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Pitcairn Island Part 1

By Chelsea McBroom

February 3rd, 2014

The Picton Castle approached Pitcairn Island early yesterday and anchored in Bounty Bay just a short distance from shore. Pania steered the ship in to the anchorage. We anchored under sail power alone. This little island loomed tall over our ship, what a gorgeous sight. Brilliant blue waters and the soaring peak of Ships Landing Point high overhead. Soon the big longboat came bashing alongside. All the folks aboard yelling greetings to Donald and the Captain, whom they call ‘Danny’. This sounds weird to us crew. But we must discharge our 12 tons of cargo from New Zealand before anything else. This went quicker that I imagined. And soon the off-watch piled on top of the lumber and goods and went careening off into the boat habour not far away. We would stand watch and look after the ship for the day and night.

I had no idea what to expect when the Pitcairn longboat pulled up along-side the Picton Castle for the crew turn-around. The crew from the off watch returning to the ship were piled on top of it with their bags, about to pick me and my watch up for the day. Our watch (Watch Officer John, Lian, Meg, Nils, Lily, Mark, Maria, Gustav, Steve and Amy) had spent the evening after a day of work with a swim call and the awning up and over the main hatch, then watching a movie and falling asleep there for the night (which was very nice) but I was looking forward to finally seeing the island I’d heard so much about. We were anchored close to the shore of Bounty Bay, near a small rock island with a planted palm tree growing out of its head, Adams Rock, and we are told where the Bounty anchored for the last time before being driven ashore and burned.

My excitement took on a new high when the other watch motored closer towards the ship, bouncing and leaping in the swells, all the returning crew with big lopsided grins, clearly excited for us and our first time ashore on Pitcairn Island but crushed that they had to return to the ship so soon. Short and quick summaries were given of what to expect (“You’re going to love it!”) when Beamy, Finn, Alex, Teis, Peter, Hannah, Vai, Denise, Nolan and the Mate came back aboard and within minutes our backpacks and care packages were loaded onto the big flat inside of the longboat with some of the welcoming islanders. The swell of the seas lifted and lowered the boat a meter and more and we each hopped on as it came level with the ship. We all waved goodbye and turned towards our beautiful destination, Pitcairn Island, the lush and mountainous island ahead. It was a short but exhilarating trip before the boat was docked at the landing, everything unloaded and then the 40 foot boat itself hauled up the long ramp and into the dry boathouse by the islanders and crew.

I was introduced to Steve Christian, an old friend of the Captain’s since his days sailing on the Brigantine Romance, with his warm dark eyes and big smile, and directed to one of many ATVs on the landing. This one had a built-in structure to hold two passengers on either side of the driver and a sign over it that said ‘TAXI’. My luggage was thrown into the back and a line of ATVs carrying Picton Castle crew drove up the steep cement paved road, called the ‘Hill of Difficulty’. Easy to see why, it would be a job to push a wheelbarrow up this way. It was only a few minutes before we reached the top (near a an area called ‘The Edge’) and to one of the first houses (a basic four walled white structure) where the vehicle stopped in front of an open doorway. There sitting in the sunshine sat Colleen, stripping away long green leaves and rolling them up to dry so she could later weave hats and baskets. Colleen was a Norfolk Islander visiting, and is a descendant of Pitcairn Islanders that moved off this island in the mid 1800s to Norfolk.

The house, known as “Big Fence”, was large and simple with space for things like drying onions, making colourful woven bags, or carving and lacquering wooden pieces and shapes to make sculptures of dolphin, sharks, turtle, birds and of course, the Bounty. There was a large eating table that could fit eight or more just outside of the kitchen where I set our hosts gifts (which were very much unexpected and appreciated). There was a wide view of the ocean out the back which didn’t seem altered or man-made and only the yards of the ship, like little toothpicks, could be seen below. There was a garden shaded in the back and smoke appearing from garbage being burned to heat water for the house. Family photos covered the white walls down the hallway and an American visitor (who clearly was an artist) had painted an underwater view of dolphins on one wall. I was shown to my room by Olive, Steve’s wife who smiled heartily and joked with us immediately, and the bed was made with freshly laundered sheets and the same beautiful view.

Pitcairn longboat alongside

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