In line with one of their age-old traditions, the Tristan Islanders helped out a Dutch sailor who limped into their harbor with his damaged yacht in mid-December.
According to Alex Mitham, the British Administrator of Tristan da Cunha, the homemade yacht named Way to Brisbane was sailing from the Netherlands to Australia when it ran into problems in the South Atlantic. It had last landed in Salvador, a city on the coast of Brazil, and was headed for Cape Town, South Africa. Piloted by Willem Klass Merten Van Rij, the sole occupant of the vessel, the yacht had a broken rudder, an engine that was not functioning, and some problems with its rigging.
The sailor wisely decided to seek shelter in the Tristan harbor. It arrived in Tristan waters on Friday, December 19th, at 11:00 in the morning. Despite the fact that it was “Break-Up Day,” the traditional beginning of the three-week holiday period, the Islanders quickly went out to rescue the sailor and his vessel. They towed it in and took the man to the island hospital so he’d have some time to recuperate.
Once he was well, the Islanders helped him repair his boat, gave him water, provisions, clothes, and a radio. They wished him well and sent him on his way to Cape Town. Mr. Mitham names, in his news report posted on the Tristan website on December 29th, 20 different Tristan Islanders who had assisted with the project, but he indicates that many others were involved.
For almost 200 years, the Islanders have frequently helped save people from shipwrecks, some of whom have stayed to become residents. Helping others has become a tradition in their community. As recently as 2005, the Islanders took in two men who had to abandon their yacht when it was broken up in the crashing surf. Even more recently, in March 2011, they hosted, temporarily in their community, sailors from a large commercial ship that had crashed in Tristan waters.
This January 1st, Mr. Mitham also posted an end of the year report on the website, the text of comments that he shared with the Islanders at their annual get together on December 31st. He described their accomplishments during 2014 and mentioned necessary projects they anticipate working on in 2015.
He briefly discussed work that has gotten under way to fence the Potato Patches, the principle farming area on the island that is located about one and one-half miles southwest of the Settlement. He told the Islanders that a joint venture with the Isle of Man to produce Tristan beer may generate some needed additional income for the island. He also said that Tristan is going to be exploring renewable energy possibilities with a pilot project in January, which he hopes will help reduce island expenses. A new hospital is in the planning stage for later in 2015.