Picton Castle comfortably sails along on a northwesterly course in light northeasterly winds. The ocean is resembling a calm lake, very low to no swell. The ship’s work is back into the full swing of things; the dory Sea Never Dry got another coat of paint inboard as well as the thwarts (benches), the Monomoy’s oars are being labeled in bold letters “Picton Castle” and the bosun and assistant are busy inspecting the main mast. Yet even with these busy tasks at hand, our minds are still on Pitcairn. After an amazing 8 days, we sailed from Pitcairn Island yesterday afternoon.
A recap: on Wednesday, July 18th, before daybreak, a light was spotted one point off port side. It was Pitcairn or ‘Pitkern’ as the islanders pronounce it. The seas were a bit rough. Between the Captain’s expertise and the Islanders, being seasoned seafarers themselves, they decided it was safe to launch the Pitcairn longboat and pick up the starboard watch to be taken ashore. But it was too rough to discharge cargo, which was long awaited ashore.
The island has two longboats that are hauled out of the water by a winch every time they’ve returned from their excursion; whether it be fishing, camping on Henderson Island, picking up tourists from a cruise ship or cargo from the supply ships. Once ashore, the crew met the faces we’ve heard so much about. We were welcomed with open arms, hugs between new friends and old friends – as though we’ve arrived at our distant yet favourite relative’s home. We gathered our bags and were whisked off on quads to our hosts’ abodes. From there each crew member’s experience varied, a strange feeling from living so closely together after 42 days at sea. Without exception, we all entered our hosts family’s homes and were immediately offered a copious amount of food. Breadsticks, scones, breadfruit, oranges, passion fruit, tea, coffee, juice the list goes on. As is custom in many countries, all crew members had a personal host gift as a token of their appreciation.
Once settled into our home away from home, the islanders either offered to tour us around the island or we’d sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and get to know one another. Their easygoing personalities and lifestyle made it seamless for us to fall into their routine, which is what we wanted. We wanted to know how they grow their fruit, what they use to make breadsticks, where they go fishing, what they do for fun, and we loved learning how to speak Pitkern. When Pictairners get together they speak their fast language and it’s difficult for an outsider to understand, although it seems the Captain does just fine. It’s neat to hear them communicate in a language that a very very small population of this world knows. We enjoyed picking up a few phrases.
Most crew members were able to view all of the island sights: Christian’s Cave, where Fletcher Christian hid and looked out for the British Navy; Highest Point is literally the highest point on the island; Miz T, the island’s last remaining Galapagos tortoise; St. Pauls, which is an enclosed space that is safe for swimming in the salt water otherwise known as “Big Pool”. In the evenings some families would get together for a large dinner, others would remain in the comfort of their home, entertaining their guests. Wherever we ate, the food was always delicious and plentiful. Early risers are the Pitcairners, they don’t waste the sunlight away. With many chores to be done, they’re up with the sun; maintaining their gardens, weaving baskets, etching wood or bone carvings.
On the ship’s second day we were able to drop anchor and unload our hold of all the cargo that we’d had stored below decks since April. We were excited to get our hold back, but not as excited as they were to receive the items they had ordered in the spring. Once all of the cargo was unloaded the port watch was able to go ashore, leaving the starboard watch to maintain and look after the ship. Both watches were immensely lucky to be able to spend a total of 4 nights ashore. This allowed us to get to know not only our hosts but the rest of the Islanders. Nearing the end of our stay it wasn’t uncommon for a crew member to pop by various families homes and walk in as if they’ve known them for years. We felt comfortable taking off our shoes outside, traipsing in, and reaching for a freshly made breadstick on the kitchen table. To then sit down and have a chat with Grandpa Len, Aunt Carol or cousin Olive or Pirate Pawl. The connections we made, even only for a short time, will last a lifetime. As Captain Moreland states “Pitcairn is a hard destination to reach, a very hard anchorage to stay and most of all it’s the hardest port to leave”. It’s not just any port: friendships develop, memories are made, roots are put down. It became our home away from home. Farewell to our South Pacific home, you will remain in our hearts and minds for years to come.
From: Pitcairn Island
To: Mangareva, French Polynesia
Date: July 28, 2018
Noon Position: 23°52.4′ S x 131°58’W
Course + Speed: W x N 3/4 N + 5.6 knots
Wind direction + Force: NW + 1
Swell Height + Direction: 1m + ENE
Weather: bright and sunny
Day’s Run: 125 knots
Passage Log: 141.7 knots
Distance to Port: 171 knots
Voyage: 6445.1 knots
Sails Set: motoring