On 6 September the South African research vessel S. A. Agulhas II left Cape Town on her maiden voyage to Tristan da Cunha. The planned date of arrival is either tomorrow or Wednesday, which is good time as the island’s own website even states “Cape Town-Tristan services are now timed at seven and not six days as this reflects actual average passage time.”
Aside from the vessel’s own crew and the personnel to replace the staff on Gough Island, on board the Agulhas II are three medevacs, twelve Tristanians (although the website reports there are fifteen), four government officials and eleven relatives visiting from the UK, for a total of thirty (or 33). The ship reserves thirty concessionary berths for these priority passengers and they are always filled. If the request for concessionary berths exceeds thirty, the ship reserves the right to dip into the ten berths reserved for tourists. It is thus possible that my spot on next year’s journey could be forfeited to a passenger with exceeding priority. That is the chance I will have to take. However, the website also reports that S. A. Agulhas II departed with 41 passengers on board. That tells me that among this total eight (or eleven) must be tourists. So either they dipped into the ten-tourist quota or exceeded it. I am getting different information from the website and from my own contact on the island. Needless to say, when you plan a trip to such a rarely-visited island as Tristan da Cunha, you have to plan early, way early, and then keep your fingers crossed that they will still have a spot for you when the time comes to lift anchor. If all does go to plan, however, at this time next year, I will be aboard that ship en route to Tristan.