Route Planning… to Pitcairn Island

 The faint line shows our proposed route from Galapagos to Pitcairn and onwards to French Polynesia. This is the software “Open CPN” which enables us to look at our route with overlays of wind, historical weather, and much more. Note the tropical low pressure just south of Tahiti is affecting the trade winds in the region of the “Austral Islands” such as Rapa. 

Talking about uniqueness of community… what Floreanna is to the Galapagos, Pitcairn is to the South Pacific. Is there another island in the world colonized by mutineers? 

So we are very keen to sail there, especially because it’s on the way to Gambier Islands, which look fabulous themselves. 

Only about 25 sailboats visit Pitcairn every year, a low number because of its isolation. Most sailors leaving from Galapagos head toward Marquesas. At latitude 10 degrees South, Marquesas is a remarkable downwind sail for almost 3000 miles along the trade wind belt. 

Meanwhile, Pitcairn, is at the low edge of the SE trade wind belt, like Easter Island, which is 1000 miles to the east. Its closest neighbor is Gambier islands of French Polynesia, 300 miles to the west. At 24 degrees south, Pitcairn is subtropical and its weather can be more fickle- it is influenced by low pressure systems in the southern ocean, particularly in June-Sep (their winter). 


This wind map shows the trade wind belt nicely, which is sandwiched by Galapagos (green circle) and Pitcairn (red circle). The trade wind belt moves north June-Oct. This software is Predict Wind, which communicates with our satellite phone (Iridium Go) to download weather updates wherever we are. 

Instead of going straight downwind, we expect a broad or even beam reach to get to Pitcairn. If we get unlucky, there’s even potential for close hauling (into the wind) during the last portion of the trip, as low pressures cause the winds to clock around. As we get to that point (3/4 of the way there) we’ll need to decide how best to weave our way there. 

The Southern Hemi summertime (Dec-Mar) would be more straightforward to sail to Pitcairn as the SE trades are more fully in place. As winter approaches the trade winds move north and the islands become situated in an area of wind variability. This is the main reason we are deciding not to head to Easter Island – it is a little too late in the season, and we don’t want to get “stuck” there. 

Unfortunately, Pitcairn’s only landing area is exposed to the predominant SE trade wind, and also the south swell, which makes it quite rough. This is none other than Bounty Bay, where the infamous ship Bounty was  burned and sunk by the mutineers in 1790 to hide their traces. 

No wonder Pitcairn was a good site for the mutineers. Nobody ever wanted to land there, the charts placed it in the wrong spot, so they could stay undetected! 

From what we heard several yachts try to stop at Pitcairn but keep sailing by because the anchoring conditions are too rough. So that’ll also be a test for us once we arrive. 

Calculations for arrival:

 Total distance from Galapagos to Pitcairn (via Dulcie atoll, in the Pitcairn group, add one or two days for a visit): 2800 nautical miles. 

Boat speed for Aldebaran: 3-8 knots

Boat average velocity made good: 4.5-5.5knots

Add one or two days at Dulcie atoll. 

2800 miles @4.5kts= 26 days +1 = 27 days

2800 miles @5.5kts= 21 days +2 = 23 days

Departure date: Galapagos, April 8

Estimated Arrival date: Pitcairn, May 1-5