Landings infrequent at Pitcairn

ITN was mailed a copy of a letter sent to Discovery World Cruises*, as follows.

I was a passenger on the “In the Wake of the Bounty” cruise of the M.V. Discovery, Jan. 31-Feb. 15, ’05. My sole purpose in taking this cruise was to visit Pitcairn Island. To insure this, before booking I spoke with your company and was told they had Zodiacs available for landing. I was prepared for the possibility of weather preventing landing, but I was not prepared to find that Discovery World Cruises had absolutely no in intention of ever going ashore at Pitcairn Island.

From the second day of the cruise I began to see that the captain had no plans to land at Pitcairn. Coming aboard after visiting Robinson Crusoe Island, I asked the captain about our chances. Even though we were over 1,000 miles away, he said, “There is only about a 20% chance.”

As word of this spread, the next day the cruise director made an announcement: “There has been a rumor that we are not going to visit Pitcairn. We definitely will be visiting Pitcairn.”

Different people approached the captain on the subject and his answer was changing and seemed evasive. Finally, the day before our visit, the captain told one of my friends, “It’s totally out of my hands. It’s up to the mayor of Pitcairn.”

As we anchored off Pitcairn, the ship made an announcement that they would not take anyone ashore. The islanders came out to the ship in their longboat to sell their wares as planned. The weather was pleasant.

I quickly found the mayor of Pitcairn on board the ship. I explained to him that there was a group of us who really wanted to go ashore and I offered him $1,000 to have his longboat take us. He told me that it was up to the captain. I told him what the captain had said the day before. He then went to the captain to ask about this. He returned and told me the captain prevented him from taking us ashore.

About a half hour later I found the captain and confronted him about this. I said that this cruise was totally misrepresented and that he never had any intention of landing at Pitcairn. He agreed with me and said that he told Discovery World Cruises that it shouldn’t market the cruise this way. He even said, “Write a letter. I’ll sign it.”

I expect a full refund of the amount I spent on this misrepresented cruise.

Denver, CO

ITN sent another copy of the above letter to Discovery World Cruises and received the following reply, dated May 13.

Thank you for your letter concerning the letter from David Van Treuren about his disappointment of not landing at Pitcairn Island.

We attempt to go ashore each time we are scheduled to go to Pitcairn. Just recently the Saga Rose and the Paul Gauguin managed to land some passengers, but we believe both had to suspend operations later in the day as the swell did come up and tendering passengers became difficult. If those ships can land passengers in ideal conditions then so can we.

I also believe that this past year the Saga Rose managed for the first time in seven attempts to land passengers. We currently have had four attempts with no landings.

Unfortunately, the captain’s comments on the voyage Mr. Treuren was on were misunderstood. We have investigated his comments and discovered what he meant was that in the last two years we have not managed to land passengers on the island due to adverse weather conditions. He did go on to say, “However, if the sea conditions permit, then we will make every attempt to go ashore.”

One of the biggest questions is this: “If the locals can come to see us, why can’t we go ashore?”

The answer is that the locals use a special longboat which is designed to ride the surf. It is a very light boat which gets tossed around in the smallest of swells and, although very seaworthy, it’s not very comfortable for a tender ride, which could be as long as 30 minutes, again depending on the sea conditions and the ship’s position. They only have one longboat on the island.

The mayor in the past has said “Yes” to carrying passengers ashore in a longboat; however, on the cruise Mr. Treuren was on the mayor consulted with the captain and both professionals agreed that the swells were too high to risk taking passengers ashore.

It is out of necessity that the locals make their way to the ship, whatever the conditions, as we carry to the island essential supplies and give the locals a chance to come on board and earn some money in exchange for the souvenirs they make.

I hope my information has helped, but please rest assured we do try everything possible to make a landing but can’t guarantee anything until we judge the sea conditions on the day.

TIM DAVEY, Vice President, Discovery World Cruises, 1800 SE 10th Ave., Ste. 205, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316

ITN Contributing Editor Lew Toulmin cruised to Pitcairn Island aboard M.V. “Discovery” in May ’04 and wrote about the island in his February ’05 “The Cruising World” column, saying, “Like many visitors, I was not able to go ashore due to 8-foot waves at the island dock, but all the islanders came out to the ship in their longboat. . .”

Regarding Mr. Van Treuren’s letter, he commented, “I recommend to readers who want to maximize their chances of getting ashore that they take a small, expedition-style vessel or a tall sailing ship. These have more relaxed schedules and can wait offshore for better weather. Note that even this approach will not guarantee success, however. Isolation is part of the fascination of Pitcairn. If and when an airstrip is built, the island probably will be less interesting.”

*[Editor's Note: In 2007, Discovery World Cruises became Voyages of Discovery.]