Friday May 27
Eventually we pulled ourselves away from the fleshpots of Tahiti (chandleries and a well stocked supermarket being top of our list) and said farewell again to Enchantress, Chevaldy, Haven, Yollata and our new friend Stephen and Elise aboard Gitane de Mer. We’d enjoyed the snorkelling in the lagoon. Kevin had made his first dive since we left the UAE that wasn’t just to inspect a boat bottom at a spot called The Aquarium just off the end of the airport runway with Susan from Enchantress, they found the wreck of a plane as well as at least one boat in the depths. And we’d had a great time exploring Papeete and its surroundings by bus or on foot but after almost three weeks it was time to move on.
It was the last Friday morning in May when we headed first for the diesel dock for diesel and outboard petrol, then to fill up with water; yes we have a watermaker but when there is free potable water available and you need over 200l to fill the main tank it seemed better to us to spend 15 minutes filling the tank with a hose rather than running the watermaker all day! By nine Temptress was heading off south along Lagoon Punaania to the pass. Rather odd to overtake surfers paddling their boards towards the huge breakers on the port hand side of the pass as we motored along but the wide gap in the reef was calm and easy to exit through. Temptress turned north west towards Mo’orea.
The lee of Tahiti reaches as far as Mo’orea so the twenty or so nautical miles around to the northern side of our next Polynesian island were covered in flat calm with only the gentle wide spread ocean swell to occasionally lift or rock us. A super yacht Advantage we’d seen in Marina Taina, Tahiti was on a reciprocal course which set our AIS alarm off; grey slab bow, white accommodation topped by black painted radar and comms domes as is the low rear section of its 50m where there were two large black ribs on black cradles, a black crane and more makes this one ugly boat. The paint job is presumably an effort to disguise it’s work boat like lines but as they say a painted pig is still just a pig. The effect reminded us of German World War II concrete architecture! The fast ferry from Papeete crossed behind us just before we rounded the top corner of the island. Mo’orea’s ferry port is the village of Vaiare tucked behind the reef on the eastern side.
We motored past Cooks Bay, it appeared to have few yachts anchored within it though we did spot another prettier super yacht the blue hulled Dorothea III which we’d last seen in Nuka Hiva, presumably her accompanying sports fishing boat was in there too. Several posh hotels with lines of thatched bungalows on stilts over the lagoon are along this sheltered side of the island. The green clad cliffs rise steeply behind them, cloud just dancing around the pinnacled tops. There is just enough flat land at sea level for a thin scattering of houses and a road as well as a fringe of coconut palms.
Two miles further on from Cooks Bay is the pass that gives access to Oponuho Bay, another favourite of Captain Cook and we fully understand why. The encircling land is high, steep and spectacularly jagged, clad in green against the black rock. Turning to port just inside the reef we entered an oval turquoise lagoon where the water is so clear we can see Temptress’ anchor on the sandy bottom in just over five metres of water! We are not the only ones enjoying this lovely spot, there are some twenty boats here, some local, some from Europe and the USA but it is not crowded and it didn’t take us long to find a space to drop the hook in.
Our first ray was spotted gliding over the sand as we anchored and with the boat tidied, sail cover on, anchor ball up, dinghy launched we eagerly pulled on flippers and snorkels to explore. Towards the shore 50-100m away are a scattering of coral heads; each has its own little ecosystem of small brightly coloured fish in shades of blue or yellow and lots of fat sea slugs in various drab colours sit on the seabed between the coral heads. Between the boat and the coral several huge spiny shells lay on the sand, they are a good two foot long from end to end and heavy; Kevin dived down to retrieve one so we could examine it closer which probably shocked its single clawed resident. Having admired the beautifully patterned shell it was returned gently to the bottom. A couple more rays lazily flapped past before we decided we really should return to Temptress for lunch.
In the afternoon a wander ashore to buy a baguette (53CPF so three francs more than mainland Tahiti) revealed the grassy coconut palm grove on the landward corner between the lagoon and the bay proper to be a public park with a golden sandy beach and many notices from the local mayor “interdit’ing” loud music, dropping of rubbish etc! So the locals after work on a Friday afternoon parked further along, and stood chest high in the water drinking beer whilst playing a car stereo very loudly. They were friendly as we walked past and their taste in music wasn’t that bad but the silence that fell across the anchorage when they left later was probably much appreciated by all the yachties.