Cruising Guide to Pitcairn

For other sailors interested in visiting Pitcairn… we highly recommend it! Here’s our suggestions based on our five day visit in May 2017. It’s worth noting that Pitcairn’s language is English and they monitor VHF CH 16 closely.

This is the main concern for most sailors interested in Pitcairn. Many sailboats leave too soon or don’t visit at all because of confusion over the anchorages.

There are 3 anchorages ranging from ok to rolly to very rough. A multihull helps a lot. Monohulls will want to spend more time at Tedside, which is farther from town.

– Pitcairn is at 25 degrees south so there’s a light nip in the air at night, the water is warm at 78 F and can be extremely clear.
– Better conditions are found in summer months (Dec-Mar) when trade winds are more reliable and S swells are smaller. – Tropical storm activity very rare.

– The predominant trade winds are E and SE.
– Winds with any W don’t last long, associated with passage of fronts.
– N winds can blow for a few days when a low is passing to the south of Pitcairn.

Bounty Bay anchorage:
– Located on the eastern side of island by the main landing and Adamstown jetty.
– Anchor in sand with patchy rocks in 35-45ft off the jetty area, excellent holding.
– Further offshore it is mainly coral (maybe more sand far away, but we didn’t look).
– Very easy to identify sand and rocks, even at night with half moon. The water is very clear. – Protection from W, SW, S winds, but always seems rolly.
– Manageable but rough with E or N wind 10kts or less, but probably too rolly for monohulls.

Tedside anchorage:
– aka Western Harbor in charts, northern side of island. 1nm from Bounty Bay.
– Anchor in 30ft (inside, varied rock, sand, coral) or 60ft (outside, sand with patchy rocks).
– The inside anchorage is most comfortable in entire island, but holding ground is questionable and anchor can get stuck in rocks. Smooth water.
– The outside anchorage has more wind exposure but worth it for the better holding if leaving the yacht unattended, or if unable to dive on a fouled anchor. Light wind bump but not bad under trade wind condition. – Water is very clear
– Protection from S, SE, E winds (predominant trade winds)
– Not good shelter in other wind directions.

Downrope anchorage:
– aka unmarked anchorage in SE corner of island in charts, 1 nm from Bounty Bay. – anchor in 45-60ft.
– Significant exposure to S swells, anchor in deep water if swell above 1.5m; watch swells for 20-30minutes before anchoring. – Water very clear but seems more turbid due to wave action in cliffs – Protection from NW, N wind.

Gudgeon/John Mills anchorage:
– Western side of island
– we did not evaluate these anchorages but appear to be the only place with true protection from NE wind. – there is a lot of exposure to S swell
– Holding ground unknown

Ok, now that you’re anchored, how to get to shore safely?

Bounty Bay access:
– Pitcairn offers pickup with their large skiff for $50/roundtrip, can be shared with multiple boats.
– With SE or any E or N wind, it can be very rough to get from sailboat to dinghy.
– With your own dinghy, the breakwater entrance is fine if swell is small (<2 meters from S).
– If swell is medium to large, rollers will occasionally cap with white water across harbor entrance (about 35ft wide) especially on low tide, but they don’t crash with force, ok to navigate depending on skill/dinghy type/swell size.
– Jetty has a hydraulic boat hoist so dinghy can can be hoisted out of water with a three point attachment (good for RIBs).
– Otherwise, would recommend stern anchoring to keep dinghy off the jetty in surge (cement with rubber tires).
– The boat ramp for Pitcairn’s longboats is way too steep for a dinghy with wheels. – From jetty, steep but nice 10min walk on paved road to Adamstown.

Tedside access:
– New jetty built (2017)
– Need to use own dinghy; Pitcairn did not offer pickup by skiff – Need to stern anchor dinghy at the jetty, no boat ramp or hoist
– To get to Adamstown, will need taxi (typically an ATV/Quad, but might be a closed vehicle). – Walking distance from town is about 1.5-2hrs estimated, steep hills.

Downrope / Gudgeon / John Mill access:
– no landing
– steep cliffs and large surf breaking on beach

– Customs. $50 per person to enter island. Covers immigration and customs. All can be done upon arrival. – Currency. Major currencies accepted but change given in NZ dollars. – Credit cards. Accepted with 5% fee.
– ATM. None on island, but debit card with Visa/Mastercard logo can withdraw money (also 5% fee)

– Limited diesel may be available (10-20gallons) at US$7/gallon, BYO jerry cans
– General store has an impressive selection of food and kitchenwares, at very reasonable New Zealand prices. Open mornings on Tue, Thu, Sun, or by request.
– Seasonal fruits and veggies can be acquired from locals at good value (we got two large boxes for $40) – Fresh bread from Daralyne
– Hardware store has good selection of items at New Zealand prices.

Very well appointed health clinic with on-call doctor 24/7, open otherwise Tue, Thu, Sun.

(Most places are open for business on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings, or by request)
– Lunch at Daralyne’s. By request in advance. $20pp, a huge spread with dessert, good for two meals! – Museum, $5pp. Open mornings Tue, Thu, Sun or by request
– School. Go chat with the kids, it’s a lot of fun!
– Honey. Purchase astoundingly delicious honey jars (and propolis) and request to see bee hives and honey process in highlands.
– Souvenirs. Usually kept packed away for the cruise ship visitors, you need to request to see them! Wood carvings from Henderson Island timber, Bounty ship models, shirts, fridge magnets by local school kids. – Post office: very cool stamps and postcards. Open Tue, Thu, Sun.
– Pizza at Andrew’s. By request in advance. $12-14 each pizza, views from highland. – Internet. Very slow connection available at $40/ 400MB

(all are free of charge):
– St. Paul’s Pool. 1hr hike each way. Mind-blowing natural swimming pool in a powerful setting. Best low-ish tide with smaller swell, up to 2pm for sunshine.
– The Spire. 40 min hike each way, on the way to St Paul’s Pool. This is the outstanding peak directly above the boat landing at Bounty Bay, incredible views. – Christian’s Cave and eco-trail.
– Other hikes are also available from the map.

– movies, music, TV shows
– Magazines, books
– Educational Stuff for the school kids (ages 7-12)

Read some of our blog posts about our visit to Pitcairn:

– Day 22. Land ho!
– A Taste of Adamstown.
– Bounty-full Bay: the Secret Provisioning Stop. – Land of the Individual, and other Endangered Species.

Photo: Aldebaran at Bounty Bay, 8kts of SE wind; and far away, Aldebaran at inside Tedside anchorage. (Uploaded by satellite)