHF and got permission to tie up to one. Apparently they were installed just a few months prior, which was a big relief.

After Saviah was moored, one of the small ferry boats stopped by, and the driver said he would pick us up in an hour. There is a wharf on the other side of the bay with a concrete wall where it is possible to land a dinghy. Even when the winds are light and the ocean swell is minimal, there still seems to be a sizeable swell that rolls into the wharf, making a dinghy landing very wet and often dangerous.

Fortunately, the port provides a ferry service that runs cruisers and the local fisherman from their boats to the wharf and back again throughout the day. This means you can arrive at shore dry and with your dinghy in one piece, although it still takes a bit of coordination to get on and off of the small ferry boat as it rises and falls in the swell. Near the wall, several lengths of knotted rope hang down for you to grab and swing onto the concrete, while the boat drops from under you.

Article: Ready Set Sail in St Helena

By Kippy Gilders, The Daily Herald{10}, 25th April 2015{7}

‘An island stuck in time’

Daily Herald, Ready Set Sail in St Helena

A looming presence on the horizon, its heights hidden in dark clouds, after eleven days at sea, St Helena was in sight. It is said that St Helena is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world. But for some, its strategic position, roughly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, makes it an ideal stopover during the passage from the Cape en route to the Caribbean.

Arriving at James Bay around midnight, the only signs of life were from the bright lights of a large container ship, and the occasional flash of headlights. Cautiously, we launched our tender so that Max and Al could seek out the mooring buoys, while Dani and I stood guard on Corina. After about an hour of careful movements, we were tied to a large buoy, surrounded by other seemingly abandoned boats tied in the same fashion. The following morning, we awoke to our first sight of James Bay; tall, sheer rock face with the only visible life in a small valley between the jagged rocks.

Saint Helena is an island of volcanic origin jutting out of the South Atlantic Ocean. The relative isolation of this small island has resulted in a rich history. Discovered in 1504{11}, her strategic importance was only realized when the trade route to the East was established around Cape of Good Hope. St Helena became a vital stopover for fresh supplies, and The East India Company soon claimed her British territory.

Today, St Helena remains one of the most remote places on Earth. Other than by cruising yacht, the only access is possible by ship and is a five-day voyage from Cape Town on the RMS St Helena (1990-2018). This is the only connection to the rest of the world, and brings everything from mail to visitors to fresh produce. This isolation has left the island ‘stuck in time’. This is evident as there are no mobile networks on the island, only pay phones and land lines. If you can’t reach someone on their landline, then your next best option is to walk around the small capital of Jamestown and ask the shop owners if they’ve seen the person you’re looking for. With an area of 122Km², and just over 4,000 inhabitants, it’s quite likely you’ll find who you’re looking for!

The capital of Jamestown consists of little more than a single street, running up a narrow, deep-sided valley for a mile. In town, you’ll find a few snack bars, some shops, one hotel, an information office, and a bank. The roads leading inland are winding, extremely steep and so narrow that cars can only pass each other in specific bays where the road widens for this purpose. Cars going up have the right of way and constantly honk to warn oncoming cars of their arrival. The steep valleys mean you don’t need to use any gear higher than third. As the roads climb out of town, the landscape changes dramatically. The bare, dry, and rocky coastal region gives way to green, lush rolling hillsides covered in a cool mist. The interior of the island feels more like the English countryside than a jagged rock in the middle of the ocean.

Despite its complete isolation, we were pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the island. Our feline crew member, Sambal, had fallen ill on the second day out of Cape Town and his health was declining quickly. By satellite phone we’d been in contact with the local veterinarian on St Helena, Joe Hollins, who guided us through treatment. When we woke up the first morning after our midnight arrival, Joe and the senior immigration officer were alongside, ready to take Sambal for immediate treatment and to expedite our clearing of immigration. British territories don’t normally allow foreign animals ashore without extensive quarantine, but Joe had recently changed this rule to exempt critically-ill animals arriving by boat.

The Saints (the people of St Helena) are the descendants of European settlers, African slaves and Chinese labourers, and they speak an English that can be extremely hard to understand. But their kindness knows no limit. We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of cruising boats that pass through St Helena. Perhaps because it’s one of the only places to stop in the Atlantic, but at least three boats would arrive each day to stay for a week of rest before continuing onward to South America or the Caribbean.

With Al’s love of history and subsequent fascination of St Helena, we rented a car and climbed our way to the interior of the island. Our first mission was to visit Longwood House, the sight of Napoleon’s second exile. He was exiled here in 1815, when he had finally been captured by the British. They’d originally captured and exiled him to the island of Elba (off the shores of Italy) in 1812, but he had escaped. The British, furious, defeated him again and exiled him to St Helena, a rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. An island so remote, it took 10 weeks for Napoleon to arrive by ship!

Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement on St Helena, writing his memoirs until his death in 1821 at the age of 51. Many believed that he’d been slowly poisoned with arsenic by his captors, but this is no longer considered true. As Emperor, he undoubtedly enjoyed lavish lifestyles, and some think that his exile at Longwood was no exception. He was permitted to bring an entourage of officers with him, rode horses throughout the day, and enjoyed a ration of 40 kilos of meat, nine chickens and seventeen bottles of wine per day. However, what we saw at Longwood House was rather dismal. The house, now in a better state than ever, was damp and wretched. He also hadn’t seen his wife and son since his first exile in Elba.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to visit Jonathan the tortoise, who, at 180 years, is the world’s oldest living animal. He lives at the Plantation House, the Governor’s residence, where he enjoys an active life with three younger female tortoises. It is believed that Jonathan was brought to St Helena from Seychelles in 1882, and is the same species of tortoise that we came across in Seychelles Islands months before. Max met Jonathan some 23 years ago, while sailing from Cape Town to Brazil. While enjoying some food at the infamous Ann’s Place, and rummaging through the old log books, we found the entry of Max’s family in 1991… and the entry of my family just a few pages further!

Running almost vertically up from the floor of the valley of Jamestown is Jacob’s Ladder. This staircase consists of 699 very steep steps and serves as a direct link to Half Tree Hollow, the largest settlement on the island. While we huffed and puffed our way up the narrow stairs, we marvelled at the locals carrying groceries up the ladder without even breaking a sweat. Built in the 1800s, it was originally a horse-powered machine for hauling goods to the top of the hill.

The island environment has been reshaped by centuries of human activity to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to know what it actually looked like. There are no endemic land mammals, but goats, rabbits, pheasant and other animals were brought to the island to supply passing ships. Forests were felled, and flax was introduced to support an industry that flourished in the first half of the 20th century. The only surviving endemic bird species is the Wirebird, which is critically endangered with around 350 individuals left in the wild.

Watching the RMS St Helena (1990-2018) steam into James Bay, one is acutely aware that there is no other way to and from this island. This is all about to change as the island’s first airport is currently under construction. This ambitious project is costing the English government roughly 400 million pounds and involves filling in a whole valley! It is due to become operational in 2016, and the ship service will be discontinued. This will undoubtedly change life on St Helena, and is the most heated topic of discussion amongst the locals.

With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to Al, who decided that one week on this special island wasn’t enough. He’d made up his mind to stay for a few more weeks and return home on one of the last voyages of the RMS St Helena (1990-2018). Once news arrived that Sambal had made a full recovery, we cleared immigration, said our farewells to Al and our new friends, combed the town for whatever meagre fresh produce we could find, and set off on the last leg of our final oceanic crossing. Next stop, Brazil!


{a} Royal Cape Yacht Club{b} Mark Stevenson{c} Sterling Hayden, from ‘Wanderer’; quoted in the introduction to the online book ‘Across Islands and Oceans’ (further quote from this book on our page Radio St Helena, {12}){d} Social Media{e} Rev. John Walker{13}{f} www.google.com/‌maps/‌d/‌viewer?mid=zi665egJf8Wk.kXYdgrku0pgI&hl=en_US, Retrieved 5th October 2015{7}{g} St Helena Statistics Office{h} Crystal Degenhardt, 2009. Read the full blog posting{i} Tourist Information Office{j} Andrew Turner, in The Independent, 23rd January 2015, {7}


{1} Arriving from the north east.{2} Location of Jamestown according to latest GPS data.{3} Not to be confused with our former national radio station, Radio St Helena.{4} Named for PC Leonard Coleman, killed in the line of duty in 1982.{5} And also on Ascension Island.{6} www.yachtworld.com/‌boat-content/‌2010/‌02/‌mike-harkers-christmas-in-st-helena.{7} @@RepDis@@{8} See more blogs.{9} OUR NOTE: actually both petrol and diesel are readily available.{10} Formerly at http://www.thedailyherald.com but this site is no longer responding.{11} Actually 1502 (probably), but who’s arguing?{12} Read the full chapter here.{13} In ‘St Helena as I saw it’, 1886.