Monday, July 4, 2011

Exploring Moorea's West Coast

After a few days of hanging out in Opunohu Bay, Dave got itchy paws and wanted to go exploring. So we looked in our guidebook (Cruising Guide to Tahiti and the French Society Islands by Marcia Davock), for a less well-known anchorage. Though this guide was last updated in 1985, it is still the best, most complete cruising guide for this area.

The weather was perfect for exploring--sunny skies, light and variable winds and slight seas. The forecast was for 2 more days of these nice conditions. We headed out of the Oponohu anchorage on Friday morning, headed 11 miles around the corner to the west coast of Moorea. We were headed for Passe Matauvau and the town of Haapiti.

Several of the west coast passes were marked with 'shallow and often covered with breakers', but Matauvau is supposed to be wider and deeper and more of an all-weather pass. The Davock guide shows several possible anchorages inside the reef near the pass, and starts the writeup with "Port Haapiti is our favorite anchorage on Moorea's west coast."

It was another gorgeous day, and we motored slowly down to the pass, making water as we went. Jim was on the bow looking out for whales, as July marks the start of whale season in French Polynesia. We did see a 'whale watching boat' out with tourists, but only spotted a few porpoises nearby.

The Matauvau Pass is well known among the surfers as a great surf spot (which is not always a good recommendation for an anchorage), and we saw a number of surfers and surf-watchers in boats hanging out on the south side of the pass as we approached. The surf on the edges of the pass looked pretty awesome, but the pass was OK, and we motored right in.

With no wind for 2 days, the lagoon inside the reef was flat calm and crystal clear, and it was easy to find our chosen anchor spot in 8-9' of sand at 17-34.43 S / 149-52.14 W. Our choice of anchoring depths were 8' or 60', so we chose the shallow sand bank. We contemplated taking Soggy Paws further south into another anchorage shown in the guide, but we decided to anchor in the easy spot and take the dinghy down to check out the anchorage first--the way south was in a narrow channel through coral, and the sun would be a factor if we didn't like the anchorage and wanted to backtrack. There were 3 other sailboats anchored right off the town. We figured they were surfer boats. One of the three loaded up a surfboard and left right after we arrived.

We had a nice time exploring by dinghy--but were glad we'd anchored where we did. And we took a nice snorkel in the shallow sand and scattered coral heads.

As we were enjoying our 'sundowners' and admiring the sunset, we were surprised to see the other two boats pick up anchor and leave. But the next island in the chain, Huahine (pronounced Wah-heenee), is only 80 miles away, and so most boats leave late in the afternoon for the short overnight passage. And they did, in face, head off in that direction.
Anchored off Haapiti in Moorea
At 7/1/2011 10:54 PM (utc) our position was 17°34.42'S 149°52.13'W

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