The Voyage Home

We arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, this afternoon.  The seas were rough and the mood somber during the five-day return voyage on the RMS St Helena.  Even with stabilizers dampening the ship’s roll, she bucked high waves and heaved continuously.  Gray skies and occasional rain added to the gloom.  The first two days, we mostly stayed in our cabin, grateful for the Academy-nominated movies we’d brought from home.

Back on deck, our fellow travelers, some a bit green, some still cheerful, hid behind paperbacks and Sudoku. The anticipation gone and the vacation over, the ship’s lounge took on the air of a waiting room. Today we finally sighted Cape Town, only to bob in place for two long hours, as swells kept the harbor pilot from reaching us.  Once on land, we rushed the good-byes, before going our separate ways.  We spend tonight in Cape Town; tomorrow we board a twenty-two hour flight home.

I am so glad I made this voyage.  Reading others’ accounts could never have imprinted St Helena in my imagination as deeply or as accurately.  Its wind seared my ears, its fog hid my path, and its dampness cloaked my skin.  I’ve felt Longwood’s walls close around me. I’ve seen that Napoleon could look out the window next to his writing desk and watch the sun shine on the flower garden.  I’ve smelled the mildew and paced the creaking floors.

In The Black Room at Longwood, Jean-Paul Kauffmann writes of his visit there: “Longwood is intimidating and yet . . . there is something familiar in these rooms.”  Now I must translate that familiarity into a novel.  Did I see the ghosts? Michel Martineau, the French consul, teased me.  Yes, Michel, because if she is lucky, a writer always carries ghosts in her head.



  • SMK
    June 2, 2011 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Welcome home. Thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to hearing more about it … and maybe Bert will create one of his memorable slide shows to share.

  • mrodenberg
    June 5, 2011 - 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, SMK! Even though I enjoyed every minute of this trip (except the rough seas), it is great to be home. You can be sure that Bert will get to work on putting my photos into a slide show.

  • Victor Blair
    November 30, 2011 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    You brought back memories of my trip to the Island about ten years ago. Though somber, I loved the isand and its people. Your vivid description has let me relive those moments and I look forward to your book, even though it will be fiction.
    Victor Blair.

  • mrodenberg
    November 30, 2011 - 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Victor. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and hope you had a chance to watch the video of my photos from our visit to St Helena. It’s interesting that you called the island “somber.” It certainly has a unique feel to it that I still can’t quite put my finger on. At one moment you feel resigned desperation; at another great resilience. Although the people are reserved, everyone treated us with generosity and kindness. The trip was an enriching experience well beyond my expectations and the research for this novel.

  • August 4, 2015 - 2:06 pm | Permalink

    When & under what title will your book be published?


    Victor Blair…

  • mrodenberg
    August 4, 2015 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Victor, that remains to be seen! I don’t have a publisher yet and you never know what the title of a book will end up being. Right now, I call it FINDING NAPOLEON, like this blog. Thanks for asking.

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