Windy Days in Moorea

Anchorage at Oponohu Bay, Moorea


View of Cooks Bay from the Belvedere

July 7, 2003, 8:00 p.m.

Dear Friends and Family:

We're back in Moorea, the devastatingly gorgeous neighbor of Tahiti.  This is the place where parts of South Pacific were filmed, and it's much like a botanical garden.  Today we hiked up to the "Belvedere" which gives a view of both Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay.


It was quite a strenuous hike, more than 5 kilometers each direction.  We passed the Agricultural College, and several archeological sites.  We saw runners, bicyclists, a scout troop, and plenty of tourists.  Someone has planted decorative plants alongside the road, all the way up -- Ti plants, crotons, pineapple, bamboo, hibiscus, bird of paradise, and various other things we couldn't identify.  At one point, conifers line the road, and it looks for all the world like the French countryside. 

At the top, there is an enterprising ice cream stand, and of course we had to have an ice cream cone.  The guy also sells crepes, sandwiches, postcards, pareus, and coconut shell bras.

On the way to the Belvedere
Pelikan in Maeva Beach anchorage -- Moorea in the distance

We spent the 4th of July in Papeete, but there were no fireworks (surprise, surprise!)  Instead we went over to visit our Australian friends on Pelikan, and ate Swedish buns and listened to English music (Delius and Vaughan Williams).  Pelikan will complete a circumnavigation this year.  Peter is British and Elisabet is Swedish -- a very interesting couple.  Nothing to do with the 4th of July, but a very interesting evening.


Craig is designing a foredeck canopy which will be a sunshade (in good weather), a rain protector so we can leave the foredeck hatch open (in rainy weather) and a water catcher (for when the watermaker isn't working, or when we simply want to have some water without forking over the price in diesel fuel!).  He bought the fabric from a sailmaker in Papeete, and we'll work together to get the thing built with our sewing machine.  Of course sewing projects take ALL available space in the boat.  Cello playing pretty much does the same.  So we'll have to schedule this all out!

The sewing machine's last project was to make a Polynesian dress for me.  We find that most of the women in French Polynesia -- be they tourist or native -- wear brightly colored Polynesian clothing.  I didn't find anything that suited me in the stores, so I bought some fabric and designed my own dress.  I'm very pleased with the result, and amazed that the first thing I ever made without a commercial pattern actually turned out!

The reason we're back in Moorea is rather interesting.  Two days ago, we had decided to sail to Phaeton Bay, on the south side of Tahiti.  We had driven down there in a rental car a couple of weeks ago, and were struck with how few boats there were, and how many excellent anchorages.  The weather (and the forecast) appeared to be fine in the morning, so we put the dinghy on the foredeck, battened down the hatches, and headed out the pass south of Marina Taina (Passe Taapuna if you're keeping track on a map). There wasn't much wind, and we were motoring.  But as we approached Point Maraa (perhaps 10 miles south of Passe Taapuna), the winds suddenly kicked up to 30 knots, right in our face, with breaking whitecaps.  We're not here to beat ourselves up, trying to meet a schedule or a plan, so we started considering alternatives.  We looked for another harbor along Tahiti's west coast, in our various books and charts, but found none.  OK, change of plans.  Moorea was still within reach, and we knew that Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay were well protected. 

We had a rather exciting passage back to Moorea, with sometimes heavy winds, and confused seas.  We took one wave over the side of the cockpit -- a real first, which got us rather wet.  (That's OK, the water is still 87 degrees, but a wave coming at you over the side of the boat is still an awesome thing).


We arrived in Opunohu Bay just before sunset, and found a spot in 20 feet of water, with the sandy bottom clearly visible.  Forecasts for the next several days are for 30 to 35 knots of wind (but plenty of sunshine) so we think we'll stay put here.  Yesterday I played the cello, we all went snorkeling at the nearby reef, and Craig worked on his new canopy design.  We had guests for dinner (Steve and Iretta from Rigo), and Mark got in some fishing, which is seventh heaven for him.


Mark in the dinghy - sandy bottom 20 feet below

That's twice now that we have attempted to get to the south side of Tahiti, and have been frustrated by heavy winds and seas.  Probably it was not meant to be.  You may recall the first time was to take Mark down to the EFREMI oceanographic institute for a tour he had scheduled a couple of weeks earlier.  When we ended up diverting to Papeete, Mark was able to catch a bus down to his appointment and had a nice tour.  Their focus is evidently primarily economic, and much of their resources are spent on developing better methods/breeding stock for black pearls.  This is top secret, and they don't tell anyone who isn't French, so Mark didn't get that part of the tour.  Nevertheless, he had a good time, and thought the visit was very much worthwhile.

Many of the old familiar boating companions are here in Oponohu Bay, so there will be plenty of socializing: Rigo, Blue Sky, Shadowfax, Neva, Vesper... 21 boats in all.

Best wishes to all our friends and family! 

Craig and Barbara Johnston

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