Getting Whacked Underway
It’s just 21 miles from the Papeete Yacht Club where we were anchored in Tahiti to the anchorage area around Cooks Bay on Moorea. Light winds were forecast and we waited until late morning for the wind to reach 6 knots. Off we went with full main up and full headsail flying at the bow, the breeze increased enough for us to coast along in flat seas, one of those magic sails.
We were in the shadow of Tahiti for about 15 miles, then the wind went fickle and died, the current between the two islands churned the water this way and that and the magic turned to downright trickery. As we were discussing whether all those whitecaps in front of us were really caused by the current or was it wind our question was answered, wind hit us – and lots of it!
For the next half hour it was “hang on to your hats”(and whatever else we could find) as we flew along in wind gusts up to 38 knots whilst surfing down 3 metre seas that had built from nowhere. As our boat speed hit 12 knots we both looked longingly at the calmer water in the distance and prayed the gusts wouldn’t get any stronger. At least at these speeds you do get there quicker and we reefed sails as soon as we found flatter water then finished our sail in somewhat more control, phew!
The waves were whipping through our intended anchorage in Cooks Bay, white water flicking off the tops as the katabatic winds funnelled through, so we stayed outside in much calmer water on the sandbar inside the reef.
All night long the stars sparkled above us but the clouds hung over the high peaks and a fine mist blew down on us until daybreak. The Sandbar was a gorgeous spot though but oh so shallow with just half a metre under our keel, the water so clear that it actually looked like we were sitting on the sand, somewhat surreal.
The Bay with no Cooks
The unforecast wild winds eventually eased and Cooks Bay was transformed into a pond, the majestic mountains reflecting into the glassy seas, a far more appealing anchorage.
Now the interesting fact about Cooks Bay is that it is named after Captain Cook who visited Moorea on his third voyage to French Polynesia, however he never anchored there. They made their base in neighbouring Opunohu Bay which had a better fresh water supply, no one knows why this bay was named after him, but Cooks Bay it is!
Tourists, Tourists Everywhere
This northern coast of Moorea is one of the most touristy areas in French Polynesia, from our next anchorage at the head of Opunohu Bay we watched convoys of cycle tours or dune buggies drive by for their half day sightseeing tours. Most headed up to the belvedere for a few snaps of the bays before re-mounting their chosen mode of transport and continuing on round the island.
We however decided to stretch our legs and took advantage of the excellent trails available and hiked up to a well restored historical marae site before continuing up to the lookout area. We enjoyed the birds eye view then headed back into the bush on one of the marked trails, somehow we missed our first two downhill turnoffs and ended up on the longest returning option, a 7km walk through some verdant tropical bush, not unlike what we have in New Zealand. It was shady and cool, a well worn trail but we didn’t see another soul, it’s likely it is just us exercise starved cruisers that keep these trails trodden!
We also spent a day on our bikes exploring, didn’t quite pull off the 65 km circumnavigation of the island, maybe just a little too much for our little folding bikes, not to mention our legs but we followed the coastline and clicked over 30 kms, good effort.
After a particularly blustery “anchor watch” night at the head of Opunohu Bay we decided to head back out to the shallow areas inside the reef, find the Sunken Tiki Anchorage and enjoy all the underwater tourist attractions.
Who Threw The Tikis Overboard?
On the half day water based tourist sightseeing tour there are stops made at the sunken tikis and opportunities to swim with and feed rays and black tipped sharks. Happy holiday makers jump overboard by the boat load on these excellent excursions to view these underwater delights, but of course they are unable to chose a quiet time or stay as long as they want, that’s where we are lucky.
It’s a long while since we have been anywhere with so many tourists so had forgotten how fortunate we are to be able to chose a time between tour boats, jet ski and kayak convoys to be able to share the same experiences but without the crowds, but hey, remember we did have to endure those winds to get here!
We found the sunken tikis, they were lying quietly in the shallows only 100 metres from where we anchored Balvenie. We understand they are a reasonably new addition to the neighbourhood, carved by a local sculpture and laid to rest on the busy tourist trail as another attraction, what a great idea.
Time to Feed the Rays
Last on our list of “Moorea Must Do’s” was to dinghy along to the crystal clear shallow waters near the Intercontinental Hotel and feed the resident rays and black tipped sharks. Now this gets VERY busy so we got along there by 8.30am, the first of the tour boats arrived at 9am and it is non stop all day long.
Look carefully at the photo below, all the white part is the underbelly of a ray as it came up vertically out of the water to be fed, it was all soft and slippery underneath, the pinky part just above the water is its mouth.
There were rays everywhere, and the black tipped sharks and other fish don’t miss out on the free food either, felt like we were swimming inside an aquarium at feeding time, but watch out – they do nibble the odd unsuspecting tourist!