Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

RMS St. Helena: What Was It Like to Sail Aboard the Final Voyage

20th February 2018
RMS St Helena prior to her final leg of the round trip voyage (No. 268) in James Bay off the capital of the South Atlantic island. Afloat adds the RMS last Saturday returned to Cape Town, South Africa marking the end of an era. RMS St Helena prior to her final leg of the round trip voyage (No. 268) in James Bay off the capital of the South Atlantic island. Afloat adds the RMS last Saturday returned to Cape Town, South Africa marking the end of an era. Photo: Jonathan Hollins

#Ports&Shipping - RMS St. Helena, the last ever Royal Mail Ship completed its last ever journey – and it was surprisingly emotional, says Jonathan Hollins writing in the UK's Independent newspaper.

The word “lifeline” is one too often bandied about and devalued; but, in the case of the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, it is entirely appropriate. In fact, she is its very definition.

For 27 years now, since her shiny new hull first slipped through the murky waters of Cardiff Bay in 1990, the RMS – or “Betty Blue Bucket”, as she is affectionately called – has plied the mid-Atlantic, nurturing Britain’s remote overseas territories and linking them to civilisation. Central to these rocky outcrops is the island of St Helena: sea lashed, cliff bound, the one-time darling of the Honourable East India Company, and haven to over 4,000 “Saints”, as locals are known.

The RMS is the last of her species, the only working royal mail ship left of a fleet that used to string together the distant strands of empire. Two other ships carry the title, but it is only honorary.

The RMS was purpose-built by the UK government, a 105m vessel able to carry 7,000 tonnes of cargo and passengers, all cocooned in a dark blue hull with white topsides, and crowned by a mustard yellow funnel bearing a golden merlion.

Now, however, the fatal day has come. St Helena, formerly the second most remote island in the world, has built an airport, a masterpiece of engineering bedevilled and delayed by topography, and after a two-year reprieve (see Afloat's coverage of once-off London visit) the RMS has completed her final voyage.

For much more on this historic final voyage and photos taken on the momentous day on and offshore of St. Helena Island, click here.

As Afloat reported last October, the passenger-cargoship owners St. Helena Line had appointed the sale of the ship through a London based ship-broker.

Sea transport services will continue albeit with a cargo-only service on the same route operated by A.W. Ship Management. This new service is scheduled to begin tomorrow voyage (No. 1) using the M.V. Helena. 

Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

Email The Author

Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

Featured Webcams

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events

tokyo sidebutton
sovscup sidebutton
vdlr sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating