Stuck To the Bottom in Moorea
05 June 2017 | Moorea, French Polynesia
Cook's Bay on the north east end of Moorea is definitely one of the more scenic bays we've dropped our anchor in and offers excellent protection from the ocean's winds. The day before our arrival here we had gale force winds in east Tahiti which bought havoc for some boats as a few dragged, broke their moorings, drifted, bounced off other yachts, etc. We fortunately escaped these escapades. The forecast called for second day of this weather but when we awoke the following day the airs were calm even thought the sky's low dark grey clouds seem to be telling us that more was to come - as did the forecast. We gathered our thoughts and decided to do a quick run to shore to dump off the garbage and a last stop at Carrefour. We then departed approx 10:00, in this unforecasted calm, for the 3.5hr passage to Moorea some 10nm away where we motor-sailed in a light breezes. We entered picturesque Cook's Bay via the Avaruo Pass and made our way down to the south end of the bay where we anchored in 14m WD in mud with excellent holding (17 30.185S: 149 49.282W). There were only a few other yachts anchored so was nice to be in an uncrowded bay with this enchanting surrounding. Then the forecasted winds finally arrived and we began to rename Cook's Bay as Katabatic Bay- as every 5 minutes or so a gust of 25-30kts would howl down the hillside - making for a disruptive night's sleep - but there was little to no chop simply as there isn't the area to gain fetch and the next day it was over! Our Rocna held us solid.
In 1759 Captain James Cook, after landing at Tahiti, sailed his ship Endeavor to Moorea. One would have thought that he sailed into Cook's Bay, for which it's named after, but he didn't. His ship's draft was too shallow to make the pass through the reef so he went a few miles along the coast and entered D'Opunohu Bay. I read that he came here with a Tahitian war party where he didn't participate but only observed the activities. D'Opunohu Bay is translated to 'stone fish stomach'. I'll watch my step!
As we had fair amount of unexpected time in Moorea, 21 days to be exact, we decided to step up our activities for land travel. We took long walks that included one walk up to Belvedere where one can view both D'Opunohu and Cook's Bays from a single lookout - spectacular view among the cliffs and tall green hills. We were knackered after a 20km walk up and down these hills! The walks into the interior of Moorea was met with beautiful scenery of lush forests, pineapple fields, cattle ranches, pastures, colorful flower and fruit gardens, horses, etc. Thoroughly enjoyable hikes. A few times we took Dragonfly for the 30min trip to neighboring D'Opunohu Bay, along the marked 'dinghy highways', where we waded with black tip sharks and sting rays - known as Sting Ray City. We met and chatted with a few of the PhD thesis students at the University of Berkeley Marine Research Center thats located on the NW corner of Cooks Bay. There were frequent visits to the Kaveka Resort to use their internet services (thanks Tim!) to sort out our windlass chaos. But as amazing as Moorea is, French Polynesia has to be one of the most expensive lands we've visited - everything from food, restaurants (we don't often eat out), 3G, taxi's, buses, chandlery, services (local Polynesian's don't pay an income tax so the gov't hikes up goods and service tax for their income). And I thought Singapore was expensive! Least to say, we broke out monthly budget while here in Tahiti and Moorea. Probably our largest expense, besides Emerald's repairs, is food/groceries, occasional eating out and internet costs. We've never skimped on buying good quality foods but we supplement this by buying local where we can, especially fruit, veg and fish direct from the fishermen - when we cant catch it ourselves.
We managed in this time to catch up on all those little tasks that tend to be put aside i.e. sewing up holes the cushions, repairing the UV strip on the genoa, resealing the large salon window (good thing before we enter the wet season of Tonga and Fiji!), mast & rigging inspections, fiberglass/gel coat hull repair (from Aruba's ridiculous arrival dock), cleaning all the DC and AC electrical connection on the watermaker, cleaning bilges...
And why did we have a lot of time in Moorea.....
We seem to having a spell of poor luck with major breakdowns lately. It's that 3 year warranty expiry itch! As we were recovering the anchor/chain with our Quick Dylan windlass (winch) it spit the dummy. It was unable to pay-in any length of chain or even payout before tripping the breaker. I then placed the insert ring onto the windlass to allow a manual recovery but after turning this plastic 'piece of crap' apparatus for 15m it stripped out. We are officially stuck to the bottom here in Cooks Bay! However with 60m of chain out (in 15m WD) and excellent holding in mud I felt quite safe should a blow comes through. I spent the day troubleshooting the electrical and concluding that the windlass DC motor was fried. The next day I took the Aremiti ferry over to Papeete (XPF3000pp rtn; 45min) with the motor/gearbox and met Laurent at SARL Enipac, an electrical shop, where he tested it and confirmed my diagnosis - and the bad news - it's not repairable. I then went about sorting thru the options after discovering there were no similar DC motors, parts or the another similar windlass in Papeete. While I had a strong preference for a replacement windlass the express shipping cost was a deterrent so I purchased a replacement motor out of Brisbane (and Harrolds Marine shafted me on the courier time!). But it's overall disappointing to have a 3yr old windlass that has had a conservative life fail after 187 cycles or total of 5400m of hauling chain up and down (followed by the spectacular failure of the backup manual backup system). And it's interesting that during my pursuit to purchase another windlass, two reputable retailers (Quick products) when asked, had poorly rated them with reliability problems. I now attest to this having seen this first hand and a few other Quick parts onboard fail or not function correctly. I took up correspondence with Quick Italy, as I was only 2 months over the warranty period, and they just went on the defense effectively saying "it cant possibly be the fault of our superiorly engineered and manufactured products".
So, once the windlass was back on line, tested, we picked up the hook (ahh the sweet sound of a windlass motor healthily spinning) from Cook's Bay and motored the 2nm west to the very pretty D'Opunohu Bay. We anchored in gin clear waters, swam and waited for a weather window to Hauhini - which was the next day!
At the end of May, I posted on Facebook about our plans post-November - more specifically - what we were planning during the South Pacific cyclone season (Nov to Mar). We have been spinning this around our minds for a few months now. We know that a majority of cruising yachts head down to New Zealand (or Australia) for this 6 month cyclone season, park their yachts and either travel around NZ, head home or repair their boats. We were toying with this idea and heading back to Singapore and I'd go back to work for 6 months but when I did the sums it hardly seemed worth it: putting your boat on the hard isn't cheap in NZ - for Emerald I was limited to yards and lifts but the cheapest I could find was NZ$150/day (ouch!). Leaving it in the water was cheaper but Im not keen on leaving our yacht alone in the water for such a period. Australia wasn't a real consideration because of its bureaucratic hassle and even more expensive. So essentially if I went back to work and spending for an apartment, cost of living in Singapore, yard space in NZ, it just was't adding up to make it worthwhile. So I kept on reviewing various options (at one point I had a decision tree mapped out), reading and studying the charts, weather patterns and then the bells rang loud when it worked out that we could head north after Fiji in November (beginning of the SPac cyclone season) and be rather safe from cyclones. North means heading up to Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. We are still keenly studying the region, cultures, immigration/custom requirements and weather but all the signs point to 'Yes'. And the big bonus is it's off the beaten track of most cruisers (I had read that in '03 some 500 yachts headed to NZ and OZ and only 40 went north). This is some of the most un-visited & un-developed islands in the Pacific: "Ranked the fourth least visited country in the world, the Marshall Islands is perhaps the last frontier of yachting with pristine vibrant ecosystems". That speaks volumes to us! On the other hand, its remoteness means Emerald has to be in top condition - so we'll have all key maintenance and any upgrades completed in Fiji. Also means provisioning well - we are used to that! It's also a stepping stone to Indonesia and our route back to Singapore in late 2018.