08/01/2008, Bora Bora
The wind was cracking this morning averaging about 20 knots. There was a good little chop running in the bay and out on the sand bar, where some boats were still anchored it was a good one to two feet running.
We checked in with Dave on O'Vive and he indicated that the water was still clear out there and it looked like a good day for a dive. Don't have to mention that to us twice. We piled the gear into the dink and ran out to O'Vive to pick Dave up. His crew was ashore enjoying the beach so it was just the three of us.
It was a good day to be wearing a wet suit in the dink. We splashed along the reef edge between the cardinal marks until we reached the eastern most buoys just outside the channel around the west end of Toopua motu. This is a big snorkel drop off for the hotels in the area but if you head toward the bay you get to a nice wall with a 50-60 foot bottom.
We all rolled off the dink and swam out to the wall. There was no real current to speak of and the water was surprisingly clear given the disturbance top side. It was a lovely dive and the reef formations here are really interesting. We saw tremendous amounts of the local variety of giant clam. The colors of their mantels are so vibrant and varied. We saw electric blues and greens, vivid browns and purples among others. We ended the dive in the snorkel territory which is wonderful because it is still great diving and you get you safety stop in at the same time.
Back on board we bashed through the chop to O'Vive, putting a few gallons of salt water into the dink on the way. It was nice to catch up with Dave again. Back at Swingin' on a Star we took the rest of the blustery day off and enjoyed some Deep Space 9.
07/31/2008, Bora Bora
We were anchored in Bay De Povai, lying to about 300 feet of chain in 75 feet of water. Deep anchorages have several draw backs. First you need to have a lot of rode to put out to get any decent kind of scope. We're lying barely 4:1 and we are sitting on 300 feet or chain. Second the bottom is way down there and if there is any problem with the ground tackle it is going to be a big chore to sort out (SCUBA required). Third you need lots of room. This setting put us in a 600 foot diameter swinging circle.
We were well set and not concerned about dragging but when you drop the hook and then put out 300 feet of chain it is harder to be precise as to you final resting point. At present we were between a nice Super Maramu and a pretty Naiad. You never know what kind of scope other folks have out and if the wind is shifting you often don't know where their anchor is either. Depending on the wind we ranged from "fine", to "closer than I would like but ok" to the Naiad.
Hideko and I decided to take a trip in for lunch around 3:30. This is not wise as it turns out. We went to a lovely little Polynesian style café just up from Bloody Mary's but they were closed. Bloody Mary's was selling booze but no food until 6PM. After asking around we decided to try the main town of Viatape.
We tied the dink up in the back corner of the main Quai. We didn't lock it but thought about it. I have not heard of any dinghy thefts in FP buy I was dismayed and surprised to hear that O'Vive had a gas tank stolen in Raiatea and another cruiser reported electronics stolen out of the big boat.
There is one place to eat in Bora Bora outside of the hotels that is open off hours that we have found. It is a little café on the left side of the road just north of the passenger docks across from the Chin Lee grocery. We had crepes and a sandwich and a yummy tiramisu. The Internet prices here were crazy. The 10 minute rate was about $5.50 US.
After picking up some things at Chin Lee (no fresh milk today ?) we made a fast trip back to the big boat. The wind was finally coming around to the forecast and picking up. Unfortunately the way the Naiad was sailing on its anchor and the way we were swinging were not complementary. As we motored up to Swingin' on a Star I could see that we were just going to be too close with the new wind.
We were facing 180 degrees away from where we had originally anchored. We were the last ones in so we were the ones who would have to move. We tied up the dink and quickly up anchored, reset to the new wind. Unfortunately we ended up close to where we started. The sun was setting and it was a new moon but there was nothing for it, we just could not stay in this spot with 300 feet of chain out. We tried to find a hole closer to land to get some shelter but in the end we had to go outside of the other boats. The good thing was we could anchor well off of everyone out there even if we would have more wind and chop. It was very dark and some boats had no lights on, which made things more challenging, but we ended up in a great spot well set with all of our chain out.
07/30/2008, Bora Bora
The wind was coming around to the east southeast today but had not built up too strong just yet. Georgie and Hans from Arbuthnot stopped by for a visit. They had just arrived in Bora Bora after helping some friends on another yacht search for their lost prop in Tahaa. The first person to invent a prop that never comes off will make a lot of money.
It was one of those, we're not leaving the boat days. Very enjoyable.
07/29/2008, Bora Bora
As always there's some cleaning up to do after guests depart. Our guests are generally wonderful and leave nothing out of order but you still need to wash sheets, wipe down heads and all of that.
After a slow morning of relaxing and cleaning we decided to snorkel out to the floating dock on the sand bar. It was a good long invigorating swim. We saw sting rays and eagle rays on our swim along with many little fish hanging about the various isolated coral heads. Once there we climbed up on the dock, which is some work as it is a good two or three feet above the water with no ladder. We took some great pictures and jumped off a few times before heading back.
You need to be careful out this way when swimming because many jet skis and power boats use this route. In all the hustle over the pas few days I had not managed to recover our dive flag, which would have been a useful safety precaution. On the way back we located it, almost vanished beneath the sand. I was surprised it was so well concealed after just a couple of days. I made one concerted effort to pick it up and had no problem clearing today as I swam straight down to the flag. I grabbed it and made a necessarily quick ascent from the 40 foot bottom. My free diving is not what it used to be, I need to practice. I feel lame being able to only barely recover items at 40 feet. We were recently chatting with friends on Arbuthnot (sp?) who were hunting at 60 feet in Fatu Hiva (and bringing back some big fish!).
We surveyed all of the coral heads between us and the exit around the west end of Toopua as we dinghied over to the NUI in the late afternoon for lunch/dinner. The weather is supposed to get fresh over the next few days and come around to the east southeast. Tonight into tomorrow would still be from the southwest though and getting up into the 20 knot range. This is fine for us even in an unsheltered anchorage but depending on how the reef breaks down the seas in this area the chop may make things no fun, killing the snorkeling and making dinghy rides wet.
We had another idyllic meal at the NUI. As at most resort here, the food was good (sometimes, but rarely, great) and very expensive. The dollar is so beat up and prices were so high to start with that a nice lunch for two runs about $100.
We had met a friendly pair of Japanese tourists at the Roulottes in Tahiti and after a short discussion we discovered their daughter worked at the NUI. As we walked back to the boat we ran across her and found out it was her last day working at the NUI. It was nice to chat with her after meeting her wonderful parents. We also discovered why the parents were out, she had just gotten married and was moving to France! Omedetou Naoko San!!
We were also trying to look up Elenore the guest relations manager who did such a wonderful job with our wedding. She had unfortunately relocated to the Saint Regis. We would have to try to visit her there.
We had a choppy ride back in the dingy. After considering conditions and the forecast we decided to move back to the bay by Bloody Mary's. It is a deep anchorage but it puts the island between you and the wind, and though it can be gusty because you can' get up close to the shore due to depth and reef at least the water is pretty flat. It also allows you to huge the coast in the dink and make reasonable trips to town or various other spots ashore. So we raised the hook and slowly motored through the windy channel around into the main bay. It struck me that this was the first time Hideko and I had been underway alone since Margarita Venezuela.
07/28/2008, Bora Bora
Nobu and I got up early today to edit a little video together from the raw footage he shot underwater yesterday. It turned out nice with a soundtrack including a local Bora Bora tune and a Crystal Method track. We burned Nobu a DVD of all of the photos from our travels together as he packed.
Once we had things wrapped up aboard we headed to the main town on Bora Bora, Viatape. Nobu was set on getting a Marquesas style tattoo in French Polynesia before he left. He looked at a shop in Tahiti that he had a recommendation for but once you get a tattoo you have to stay out of the salt water. That is hard to do in French Polynesia. Best get the tattoo on the last day. The Tahiti guys recommended a fellow named Marama on Bora Bora. Marama had won the international tattoo competition the prior year and seemed a good choice.
So we tied up in the back corner of the main tourist boat dock and began asking around for Marama. He was down by Matira Point, a good 4 miles south of town as it turned out. A cruise ship was in the harbor and there were no buses, taxis, goats or other conveyances to be had. So we started hiking and hitching along the way. Just out of town a wonderful lady picked us up. As luck would have it she lived right next to Marama!
At Marama's shop Nobu looked over the art work samples and gave the thumbs up. Marama asked if he wanted a tattoo and Nobu said let's do it. Little did we know that this just doesn't happen. Marama it so popular that he is typically booked for days if not weeks. Every other person that came in after us (and there were many) was turned away with a quote of next week. There must have been a cancelation or something but luck and serendipity was not to end there.
Nobu would be busy for the next few hours so Hideko and I walked down the beach to the Hotel Maitai, a small but nice place on the water with a few obligatory overwater bungalows and a nice beach restaurant. Shortly after ordering some lunch Hideko exclaimed, "that is Patrick". Patrick was the Polynesian priest who had married us on Motu Tapu three years before! I couldn't believe it. I went over to say hi and he greeted us warmly. He was with his daughter who was visiting for the summer.
Patrick is the ambassador to Bora Bora as far as we are concerned. He knows the traditional cuisine, the history, the people, the tourist spots and the cultural ones and just about everything else you could imagine. He has 4x4 tour trucks and great outrigger boats. He arranged an awesome dance and music troop for our wedding as well as an Ahima'a feast.
I dared to ask if he was available to show us around the island so that Nobu would have one good tour of the place before his flight. Not only did he take us on an amazing tour, including some fantastic vistas from his family property but he wouldn't let me even pay for gas at the end of it! If this is Polynesian hospitality I wish the whole world was Polynesian.
We wrapped up the trip at the town dock. We said a fond farewell to Patrick and promised to catch up with him again before we left. Then we walked Nobu over to the free airport ferry at the town dock. Hideko and I were both very sad to see Nobu go. It was a tough goodbye and we will both miss his bright smile.
07/27/2008, Bora Bora
We put a bridle on the dink this morning and made our way over to the little bay between Motu Toopua and Toopua Iti to the southwest of Bora Bora. This bay is spectacular and runs about 35 to 40 feet deep all around. There are coral heads here and there some as shallow as 15 feet though I found none any closer to the surface. You can find spots of perfect sand large enough to allow 360 swinging but most are smaller, fine for 90 degrees but requiring a re-anchor (or a reef unwrapping) if the wind moved more.
Another option is to head out toward the barrier reef where there is a huge expanse of perfectly pure white sand in about seven feet of perfectly clear water. There is an isolated floating dock out on the bank that is fun to snorkel to and dive off of.
We anchored in 40 feet just off of the Bora Bora Nui Hotel, where we and our wedding guests stayed three years ago. It is an incredibly picturesque hotel. As the lights came up in the evening illuminating the stone precipices of Motu Toopua we were carried back to the very day.
We had an agenda however. Nobu was leaving for Japan tomorrow! We were really going to miss him. It was as if he was part of the family, a long lost little brother or something. Nobu started his Advanced Open Water certification in the Galapagos and we wanted to finish it up before he went home. He had done a deep dive at Kicker Rock off of San Cristobal and a Peak Performance Buoyancy dive in Wreck Bay. His Navigation dive was in Moorea and we now had to check off the Videography dive and the night dive here in Bora Bora. Rough line up of dive sites, huh?
As soon as we jumped into the clear blue water we spotted rays swimming along the bottom and a turtle up by our anchor. We snorkeled around for a bit first to ensure the anchor was well set and make sure that the various coral rocks and larger heads in the area were outside of our swinging radius. Everything looked good however we noticed that a fair amount of power boats motored through here during the day and early evening. Some taking guests to and from the hotel, others just making a nice island circuit.
We took the dive flag with us as a precaution but the flag came off as we snorkeled about. Nobu and I found the flag in 40 feet of water. I tried a few times to free dive down and grab it but my left ear wasn't clearing. I could clear it by stopping my descent but after two stops to clear I didn't quite have the range to grab the flag. We made a mental note of the location and decided to grab it with scuba rather than spend more time. We were burning daylight.
Back at the boat we broke out the video rig. I realized, with remiss, that I hadn't used it since the last time we were in French Polynesia. We had shot some footage with the camera above water but hadn't used the housing in almost three years. It was all nicely put away in its Pelican case with one exception. The camera is just a basic Sony Handycam. The housing is the Sony Marine Pack housing for that series of cameras, which is pretty nice. The housing has a tray for the camera (screws into the tripod mount) and the tray just snaps into the front of the housing. The back has a small LCD that you use for viewing and you plug this into the camera. There is also an underwater mic, which is fun even though you pretty much just hear regulator sounds unless there are dolphins or whales around.
The mistake I made was leaving the 4 double AA batteries that power the LCD in the camera! After three years they had of course corroded and munged the little wire contacts they sit on. Nobu's Videography dive was at stake so we got out the soldering iron, electrical tape, small bits of wire and hot wired the rig. It was tricky reaching all of the little wires without damaging anything but we got it up and running.
There's a big scary looking coral head in 40 feet of water that gets up to about 15 feet below the surface just past the south channel entrance to the bay. Nobu and I picked this as the dive site. Nobu navigated us out on 110 magnetic and back on the reciprocal. The marine kit comes with a great wide angle lens and a red filter all of which Nobu tried out. If was a nice dive and we ran across the biggest moray eel I have ever seen in my life!
Once back on the boat we broke down the video gear and gave it a good rinse, changed over tanks and got ready for the night dive. We had a good hour and a half surface interval and Hideko helped us get everything set up so that we could hit the water just after the sunset. We zip tied a chemical light onto the anchor chain at 15 feet and set off for the same coral head to see who might come out at night. It was a totally different dive. In particular it was very dark as there was no moon and even some clouds on the horizon. The compass played a very important role in the conditions.
Nobu's primary light died five minutes into the dive. He switched to his back up and after confirming that he was ok going on with only my backup between us as a spare we proceeded. Once at the coral head we discovered a host of new denizens, including three inch long white snake like eels, droves of scurrying cleaner shrimp, soldier fish and many others. We did a lights out drill to see the bioluminescent critters flitting about. It was a fun dive.
The vis was no better than our lights on the way back and we passed the boat up by a bit. We put out our lights to look for the marker light but couldn't see it. Fortunately Hideko could see our location (it is very easy to see dive lights underwater at night from even a pretty good distance) and shined the ships spot light down in the water. This thing is as bright as the sun and hard to miss. We quickly navigated back to the boat and did our safety stop at the marker light. I cut it away and stowed it in my BC as we surfaced to avoid an incident when weighing anchor.
Back at the boat we rinsed the gear off and cleaned up for dinner. We had decided to eat at the Nui. They have a beach restaurant and a nicer restaurant upstairs. I love the beach restaurant for it's lack of walls and sand floors. You just can't be up tight in this place and it oozes Polynesian flair. We had a wonderful last dinner with Nobu looking out over the beautiful lagoon of Bora Bora.
07/26/2008, Bora Bora
Bora Bora holds a special place in Hideko's and my heart. We were married there and it was a magical time. Everyone aboard was excited to drop anchor in her crystal clear lagoon.
We left Huahine with no issues and the starboard rudder seemed to be doing a fine job solo. The auto pilot wandered a little more than usual but nothing to be concerned with. The sun was in my face on the way out so I focused my attention aft and used the transit on Huahine to guide us out with Hideko on the bow watching the marks.
We raised the main sail just outside of the pass. The wind, and the forecast for the wind, was light and we would likely motor sail much of way across to Bora Bora. I was contemplating pulling the jib out as we cruised near the Huahine reef to enjoy the view. Then I heard Nobu yelling from the side deck. Nobu's English has gone from not so good to very good since I have known him and I am constantly impressed by how fast he picks up languages (Spanish, French, English)(and how slow I do). Yet I could not understand what he was saying here. I was concerned.
Then I looked to where he was pointing and I saw two Humpback whales. Wow. Hideko and I had been in whale territory so many times but had never seen them. These two, a moma and an older baby (my guess), were sleeping on the surface. As we approached on a tangent they woke up and began to swim parallel to us. It was an awesome experience none of us will forget.
The seas picked up a little as we passed out from behind Huahine but squelched again as we entered the lee of Raiatea and Tahaa. We sailed and motor sailed along the north side of the leeward societies enjoying the outline of Bora Bora as it grew clearer and larger every minute.
The Bora Bora pass, there is only one, is on the west side of the island in the middle of the reef. We had a nice tour of the island as we approached the east side, sailed along the north side and turned down the west side.
As we came down toward the pass I noted some very large breakers on the reef. The swell was from the southwest as was the wind. Not optimal for entering a west pass. As we approached I watched a freighter exit which gave me some confidence things were reasonable. We dropped the sails and approached south of west due to the tide setting northwest. The single rudder was a bit more noticeable in the rip of the pass with the wind blowing a good 20 knots.
Once inside the lagoon we headed south to the anchorage in Bay de Povai just north of Bloody Mary's dock. Bloody Mary's (a popular restaurant) has about 10 moorings in this area but they are highly contested for. They are supposedly for guests of the restaurant but this restriction is not widely respected by the cruisers present nor enforced by the restaurant. Many boats anchor here though the bottom is consistently 75 feet in the area. We found the holding to be good with a mud bottom and put out our entire 300 feet of chain to get a 4:1 scope.
Once the boat was secure we all cleaned up and headed over to Bloody Mary's. This place is perhaps overrated but only because the rave reviews are so extreme. It is a really cool spot. Sand floor, big hard wood stumps for bar stools, pandana roof with no walls and the menu is whatever fish they have freshly laid out in a canoe full of ice. You order by pointing at what you want and everything is grilled. Very expensive, awesome vibe, and good food (sometimes great).
Hideko and I had our rehearsal dinner here and this was our first time back. It was a lot of fun and we were glad to share the spot with Nobu who seemed to have a great time as well.