28th and 29th January 2013
Moorea. We enter the lagoon of this idyllic island through a gap in the reef which surrounds it. Before us is a scene out of prehistoric times and one almost expects to see pterodactyls soaring around the towering volcanic spires, or dinosaurs bellowing from the surrounding mass of greenery which rises from the slopes. However (and thankfully), there is none of that today, just sunshine and a vista beyond compare.
We drop our anchor, lower our tenders and open our platforms, preparing to take our guests ashore. The long Pacific swell even manages to penetrate the peaceful lagoon and much to my chagrin I have to keep our azipod drive system on, this is used to hold a particular requested heading, in our case, sufficient to provide a lee from the swell on our port side, where we are operating our tender service. The azipods are necessary, however I was hoping that I would be able to swing on our anchor without the necessity of them and thereby use one less diesel generator, thus saving fuel.
This is a far cry from Easter Island and within 2 hours the majority of our guests are off the ship and enjoying the island. For the first time in almost 3 weeks, my feet touch dry land briefly, camera at the ready. A group us head for a hotel, buy a day pass and enjoy the beach and sun. Other guests and crew have like-minds and there are many familiar faces to be seen. The water is 29C, or 85F, the sea is crystal-clear and in the distance I see some of the tour boats carrying our guests; they are swimming with sharks, (blacktips), sting rays and dolphins. Further out, the long Pacific swell is smashing into the outer reef, however inside the reef, the water is calm, sapphire-blue water.
Bora Bora. Conveniently, there is another gap in the reef, leading to yet another lagoon, however this one requires skill and judgement to transit. According to the pilot, we should have 7-8 feet or 2.5 metres under the keel as we go over the shallowest part of the reef entrance. It is only 300 feet wide, 100 meters or so. We have to watch our speed, ships are affected by ‘squat’, a hydraulic effect which is caused by the water being displaced by the ship not being able to ‘rush in’ as fast as it is displaced, this results in the ship ‘squatting’, or sitting deeper in the water. We calculate that at 6 knots in the shallower water, we will squat 0.4 meters, thereby effectively giving us a draft of 8.4 meters instead of the ‘normal 8 meters, still fine for the depth in the entrance channel, providing we keep that speed. As I am writing this from my computer on board, you can deduce that the arrival was uneventful.
This time, no swell and I am delighted to be able to take my azipods out of the equation and drift at anchor without them. Again, a tender ride to the dock at Vaitape, a small town on the west side. The island is surrounded by low-lying coral islands and it is famous for their ‘bungalows on stilts’ over the ocean. There are hundreds of them to be seen in the water, which is more turquoise and more blue than Moorea’s on account of the white sand. Four or 5 of these resorts are here, operated by some of the more ‘select’ hotel groups and in the high-season, prices can be $5000-$6000 a night! I am going to have to win the lottery…………