Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 47 Iles Sous Le Vent. Moorea.

There is a little difference of opinion on the quarterdeck. I want to sail through the pass into Opunohu Bay on the Island of Moorea and Heather wants the sails down and to motor in. This is the bay that Cook visited and romantic me wants to enter under sail just like them. A sensible compromise has us sailing between the white foamed reefs with the engine ticking away in neutral just in case. We have sailed across to this island that has been in our sights all the time we have been at anchor at Maiva Beach. At last - the first of the Iles sous le vent (leeward islands), which simply means the collection of islands that are down wind from Tahiti, but the name has rattled around in my head since I was a kid. The Iles sous le vent - how splendid!

Cook`s visit.

We find Francis and Flyer anchored near the entrance to this beautiful bay and join them, carefully placing both anchors and setting them well. Jim of Wylie E. Coyote anchored deeper into the bay a few days ago during the windy week we spent at Maieva Beach and he nearly got blown away. Long narrow bays between high hills can funnel winds and we plan to take our chances on the deep sandy bottom just around the point. Even here, we will feel plenty of action as the squally conditions continue.

Tahiti was a busy real place, but Moorea feels like a dream: as we walk along the narrow roads beneath the palms all seems like a sanitized stage set for "some enchanted island"like Bali-Ha`i in the musical South Pacific. The views from the mountainside are amazing as we look back to Tahiti and onward across the rippled ocean toward our next destinations among the more distant islands. One day we take Edith for an hour`s ride through the lagoon that separates Opunoho Bay from Cook Bay. Here the lagoon is still part fringing reef and the winding passage is marked with random bits of pipe sticking up from the coral. We zig and we zag and finally enter the next bay which contains a cruise ship named after that artist who was hated by officialdom while he lived here but now is that great tourist symbol - Paul Gauguin. We land near the river at the head of the bay, cross the bridge and do our grocery shopping. Our first rule of shopping is to stock up in bulk in inexpensive ports, but our second rule in smaller communities is "if you see it, buy it," because you may never find it again if you wait. This store takes Visa, we have the dinghy to carry a load, so we stock up!

Edith is also our entertainment as Anne and I sail around the anchorage with the lug sail reefed in the fresh winds. We are invited to stop for a visit by Kalamera, a NZ yacht and get to talk about our own home waters and lend them our cruising guides for when they arrive in Victoria. Tahiti is a crossroads for sailboats in the Pacific. Many, like us, follow the path of least resistance with the Trades westward, some turn back north for Hawaii and North America while for others like Kalamera this is a way point on a long journey from New Zealand to North America. Already Scaldis is preparing to start back to California via Hawaii, Wylie E. Coyote will too, en route for Portland Oregon. and Sawleeah is headed back to BC. Shiriri is headed still farther west as are Francis and Flyer.

Before we sail on to the next island in the chain, Heather and I take the precious manuscript for Little Guy aboard Edith and scoot across the bay to a little village to mail it off to Penguin in Toronto. As we hand it over the Post Office counter we are struck by the incongruity of our tropical setting, the story of Patti way back in rural Ontario learning lessons from her horse and the big office tower where the package will be opened. We struggle back to Shiriri against the wind, get ready for sea and sail rapidly back out the passage to begin a night sail for Raiatea.

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