Saturday 11th August - Moorea

Jon & Carol Dutton
Tue 14 Aug 2012 07:38

17:30.75S 149:51.13W

Saturday 11th August – Moorea

We’ve seen a lot of very pleasant spots but Moorea defies superlatives. 

Having slipped at 1030 from Marina Taina in Tahiti and faffed about in the Tahiti lagoon resolving the issue of chart plotter compact flash cards we eventually got going through the Papeete Pass and en route for Moorea at about 1230 on Thursday 9th August.  We had a good close reach with fairly friendly seas for the 25NM or so to the anchorage in Opunoha Bay on the north coast of the island. 


                                                                            James having a hard time at the helm

We had intended to anchor in an arm just inside the reef at the northern end of the bay in what is reputed to be the best anchorage.  Unfortunately that reputation meant that it was extremely crowded.  But we were somewhat committed because the anchor windlass had decided that it was prepared to let chain out but not recover it.  Jon was pretty confident that he knew what the problem was and that it could be fixed fairly quickly once we’d anchored and he could devil about, upside-down, in the anchor locker with an electrical  crimping set.  But just in case that wasn’t the way it turned out, we needed somewhere pretty shallow initially so that if we had to recover the beast by hand . . .

No sooner had we dropped the hook but we were treated to some vocal and fairly detailed advice from the skipper of a San Franciscan yacht concerning how close he thought we ought not to be to some other yacht which was particularly near neither him nor us.  Anyway, we ignored that (as you learn to) and got on with sorting out the problem.  That done, at least temporarily, we came back into the main arm of the bay and pushed off much deeper into it to find ourselves a stunningly beautiful and secluded slot in a little under 20m of water.  Having dropped Fubar the FBA and nearly 80m of chain into volcanic mud we were confident that we were going nowhere.   Opunoha Bay has been the setting for much filming including “The Bounty” with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, and, most famously with Mount Mouaroa featuring as “Bali Hai” in the musical “South Pacific”.


                                            Mount Mouaroa overlooking Opunoha Bay.  Arnamentia bottom left

On Friday morning the divers were picked up by the local dive boat and went diving (see diving blog) whilst Jon made a ‘proper job’ of the electrical connections to the windlass.


                                                                            Right that’s sorted – let me outta here

That afternoon we all set off in the dinghy to do the mile and a half or so to the local village, Papetoai.  This is where the dive boat was based and Arnamentia’s divers noted that the dive boat, with its fibre glass planning hull driven by a 200HP outboard engine, had conducted its business of getting them there and back through the gentle swell considerably less wetly and with a great deal more dash and élan than a rub-a-dub with 4 people aboard and driven by a 5HP outboard.   On our way back to Arnamentia we were further humbled by a local in a va’a (outrigger canoe) keeping pace with us for a good ten minutes.  At one point we thought we might ask him for a tow!


                                                                                                Man in a Va’a

However, we got there and had a look about.  To be brutally honest there really isn’t much to see in the village.  The church may be the oldest Christian religious edifice in Polynesia and a bit unusual in that it is hexagonal.  But, it’s definitely protestant non-conformist.  And that means it’s all very plain inside.  There is no intriguing mix of Polynesian culture and Christian faith in the design of the icons and so on because non-conformist protestants don’t usually do that sort of stuff.  But, Moorea is not about the man-made.  It’s mainly about the utterly bewitching and largely untamed scenery.  There are only about 12,000 people on the island.  Many of those commute daily to Tahiti to work; many others work in the tourist industry (diving being an important part of this).  There seems to be very little obvious cultivation or evidence that man has had any appreciable impact on the island beyond the narrow coastal strip.


                                                                                                Papetoai Church

 Early in the morning of Saturday 11th Jon, James and Mira were collected to go snorkelling with whales, dolphins, sharks, stingrays and anything else of interest that could be found.  This involved a fast trip by dive boat around much of the island (what amazing scenery!) and cutting at considerable speed through very shallow and narrow boat channels in the reefs through which no yacht could conceivably navigate.  We did see a female humpback whale and her calf but they were too shy to allow us to get close enough to swim with them.  We swam amongst grey and black-tipped sharks – here one’s own idea of personal space does become a bit of an issue sometimes.  We were unlucky with dolphins but were surrounded in very shallow water – a few feet deep only – by dozens of stingrays who cuddled up to us as we held out enticing scraps of fish to attract them.


                                                                                                The Stingrays




                                                                            The boys getting up close and personal


                                                                            Whale emerging from the deep

That done it was time to move on again – this time to Raiatea, some 100NM to WNW away and one of the islands in the leeward group of the Society Islands.  Since we wanted to enter the Raiatea lagoon and find an anchorage or mooring in daylight we opted to leave Moorea at 1700 on Saturday evening - just as the light was fading - and sail overnight with a view to getting to Raiatea on Sunday morning sometime after sunrise.