Saturday, July 7, 2012
Day 2 of the Pacific Puddle Jump group’s rendezvous at the beautiful island of Moorea was a full one with dance and craft demonstrations as well as numerous sporting activities for the cruisers to participate in. The premier events were the outrigger canoe races. Men and women from our group divided into 4 person teams to compete while assisted by two skilled locals who help steer and keep us out of trouble. While neither of us were on winning teams, we gave it our all and had a wonderful time. A feast of traditional Polynesian cuisine was served midday followed by more sports and an awards ceremony. Due to our 4th place finish in the rally/race from Tahiti the previous day, we were awarded the prize of a 4-wheel drive vehicle island tour. We were thrilled!
When the events of the day concluded, most everyone returned to their boats for a quiet evening aboard. What began as a quiet and peaceful evening was soon to change.
Around 10pm, as were were about to climb into bed, we stepped into “Blue Rodeo’s” cockpit to enjoy, for a few more minutes, the warm, tropical breeze and twinkling stars above. Mark noted that a few clouds had begun to move into the area and that lightning was visible in the distant southeast. Soon after, we felt the first sprinkles of a rain shower and scampered about closing our boat's hatches. As often happens in the tropics, the gentle rain quickly turned to a downpour and visibility dropped to a few hundred feet. Suddenly, the wind began to blow with great intensity and, within moments it was absolutely howling. As Mark moved through the cockpit, straining his eyes to see the boats upwind of us, he glanced at our wind speed instrument that was reading 40.8 Knots (about 45 miles per hour). In the darkness, we could see that several boats, in the crowded anchorage upwind of us, were dragging their anchors and in serious trouble. Our anchor was holding fast but we quickly started “Blue Rodeo’s” engine and shifted into forward gear to relieve some of the strain on the anchor and give us a bit of maneuverability in hopes of dodging any boats that might come toward us. During the downpour and shrieking wind gusts, we could see several boats careening by, wildly out of control. Some collided with others and a few managed to miss other anchored boats by mere inches. At one point, a woman’s voice, who we knew to be that of a solo sailor, called out on the VHF radio with an urgent plea for help. While we desperately fought to avoid nearby boats, others, who were less vulnerable, bravely took to their inflatable dinghies and raced about in the blackness offering help where they could. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 20 to 30 minutes, the worst of the storm had passed and lights were seen on decks of boats all around us as crews assessed damage and re-anchored. At some point near midnight, our adrenalin rush subsided enough for us to go to bed a get some sleep.
Mark’s sleep was interrupted at 5am though when he awakened to find that the wind was once again building in strength and, even worse, had shifted direction by 180 degrees. Two nearby boats, one that had blown by during the storm just missing a coral reef and another boat, were now coming together and had fouled each others' anchor chains. The one trying to raise anchor and move away needed help so Mark quickly launched our dinghy and raced over to help untangle the mess. Within a few minutes, the boats were apart and one was slowly motoring away to another part of the bay. That area, where many of those that had dragged anchor ended up, became jokingly know as “Drag Queen Bay” during the next day’s many radio conversations among the fleet. When all was said and done, it is very fortunate that no one was injured and that no boats were lost. It was though, an episode that we don’t ever care to repeat.
Compared to the excitement that night, the next few days were rather peaceful and relaxing. We took our 4-wheel drive tour, along with several friends, and visited some spectacular overlooks, pineapple and vanilla plantations, archeological ruins and a distillery were we sampled some delicious, locally made, flavored rums.
Our remaining days in Moorea were spent doing the usual boat chores, socializing, snorkeling and visiting the famous Bali Hi Hotel in nearby Cook’s Bay. We have seen some truly beautiful places on our South Pacific adventure but is is hard to imagine that we will come across any that offer the same dramatic skyline, lush green hills and vivid blue waters that we found here. Oh well, we guess that we’ll just have to keep moving on, searching for the next paradise.