Sunday, April 14, 2013

First crossing of the season

Our sail to Moorea started out gently enough, with just enough W wind to reach across the 10-mile channel separating the 2 islands. A pod of dolphins and several pilot whales swam past.  Halfway across, the wind died, and we began to buck around rather violently in small but wickedly confused seas. Motoring, the boat swung through 90 degrees, despite my best efforts. After an hour that felt like a day, the wind freshened from the E, and we rounded the NE point on Moorea doing over 7 knots. As we turned downwind, we were soon surfing down swells at up to 10kts at times. Cathy politely suppressed her alarm at how our light-displacement, fin keel boat was misbehaving (in conditions which would have been nothing to the full keel boat in which she had previously sailed), but she wisely donned her lifejacket (as did we)! We reefed the genoa, and should have reefed the main, but the pass through the reef into Opunohu Bay was only about 3 miles away, so we held on for the last bit. 

Once through the pass, we dropped the sails and motored into one of our favorite anchorages from the previous season. We like it even more this time, with only 10 boats at anchor instead of the 60 or so that were here last June. There is a nice beach backed by grassy park, a fresh water shower (and non-functional toilets), good holding for the anchor, beautiful snorkeling along a small reef between the boat and the beach, and killer views of Moorea's jagged peaks.

We enjoyed a very restful night and day here, and made plans for a long hike on Saturday. We packed lunch, water, and umbrellas to block the mid-day sun. As we were ready to head ashore, the Star Princess cruise ship came through the pass and anchored at the mouth of the bay. The first 4km of our walk followed the ring road, with plenty of traffic (though far less than Tahiti). Then we turned up the side road leading to the Belvedere, a hillside viewpoint we had visited on previous trips. We had to step off the narrow road to make way for large tour buses full of cruise ship passengers, but the times between vehicles were peaceful, and the surrounding countryside was verdantly beautiful.

Halfway up the hill, we stopped to sample tropical fruit jams being offered for sale at the Agricultural Lycee (high school) and re-filled our water bottles. The friendly young women staffing the counter seemed somewhat dubious of our intention to walk up the rest of the way to the viewpoint. Indeed, we saw no other hikers on our way up, only a seemingly endless stream of buses, pickups with bench seats in back, rental cars, scooters, and ATVs (and 2 cyclists). At the top, an obliging tourist snapped our photo. 

I told Vicki and Cathy that I would attempt to follow the trail down to Cook's Bay, and that I would meet them back at the boat. While beautiful, my hike was shorter than planned. The rocks underfoot were treacherously slimy from the recent rains, and on flat sections I gingerly dodged mud bogs that looked to be at least ankle-deep. I took a side path back to the Agricultural Lycee where I was soon reunited with Vicki and Cathy.

While the next section of our walk promised to be the most delightful (and most lightly traveled by motor vehicles), we soon ran out of energy in the still, mid-day heat and high humidity. A friendly Tahitian family gave us a ride in the back of their pickup, and we were soon enjoying the breeze and shade and tasty snacks at the Rotui snack bar at the head of Cook's Bay. I tried to take pictures of the blue-eyed eel swimming in a nearby drainage ditch. The eel seemed hopeful that I would share my spring roll with her!

Fortified by our rest stop, we started marching the last 4 miles home, anticipating another stop at the fruit juice factory. But a single kilometer was all we could manage before admitting defeat and flagging down a bus, for which we gladly paid $3 each.

After a swim and a leisurely afternoon back on the boat, we serenaded the setting sun with a playlist of sailing ballads, and briefly lost ourselves in a romantic reverie of our idyllic lives. We were brought to our senses by a sudden and violent rain squall, which was strangely unaccompanied by wind. For the rest of the night, we mopped up water from a growing number of leaky hatches and portlights, as the rain pounded down in extreme but intermittent bursts.

This morning it is still raining, so we have put off plans to visit "Stingray City" across the lagoon.

1 comment:

Mike and Julie Hatcher said...

glad you guys had a good first passage! keep posting we love hearing of your adventures.