17:31.999S 149:46.183W Beautiful Moz

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Sun 10 Dec 2023 22:02

27th September 2023

Having left Port Phaeton in Tahiti at 10am, we had a day's sail to the beautiful island of Mo'orea. We had been gazing at this stunning island with its distinctive jagged peaks from across the waters during our time in Pape'ete and as we got closer her full breath-taking beauty became more and more evident.

As we entered the reef a large pod of dolphins appeared and seemed to guide us through the crystal clear turquoise water. We followed them to the spot where several boats were anchored off a sandy shelf surrounded by reefs with the little port town of Vaipua off our starboard beam from which the ferries ran back and forth to Pape'ete.

We dropped our anchor into the clear water and watched as it set into the sand. We spent 3 nights in this beautiful spot during which time I spent many hours in the clear warm water scrubbing Hamble Warrior's waterline which was heavily fouled from the relatively stagnant waters of Phaeton Bay. It was so satisfying to swim away from the boat and look back at the crisp bright white boot stripe along her hull where a few hours previously there had been a wave of thick green slime reaching halfway up her hull in places. It was a fairly windy few days overall and the scattered reefs reaching nearly to the surface needed to be carefully navigated if we were to go ashore. The port was too far to reach safely by kayak and we didn't fancy launching the dinghy without knowing the exact locations of the reefs so in the end we kayaked ashore landing on one of the closest of the little private beaches. We had read that in these islands most beaches are owned privately and that the locals own their house; the beach and even the water in front of it. Apparently it is not uncommon to be asked to move your boat if the owner feels you are anchored on their "property". Having heard this we were extremely cautious about where to land our kayak; not wanting to intrude on anyone's private property or cause any offense. We scoured the waterline and settled on a beach which backed on to an empty looking lot where a couple were packing up a small truck. We greeted them and asked them politely (in French of course) if it was ok to leave our kayak on the beach and they were very friendly and showed us where to tie it up safely. Whilst Jamie secured the kayak I wandered along the beach to the neighbouring lot which also looked fairly "public" and chatted to a friendly local man who was sitting under a tree enjoying his lunch. We soon established that everyone was very friendly and welcoming and were a little perplexed by the picture of territorial shot-gun wielding locals patrolling their estates painted by some of the reports we had read. Later we spoke with another friendly local who explained that whilst we had approached quietly on our kayak; spoken courteously to everyone and asked permission to leave our small tender, the greater majority (most French nationals apparently) would roar up to the nearest bit of beach on their massive tenders and chain them up wherever they pleased without seeking permission. It seems this sense of entitlement is; unsurprisingly, what caused the majority of upset. This didn't shock me; we see far too often the entitlement of some of our less savoury fellow cruisers (of all nationalities), they do a disservice to all visiting yachtsmen with their behaviour. Best I don't start down this subject though; if I fall off my high horse I might land awkwardly on my soapbox!!

We explored this little area walking around towards the port and stopping to browse the many snack "roulottes" along the way. We looked in on the well-stocked supermarket to see what they had but when it came to lunch we bought a few pieces from a small "magasin"; some fresh baguette and paté which we enjoyed in a sandy little spot on the banks of one of the small river inlets.

After lunch we stopped at a pretty Restaurant-Pizzeria and scanned their wine-list for something that might fit our budget. The guy behind the bar was really friendly and helpful and even opened the wine for us to try before we committed to buying it. We took our cold bottle and glasses and sat at a bench table in the shady garden surrounded by flowers and best of all in the company of a very friendly cat - who was perhaps a little disappointed that we were having wine but no pizza; until we treated him to some of the leftover paté from our lunch!!!!

Later after leaving the pizzeria we settled down on one of the little beaches where there was a tree trunk conveniently placed just over the waters edge so we could sit and dangle our feet in the surf. It wasn't long before we were joined by a friendly but rather drunk trans lady called Tracy with whom we attempted to chat for quite some time. After a frustrating hour or so we parted company with the little confidence I had in my French in absolute tatters. Jamie tried to console me that he didn't think it was my French that was at fault and I wanted to believe him but it was only after we met "Hero" back at the beach where we had left the kayak that my faith was restored. We spoke with Hero for some time and he pointed to the large hole through one of the tallest peaks on the island and told us that legend had it his namesake had taken a rock and thrown it so hard that it had smashed through the peak leaving the perfectly round hole. After we said our goodbyes to Hero I agreed with Jamie that perhaps my French wasn't so poor after all and that Tracy had; infact, been so battered that she wouldn't have understood a word I said whatever language I was speaking!

We enjoyed the rest of our time in this pretty little spot and found out later from one of the neighbouring boats that we had only just missed a mother humpback whale and her calf playing in the clear waters of the lagoon. We didn't know it at the time but we were going to be treated to this sight ourselves on no less than 3 separate occasions during our time in Mo'orea.

On the 30th September we weighed anchor and sailed the short distance along the coast and into the dramatic and deep waters of Cook's Bay. Now it feels like I say this kind of thing a lot but Cook's Bay is probably one of the most stunning bays I have ever seen. Having passed through the reef we entered the mouth of the bay passing the luxury "Cook's Bay Hotel" resort which is positioned with their 5 star accommodation facing the stunning blue waters of the shallow lagoon and their sunset bar facing out directly across the water to the very edge of the bay. As we sailed inside the bay we were treated to the most incredible interior which is surrounded on three sides by the most dramatic steep-sided peaks; the bay itself is a long deep inlet and as we pressed on into the slightly more shallow waters at the head of the bay we passed the vast pineapple plantations for which the island is famous stretching up the hillsides and a couple of beautiful churches set side by side on the waters edge. It was just magical. We stayed here for several weeks and during that time the magic of Cook's Bay never failed to take my breath away.

As we had arrived on a Saturday we decided to go ashore early and take the rather long walk the length of the bay to the Cook's Bay hotel for their sunset happy hour. We smartened ourselves up and I put on my best dress and we took the kayak, aiming for the handy looking wooden pier which was apparently a public dinghy dock. Now maybe I was a little out of practice having been used to landing on rocks and beaches for the last weeks; but I am going to blame the current running inside the bay instead for the following mishap... So we approached the wooden pier at low tide and pulled alongside to find we were very low in the water and it was going to be a bit of climb up onto the pier… No problem I was happy to do that, HOWEVER, I had only just rested my arms on the pier ready to pull myself up when the current swept the kayak out from underneath me taking my end of the kayak under the pier and leaving me dangling half in the water. Without anything underneath me to give me any purchase and with Jamie struggling to get the kayak back underneath me I eventually had to let go of the pier and drop into the water; best dress and all!! Much to my relief I found myself standing on the soft muddy bottom only waist-deep - I was so pleased to realise that I could just wade ashore and wouldn't be up to my neck that I burst out laughing. Of course; as is my luck, this wasn't a quiet little spot with no onlookers, no of course I have an audience of local boysies drinking their Hinano Beers and a pair of Dutch yachties about to get back in their own dinghy, all of whom were treated to my humiliation!! I climbed up the bank; wrung out the bottom of my dress and set off towards the hotel throwing a friendly "la Orana" at the boysies on my way past. I wasn't going to let a little thing like soggy knickers ruin my first night out in Cooks Bay. Fortunately having set off early the sun was still up and by the time we had walked the half hour or so to the hotel my dress was pretty much dry. We walked through the stunning resort, crossing a little wooden bridge under which we could see tiny baby sharks and other exotic fish and were greeted for happy hour by the friendly staff who showed us to the prime seats right on the little sandy beach where we had a front row view of the sunset which we enjoyed with a few chilled glasses of white wine. Soon I had forgotten all about my rather traumatic landing!!

The Cook's Bay Hotel Happy Hour soon became our favourite weekend ritual and we would enjoy several glasses of chilled white wine whilst the happy hour prices lasted. We became familiar faces over the following weeks and always received a warm welcome from the staff there who knew our drinks order; our seating preferences and that after happy hour was finished we would always order one solitary diet coke with ice split between two glasses. This final part of our ritual was always passed off as an attempt to sober ourselves before the long journey home although somehow it ended up with a large measure of rum in it ;)

Our return journey took many forms depending on how we had arrived. On a couple of occasions when the weather was very settled Jamie would actually row the dinghy all the way to the hotel where we could land on the dock in front of the bar. On these occasions; and we will never know if this was just coincidence, but on both occasions when we went to pay our bill at the end of the evening there would turn out to be some mix-up or other that meant much of our bill had been taken care of by someone else. We never got to the bottom of this but enjoyed two very cheap nights at the bar having rowed the dinghy there. Our trips home in the dinghy often involved drifting for a while in the bay looking up at the stars; with a rum and some music playing on our JBL. The most magical of these was the last night we took the dinghy, when we heard music on the dock ashore as we drifted home. We rowed over to investigate and found a large group of locals playing music and dancing in their traditional way. We watched for ages as each group took it in turns; the women, then the men, then everyone together. There was no audience and we didn't know if they were dancing just for pleasure or practicing for entertaining the many cruise ships that arrived daily into the bay; but the longer we stayed and watched the more they seemed to become aware of us drifting off the quay in our little boat. We smiled and waved a few times and clapped at the end of each dance. In the final dance everyone joined in and as the music built to a powerful crescendo and the dancers moved their bodies in evermore energetic ways they all turned as one to the quayside and threw their arms in the air in a big finale. There was no mistaking we had just been treated to the most incredible private performance! We clapped until our hands were sore and shouted our farewells as we rowed away with the music still beating through us.

This was by far the most exciting of our return trips from happy hour!!! Most of the rest of our return trips we walked or occasionally cycled if we were visiting at the end of a day spent out on our bikes. When we walked home in the dark we would often stick out a thumb and on a couple of occasions we were successful in getting a ride back to the dinghy dock this way.

Most importantly though; after that fateful first trip ashore, we always made sure that we pulled the kayak alongside one of the pillars of the pier before I tried to disembark so that the kayak couldn't get swept under the pier in the current… and whether we went ashore by kayak or dinghy I didn't ever fall in again!

The immediate area around the dinghy dock had a small snack which opened during the day selling hot and cold "Casse Crouet" (baguette-style sandwiches) and soft drinks; there was also a well stocked "Super-U" supermarket where you could get delicious fresh bread if you arrived at the right time and buy the lovely large pieces of PPN (Subsidised) priced tuna which Jamie regularly made into my favourite dish of "Poisson Cru au lait du Coco". The supermarket staff were always very friendly and even allowed us to put the occasional bag of rubbish in their bins. We were always very careful to ask first if this was ok and we meticulously sorted our rubbish as we were used to doing in the smaller islands. We placed glass in the glass recycling bins made readily available to everyone. Of the remaining refuse we kept back all other recyclable items which we stored in a barrel on-board to be placed in the next recycling bins available (back in Tahiti). All "organic waste"; vegetable peelings etc. we store in a separate barrel until it has composted down and which we then empty far offshore. We are left with small bags of household rubbish and whilst on small islands we store these in our anchor locker until we find suitable facilities to dispose of them. In Mo'orea we had heard that the supermarket were very accommodating if you asked them politely so we did and they were happy to let us pop the odd small bag in their bins. Again we witnessed here some terrible behaviour on the part of other cruisers who wandered ashore and simply dumped their rubbish bags by the glass recycling bins which I objected to sufficiently enough to take action... which resulted in us being treated to the sight of a fully grown man having a tantrum that any distressed toddler would have been proud of!!!

One side of the supermarket had a selection of small fruit stalls selling local pineapples; bananas, mangoes etc. The "Queen Tahitian" pineapple is Mo'orea's most famous export and we saw trucks loaded with these small sweet pineapples driving down from the hills. We soon became on very friendly terms with the lovely ladies who tended these stalls and they gifted us so much fruit that they probably gave us more than we ever actually bought. On one occasion I had asked my friend on the stall about avocados and she pointed me to the supermarket; I told her they had them in the supermarket but I'd rather buy them from her. No luck that day she didn't have any avocados. Over the next couple of weeks we saw the local avocados ripen on the trees; we saw several trees laden with this fruit such that I have never seen before. The day before we left Moorea I took a few pieces to the glass recycling bins in my bucket and when I stopped off to talk to my friend on the way back to the dinghy dock I saw she had avocados on her stall at last! Oh wonderful! "How much are the avocados?" I asked her; she took my bucket and filled it with avocados and refused to take any money for them. I will never ever forget these acts of kindness and generosity that we have been shown by the people we meet in our travels. It is so true that it is often those who have the least that give you the most. Those were the tastiest avocados we have ever eaten. 

On the far side of the supermarket was a local "Boules club" which was floodlit at weekends and served by a couple of small snack roulottes of an evening. We often went and sat down there with a cold drink; or at weekends after happy hour with a rum. We watched the locals play Boules and chatted with a few of them. It was a lovely spot and reminded us of our dear friends at the Boules Club in Taravao, although we never quite managed to infiltrate the Cook's Bay Boules Club like we had previously. 

We took a couple of hiking trails to see some sights and get some nice views of the island but whilst we were exploring a new place it seemed like the perfect time to give our new bikes a run out. We cycled around to the stunning public beach a few miles away on a couple of occasions. This was a particularly lovely spot to be at weekends, when the local families gathered to enjoy the beach. They would congregate around the picnic benches with hot food and cold drinks playing music and singing whilst their children played on the beach and in the sea. There would be Boules tournaments and football's kicked around and the atmosphere was always wonderful. After our long hot cycle we would swim and snorkel off the beach and then lay on the warm sand listening to the beautiful singing; Polynesian music is both soulful and mesmerising. On the first occasion we visited the beach we stopped at a small pension and Restaurant along the way where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. The second time we made a picnic of Poisson Cru and rice and took a cold bag with beers to enjoy it with. Both times we returned to the boat full of food and beer and quite sunkissed from our day at the seaside!

Another trip out we took during our time in Cook's Bay was to the local "Rotui" distillery. We had seen the Rotui fruit juices everywhere we had visited in French Polynesia so far and had heard that the factory was an interesting place to visit so we thought we would take a look. We had passed the turning for the factory on our rides to the beach and this time we walked there in about half an hour from the dinghy dock. Outside the factory we could see the famous "Queen Tahitian" pineapples growing on their stalks; the first time we had seen pineapples growing properly up close (although we saw miniature decorative versions for the first time in our friend Arii's garden in Taravao; and later in the grounds of the CBH). We were directed to the reception area of the factory where we were each given hairnets and shoe covers before we entered the actual factory. We were allowed to guide ourselves around with the aid of a laminated floor plan and large information boards explaining both the history of the factory and the process for farming; collecting and processing the fruit and packaging the end products. It was very interesting. After we had handed in our protective clothing and thanked the receptionist we crossed the courtyard to the factory shop where we were treated to a tasting of several of the fruit juices and alcoholic drinks that they manufacture; including pineapple sparkling wine and several delicious rums! The whole tour and tasting was free of charge but we spent some money in the shop afterwards and became big Rotui fans - we stocked up on several cartons of Rotui fruit juices before leaving the Society Islands.

Whilst we were enjoying our time exploring the island we did also have some jobs to do on the boat whilst in Mo'orea. The major one was that the anchor windlass which is the large mechanical motor that we use to drop and lift all our anchor gear had been seriously groaning and clunking these past few times we'd used it and was obviously well overdue a service and some TLC. Jamie took it apart and was disappointed to find some serious corrosion; more than we might expect for a windlass that was only 4 years old - although granted it has done a lot of work in those 4 years.

Jamie stripped it all down and made a list of what bearings etc we needed to get it refurbished. Without a working windlass we weren't going anywhere on Hamble Warrior so we planned a trip on the ferry to Pape'ete to go and find the parts that we needed.

The morning of our day trip we rowed ashore and took the bus around to the ferry port near where we had anchored when we first arrived. The bus route took us along the steep coastal road and past some of the big name resorts with their stunning accommodation over the lagoon inside the reef. The bus connected with the outgoing fast-cat style ferry and we just about had time to buy our tickets and get settled onboard before it pulled out of the port. We had been lucky to get a discounted rate on the ferry as we still had our valid residents certificates from Taravao. The ferry took about half an hour and before we knew it we were back in the familiar port of Pape'ete. We had been using the local Facebook buy/sell/swap group again and had arranged to meet up with a couple of other sailors at the town marina to collect an unwanted dinghy pump which would be handy for our kayak and to buy some sailing books. After that we walked the length and breadth of the city to find the bearings; seals and other items we needed to rebuild the windlass. Again we found the kindness of strangers when we went into an engineering workshop to see if they had anything suitable for replacing the motor-housing and to ask about bearings. The guy had a good look for what we needed and eventually managed to find just one of the bearings we needed, we asked him how much and he waved us away.

We found most of what else we needed at a bearings shop on the edge of the city. On our way back to the port we stopped to share a Casse Crouet for our lunch. Eventually we were back in the port and had just enough time to share a well-earned pint at the bar overlooking the ferry port before boarding the ferry back to Mo'orea. With all our jobs done and a backpack full of stuff we felt like we were going off on our holidays as we joined the crowd of holiday-makers boarding the boat. The return journey went smoothly and we made the connection with the bus again and were soon back on-board Hamble Warrior with everything we needed to get the windlass sorted.

The next few days Jamie worked on getting the windlass rebuilt and I got a few other jobs done on-board including repairing the French Tricolor and Polynesian Courtesy flags both of which had started to blow out during our time in Tahiti.

Soon the windlass was reassembled and purring like a kitten! We decided to test it out by taking a trip along the coast to a beautiful spot behind the reef where there was a limited bit of anchor space in the clear waters of the lagoon. So on the 14th October we weighed anchor from Cook's Bay and within a couple of hours we had the anchor set in the soft sand of Baie Papeto'ai. We had a wonderful three days here during which time we kayaked ashore to the small village where the tour boats arrive into a tiny but historical little port with the remains of an ancient Maerie with a few small but well stocked magasins. We walked along this beautiful stretch of coast finding many road-side stalls where we were able to purchase fresh pamplemousse (grapefruit); mangoes, bananas and even our favourite "Uru" (breadfruit). We even treated ourselves to an ice cold beer at the grill house belonging to one of the luxury resorts which tasted so good after our long hot walk and had the most amazing view out over the reef.

As well as exploring ashore we also took our snorkel masks and visited the underwater Tiki sculptures near the reef. The snorkeling here was fantastic with stunning corals and tropical fish but the Tiki installations really added something too. There was a mooring buoy that you could tie your dinghy to in order to snorkel this area and it was just a short kayak from where we were anchored. We really didn't need the kayak to get to the site but with so many fast tour boats and jet skis coming and going in this area we decided it would be handy to take the kayak and tie it to the mooring so that other boats knew we were in the water there. We had a lovely hour or so snorkeling over the tikis and the coral; taking photos and watching the many brightly coloured fish darting around. Apparently the Tikis had been placed there in the last 20 years or so by an artist as a statement from when these lands had first been colonised and the Tikis thrown into the sea; so they had huge historical significance.

After we had finished our snorkeling I swam back to Hamble Warrior whilst Jamie paddled the kayak back to protect me from boats in the busy channel between the anchorage and the reef.

Despite the snorkeling being exceptional here you really could see so much just from looking over the side of the boat! I was standing marveling at how easily I could see the anchor set in the sand one day when I saw a small shark come by and give Hamble Warrior a good inspection. We also saw Manta Rays in this spot and apparently this area is well known for both and a popular dive spot for that reason.

On the 17th October with unsettled weather forecast in the coming days we decided it was time to return to the shelter of Cook's Bay. We lifted the anchor and tacked out of the reef. As we began to tack back towards Cook's Bay Jamie spotted what he thought was a large pilot whale off our bow. We entered the pass through the reef into the bay and as we did we sighted the distinctive spray from the blowhole of a large whale and spotted a humpback whale and her calf cavorting in the waters of the lagoon just off our beam. We gave them as much room as we could in the fairly narrow inlet but it was an amazing sight to see - if a little disconcerting bearing in mind Mum probably weighed more than Hamble Warrior! This was actually our third sighting of Humpback whales since we had arrived in Mo'orea. Apparently October is the month to see them in this area as the Mother's bring their young calves into the relatively shallow and protected waters inside the reefs to feed and to teach them valuable skills away from large predators in open water.

The first sighting of these amazing creatures we had seen from the little roadside lookout point across Cook's Bay. We had been looking across the Bay and seen the distinctive large long fin of the mother and the air from her blowhole; as we watched for nearly an hour she would breach and then her calf would do the same. Then she would thrash the water with her long finger-like pelagic fin and again the calf would copy. These actions were repeated time and again and it was obvious there was a lesson underway as Mum would do something and then the calf would copy. It was fascinating to watch. We saw them again from the shore when we were walking around Baie Papeto'ai; this was now our third sighting of the humpbacks but the first time we had seen them from the deck of our boat. Unlike the previous two occasions we did not linger around to watch them for long this time!!

We stayed one more week in Cook's Bay before it was time to say a fond farewell and set off back across the water where we had a few things to take care of in Pape'ete before leaving the beautiful Society Islands and heading back east for cyclone season. We had thoroughly enjoyed our month in Mo'orea and were sad to leave but looking forward to the next leg of our trip.