This is Steve swimming with a manta ray approximately 25' below the surface.
June 1-5, 2011
On the east side of Bora Bora, we anchored near the posh resorts of the St. Regis, Intercontinental Thalassos, and the Four Seasons where they charge as high as $5,000 per night for a cabana over the water. We all got great exercise kayaking around the motus and resorts and snorkeling in the warm clear water. One day, we went snorkeling and actually saw 3 manta rays within the lagoon and managed to get some photos with our new Olympus underwater camera. It was an exciting sight as we have been looking for manta rays since arriving in French Polynesia and have not sited any previously. Manta Rays can grow to 18'; these were approximately 8'. We then moved on to the SE end of the lagoon near Matira Beach, where we anchored in 10' of water on two very calm, warm days. We kayaked and snorkeled from the boat, and spent a few hours cleaning the hulls of Dream Caper in these calm conditions. Beatty had fun helping us scrub. While looking for a handle from a broken bucket that had gone overboard earlier in the day, Beatty spied a Tiger Cowrie shell. After several tries, she succeeded in diving 10' down to snatch it up. It was a beauty, 3" long. Steve quickly cleaned the critter out so that Beatty could take her prize home with her. In the nearby coral gardens, we fattened up the small tropical fish with old bread and they showed their appreciation by swarming us wherever we swam. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at La Bounty Restaurant and a Polynesian buffet with a Polynesian dance show at a local resort. With weather warnings of high winds coming, we motored for two hours all the way around the lagoon back to the SW side where we tied up at a mooring at the famous Bloody Mary's Restaurant. Since we were only 50' from its well maintained dock, we decided to have dinner there and it was delicious. The floor of the restaurant is soft sand and they offer to check your sandals/shoes at the door. In the restrooms after pulling a chain, water cascades down a small rock waterfall at the bottom of which one can wash her hands with soap from a clam shell. We enjoyed spending time with Rae who was last on Dream Caper in 2002 in Martinique and Beatty who has occupied Rae's time since then. Having a 9-year old on board kept us all active and it was fun watching her first time experiences on the boat and in the water.
We have been carefully watching the weather and sea conditions this past week in preparation for our passage to Pago Pago, American Samoa with a possible stop at Suwarrow Island, Cook Islands. High seas and high winds are expected through Wednesday so we will hang out here in Bora Bora since we need to re-provision, do laundry, take care of some business on the internet and wait for some engine parts which we have ordered from Papeete. Since this will be a long trip in an area with variable sea conditions and weather, we have decided to use a weather service to confirm that sea and weather conditions will be favorable for our passage before we embark on this journey of 1100 miles. We have our own weather reporting services but just want to make sure our predictions agree with someone a lot more knowledgeable than us in weather and sea forecasting.
May 26-31, 2011
Rae and Beatty quickly adapted to living on board learning to conserve fresh water by washing their hands with just a trickle of fresh water and taking a shower after getting out of the sea with a light rinse of fresh water or to rinse out their hair of shampoo and their bodies of soap by jumping into the sea water, followed by a light rinse of fresh water. They learned to do the same thing with washing dishes and laundry. First wash in sea water followed by a light rinse of fresh water. Consequently, after 5 days, the four of us used only 6 gallons of fresh water per day. Rae was happy to be vindicated of her "unfair" reputation of using lots of water on a charter we shared into Tonga some 12 years ago. Beatty enjoyed her first snorkeling experience by marveling at the different fish. She quickly morphed into being a fish herself as the days went by jumping into the water at every chance. When we fed the fish at the coral garden south of Motu Teveiroa, Rae and Beatty were amazed by the numbers that surrounded us. A brightly colored triggerfish which have brazen personalities even tried to bite through the plastic bag holding the bread. An aqua and pink parrotfish with two buck teeth bravely grabbed some bread from us. We saw sea anemones with clown fish crouched inside. We fed the stingrays on a rainy day from the dinghy. Rae bravely stood among them and lightly petted them as Steve fed them squid. Beatty touched their velvety skin from the dinghy as it was too deep for her to stand comfortably. Portia and Beatty pedaled the kayak to Motu Topua and walked around the tiny island finding miniature shells and coconuts. Beatty chose the coconut that seemed to have the most liquid inside to take back to the boat as Beatty loves fresh coconut milk and the chewy coconut meat. We spent a morning in Vaitape, the main village, where Rae and Beatty did some tourist shopping, we had lunch at the St. James Restaurant overlooking Dream Caper at anchor, and we reprovisioned at the Supermarket. We than had 15 wonderful minutes of full sails up as we crossed Baie de Faanui where the winds rush through the valley and then motored within the lagoon to the eastside of Bora Bora. We have hooked Rae and Beatty on playing Mexican Train dominoes. We played late into the night twice with Steve coming out the winner both times.
This is the aqua blue waters in the lagoon on the SE side of Bora Bora.
May 19-25, 2011
After our enjoyable "vacation" with Sara and Bob, we immediately went into boat chores and repair mode. We went onshore and had two loads of wash done at Bora Bora Laverie, the laundromat. We decorated Dream Caper with our colorful towels, sheets and clothes for only two hours as the sun and wind dried everything very quickly. We spent one night on the west side of Bora Bora near the Hilton Resort and then motored within the lagoon around the northern tip of Bora Bora to the southeast side. The channel on the east side of the island gets very narrow in places as it winds through an area where the coral was blasted away many years ago to accommodate boats like ours. It is a one-boat-at-a-time channel at this point and we had to exercise extreme caution to stay in the channel especially with winds gusting to 20 knots per hour on the return trip.
On the east side of the island, the volcanic crater of Mt. Otemanu, the tallest mountain in the middle of Bora Bora at 2300', is clearly visible and is a stunning contrast with the aqua waters of the surrounding lagoon. We did some snorkeling here. The tropical fish are colorful and abundant in some areas however the coral is mostly drab. One local told us that the man-made pollution from the island that is washed by the rains into the lagoon is killing the coral. Another told us that the coral was exposed by low sea levels some years back which killed much of it. Another said that last year's cyclone wrecked it. There is a coral garden area here where the fish are abundant especially when one provides pieces of bread or fresh sardines. We watched a red octopus try to hide from us there. When we dinghy through shallow waters over sand, we can see sting rays and eagle rays "fly" away from us. In this quiet anchorage at the extreme SE side of the lagoon, Portia spent two days working! She had an arbitration decision to write for a hearing which she held in Arizona when she was back in the US. During those two days, our friends on SV Magenta arrived and 6 charter boats anchored near us; there was plenty of room. The sailboats we see here are about 98% charters. SV Magenta will leave Saturday to make the crossing to Tonga. We hope to see them there.
We returned to the west side to get ready for our good friends Rae and her 9-year old daughter, Beatty to arrive on Thursday. We tied up to a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht Club on its last day of operation at this location. We had hoped to get drinking water from them but they had just turned off their water. They have been here for decades but will move just south around the corner and be ready for business in 2 weeks. Their move may have something to do with being wiped out a few years ago by a cyclone from which they have not rebuilt. In Papeete, sweet drinkable water was free at the gas dock but in Bora Bora we have to pay for it; about $20 for 75 gallons and our tanks hold 160 gallons. So, we decided to "un-pickle" our watermaker (reverse osmosis that makes drinkable water out of seawater) which is powered by our generator. At the end of last season, we had drained the watermaker, put in the required chemicals to pickle it and shut it down. We kept our fingers crossed that it would work because one never knows on a boat if what worked yesterday will work today. But, voila! It worked beautifully. After 3 hours at 20-22 gallons per hour, we added 60 gallons to our tanks. It was also our lucky day at the local grocery store, they had lots of fresh packages of romaine lettuce from California and other nice veggies! We cleaned up Dream Caper and are now ready to have some fun vacation time with Rae and Beatty.
May 13-19, 2011
This week was great. We just played. After picking up Sara and Bob at the airport which is on the northern most motu (island), we motored to the southern most point of Bora Bora and anchored on the west side of Point Matira. Although the reef and lagoon totally encircle Bora Bora island, there is not enough depth to take a large boat around Point Matira and therefore circumnavigate the island. We piled into the dinghy to search out nearby restaurants and other sites of interest. When going ashore at our first stop, our guests got to experience going aground. Well, we just ran out of clearance between the lagoon floor/coral and our dinghy bottom which then required cocking the outboard motor out of the water and rowing/pushing until Steve could get out and pull us to shore. After doing the reverse procedure to get back on the water, we stopped at the famous Bloody Marys Restaurant which has a wonderful dock to land and tie up the dinghy. As it was happy hour time, we had a drink and then opted to have dinner which involved choosing ones meal by looking at a display of fresh raw fish and meat. Our meals were delicious and substantial, and the service, excellent. Now that it was night, we had about ½ mile to dinghy in the dark back to Dream Caper; another great experience for our guests. Luckily, the moonlight with the help of our flashlight illuminated the coral hidden just below the water and we made it back safely without hitting anything.
During the week with Sara and Bob, we took a 3-hour full circle private boat tour with Tutuea, a young handsome local, whose grandfather - he claimed - was a US GI, on a comfortable small boat with a 225 hp engine which quickly zipped us to the coral gardens, shark feeding outside the reef, the numerous over-the-water hotels around the island, and petting sting rays. The sharks were medium sized black tip reef sharks and a few large bottom lemon sharks which looked like nurse sharks to us. Tutuea entertained us by feeding the sharks and even holding onto the top fin of a docile 8 foot long lemon shark for a short ride, 30 feet below us as we snorkeled with the 20-30 sharks. To feed the sting rays we stood in waist high water as they "climbed" up our chests looking for sardines which we learned can be fed to them through the gills under their cartoonish eyes that sit on top of their flat velvety bodies. Tutuea said that these sting rays have been domesticated over the past 20 years of tourists feeding them and are now harmless. Maybe so, but we were careful not to step on them and inadvertently cause an inborn reaction of stabbing us with the stinger in their tails. Our days were spent snorkeling around our boat as we were usually anchored near coral. We had drinks at the "Mako Bar" at the Sofitel Resort which was located on a separate island mostly because it bore Portias sons name. We went to the Full Moon Soiree (Polynesian show and buffet dinner) at the beautiful Sofitel Resort which involved another night of dinghying back to Dream Caper after dark through minefields of coral which were luckily highlighted by the full moon. We tied Dream Caper to the dock at Vaitape, the main village; shopped and bought black pearl jewelry; ate lunch at St. James, a waterside restaurant; and replenished our supply of fresh baguettes. Sara and Bob prepared Chicken Cordon Bleu on board for a special dinner, and we enjoyed the camaraderie of being with good friends sitting on Dream Capers trampoline under the moon and stars. Sara and Portia have been close friends since their cheerleading high school years, and college break summer trips to Europe. Sara, a Ph.D history professor at Ventura College, retired last year and her husband Bob, a tax attorney, plans to fully retire within the year.
Sara and Bob carried some valuable items to us from the US: new netbook computer (ours died a month ago), a new electrical 110 inverter, some LED lights, and oatmeal. But most of all, they brought themselves! On our last night together they treated us to a scrumptious dinner at La Bounty Restaurant which involved waiting for a shuttle at the Vaitape dock while we were entertained by the 78-year "young" Polynesian man, named Simple, who filled us in on lots of interesting local information.
May 10-12, 2011
Tahaa to Bora Bora (30 miles)
We enjoyed Tahaa the short 2 days we were there. It is remote, lightly populated, very green, low mountains and has a reef within which one we can cruise completely around the island. There are many motus on the reef which are nearly sea level sand islands with lots of palm trees. After our first night anchored near a motu on Tahaa's east side, we moved just 3 miles south to Motu Mahaea where we anchored and then walked around the entire island. It took 15 minutes. We snorkeled for about an hour during which we collected some giant clam shell shells (intact) and saw a good size octopus on an abandoned fish trap fence, down about 6 feet. We then motored Dream Caper 1.5 hours around the southern end of Tahaa to the western side to a remote sandy beached motu called Ilot Tau Tau. Well, we arrived to find a very large resort of thatched roofed hotel rooms on the water in front of ¾ of the island! After we anchored in front, we dinghied in for a drink and to check the place out. It is a very exclusive resort named La Taha'a, which reportedly charges $1000-3000 per night. We had nice drinks for $20 each and checked out their fake grass turf tennis court. This resort was built 10 years ago. We need to get more up to date cruising guides!
On May 11, Wednesday, we motored through the west pass of Tahaa under blue skies and sunshine, and set sail for Bora Bora, 30 miles NW. Because the winds were light we motored with our sails up all the way. We arrived 3 hours later at the south end of the island and could see the beautiful swimming pool blue, aqua and dark blue waters inside the lagoon. There is only one entrance through the reef into the lagoon in Bora Bora and it took us almost an hour to get to it once we arrived at the island's south end. As we sailed along the outside of the reef, we marveled at the spectacular and dramatic sight of the two sheer faced mountains in the island's center rising seemingly straight up from the water's edge where over the water resorts have sprouted. Sail boats, small powered craft, and a sleek airport ferry plied the blue hued lagoon waters. Upon entering into the lagoon, we headed north and anchored in 10 feet, sand. We did some chores but in the afternoon dinghied towards the reef in an area designated as a "coral garden" where we snorkeled in crystal clear waters.
On May 12, Thursday, we motored Dream Caper just north of the main village of Vaitape where we anchored in 65 feet of water and took the dinghy to the ferry dock in search of a chandlery and hardware store. The village is very small with two supermarkets and lots of small stores. Once there we discovered that the chandlery and hardware stores were only a few feet from where we initially anchored. After buying baguettes, 4 small sweet pineapples, a pomplemousse (a very large grapefruit but sweet) and a ½ cooked chicken, we returned to Dream Caper for lunch and then took the dinghy just 100 feet to the chandlery and hardware stores. We then motored 1.5 hours north and anchored in 10 feet, sand, right by the airport. Tomorrow our friends Sara and Bob arrive early in the morning and we want to be close enough to dinghy in to get them. So, after spending lots of time cleaning up Dream Caper and making the guest berth presentable, the boat looks great! We decided that we are going to be on vacation during the next week that our friends are on board and just enjoy ourselves! It is VACATION time!
May 9, 2011 Baie Avamoa (Fare), Huahine to Pass Tohuato, Tahaa (30 miles)
From midnight to 6 am it rained nonstop as if someone was pouring water from a spout right onto the boat. The sound of the rain was thunderous and we could see lightning often brightening the sky. We both kept waking up listening to see if the rain was letting up but it just kept going. Amazing. The catamaran behind us during the beginning of the rain and wind gusts must have had their jib unwrap from the wind because we could see them on their bow with the deck lights on, cranking the sail in the pouring rain.
At daylight, the sky was broken with hints of blue sky here and there. We dinghied to the Supermarche in Fare for last minute provisions and then pulled anchor at 9:30 am. The weather called for 8-11' seas, 10-15 knot winds from the north. We motored through the pass, put up full sails and sped off to Tahaa. Well, "sped" for us is doing 7-8 knots per hour (9 miles per hour). We sailed all but 15 minutes of the 4 hour trip. A few rain squalls drenched us. As we approached Tahaa, we could see the motus (small islands) on the fringing reef. It reminded us of the San Blas Islands, Caribbean, off the north coast of Panama with swimming pool colored water close to the motus. We entered Tohuotu Pass and headed north to two motus close together. We carefully motored off the channel toward the aqua water. It shallowed to 9' in the darker water but once we entered the aqua water (sandy bottom) the depth remained between 13-16 feet. We anchored and after lunch lowered the dinghy into the water to go to the reef. However, between Dream Caper and the reef it became too shallow and our dinghy motor hit bottom. Steve rowed us out of trouble; Portia jumped in the water to drift snorkel with the dinghy until there was no more coral. At the boat, we snorkeled the coral bommies nearby. Lots of small fish.
With no boats close by, we took showers off the swim steps and then drip dried working on our full body tans on the trampoline in full sun. Yes, sun! After 5 days of mostly rainy overcast days, it was marvelous to have the sun visit us again. There are still clouds on the fringes of the horizon but overall we had 50% blue sky. Later, Steve made up some new lures. He is determined to catch some fish on our next passage, to Bora Bora! We dragged 2 fishing lines today all the way across from Huahine, 25 miles, and caught NO fish.