Visiting Easter Island (Boat-Based)

Easter Island Observations

An Easter Island panorama. You can click on this picture to enlarge it (130 kb); use your browser's "back" command to return here.  

Nine of Cups anchored in Anakena cove.  

The Chilean submarine Simpson anchored off Hanga Roa at sunset.  

Easter Island to me was somewhat of a disappointment. The biggest problem is that it really isn't an easy place to visit by sailboat. There are no all-weather anchorages and the winds and weather are so variable that it's somewhat tiresome to have to always be on top of things, and always have someone on the boat, and always be ready to move to another anchorage. And you don't have to just "be ready" to move—you almost certainly will have to move, and more than once, and possibly on short notice and under difficult conditions. They don't even have an all-weather small boat landing—dinghy trips ashore can be tricky and risky, as we discovered.

It's certainly true that the island is an interesting and even fascinating place to visit, but visiting on a sailboat is doing it the most difficult way possible. If your main objective of visiting is to thoroughly explore the island and learn a lot about the history and culture—take a plane and stay in a hotel. There are weekly flights on big jets and plenty of places to stay. To visit by sailboat, your main interest has to be in the basic challenge of voyaging to a very remote island and some time later successfully leaving. You may wind up seeing very little of the island due to the various difficulties, so you must be able to get lots of satisfaction out of the voyaging, and the safe handling of your boat in potentially difficult situations.

In my case, I have learned to enjoy the routines and even the occasional challenges of passagemaking (but not too many challenges, please, and nothing I can't handle). However, I have to say, I didn't particularly enjoy the boat-related activities around Easter Island. Fickle weather, chilly nights, rolly, open roadsteads, questionable holding, risky dinghy rides, being chased from anchorage to anchorage by the weather, and the ever-present cruel rocky shoreline. This is the kind of place where you can easily have problems, and little problems can turn into big problems, and big problems can become disasters. It's not an easy island to visit by sailboat, so you have to cruise conservatively and attentively and your boat has to be very well-found. But it's not a coincidence that our visit ultimately was successful—Marcie and David do indeed cruise conservatively and attentively and Nine of Cups is indeed a very well-found boat.

Although I did see some of the sights ashore (Anakena being a prime example), there's so much that I didn't see. It would take a complete second trip (by airplane) to see the rest. If I compare my shore visits with what I would have seen as a conventional tourist arriving by airplane, I saw about three or four full days of sights. And we spent 15 days here! So there is a very high "overhead" to take care of the boat, which is why I say that you must get satisfaction out of that kind of work, because you will do so much of it.

You could do a good job seeing the island as a conventional tourist in about seven or eight days, so I missed out on about half the sights, due to tourism being preempted by boat activities, activities that were essential rather than optional. It's almost like visiting a major tourist destination (using conventional means) and spending 15 days on location. For four of those days, you can go outside and do touristy things, but the other 11 days, you're locked inside the hotel and not allowed to leave (although you will be cared for and can do things inside). This is not a very productive way to be a tourist.

I don't want to sound too disappointed, though, since our trip is not about conventional tourism, it's about a sailboat adventure, and the trip certainly has been an adventure. The adventure continues in the next section as we sail to the Juan Fernández Archipelago. But things may not turn out as expected, as you'll discover in the next section.

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