Mo’orea, Society Islands, French Polynesia

We motored up to Mo’orea, watching the whales jump in the distance, and rounded the northeast corner. We passed Cook’s Bay, which is very pretty from the water, and continued along the outside of the barrier reef to Opunohu bay.

We entered Opunohu, turned right, and followed a channel to the “tiki anchorage”, a flat shelf with 8-12 feet of water which we had heard was the place all the cool catamarans hung out.

It’s a very pretty spot, though like all the anchorages around the edge of Mo’orea, it gets a lot of traffic from the tour boats. In this case, they’re stopping to see the underwater tiki statues that give the anchorage its name, and to make close passes by all the pretty catamarans.

We had a bit of rain the second day, which dashed our hopes of a hike, but at least we still had good provisions. One nice thing about Tahiti, the supermarkets had hollandaise sauce in a box. We were hoping for a treat, and it was… OK. The rain also dumped a bunch of debris into the water, often leaving the surface pretty well covered.

In the afternoon, it cleared up enough for us to take a walk. The most convenient dock shares its parking lot with a church whose claim to fame is that it’s the oldest European-made structure in the Pacific. There are tons of coconut crabs all along the shoreline, and one was particularly fearless.

As we walked, we saw lots of people selling fruit by the side of the road, and of course we bought some. We even found avocados! Such luxury.

We passed on the fish, of course; Jazz is constantly amused that it’s “correctly” labeled as poison.

The next day the weather was better, and after a nice breakfast soup, we took the dinghy to the stingray harbor. A narrow cut through the coral brings you past a (closed) resort with over-water palapas, to a shallow shelf where a constant flow of tour boats discharges snorkeling tourists to see the numerous rays and blacktip sharks. On the way back we passed by another tour-boat stop, where some simple carved tikis have been dropped into the water.

In the afternoon, we made it to shore for our postponed hike. Instead of walking west, we went east to Magic Mountain, so-named for the ridge’s similarity to the roller coaster. The view from the top is lovely, and the semi-paved route is very nicely maintained, though you have to share it with tour trucks and ATVs. From the top, you can see our boat again!

We met some other tourists on the top who were on a sailing cruise ship. That night, we saw it sailing by!

The next morning, we took a slightly harrowing dinghy ride out to the dive balls outside the channel. The weather was OK as we started packing the dinghy, but by the time we were on the way out, the wind was kicking up into the 20s, so we had a bit of a rough exit. The ride back was even more harrowing: we found ourselves nosing into choppy two- and three-foot waves, which were rough enough to kill the dinghy engine. Floating out to sea is nobody’s favorite. We got it sorted and made it back, very wet and somewhat chagrined. The dive itself, however, was peaceful and lovely, with no current or surge, nice healthy coral, and lots of turtles.

That night, in absolutely calm wind and dead water, we heard a scattering, plinking sound on the deck. When we went up to investigate, we found six washers and the sheared end of a bolt had fallen from… where? We weren’t sure, and since we weren’t sure, that made us nervous. So Jazz slept fitfully, and then went up the mast to investigate. The verdict? It was most likely part of the old, seized bolts we couldn’t get out when we installed our new wind instrument. At least, there didn’t seem to be anything else out of place… though we did see a little chaffing on the jib halyard, which we added to a list for a later fix.

Speaking of fixes: Jazz’s wetsuit, a 7mm champion that she’s had for the whole trip, finally started to rip. We noticed this hole when putting our gear away. This is very sad, because now she gets an injection of cold water into the suit every time she moves. Unrelated, we tried to take a dinghy tour of the other bay, but turned back when the rain from ominous clouds produced a warning rainbow over our putative destination.

Acushnet was due to arrive the next day, and as we waited for them to join us, we took care of some projects. The manual windlass, nearly disassembled in Tahiti with a hydraulic press, proved to have a little more lurking corrosion. When this was cleaned up, the whole thing went back together smoothly and clicked like a champion. Captain watched the whole process from his carrier.

Once Acushnet arrived, we flew the drone again, this time with better weather.

And we took off on a tour of the island, operated by an Italian company that was slightly amused to have English-speaking guests. First stop, a distillery, which produced aged rums but didn’t feature them in their tasting. So we gave those a miss, opting instead for a cheap cardboard box of Tahiti Drink. Our driver told us that this is what you’re likely to be getting when you order a Mai Tai at your local resort.

We stopped at a vanilla plantation for an explanation of the growing process, and took the cheater way up the mountain that Andrew and Jazz had hiked up several days before.

And we stopped by a pineapple plantation, with great views of the mountain that appears on the hundred-franc coin. Apparently this was also the “Bali-hai” backdrop in the movie version of South Pacific.

From the plantation, we went up the hill to the park between the two bays, for a spectacular view down both valleys to the ocean. We hear there are excellent hikes here, but we didn’t have the time.

Back down the hill, we passed a shrimp farm that supposedly sells by the pound every Tuesday, and continued to a little beach of Cook’s Bay. There, Saskia took some lovely photos.

We were back to our boats in the late afternoon, where we found that driving into the setting sun makes it hard to see the coral coming at you. After a little rest break, Captain put together a little charcuterie board, and we had Acushnet over for sunset snacks.

The next day started out right, with pancakes infused with fresh vanilla bean, and since the weather was calm we blew up the paddleboards. The coral was pretty dead, but the exercise was nice.

We found out that day that Companion, a boat we’d met in Fakarava, was one anchorage over on the other side of Opunohu. So in the evening, we had them and Acushnet over for drinks and some “light snacks” in what turned out to be a very pleasant impromptu dinner party.

We had lingered a long time in Mo’orea, and a lot of the reason was that we had planned a whale tour. That happened, and was so much fun that it gets its own post. The day after, it was time to leave for a night sail, so we took one last ride across Opunohu bay for a quick hike. (And we saw whales jumping from the mountain.) Our verdict: a beautiful island, above and below the water.


  1. I’m so happy to hear there is still Tahiti Drink! When we chartered there in 2011, we went to the “Fruit Juice Factory” that yes, had mostly rum…and Tahiti Drink! We were a crew of 8, so got a case at the grocery store for our week aboard. Delicious of kept in the freezer – like a rum punch slushy! 🙂

    1. The freezer is a great idea, it definitely tasted better right out of the fridge than it did after half an hour sitting in the open-air truck.

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