Heading West Again
15 September 2008 | Bora Bora
We got the boat set for sea this morning and dropped the mooring to motor out into the bay. Hideko and I were certainly rusty, we haven't sailed in the ocean in over a month! Strange given we live on a sail boat. We have a good preparation check list though so we put it to use.
Once away from the other yachts we turned head to wind and put up the main. I have heard a lot of opinions on how and when to raise the main. Every boat is different but opinions seem to be most relevant when applied to the owners boat, a good thing to keep in mind when considering adopting someone else's ideas.
I have found that on a yacht of 40 feet or less, raising the main at anchor or on a mooring is a reasonable and often easier approach. As the boat approaches 50 feet it becomes a bit more dangerous and less reasonable, particularly in windy conditions. The power behind a 1,000 square foot sail in a gust is not something you can man handle.
After bringing the main up we headed north toward the Paipai pass. This pass is pretty deep and wide and some of the cruising guides make it sound a bit scary. You would have to have some pretty severe southerly weather to make it dangerous in my estimation.
Once out from behind the headland the wind funneling through the cut between the islands picked up into the high 20s. We had to jib half way down the lagoon as the wind was right behind us. Once near the pass we made a gentle turn into the wind bringing the apparent wind back into the 20s.
There was a French Navy ship making its way through the wide pass at the time. We thought about standing off until she was through but the pass is so wide we decided to slow down a bit until the ship was through the breakers and then move on. We waved at the cheerful navy crew on the way by. Tuff life patrolling the viscous Polynesian waters...
Given the forecast, we had some pretty brisk wind on the 20 mile trip across. I think the draw between Raiatea and Tahaa has something to do with it, even out in the channel. The seas between the two groups also get a little mixed up.
The Tahaa Paipai pass exits in a southwest direction and once out we could not clear the south end of the Bora Bora reef on one tack without sailing deeper than 145 apparent. Without the spinnaker we can't really do much better than 145 and double handed with 20 some knots of true wind is decidedly not spinnaker territory.
Once around the Bora Bora southwest reef marker we headed up which brought the wind onto the beam. The wind was gusty on the west side of Bora Bora and although the gradient wind was out of the east, the island seemed to whip it up a bit with some directional variability. Shortly we were surfing down the gentle four footers on the back side of the island as speeds up to 13 knots. This is always fun but things happen fast at 13 knots. We were coming up on the pass and the next thing you know there's a slow sailboat preparing to enter the pass under power, two small power boats exiting, four open fishing boats moving around the area, a sport fisher zig zagging back and forth in front of us and fish aggregation buoys flouting around all over the place.
You do have a lot of steerageway at 13 knots though. Snaking through the various hazards (none of which were apparently interested in our right of way status as a sailboat) took all of our attention. Once close to the pass we rolled up the jib, headed up and dropped the main quickly, so that we didn't run anyone down, and then followed the monohull into the pass.
Though we have spent a fair amount of time in Bora Bora we had never stayed at the Bora Bora Yacht club. This is perhaps the oldest of yacht hang outs in Bora Bora. It is often crowded as well. It is late in the season however and we were lucky enough to find a mooring. Within minutes of picking it up the last two were gone.
The yacht club is in a nice little bay just across from the pass, easy in and easy out. It is a short hop to town but far enough from it that you aren't "in town". The yacht club itself is a mooring field and a nice dock with a bar and grill. The food is supposedly fantastic with a Los Angeles trained chef. They also have bikes for cruiser use and a nice barbeque area for yachts to use.
We arrived on a Monday and the kitchen is closed on Mondays, as are most things in Bora Bora. We met some kindred spirits at the bar, which was open. Thulani, Decorse Spirit and Chante Foc all yachts we have run into at various points along the run from Panama.