An early wake-up call. The south side of the island was in complete darkness, except for the occasional light of a isolated house. We were passing 1 ½ miles off the rocky coastline, intending to round the south-west headland and turn to the north, arriving off our 1st-choice tendering spot off Hanga Roa, the main town, arriving there just after sunrise, so that we could see what we were doing. It was not an auspicious start to the morning, the wind, near the east side of the island had been 20-25 knots; now we were in the lee and it had died down, however as we rounded the west end, the wind again became apparent. Not only that, the long, rolling Pacific swell was rolling in.
We approached the anchorage to the west of Hanga Roa with the intention of sending tenders into a small boat-harbour, Hanga Piko, approximately ½ a mile south of the town. Daylight revealed that the sea-state, wind and swell were not as one would wish for. Ironically, the agent had been reporting calm seas and low swell for the previous 3 days, our arrival had changed all that. Easter Island is a ‘must do’ for World Cruise guests and while one can (reluctantly) cancel a call in the Caribbean, for example, matters have to be pretty drastic to cancel a call such as this, despite the conditions.
Our agent, ashore in Hanga Piko harbour, informs us that conditions are ‘workable’ inside and so, once safely anchored in the bay, ensuring the anchor is set into the sandy bottom and we have plenty of cable out to hold her against the wind, we begin our operations.
The tender process is slow, deliberately so as the boats, alongside our tender platform require constant adjustment to stay alongside and our guests need a helping-hand to board. The passage from the Amsterdam to the harbour is relatively short, however the transit requires skill and good judgement, the harbour has a reef either side of it, on which the swells are breaking; the tenders, each of which has a local ‘pilot’ on board to advise, have to match the speed of the swell and ‘surf’ in through the reef.
All goes well until early afternoon, when the swell begins to build and the entrance becomes rougher. I have to stop the inbound service, for my primary role is safety and I’m not taking any risks.
Instead we concentrate on bringing our guests ‘home’, many of whom have seen the sights and now need some respite from the scorching heat and sun. The number in the tenders are reduced, making it easier for the tenders to negotiate the channel.
I stay until 6:30 p.m., giving those late-departing guests an hour extra time ashore. By the early evening, the long-expected rain is upon us, drenching the island (and the last of our guests) and having safely stowed our tenders, we set sail for Pitcairn Island, 1,120 miles to our west.
Our agent tells us that, at best, only 30% of calls to the island are successful, I suppose that our 100% record calls for some kudos, however both have been accomplished under challenging conditions, it would be nice to see the calm, windless water that they have in their postcards……….