Wednesday, 13 Aug 1986

1800 ( PM), Clear, Warm

Oponohu Bay, Moorea Island


To all you beautiful people, MY FRIENDS...

JOY, JOY, JOY. . What a beautiful day, all because of you, my wonderful friends. The reason that I'm so happy is that I went to the Port Captain's Office today and .... 10 and behold, eight (count 'em friends, 8, I say) letters, from all you fantastic people. Each will get an individual letter back, just give me a little time, please. Thanks, you guys are BEAUTIFUL.

Let's see now, we have to pick up the tale from the quay side in Papeete. It seems to me that in the last letter we had just got through with Bastille Day. I can't tell you what it meant to be there on that particular day. Most of you know how many years that has been a personal goal. And then, to actually accomplish it. Even though the actual Bastille Day wasn't all that great; the simple fact that I was finally here, after crossing a great ocean. I was here in Papeete. I don't have the right words to tell you how satisfied and fulfilled I felt at that time. I really think that only then did it really hit home that I had 'done it'. So much for this stuff, let's get back to Papeete.

On July 17 and 18th, I got the new shrouds up. The French I are on the metric system and I couldn't get 3/16 inch shrouds so we made them bigger (6 mm about 1/4 inch) and they should give no problems in the future. On Sunday the 20th, I jumped on a 'le truck'(more about le trucks later) and rode 15 kilometers to Venus Point. Venus Point is so called because Capt. Cook used this location to observe the moon passing in front of the planet Venus, in 1778. This established the longitude of the island. The sponsor of this expedition was the Royal Society of London, and in their honor Cook named the island group 'The Society Islands' . Interestingly enough he also named the Hawaiian Islands the Sandwich Islands after Lord Sandwich, who is reported to have invented that fast food delight. My trek to Venus Point was not only to see the monument to Cook, but also to visit the lighthouse that had guided me in from 20 miles out. Venus Point is also known for it's lovely beach. This lovely beach is also well littered with lovely topless ladies. There are of course, twice as many attractions as bodies on the beach! Since that time, I have found that nearly all the beaches have the same attraction. The reason is not only a more liberal outlook but a real lack of beaches for sun-bathing. Surprising as it sounds, these islands have few beaches and many of the hotels have 'imported' sand from the Tuamotus (200 miles away). I'm only guessing at the lack of sand but it seems to me that you need the pounding surf to break the rocks into sand. On these islands, the surf is crashing on a coral reef a half-mile out to sea. Therefore, no sand ashore, but a sandy bottom between reef and shore, with little surf left to shift it shore ward So much for sand, let's get on with the narrative.

On Sunday July 20th I had an 'adventure' . I caught le truck to the town of Poponoo and hiked a couple of miles to Faatautia waterfalls. These falls look like they are right out of a Hollywood movie set. There are four falls within a quarter mile area. Each fall is beautiful. The highest fall is about 200 feet and it drops into a perfect 'swimming hole', so off came my clothes and in I went. The water was delightfully cool and while I was splashing around up walked four women !. They were in bathing suits and soon joined me in the pool. I thought to 'wait them out' but the cold got to me and like it or not, I had to get out. We discussed where we were from, vacations, and all kinds of small talk. After we were on friendly terms I explained that I was nude and would they please turn away while I got out (after all who wants to look at at a fat blue body). My confession was their license to also strip down. It had been their plan to swim nude if the pool was empty. It became a delightful afternoon, with swimming, sunning and sharing a huge picnic basket that they had fixed. The scene was straight out of a Ruben's painting. Debauchery. If I ever get to San Marcos, Calif there are four school teachers that I have a date with! They all insist that it's the four of them together, or no date! Life on Tahiti was definitely looking up!

I've mentioned 'le truck' a couple of times, perhaps I should tell you about them. There are taxis here but they are very, very expensive and the public transportation is by the inexpensive 'le truck' instead of busses. Le trucks run on no fixed schedule between the various towns and villages. They not only have no schedule, but also have no fixed stops. You wave down the le truck going in your direction and when you want off, you bang on the side, and the driver (sometimes) stops. There are two rows of benches, one on each side, with a third row down the middle. A roof overhead to keep out the sun, and sides to form a backrest for the outside benches. Now add about 50 people and kids, a goat or two and maybe a pig and some chickens, and you've got the idea of le truck. Oh yes, one more thing, le trucks also have big speaker systems which provide non-stop ear-splitting music. The music is either rock or Tahitian, depending on the age of the driver (break point about 40). I haven't heard any Mozart or Bach yet.

I had planned to leave Papeete (for Moorea) on Monday the 21st, but the 'fates' intervened. The fates took the form of; a broken propane valve, a tardy sail maker, and a very late booze party (some yacthy's birthday I think). On the morning of the 24th, I 'cleared' with the Port Captain, got fresh bread, more wine, and left Papeete.

My passage was to be only twenty miles or so, across the channel that separates the islands of Tahiti and Moorea. I was on a broad reach with a northerly wind of 15 to 20 knots and a course of almost due west. We made good time, logging between 5 and 6 knots. In three hours or so we were off the north coast of Moorea. No less a person than Capt. Cook called Moorea the most beautiful island that he had seen in two circumnavigations. The famous cruising couple, Eric and Susan Hiscock think the same thing. I'm going to add my two cents by saying that they are absolutely right.

I'm going to try to describe this island so that you may understand what Cook, Hiscock and I agree on. I know before I even begin, that there is just no way of doing it. But, it's important for me to at least try to tell you . . so here goes.. Moorea isn't large, measuring only 9 miles by 7. It rises above the narrow coastal strip in fantastic jagged peaks and spires to a height of nearly 4,000 feet. Several of these spires are pierced like the eyes of needles. The island is encircled by a barrier reef, through which there are several wide and easy passes. All the passes are well marked and afford easy passage. On the sheltered northern shore are two passes in the reef that give access to two very long narrow bays that offer perfect protection and beautiful anchorages. As I sailed along the reef, I came to the first of these two passes. The gap in the reef leads into Paopao Bay. This bay is also known as Cook's Bay, and was used for the filming of the movie 'South Pacific'. Maybe some of you remember the Bali Hai scenes from the movie. Well this was the view I was seeing. But I passed by the entrance because of the number of other boats that I could see in the bay. We were looking for a really quiet anchorage after Papeete. Another two miles of sailing brought us to the pass into Oponohu Bay. If it's possible, this bay was even more beautiful than Cook's. There were no boats to be seen, all seemed to have stopped at Cook's. So in we went, through the pass. Except for the palms and the warm weather you would have thought that you were in the fjords of Norway. The bay thrust back into the mountains and spires for two miles, with wonderful anchorages on all sides. We made our way into the quiet bay,sorry that we had to start the engine and pollute this silence with even that small noise. There was not a breath of wind to ruffle the reflection of Shark Tooth mountain at the head of the bay.

About a mile and a half into the bay, a small cove 'opened up' on the west shore. This cove is so well protected that you couldn't see it until almost abreast. A check of the chart showed that this cove was called Orufara Cove. This was IT. The shore was free of a fringing reef, and it shoals so steeply that after I dropped the anchor in 30 feet, we were able to tie a line to a coco palm and haul the stern to within 10 feet of the shore. While there was seven or eight feet of water at the stern, when I dive off the boat I surface in waist deep water! This is the most perfect anchorage that I've seen. Overlapping points of land shut out the pass and the wider part of the bay. The narrow beach is of clean, coarse, yellow sand, and is shaded by palms and lush broad leaf trees. After checking that the anchor was well set, I dove overboard and waded to shore. There along side the road, not ten feet away was a water facet and a garbage can! The facet even had a hundred foot of hose attached to reach out to a boat at anchor. The village of Papetoai is a mile and a half away. Just a nice walk for fresh baked bread each morning. There is also a small beer stand not a quarter of a mile away, so that I can get a 'cold one' once (or twice) a day.

Enough about the amenities of this particular anchorage. I want to describe the island to you. Where we're anchored the coastal plain is only 200 or 300 yards wide, and is planted with coconut palms. In the more cleared areas the trunks look like pillars in a dimly lit church, but mostly there is thick undergrowth. Scattered throughout the undergrowth are fruit trees. Mango, papaya, breadfruit, banana, oranges, limes, pomplemouse (like a grapefruit on steroids) and a dozen others that I can't identify. Every tree is owned by someone, and it's a real 'no-no' to pick or pick-up anything. The coastal plain stops abruptly at the foot of a cliff that rises almost sheer for 2,000 ft. The top of the cliff is often shrouded in mist and at dark the cool air comes sliding down the slope. That cool air is a blessing on the hot humid days that sometimes occur. In fact I've slept under a blanket since I got here, and it's great to have cool and even damp nights and mornings. I guess I should qualify 'cool', by which I mean high 60's low 70's. The coastal plain extends clear around the island and provides the only land that people live and farm on. The rest of the island is brush covered towering volcanic peaks, precipitous cliffs and jagged knife edge ridge's and spires. Probably only 5% of the land is actually used. There is a road that circles the island and a few spur roads that attack the interior, but none for long. One of the spur roads climbs a couple of thousand feet to a lookout point. From there you can look down on both bays. The lookout point is about seven kilometers (5 miles) from the boat, and is a good enough walk that I'm happy to get back. I've been up there twice, because the first time I couldn't see anything as we were in the clouds!

The road that circles the island passes about 50 feet off my stern. It's both a blessing and a pain. The good points are that transportation, both le truck and hitch-hiking are right there. Hitch-hiking is very good and I nearly always get a lift right off the bat. Also each day at about 10 AM the 'market truck' pulls up and blows his horn for me. If I've been too lazy to walk to the village store that morning then I can buy bread and wine and stuff from him. I either wave him on, or jump in the dinghy and go shopping. The bad part about the road is the sound of the cars and scooters going by, however, everything 'shuts down' after dark and then the only sounds are; the lap of the water, the breezes in the palm fronds, the splash of fish jumping, or the occasional crash of a coconut falling. The other drawback of having the road so close is that I don't spend as much time nude as I wish. By 'keeping a low profile' and paying attention to the traffic (one car every 4-5 minutes) I get sufficient 'birthday suit' time. Four le trucks each morning connect with the ferries to Papeete. I ride over once a week for mail and supplies. Taking the le truck in the opposite direction brings me to the only 'supermarket' on Moorea and also to the nude and topless beaches near Club Med. So I guess the road is more of a blessing than pain.

The days slide by as if there were no past or future. I'm living in only the NOW. The only way that I keep track is by the date in my log, which I write in each night. Perhaps it would be interesting to you if I told you about a typical 'day in paradise'. I'll tell you about yesterday; awake and up early (at least for me 0530 is early), a couple of cups of coffee, two hours of reading (actually rereading the 'Riddle of the Sands'). Stomach said that it's breakfast time. Pomplemouse (a grapefruit, but huge), bread (French, 3 inches in diameter and 3 feet long), butter (canned from Holland), and cheese (cheddar from New Zealand) . That was the breakfast yesterday. Other mornings may start with eggs (expensive at 40 to 50 cents each) and the fruit varies between oranges, bananas, pineapple, papaya or mangoes, but bread and cheese are always there. After breakfast I decided to walk into the village (Papetoai) to mail some letters, to phone my Mom, and get something for dinner. I threw on clothes and pulled the dinghy to shore with the line tied to the coconut tree. Decided not to hitch-hike as the walk would do me good, besides I wanted a fresh pomplemouse. About a kilometer down the road lives a old-timer whom I always greet the a "la-ora-na " (good morning). we stand there and carry on a conversation, he in French or Tahitian and me in English. Neither of us understand each other, but the ritual ends with me pointing to this pomplemouse trees. He carefully selects a ripe one and knocks it down with a long pole. I try to pay him, but he refuses and insists that it's a gift and he has plenty. Further along the road there is a house with 6 or 7 breadfruit trees in the front yard. Last night's wind had knocked down a dozen or so breadfruit. A young girl was raking leaves on the front lawn, so I said 'good morning' and pointed to one of the fruits. A nod told me Ok and now I had a veggie for dinner. I picked a Frangapini (plumeria) and stuck it behind my right ear (single and available). At the post office I mailed my letters and phoned my mom who, of course, was not home. Oh well, some other day will do. At the store I picked up bread, garlic sausage and a couple of bananas. Hitching back was easy, and I was home by 0930.

I started a load of washing (two buckets and cold water) which kept me busy until about 1130. Took the clothes ashore and hung them on a line under the palms. A short 1/2 mile walk to get a cold beer to go with lunch. Lunch was a can of sardines, bread, cheese and the cold beer. After lunch I climbed into the dinghy and rowed a half mile to a coral reef, here in the bay. I spent several hours snorkeling and harassing the fish with my spear gun. Lots of near misses, but no fish, so dinner will be garlic sausage and fried breadfruit. Got back to the boat at about 4, folded clothes and got in a hours reading before my 'sun downer'. Sun downers are one of the customs I keep; ashore or afloat. However, because of the high cliff, the sun goes 'down' here at about 4 PM, which is a tad early. To compromise I generally check the almanac once a week for 'official' sundown (5:45 this week) and at that time I raise me glass and say "Good night, mister Sun". I've run a little low on gin, so I've been drinking rum, water and a squeeze of lime or lemon. After the two sun downers (you can't stand on only one leg !), I cooked dinner and used up the last of the cabbage for slaw with the sausage and fried breadfruit. In the last light of the day, I sat in the cockpit and wrote up the log. I read only a couple of hours and was in the sack sound asleep by 9:00. So much for 'another shitty day in paradise'!

I've rummaged around and dug out the sketching and scrimshaw stuff. Everything is so beautiful here that I getting the urge to get in down on paper or on ivory. I've done a few sketches of the landscape and some of the trees and flowers. Not very good, but then I haven't done anything for several years, and I need a little warm-up period. I have gotten to know a woman, who owns a resort, restaurant and bar. She saw some of my scrimshaw pieces, and bought a whale's tooth that I had done a couple of years ago. It was a good piece, I got a good price ($450 US) as well as a weeks stay at her resort. Maybe I could make a living doing scrimshaw.

Hey, I just looked at the clock and it's way passed my bedtime. I get to rambling away and lose track of time. I'll close for now and just to use up the page, I'll write more in the morning. Good night all.

0530 still dark, windy

Why I got up so early is beyond me. Hell, the sun isn't even up yet and I've had my first cup. I slept out in the cockpit last night, the moon is a little more that half full, and without a cloud in the sky the stars were fantastic. The breeze that came up (about 10-15 knots) not only rocked my crib all night, but also prevented the normal morning dew from forming. Right now the temperature is a pleasant 82 F. Today is to be a 'boat day' with painting as the order of the day. If the wind continues then I'll paint below in the fore peak; if the wind quits I'll get started on the deck. There's probably 3 or 4 days work coming up.

I want to take a moment to 'publicly' thank three very lovely ladies. As all of you know I don't mail copies of these letters directly to you. My Mom, Pete Hilton, or Dianne Thorson have the (until now) thankless task of making copies and then mailing them to you. I want to thank them and promise that I'll keep these letters shorter in the future. Also to all of you who have taken the time to write me, I promise to answer your letters. Be patient with me however, as letter writing is not one of my funest pastimes.

I hope all of you are well and happy, and that the fates smile on your fortunes. One parting thought (a real favorite

of mine)


So get your sails up and get to doin' it.


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