This is part two of cruising to Pitcairn Island, the home of the mutineers of the HMAV Bounty and the world’s most remote island. Part one in last month’s Long Island Boating World can be read at www.liboatingworld.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Last month’s covered the half passenger, half freighter Aranui V as well as much of Pitcairn Island.
Pitcairn’s Museum and Grave
To end our second day on Pitcairn Island, we hiked from St Paul’s Pond to Adamstown. There we visited the Pitcairn Island Museum. This small building houses both HMAV Bounty and ancient Polynesian artifacts from the island. The Bounty’s bell or at least the bottom two thirds of it is a one-minute walk from the museum the front of a resident’s home. Ask for directions if you wish to see it.
Before leaving Adamstown we paid a visit to John Adam’s grave. When the mayhem and killings stopped, he took charge of the island until his death. He is one of only two mutineers to die of natural causes and the only mutineer that has a known grave.
Our last stop at the top of the Hill of Difficulty was Christian’s Café for his $3 New Zealand beers. This place is owned by the decedent of Fletcher Christian.
Pitcairn’s “Elephant on the Island”
It is not every day that a quarter of a country’s population gives you a sendoff at the dock. Standing at the dock, I brought up the “elephant in the room” no one talked about on the island or at the ship’s lecture by a Pitcairn official. This involved the sexual abuse of women and minors in its recent history where one-third of the males on the island were arrested. (You can read about this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Pitcairn_Islands).
At the dock, I mentioned to an official that we saw the sole police officer in the village. The official said for this New Zealand cop it was like being on a one-year vacation. I then asked with the officer on the island have things improved regarding “the recent past issues”. The response was a pause and a complete switch in conversation as if I was not sure what I was talking about (when it came to the sexual abuse arrests and convictions.)
With that awkward moment, I realized it was my time to get on the tender. For a descriptive book about HMAV Bounty, Pitcairn, and its difficult history both past and recent, consider reading “The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania and Mutiny in the South Pacific”.
While the majority of the Aranui V passengers chose this cruise for the Pitcairn stop, the ship did visit five other little islands. They were Anaa, Amanu, Mangareva, Aukena, and Hikueru. Each island was a little unique. There are all located on large atolls with a pretty blue lagoon.
None of the above islands visited were an “OMG, must-go place”. However, they were each worth visiting because it allowed us to catch a glimpse at a slice of life few get to see. Populations of these islands varied from 150 to about 1400. These islands had few or no cars, no T-shirt shops, or Internet coffee cafes.
On most of these islands, people lived without Internet and air conditioning. They also had spotty telephone service and electricity. On one island, electricity came from a van size portable generator.
Tahitians on these remote islands earned a little money producing copra. Copra comes from coconut meat that is dried in the sun and pressed. Its uses include soaps and cosmetics. At the markets, ladies sold copra-based soap and skin care oil.
People on these islands also survived on subsidence fishing and handicraft sales of woodcarvings and items made from shells. This included elaborate jewelry, handbags, and even lamps.
On each island, the locals looked forward to the occasional little ship or yacht that stopped. At each island, villagers met us warmly with leis, flower hats, or shell necklaces. They would perform Tahitian dances and play music. At most stops, the mayor would greet us with a speech.
On one island our Polynesian experience involved a delicious food banquet called ma’a Tahiti. Here the villagers started at 5 digging a 3 by 10-foot pit that was filled with hot rocks and coal ambers.
When the rocks got hot, steel pots of pork along with banana leave-wrapped fish, breads, and breadfruit were placed in the pit. The pit was then covered with steel, burlap, and topped off with a foot of sand to insulate. The heat trapped in the pit slow-cooked everything for six hours. This was an incredible feast and our best lunch.
(For those curious about our island experiences in each place you can email me at email@example.com for the full story.)
Aboard the Aranui V
The Aranui V is a different type of cruise ship not just in looks but operations.
Life here is casual for guests and crew. Here the captain and officers dress in shorts and a collarless “Aranui” pullover shirt showing their rank on a patch sewed in the middle. The ship keeps an open bridge both day and night and is happy to answer any questions. As a boater and licensed captain, the bridge crew was more than friendly and patient with the questions I had about the operations and navigating
The Tahitian crew shows their heritage while doing their jobs. We had servers that wore boar-toothed necklaces, flower headdresses, colorful airy Polynesian dresses, and of course tattoos. We saw housekeeping and serving staff dancing and singing at the cruise end passenger show.
Tahitian culture says the ship is to share. At the main bar on deck six, it is not unusual to see several crewmembers after work at happy hour enjoying the Aranui V’s Polynesian band with a drink. They sat off to the sides or next to the band but never mingled with the guests.
The bar was a good place to buy a drink for a crewmember that may have helped
Food and Dress
For dinner, cruisers can leave the suit and cocktail dresses at home. Most men wore a collared or “Hawaiian” style shirt. While women always dressed better than men, they also kept it casual and comfortable. A bonus on the ship is that guests get free laundry every six days (minus underwear) so travel light.
Food was not the ships strongest point based on taste and not having choices. Dinners and lunch when on the ship were always three courses with no choices. Menus are posted the day before and if there is something you did not like or had an allergy to, the staff would work around it. Meals were always in two sittings 30 minutes apart with wine included.
There are 103 cabins aboard in eleven categories ranging from quad bunk beds to the Presidential suite. We found the premium suite with a balcony at 200 square feet very comfortable. The seating area was separated partially by a lattice wood wall making it easy to read while your partner was sleeping.
At check-in, upgrades were available at steep discounts so we jumped to the owner’s suite. This included a bedroom and a small second room with a half bathroom, desk, and TV. It was perfect for my early morning work. Television stations are in French with a movie and documentary playing each night in English. For the Pitcairn cruise, both versions of Mutiny on the Bounty were shown in French and English for a few days.
The Internet and connectivity was a sore subject aboard. For $45 you received only 300 MB at modem speeds. Before this cruise, I was on a smaller ship making my way to Tahiti with fast Wi-Fi at no charge. If you need to be connected with family or business you may have a problem. I will update this story if the connectivity is upgraded.
For my next visit to Tahiti, I would go aboard the Aranui V following the footsteps of painter Paul Gauguin and author Herman Melville cruising to the Marquesas Islands. This is because the Aranui V is the most experienced ship for this remote chain of islands.
For direct bookings on the Aranui V go to https://www.aranui.com/
Tab Hauser when not being captain of www.glencovecruises.com in the summer season, does event photography and travel writing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for part one of this story.