Moorea, Illes de la Societe – Friday, 24 August to Thursday, 30 August 2001

Moorea, Illes de la Societe – Friday, 24 August to Thursday, 30 August 2001

Ladies coming to church

Moorea is a place that most people only dream about. We anchor in Opunohu Bay on the North side of the island. Mt. Muaroa rises above the bay, very reminiscent of Hakahau on Ua Pou in the Marquesas. In fact, Opunohu Bay is so beautiful that it is what most people think of when they think of the South Pacific. The view at the head of the bay was the backdrop for the 1984 movie The Bounty with Mel Gibson. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Once we get there, however, Don and I crash for another nap. Our body clocks haven’t quite arrived here yet.

The weather is cool, much cooler than when we left for home. In fact, it is downright chilly. On Saturday we mess about the boat and then walk up to The Belvedere, the viewpoint at the head of the valley. It is like walking through a tropical park: past the shrimp farm and the French marine biology research station, up the hill past the agricultural college, on for 4 km up and up a winding road until we arrive at a wonderful vista point that enables us to view both Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay further to the East. Mt. Tehivea is behind us and Mt. Rotoi, the sacred mountain lies between the two bays. That evening we join Michael and Joanne Grey, Seattle Yacht Club members who we met in Taiohae in the Marquesas Islands (remember the story about the exhaust manifold?), for dinner on their sailboat Destiny. A wonderful meal with good friends.

Sunday morning a bunch of folks from various sailboats are going scuba diving, but Don and I opt to go to church. We moved Starr just West of the entrance to Opunohu Bay, off the village of Papetoi. I am still cold and the steep hillsides of Opunohu Bay limit the sun in the early morning and late afternoon. Still inside of the lagoon and well protected, our new anchorage has open vistas and more warmth from the sun. The church in Papetoi is the oldest Protestant church in French Polynesia. This was the base for the missionaries who converted King Pomare I and helped him with both military and moral support overcome his competition and become the Number #l King of Tahiti. Part of the deal was that he would support the Protestants in converting the heathens to Christianity. They did and so did he. A win win situation for Kings and Missionaries. They burned all of the tikis and other pagan gods, covered the women up in dresses from the neck to the ankles and forbade the wildly sexual dancing and other stuff.

Anyway, I got off on a tangent there. What I was saying was that Don and I decided to go to church in this “first church” of these islands. Church didn’t start until 1000 and we went ashore at 0915 to ask if we could record the music. The church was all locked up when we arrived. Slowly a few people arrived, mostly older people. We were directed to sit in the front of the side section and an interpreter was assigned to us to tell us what the preacher was saying. We said “no thankyou” and she asked “if we wanted to try to understand by ourselves?” We solemnly nodded “yes” and didn’t tell her that we like church best when we can’t understand a word that is said. By the start of the service, the church was only 1/3 full, mostly with older adults and only a handful of younger children. Much to our surprise, the music was in the style of the traditional chanting that we had heard at the Heiva festival in Tahiti and the sermon was very, very long. Way too long, and not enough music. As we left the church we went through a receiving line at the front door and were told “god bless” by all. Back on Starr, we have the boat to ourselves (Rob and Donna take the day off) and enjoy and quiet afternoon.

On Monday, Don and I and Michael and Joanne tour the island with Frank Murphy. Frank was recommended to us by Fred and Chris Caron from Arcturus, a Nordhaven 46. They raved about Frank as a tour guide. We found him to be a soft spoken American from Michigan, who arrived in Moorea while still a graduate student at Berkeley. Frank was studying the effects of the height of the sea on the beaches of the motus on Moorea. He ended up taking a job as director of the Berkeley Marine Research Station in Cook’s Bay from 1992-97 and was now married to a Tahitian woman, a former schoolteacher who is now writing curriculum in Tahitian for the public schools.. Frank is now trying to establish himself in the Eco Tour business and gave a very good tour, incorporating geology, biology, local history, etc Frank’s company is Iora Tahiti Ecotours, his website is and his email is If you ever come down this way look him up

Tuesday we go diving with Michael and Joanne and folks from several other sailboats. There are not many fish, not much coral and a few sharks. Ho Hum, we have been ruined by diving in the Tuamotus. On Wednesday we walk to the head of the bay and meet Bob Brosious, “Va’aBob”, a sixty-some year old builder of outrigger canoes in Moorea. We are still hot on our canoe project for the boys in Hakahau (see” Rataro’s Dream”under profiles in the pull down box on MV Starr page). Bob is a great storyteller and we learn about how he got to Moorea from Wisconsin some thirty years ago came and became an outrigger canoe builder. It’s a long story, but now the term “self taught” has a whole new meaning. Bob gave us alot of information about types and sources of materials for building canoes that we can pass on to Rataro. Later in the day we kayak in the lagoon and I get stuck in a coral head minefield but that’s OK; it’s just part of the job.

And the weather has changed. It is hot again. I will never complain about hot. I love being hot all the way down to my bones.

View of Opunohu Bay from The Belvedere

Don and Sharry in Opunohu Bay, Moorea

Don and Frank Murphy discussing flora and fauna of Moorea

Va’a Bob in front of his canoe building shop in Moorea

Sunrise as we leave Moorea for Huahine

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