Having spent the last week watching the sun set over the dramatic peaks of Moorea from our anchorage in Tahiti, we were excited to up anchor and see if the island was as beautiful up close as it looked from afar.
At just 24nm this would be the shortest sail we had had in a long time. Once out of the shelter of Tahiti’s reef it soon became clear it would be the most uncomfortable too. Florence wallowed in the huge cross swell refracting around the island, knocking what little wind we had out of the sails. Amy started to turn green and soon occupied the cockpit floor, the most stable position on the boat in the open air.
Once out of the wind shadow of Tahiti, the wind increased from 6 knots to 30 knots in the space of a few boat lengths. Florence was off, broad reaching and surfing down the seas at 9 knots or more. Matt dashed for the helm, enjoying the ride for a few minutes until the gusts passed through and we were able to round up and put in a couple of reefs. The breeze soon improved the motion and blew Amy’s queasiness away so that she could take a turn on the helm.
Moorea is known as Tahiti’s little sister, but she certainly made a larger impression on us. The rugged, jagged peaks give the island a surreal dinosaur-like profile. Originally a huge volcano, the northern half of the island either fell into the sea or was blown away in a great volcanic explosion. The remaining rim of the crater, then further eroded to create the island’s dramatic landscape which is now surrounded by coral reef, creating a beautifully calm lagoon. It is one of the most stunning skylines we have ever seen.
As we navigated though the easy pass in the reef, the islands deep and mountain lined bays came into view. Once within the still blue waters of the lagoon, we spotted our friends on Consensus anchored close by. Before we had even dropped the hook, we had been invited for drinks onboard so it was a rush to brush up and launch the dinghy. The neighbouring French boat’s skipper’s jaw dropped with astonishment when he saw us literally throw the two halves of the machine overboard before Matt jumped down to bolt the two halves together in the water.
Aboard Consensus we caught up with James and Tania who we had become friends with back in Nuku Hiva. They are professional sailors and run the 72ft Oyster for the owner who had returned to the UK for a few weeks. Having worked non stop for months, they were now able to have some time off amid the maintenance, so we arranged to explore Moorea together.
A big boat comes with a big RIB, so the next day James and Tania kindly picked us up and we blasted around the coast to a place where we could swim with and feed stingrays. Gliding through the shallow water, the stingrays surrounded the dinghy before we even had chance to don our masks and snorkels. They initially shunned our offerings of tinned sardines and seemed content just swimming around us. Once it was clear we had nothing better to offer them, they ate the sardines right out of our hands, climbing all over us in the process. Several black tip sharks watched from a distance. Being so close to such graceful creatures was a really memorable experience.
Mapped/signposted hiking trails are very rare in the Society islands, so when we heard Moorea had several we couldn’t wait to explore the beautiful interior of the island. Again James and Tania picked us up and we made a quick dash to the baguette shop before we heading into the hills.
About an hour into the hike, it became clear we had lost our way. Having navigated across oceans to French Polynesia, we were now lost in the (signposted) jungle. We all eventually admitted defeat and backtracked to a road which we were able to follow to find the view point over the bays. We were then able to follow the track we should have been on, back to the bay in the other direction, enjoying the great company and breathtaking views.
On our return to the anchorage, we were all hailed by Mike, who we had met in Fatu Hiva, and invited to a BBQ on board. We thought the time given was a little tight for getting showered and changed but the promise of a BBQ had us running. It wasn’t until Mike’s slightly puzzled look at our arrival that we realised our clocks were an hour out and had been since we arrived in Tahiti a couple of weeks ago. These days we rarely wear a watch and just look up at the sun to judge how much daylight we have left for things later in the day. Proper cruisers…
With the season moving on and a good weather window available, we said a sad goodbye to our friends, who were staying in the beautiful Moorea for a while and set sail for Huahine.