Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cook’s Bay, Moorea

July 8, 2008  Tuesday

Minutes after I updated the previous log entry to this website Bill got “herd mentality” and we followed all the other boats into Cook’s Bay.  Probably a good thing that we did move because our anchor popped right up with no resistance whatsoever because the bottom sand is so silty and soft out near the reef.  Bottom inside the bay is sticky mud and really grabs an anchor.  The holding is so good in here that we will have difficulty raising anchor when it is time to move on.  Good thing that we have a heavy-flow anchor/chain wash-down on the bow.  Wouldn’t want that icky stinky mud down inside the anchor chain locker.

Cook’s Bay is breathtakingly beautiful.  Bora Bora has a reputation as Polynesia’s most beautiful island, but Moorea seems worthy of this distinction from what we have seen.  The only negative aspect about Cook’s Bay is that there is no internet service in here.  Moorea is a heart-shaped 125-square-kilometer island with 2 large bays on the northern side; Opunuhu Bay to the west and Cook’s Bay to the east.  Captain Cook visited Opunuhu Bay but never visited the bay named in his honor.  The island of Moorea is the surviving southern rim of a shield volcano once 3,000 meters high.  Moorea is twice as old as her sister island of Tahiti and weathering is noticeably advanced.  There are several mountains on the island and the jagged peaks facing the 2 northern bays form superb scenes.  Polynesian chiefs were once buried in caves along the cliffs of Mt. Tohivea.  The top edges of Mt. Mouaroa are shark-tooth-shaped.  The high peaks of the island protect the north and northwest coasts from the rain-bearing southeast trade winds.  This drier climate and the sheer beauty explain the profusion of hotels along the northern side of the island.   The interior valley slopes of Moorea are filled with large fruit and vegetable plantations and human habitation.

Moorea was called Aimeho at the time of Capt. Cook’s visit.  Legend claimed that the island was formed from the second dorsal fin of the fish that became the island of Tahiti.  The present name of Moorea means “yellow” (rea) “lizard” (moo).  This name derived from a yellow lizard that appeared to a high priest in a dream.  The island has also been called Fe’e or “octopus” for the eight ridges that divide the island into eight segments.  A very small hole through the top of Mt. Mouaputa is said to have been made by the spear of the demigod Pai when he tossed the spear across from Tahiti to prevent Mt. Rotui from being carried off to the island of Raiatea by Hiro, the god of thieves.  Gotta love some of these legends.  We can see 2 small holes in 2 separate mountain peaks from where we are anchored and cannot tell which one is Mt. Mouaputa and have no idea if there is also a legend for the unidentified hole.

Capt. Samuel Wallis was the European “discoverer” of the Windward Islands in 1767.  Capt. Wallis stopped in Tahiti but sailed past the northern coast of Moorea, which he named the Duke of York’s Island.  The first European visitor was botanist Joseph Banks, along with 3 other crew from his ship.  Capt. Cook anchored in Opunohu Bay for one week in 1777.  His visit was brutal; he smashed the islanders’ canoes and burned their homes when they refused to return a stolen goat.  If you have read any books about Capt. Cook, you soon see a pattern to his behavior regarding what he looked upon as thievery.  He never understood the Polynesian concept of communal ownership of certain things, like food available for the taking as needed or desired.

In 1792 King Pomare I conquered Moorea using arms obtained from the BOUNTY mutineers.  Moorea had long been a traditional place of refuge for defeated Tahitian warriors.  In 1808 King Pomare II fled into exile on Moorea after his failed attempt to bring all Tahiti under his control.  A party of English missionaries established themselves at the village of Papetoai, Moorea, in 1811; and Moorea soon earned a special place in the history of Christianity.  In 1812 the missionaries finally managed to convert King Pomare II after 15 years of trying.  This led to other conversions until finally on February 14, 1815, Patii (the high priest of Oro) publicly accepted Christianity and burned the old heathen idols at Papetoai.  Today there is an octagonal-shaped church built at the place where the idols were burned.  Shortly afterward the entire population followed Patii’s example.  The marae of Moorea were abandoned and the Opunohu Valley depopulated.  The first Tahitian translation of part of the Bible was printed on Moorea in 1817.  From Moorea, Christianity spread throughout the South Pacific.

After King Pomare II finally managed to reconquer Tahiti in 1815 (with missionary help – the main reason for his “conversion”), Moorea again became a backwater place.  American novelist Herman Melville visited Moorea in 1842 and worked on a sweet-potato farm.  His book “Omoo” beautifully describes Moorea. 

Today Moorea is booming with tourism.  There are many hotel resorts but most have the thatched roof type construction and blend well with the topography.  The islanders continue to fight against golf courses and the chrome and glass type large hotel construction.  One hotel in Opunohu Bay does a daily feeding of rays and you can walk and snorkel among the feeding rays.  Don’t think we will do that activity because of my bronchial infection.

We had planned to leave today for 90-mile passage to the island of Huahine but it is raining and the wind predictions for the foreseeable future are not favorable for sailing.  We really don’t want to have to motor for 24 hours.  I am still sick with upper-respiratory crud and don’t want to smell diesel fumes for the entire passage to either Huahine or Raiatea.  So we are staying put for a few days.

Something that I keep forgetting to mention are the native outrigger canoes that we have seen at every island since arriving in the Marquesas. These things are amazingly fast!  The outrigger canoes range in size and capacity.  Even a single-seater outrigger is pretty long, around 15-feet long.  A 5-person outrigger can easily be 35-feet long.  The canoes are very, very narrow.  A female American friend had the opportunity of paddling one of the single-seater outrigger canoes recently.  She wears tiny size 2 shorts and her hips were too wide to fit down into the seat!  Which makes me think that each canoe is made to individual measurements because some of these native women are pretty large.  When we were in the marina near Papeete the locals were practicing every afternoon for their annual outrigger races and we saw several racing crews that were all female, although by far most of the outriggers are paddled by men.  Anyway, the women were far from a size 2 yet they correctly down inside those canoes so that leads us to assume that the canoes are built to individual measurements.  Some of these things look really slick.  When they paddle they use their entire bodies, not just their shoulders and arms.  Looks like great exercise.

Most of us are beginning to make plans for New Zealand even though there is another 3,000 miles and 5 months before we will reach there.  More than 600 cruising boats annually arrive in New Zealand during November to very early December and stay there until late April or early May of the following year.   Every boat will need to be hauled out for a bottom job and many of us will fly home for a month or more.  People are usually tired of sailing by the time they reach New Zealand.  Certainly Bill and I are really looking forward to that 6-month break.  Like many other cruisers we hope to buy a used car and possibly tour inland in NZ for a couple of months, depending on cost, of course.  We have already purchased our airline tickets from Auckland to Los Angeles and hope to be able to use air miles for the LA to Houston part of our trip.  We are now looking at marinas and boatyards but have not yet made any reservations.  New Zealand allows US visitors to stay for 3 months without a visa.  Since we will be staying longer, we will need to obtain 6-month visas at the NZ embassy either in Niue or in Tonga.  Seems like we are planning and reserving things early but better to be prepared than to arrive and have no place to leave the boat while we fly home.  We fly back to the US on December 10 and will return to NZ on January 9.  Looking forward to seeing everyone during the holidays.

BTW, I have decided that I prefer making one 1,000-mile passage instead of making five 200-mile passages.  It is tiring to make the short passages.  It takes several days to get into the rhythm of watch schedule and it is just easier on the longer passages.

Another thing that I keep forgetting to mention is the McDonald’s in Papeete.  There is McDonald’s in downtown Papeete and another location out next to Marina Tahina where we were docked.  We visited the location by the marina several times.  We weren’t after the burgers but I wanted a chocolate milkshake and Bill wanted French fries.  Neither of us is a McDonald’s fan and I am not familiar with their menu, but I was surprised at what we found.  They had 3 Happy Meal combos for the kids.  The most popular one appeared to be a salad, small French fries and orange juice.  Another one was the Croque McDo, which was a ham and cheese sandwich that was heated on a grill but no butter or oil added so it was lower fat than normal fast food.  Another surprise was the Royal Burgers – bet they don’t sell Royal Burgers at any McDonald’s in the states.  Another unusual item was the pannini sandwich.  A Happy Meal cost $9.20 USD.  A Boss Burger with no fries or drink was also $9.20.  My medium-sized chocolate shake was $3.60.  The place was filled with locals, not tourists; so you can tell that they must make decent wages in Tahiti to afford those prices.  BTW, the McDonald’s next to the marina had its own private beach and a playground that looked like a park.  Wonder if any other McDonald’s has its own beach?

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