Page 34 - 48º North - The Sailing Magazine - December 2017
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“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is a rapture on the lonely shore; there is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more...” This quote by Lord Byron captures perfectly the experience of sailing the Pitcairn Islands. After sailing the Galapagos Islands and to Rapa Nui, we were keen to check out a few islands even further afield. The Pitcairn Islands are the very definition of remote. Among them, we
The LoneLy Shore CruiSing The PiTCairn iSLandS
By MiCheLe rogaLin henderSon
cleared and we anchored at the north beach amidst rainbows. The intoxicatingly delightful smell of rain on land struck us immediately.
This island is truly magical - the quintessential deserted tropical island. As Hendersons on Henderson Island, we assumed the role of royalty, and self-appointed titles: His Royal Highness and Her Exalted Majesty. As such, when the humpback whales surfaced mere meters from Ardea as we sipped our warm morning drinks, we naturally
visited the Ducie Atoll, Henderson Island, and Pitcairn Island. We reluctantly passed up Oeno, the fourth island, as the breeze was favorable for our passage to Auckland.
We anchored at Ducie Atoll after a bit of a slog from Rapa Nui. We could not see land until we were nearly upon it, as it is only just above sea level. The water is incredibly clear, thus it was easy to spot a patch of sand for anchoring. One of our favorite things to do when we arrive anywhere is jump into the sea as soon as the anchor is set. It’s a refreshing way to let go of the weariness of a long, arduous passage. For our post-passage dip at Ducie, we happened to jump into a group of sharks circling about, hunting for food. It was fascinating to watch them hunt, once we established that we were not on the snack list.
We were intrigued by Ducie, as we had never been to an atoll, nor
A baby booby on Ducie Atoll.
had we ever had an entire island all to ourselves. It’s an oddly pleasant feeling, being all alone on an island in the middle of the South Pacific. The coral reef here is incredible. We saw a few more sharks and many beautiful tropical fish. One fish followed us around as we snorkeled, close enough to reach out and touch. The birds seemed quite curious as well, and flew nearly at our shoulders as we explored the beach. The masked boobies were nesting, as were the terns. We enjoyed seeing the fluffy juveniles as we trekked to the lagoon at the center of the atoll. The colors of the water here are shades of brilliant aquamarine, what we like to call “Callaloo Blue” after our previous cruising boat and the associated color scheme.
While we felt fortunate to have the opportunity to experience a place that so few in the world ever have, we were also dismayed to find signs of humanity in the form of trash, plastic primarily, strewn about the beach. We found this tragically sad, but did not let it diminish our enjoyment of the Ducie Atoll.
Our chief weather router for this passage, Kirk Utter, let us know there was a front coming, so we set out for Henderson Island, planning to anchor in the lee and wait out its passing. Alas, we loitered a bit too long on Ducie and we were hit with big breeze and big seas for the last several hours of our passage. As we made our final approach to Henderson, the skies
assumed they stopped by to pay homage. (Okay, the truth is we hopped up and down and grinned like idiots.) We later enjoyed snorkeling with a humpback family, in what was a mind blowing hour of close observation of the gorgeous beasts.
Henderson Island is home to several endemic species of birds, and we were excited to see the Stephen’s Lorikeet in all its colorful splendor. The Henderson Crake and the Henderson Fruit Dove proved to be a bit more wily. We spotted skinks and coconut crabs as well.
We hiked about, and explored some of the island. It is overgrown and wild and, save for the ubiquitous trash on the beach, seemingly untouched by humans. We checked out several caves, speculating on the appeal of living in each. We drank sweet refreshing water from the coconuts that grow there. With the forecast looking favorable for a calm anchorage at Pitcairn, we reluctantly ended our reign on Henderson Island and sailed on. Smooth seas, perfect breeze on the beam, and a nearly full moon made the passage to Pitcairn the best we could remember.
Pitcairn Island is the only inhabited island in the Pitcairn group. Only 12-15 sailboats stop there every year. We anchored in Bounty Bay and were greeted on the pier by fully 12% of the population of the island. Pitcairn has around 50 residents, most of whom are descendants of the mutinous crew of the Bounty. While our passports were
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