A Rough Day in Bounty Bay

“I’ll stay on the boat while you guys do the last chores,” I told Sabrina. “It’s too nasty out here.”

It was our fifth and last day in Pitcairn. From inside the cabin, it felt like our 42ft trimaran Aldebaran was sailing upwind mid-ocean: smashing through waves, heeling over with the swells. The SE wind had accelerated to 15 knots with occasional 20 knot gusts, and white capping windswells sent our amas flying with disturbing frequency. At anchor, mind you!

“This is the Bounty Bay anchorage that everyone fears,” commented Spence with a smile. But our crew wanted to do a few more things in Adamstown – buy souvenirs, see the Pitcairn honey-making process, give the doctor a culture of Kombucha, and pick up laundry which our friends Simon and Shirley kindly washed for us. Afterwards, we planned to move to the more sheltered anchorage in the north, called Tedside. After all, there was no way we’d be able to hoist the dinghy and outboard onto Aldebaran in these unruly conditions, straight out of the “Top 5 crappiest anchorages” textbook.

The day prior, we had a surprise. “We have some mail for you,” said Charlene, the port captain. “Huh? Come again?” I had asked, baffled. “Someone sent you an email.” She handed me a print-out which read:

“Kindly request sailing vessel Aldebaran to contact us if they are in the island.”

We felt rather important for a moment! It was a catamaran called Duplicat, almost 5 weeks out from Panama, who had been following our blog by satellite, so they knew we were here. Unfortunately, they arrived on the same day as the strong SE wind…

I gave the three British crew members a ride to shore in the Lambordinghy – they were all looking a bit wide-eyed with the hectic-ness of getting into the skiff in this wild anchorage. Comparatively, the ocean was much less dangerous!

The crew of Duplicat spent the day exploring and then got underway that night; since there was a north or north-west wind in the forecast. I can understand why they wanted to get to Gambier’s calm lagoon after being so long at sea! Our passage of 3 weeks had been short in comparison, since we had stopped in Galapagos.

Duplicat’s visit, as short as it was, is expected by the locals. In fact, on our very first day in Pitcairn, a monohull sailboat from Easter Island also spent 8hrs and then took off. The poor monohull was rolling severely in Bounty Bay, and the anchoring conditions are quite intimidating. Whether they knew about Tedside anchorage or not, it was blowing light N wind and wouldn’t be super smooth there either.

We were grateful for our trimaran’s stable feet. We were actually quite fine, and for this we were able to stick around for a few days.

“You guys are very lucky to be able to stay for so long,” commented Charlene about our 4 nights in Pitcairn. We all agreed it was barely enough to scratch the surface. And to think we were only the 12th sailboat to visit Pitcairn this year! I believe that with the information from our Cruising Guide to Pitcairn, it is possible that more yachts will feel confident to visit the island and spend more than a few hours.

We since discovered that non-residents pay an exhorbitant fare of NZ$2500 each way (yes, double for roundtrip…) to go from Gambier’s port of Mangareva to Pitcairn Island. That is the charge by the Cargo Ship to bring visitors to the island, and locals get that rate subsidized and pay only (!) NZ$1500 — whether going to Mangareva or all the way to Auckland.

The obstacles to visiting this island are truly formidable. If not financial, then they are in the form of marginal anchorages. Yet its these challenges that make Pitcairn so special – precisely because it is so hard to visit. You really have to want to come here! So we dealt with bumping around in the anchorage for a few days, it seemed like a small price to pay for such a rare honor of visiting one of the smallest nations in the world (is there a nation with fewer residents than 49 people??)

Bounty Bay, farewell. Tedside, and your smoother waters, here we come!

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Photo: Aldebaran showing her undersides, thanks to some steep windswell in Bounty Bay. (Photo upload by satellite)

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