Hell and damnation! I haven’t had the best of months in regard to losing stuff overboard. First, my much repaired and slightly beat up Royal Highland blue ensign and flagstaff went overboard on our trip down from Rangiroa when the rod holder the staff was in broke off. Tragic!
Then as we turned into the entrance to Bora Bora a gust caught my favourite hat, given to me by Georg of ZigZag in NZ and off it flew. An emergency drop of the main later (good MOB drills practise), a hard turn to a return course and slow search pattern could not find it.
I am bereft.
And more than a little annoyed.
Ah well. Enough whingeing. But sorry, Georg. Only so much advertising done for you!
As we left Raiatea through Pass Rautoanui, just S of the Carenage, Frans came and saw us off. A skilled surfer, he’d been on the reef and saw us pulling out. We said our goodbyes and looked forward to seeing him and the rest of Sangvind in Tonga.
The 25Nm sail to Bora Bora was an easy broad reach and then run as we cleared the wind shadow of Raiatea with no more than 18kts app showing. Boat speed went as high as 9kts but averaged 6.5kts as we spent most of the time goose-winged with full main and genoa to the SW corner of the reef surrounding the island.
It felt great and as the last time we would use the current sails, a nice way to sign them off. After all the cloudy, wet weather with mucky wind, it looks as if the SE Trades have started to re-establish themselves. Blue skies, winds still a little reinforced, often at 25+kts, but it is starting to look to being the kind of weather we want to see to push W in.
The girls decided that they need to get some photos with Bora Bora in the background and we got some nice ones.
We were passed by a couple of charter boats who, inexplicably, drove towards the island with reefed main and engines on. Why do you come all the way to French Polynesia to hire a yacht and on a perfect sailing day, motor? Hicks.
Going around Bora Bora inside the reef takes a little care. The route around the N end of the island to the anchorages on the E side is shallow and you need to have draw less than 8’ to be comfortable. There is one cheeky dogleg between a S cardinal and a red but the rest of the trip down to our anchorage behind Be and Be at 16 29.294S 151 42.135W in 9’ of water was easy. We did ignore two reefs shown on the Navionics mapping I had but I think they must have been sand banks at some point that have disappeared. Certainly we had 10’ of water beneath us as we crossed them…..slowly and carefully! Water colour is what I go by when in shallow water here, not mapping data. An important lesson. The bottom shape changes frequently and you must trust your eyes and judgement. Oh and go slow, just in case you do have a brain fart!
We anchored just as Be and Be headed into dinner and to watch a show at the Intercontinental Hotel, just to our S. We decided we would have a quiet night and recover from all the fun we had had with Quatra and Sangvind over the last few days. We got to watch our first sunset over the island which was a good one from the anchorage off Hotel St Regis.
It took just one water taxi charging past us at high speed at 5m distance for me to deploy the big torch on strobe which I choose to use to show them we were alive, awake and not going to put up with inconsiderate driving. There are, sadly, lots of hotel taxis taking the herd back and forward to the main island.
By mutual consent, Be and Be and ourselves moved down to where Plastik Plankton had described as the best anchorage in Bora Bora in a bay at the SW side of Motu Pitiaau. We had a go at getting in to the very shallow water, chickening out as the depth showed 3’. We anchored at 16 32.045S 151 42.257W in 7’ on powder like white sand in the company of a few charter boats and a couple of liveaboards. The place is gorgeous, rimmed by coconut trees, shallow water, quiet but pretty sterile and a spectacular view of the mountain. It reminds me of the Bahamas. Huge areas of white sand and very little living on it. Saying that, there is a lot to be said in parking up with this kind of backdrop!
After the deeper water of Raiatea, everyone was keen to get back in to enjoy the water again. With life at its simplistic best, we did little more than relax, found the local magasin to get bread and just got all laid back. The kids alternated between boats and the adults would “retire” of an evening to the empty one and let them get on with kids stuff whilst we had some quiet time. It was a good arrangement.
We had talked with Peta and Geoff about Shelby’s ambition to get scuba qualified back in Raiatea and I had offered to take her down to see how she coped. We had a small bombie 20m behind us and we decided that at 3m it was a perfect easy start for her to see if she liked it. After an hour of talking through equipment, hand signals and actions on, we dropped in, watched the fish as she got comfortable and just as we were to ascend, up swam a stingray, coming for a look at us. Shelby came up with a smile. Stand by, Be and Be. I think you have a convert on your hands!
Reputedly one of the best snorkel sites in Bora Bora is a drift E-W at Taurare in the Motu Pitiaau’s SE corner. You tie your dinghy up at the SW end of the beach, walk E along the shore, go out over the old exposed coral bed and then jump in. The initial water depth is cheekily shallow, the current fast and you need to be careful. Lou got a graze as she thumped on to a rock. Once the water speed calmed down it was an ok drift but the coral wasn’t in too great a shape.
The next day we dinghied to another site to the S of a motu, 700m E of Point Matira, the southern most point of Bora Bora. There we found another coral garden which was far nicer. Known by the dive companies as the Aquarium, with deeper water (3-5m), a lot less current and bigger bombies, the fish life was excellent. A couple of days later, we went back a second time and Shelby and I dropped in to feed the fishes (who were quite used this) and to explore the garden properly. Two dives in and she has already got a good feel of buoyancy already. Next step – her Open Water qual. Perhaps Tonga or Fiji, I hear.
One of the local guides rocked up and topped everything we had seen by feeding a Giant Moray Eel he said was known as Lady Gaga. He tempted her out of her burrow with chunks of fish. When she didn’t come out far enough he dropped the fish and then pulled the eel bodily out! She was over 2m long. You wouldn’t want to put your hands anywhere near her mouth.
We moved back up to use Hotel St Regis’s facilities but unfortunately we met a sharp little man on the dock who was not keen to let us in. With a new asking price of $25 a head (and we would need to make a reservation as well – which “couldn’t” be assured) rather than the $25 to tie up the dinghy Be and Be paid a week before, it simply wasn’t value for money. Geoff dinghied around to the Meridian where the welcome was even less pleasant. Having parked up and walked up to reception, he was told in no uncertain terms he wasn’t welcome and had to ask that the security hoods (x2) took their hands off him as he was walked back down to the jetty. I can understand that the hotels wish to maintain their exclusivity but the attitude of the (NB – non Polynesian) staff has been generally rude. It’s as if they don’t like kids………
We moved around to the Intercontinental where we had a far more pleasant encounter. Although the pool man apologised when he said it was paid guests only for the pool, he did say that the kids could play on all the beach toys including a peddle boat. Geoff complained about the strength of the Mai Tais but only that they were too strong! Nice place, nice people and my thanks to Iris at the Concierge desk for helping me with a return to the agent. But I’m not sure if I’d pay $11000AUS (or 6k UK pounds) a week per head – room only but with flights from Aus included.
Geoff, Eleanor and myself went on a dive with Topdive to the dive site Anua, known for its Manta Rays. We saw a turtle and a couple of clown fish and that was it. Both boats followed our movements in the hope of seeing Mantas with us but no luck.
We swam a long way looking for them in, for here, pretty poor vis (15m). The Topdive crew, Ana and Arthur, were good guys and were honest enough to say that the Bora Bora diving experience is a poor one in comparison to what you would find in the atolls. No big surprise and I concur. The good dives here involve Humpback whales outside the reef who can be found from mid May on. We will hope for better in Nuie and Tonga. The upside was that they was happy to fill my bottles and did so for the princely sum of 1000XFP which is the most reasonable price I have paid anywhere in the Pacific. They were also happy to let the kids run riot and use the dive boat as a jumping platform at the end of the dive.
We moved back round to the W side of Bora Bora and took a free ball at the Mai Kai Yacht Club and Marina. It really is just a restaurant, bar and dinghy dock which shares an infinity pool with a small pension next door but it is very nicely done, has free internet, strong enough to be picked up at the boat and the staff are great. And it has a happy hour bringing the prices down to a reasonable level for an hour a day. We met up with Phylis, Emma Louise, Reao and Be and Be for a few nights of festivities. Good times!
Our sails arrived in Tahiti on 27th Apr (years of fun for a little less cost than a week at any hotel here!), sadly too late to get the boat up to us before the May Day holiday. It took until the 4rd May for them to reach us. The genoa was quickly fitted, a good bit bigger than the old and looking very shiny! The main took longer as I had to put in all the batten ends, a slightly nervous affair as it involves 8 screws per fitting and I really didn’t like drilling holes in the new sail. My thanks to Craig, Geoff and Steve for their help. Well done, Lee Sails for nailing it. Both sails just perfect.
The weather had still not settled into the Trades that we hoped for. However, with time running out on us and with a long way to go in seven weeks to get to Fiji, we needed to get moving. Geoff and I had been having daily Councils of War, looking at, speculating and discussing the weather as far E of us as Fiji and the big winds S of us charging past NZ and its effect on our weather. We decided that a suitable window was forming, which looked as if it would give us a good push across towards the 1000Nm to Niue. We took the sad decision that we would need to bypass the Cook Islands for two reasons. Firstly, the wind were looking to be 20+kts in the Cooks for some time, not time we had to wait. Also the World ARC is scheduled to reach Nuie about the 24th May for a week, taking all the balls and meaning we would have been unable to visit. Nuie or the Cooks? One had to go from the schedule. If we only had more time………….
Booking out was a bit of a palaver. The local Gendarmerie were no problem at all although the girls were very disappointed not to get a stamp in the passport as we are still EU citizens. I dare say that will all change in a couple of years but then UK visitors will be restricted to 3mth visas to French Polynesia like the rest of the world. Bizarrely, you also require to get final clearance from the Harbour Master’s office in Papeete. Why I don’t know as all you get is a email from them and it isn’t part of the paperwork you are required to give when you reach your next port of call. It arrived 24hrs after we had requested it.
We took on a little fuel at the fuel dock 200m S of the Mai Kai. Be aware that the fuel dock requires a copy of your tax free certificate, boat papers and green entry form. You need to supply the copies as they won’t make them. No docs; no fuel. We paid 80C/l for diesel and $1.60/l for petrol.
After a (extended) happy hour with Emma Louise, Reoa, Phylis, Be and Be and ourselves, we had a fine last night with Steve and Cheryl back on Skylark, we providing the rice and they the curry they had made earlier. An excellent time was had by all. We said our goodbyes to Craig and Aron and Mick and Kym as I doubt we will see them again on this trip. We wish them all fair winds and safe sailing.
After hitting the Super U for one last round of baguettes, we left Bora Bora just after dawn on 6 May with blue skies and light winds. With some of the best visibility we have had here, we looked back at the spectacular sight of Bora Bora with Raiatea and Tahaa, another 25miles further E, standing clear. A beautiful way to sign off on these islands.
To shorten the passage W to Nuie and to wait for the weather and wind to arrive, we left Bora Bora and sailed the 30miles to Maupiti, the rarely visited and second to last island in the Societies chain.