We are now anchored just behind the reef in Baie D’Opunohu on the north side of the island of Moorea (South 17 minutes 29.57 minutes, West 149 degrees 51.12 minutes). This is a very pretty place with views to the high mountains often shrouded in clouds and to the fringing coral reef that protects the bay from waves. We arrived yesterday (July 17) afternoon after finally finishing up the list of tasks that kept us in Tahiti longer than we had hoped.
On Friday (7/13), we went to Immigration & Customs and the Port Captain in Papeete to do our formal check in (and check out) from French Polynesia. Even though we seemingly did the check-in in the Marquesas, and have 3 month visas in our passports, none of this really is official unless you do it all again in the only official port of entry, Papeete. We took “Le Truck” to town from Faaa along with a German sailor who has been the talk of the anchorage for the previous few days. He lost two fingers in his anchor windlass in the Tuamotus and had to be airlifted to the hospital in Papeete. His wife and someone from another boat then sailed his boat to Tahiti. He was leaving the next day for surgery in Germany and was going in for the customs clearance with his arm and hand covered in a cast.
We forgot to bring with us the piece of paper proving that we had purchased a cash bond, and when our turn came with the Immigration guy we were told to return when we had this paper. It has a hot day and is a real schlep into town, so the thought of going back to the boat and returning was not appealing. We walked into the port district again to return our defective Raymarine Lifetags, a man-overboard alert system that we purchased and installed in Bonaire. The local Raymarine dealer was very nice but took our unit and could not promise a replacement for 3 weeks, so it may be sent to us in Bora-Bora. We had a surprisingly nice lunch at Tom’s Snack Grill, a nondescript place located among marine and auto repair shops in the Fare Ute port district. We then went back to the boat, got our missing piece of paper,and returned for our check-in. Plus we got our check-out paper although that still requires us to appear at Immigration in Bora-Bora within 24 hours of our departure.
Our friends on “Vera” and “Roxi” arrived and we had five nights in a row of “sundowners” and/or dinner together. Sunday, we had a chance to snorkel the reef just 100 yards from where we were anchored and the water was crystal clear with some interesting fish, although the coral looked unhealthy. Monday was to be our last day and there was still lots to be done. We did an enormous shop at Carrefours in the morning. It was the largest single grocery tab we have ever paid. (As an example of the prices, a pack of three medium sized raw chicken breasts on “special” were $25! We passed on buying chicken.) We stocked up on litchi juice, Laura’s new favorite, and paper towels, among other things. Just dragging everything on board the boat took the whole morning. After lunch we picked up repair parts that had arrived for us from Amel in France and then went to pick up our propane tanks that we had left for refilling with the Mobil station near the marina. They did not have them and claimed ignorance of the whole affair. Laura used her “angry” French to finally get some action, but even then it took a second trip and some phone calls before our tanks finally appeared. Without them, we could not have left. All of this took until sundown, and it was too late to haul the dinghy and outboard onto the boat for the next day’s passage. We had a final potluck dinner on Vera, with lots of wine and some bawdy jokes. We may not see Vera again until September in Tonga as they do not have the visa limitation that we do in French Polynesia.
Tuesday morning we filled up on duty-free (but not tax-free) diesel at the bargain rate of $3.75 per gallon (versus $6.75 with duty),and then headed up the Faaa Channel to Papeete and the sea. At each end of the airport runway we halted to ask permission to cross and were immediately given this permission. Both times, we got a radio call 2 minutes later telling us to please turn around because a plane was about to land. Good thing we kept the radio on channel 12. The sail to Moorea was a bit bumpy but fast. The anchorage is quite small and 14 boats are crowded in. The most popular cruising guide calls this the most beautiful anchorage in French Polynesia, so that explains the crowd. Plus, some entrepeneurial soul sells wireless internet service to boats that one pays for with either Paypal, or by visiting the small house of Valerie and Francois on the beach and paying in cash. The signal quality is excellent.
Today, we checked out the Sheraton resort (very posh and snazzy), and then walked up the road to the end of the bay and back, stopping to buy a baguette. Back on the boat before sunset, we opened a bottle of wine to drink with brie and baguette when our Danish neighbors, Anders and Birgit, on “Margarita” stopped by. We had a pleasant couple of hours talking with them. We have seen them repeatedly in various places along our way, but never had a chance to talk at length until tonight. Their youngest daughter, age 16, swam over to join us later. Also on board is their 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend.