08/05/2008, Bora Bora
Hideko and I met James and Amelia in Shelter Bay marina waiting to go through the Panama Canal. I crewed for them on Rahula, their Woods catamaran, on the way through the canal a few weeks before we made it through. They are wonderful folks and both have great British navy backgrounds. James has captained war ships and is a very competent skipper, one I would have no second thoughts about sailing with.
We had all decided to head over to the east side of the island for a dive at a site the Lonely Planet guide calls Manta Reef. I'm not sure that we found the actual dive site but we had a great day.
Rahula was on a mooring at the Bora Bora Yacht club. These moorings can go fast and many of the protected anchoring spots in that area and in the Povai Bay are in 70 or more feet. In order to be sure that they would not lose their spot we motored over with Swingin' on a Star and everyone jumped aboard. James, Amelia and Mark, a friend visiting from the UK, zipped over in their dingy so that we wouldn't have to raft up in the gusty winds. Once everything was aboard, James took their dink back to Rahula and swam over to Swingin' on a Star as we drifted by in neutral.
We motored around the north end of the island through well marked deep channels. I had been looking at our electronic charts and French Chart 6002. This chart is THE Bora Bora chart. Ours was updated through July of 2007. Reading the fine (French) print one discovers many interesting things about the best chart of Bora Bora money can buy. The chart is WGS 84. The good thing about this is that key land marks and Nav Aids will be located on the chart where your GPS shows them in person. That said, the less used areas of the chart are not all that accurate so while they are WGS84 they are just as wrong. The actual surveys were taken in 2001 for the heavily used West side, not bad. However most of the island is 1954 survey with some actually dating to the WWII American surveys of 1945 (US chart 5745).
The Guide to Navigation and Tourism in French Polynesia is helpful and provides good aerial photos of the island. My favorite guide for Bora Bora is, again, Charlie's Charts. There is only a single sketch chart but it shows the yacht anchorages along with enough detail to give you the basic routes that are viable, but little enough to ensure you keep your head out of the book and on the water. Once you know your way around all of these east side routes can be sailed in the dark. It could be a fatal mistake to attempt anything but a good light, +/- 2 hours from noon transit on your first go however. (In particular, the anchorage in the southeast end of Motu Piti Aau where there are many coral heads in the 7-8 foot sand.)
We had Amelia and Hideko on the bow, both heavily experienced in finding marks and reading the water. It is always fun to have extra crew to help out. Exploring uncharted, poorly charted or wrong charted places is part of what a trip like this is all about anyway. Amelia's vision was astounding and she continually picked out marks before anyone but the birds of prey flying overhead could see them.
The water is deep and wide as you head north toward the airport on Motu Mute. There is a squeeze between a Green (Ocean/Motu side) and Red (Island side) mark at Point Tahi, the northern most point of Bora Bora. From here you head East-Southeast for about 1,000 meters to the South Cardinal across Paorie Bay. This is the first interesting zig in shoal water. The bottom is 10 feet or more but you must make a tight turn to the north around the cardinal to head up to the near by Red mark and then a tight turn to the east. The bottom outside the described route is typically 10 feet or more with the exception of the coral heads that rise within a foot or two of the surface here and there.
You exit this little passage into a deep blue area of 15 to 30 feet just off of the Northeast chain of motus. The bottom in this area is perfect sand with very good holding. We picked a nice spot and set the anchor. It was a good compromise between the dive site to the south and the trip back to Rahula.
Hideko made us a great taco lunch as we all geared up for a dive. Amelia had recently been diagnosed with an ear problem that relegated her, unhappily, to snorkeling. After getting all of the gear together the five of us piled into Shooting Star and we set off for the dive site. I had never been unable to get up on a plane with our 25hp Yamaha before. Five folks and their dive gear in rough chop seemed to be the limit. As we plowed along in displacement mode several waves made it over the side. Everyone was happy to be wearing wet suits.
The dive site we were looking for was about half way down the length of Bora Bora in the Bay of Yairou. The reef that runs along the center of the lagoon on the east side leaves 10 feet of water on the Motu side but more like 80 feet of water in deep bays on the island side. We found a few buoys but none really seemed like a dive spot. We settled on a spot on the reef that looked like it had some interesting coral heads around for Amelia and was reasonably close to the drop off for the scuba contingent.
I could be described as anal when it comes to dive safety. I try to keep my opinions to myself unless asked for or in the presence of actions I consider dangerous. I was impressed at the professional way James handled the dive gear and preparations for himself and Mark. It is more fun to dive when you are with a group that takes safety and protection of the environment seriously. At least for me.
Our dive worked its way out to the wall over steep coral formations ranging from 30 feet to 0 feet. Right below the boat we discovered an interesting eel and many fish flitting about a large rock. The coral heads on the bank looked to be mostly fire coral and rose up in long walls that forced us to swim over them rather than around. This gave us a little more of a saw tooth pattern than I would otherwise like but not too bad. I had never seen such huge chunks of homogeneous fire coral before. We reached the drop off and descended to 70 feet and then worked out way back up the reef.
The visibility was not fantastic. The windy days have stirred up the sediment from the shoals which drifted out into the bay with the surface current and then rained down upon us. We saw some big puffer fish, lots of interesting coral formations, black pearl oysters, and lots of other interesting things though no large animals came around (was hoping for the mantas advertised).
We got back to the boat after a nice hour dive to find Amelia still looking about. She had stayed in the water to avoid being wet and cold in the windy dinghy. The ride back didn't make us much dryer with wet suits and BC flooding the bilge and chop splashing over the side. Hideko valiantly bailed as I motored us back to Swingin' on a Star.
Once on the big boat everyone took hot showers. Hideko and I had hoped to entice our friends into staying for dinner so that we could spend more time together. It was getting late in the day and after promising to zip them back to Rahula first thing in the morning our ploy worked.
We had a lovely dinner of steak frites with ice cream and home made butterscotch sauce for desert. It was a wonderful day and a great time spent with friends.
08/04/2008, Bora Bora
It was another blustery day. This bay makes windy days gusty days. The wind will die, get caught up in the hills, and then come down in a torrent from various directions. It makes it hard for folks to reliably anchor here in the 75 foot bottom without a good 300 feet of rode, though the bottom does hold well.
Bora Bora has its fair share of gorgeous days in the Austral winter (June through August) but many days are mixed. It looks like it's going to rain often but rarely does outside of the high eastern slopes. You can pretty much ignore the weather unless you have a highly confident rain prediction. Even so it usually passes quickly.
The lagoon is rather large, much like some of the Tuamotus. This means that winds steady over 15 knots get the opportunity to build up quite a chop in the larger bays. Taking the dink upwind can be a rough, and sometimes wet, affair.
Shooting Star, our AB VS12, is dry in almost all conditions, though you may get some spray. Now that we are used to getting places fast the ride can be rough sometimes. The Saint Croix helm seat makes a big difference here. Sitting on the tubes can bounce you around, and sitting on the fiberglass locker lid can bruise your backside. The console seat is in the back of the boat, which moves the least and has the most inertia, and it is also padded nicely. We also have Adjust-Once Saint Croix trim tabs to help the boat get up on a plane quickly. I believe these make a material difference though I have yet to remove them to make a comparison. I plan to cut down the transom a few inches so that the prop is fully clear of the hull. Perhaps I'll do a test without the trim tabs then. The boat gets up on a plane without too much problem now but it always cavitates a bit initially as you work it over the hump.
We caught up with our friends on Rahula over the VHF today. They were preparing to leave for Tonga but we talked them into staying an extra day to go scuba diving with us. Should be fun.
08/03/2008, Bora Bora
Dave from O'Vive came by today and we had a nice catch up. They have been having a great time on their South Pacific excursion. I hadn't realized it but Dave's plan was always to sail from his home in the Florida Keys to Australia or New Zealand and then sell the boat so that he could get his kids back in school after only one year off. Dave has done a lot of work on O'Vive to bring her up to globe trotting specifications. She has two water makers (come on Dave, water makers never break!, har), a complete cockpit enclosure, a sweet barbeque, great downwind rig setup, SSB, nice dinghy, and everything else you would expect.
You can find out more at the O'Vive web site: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/eauvivecrossing/
Made me think of the Maltese Falcon for sale, now anchored across from us in the bay. Dave's boat is easier to dock and can get into much better anchorages.
08/02/2008, Bora Bora
It was another rather windy day. Our position in the northeastern area of the bay was keeping us from being able to connect reliably to Iorana Net, even with the antenna. There is a small café north of Bloody Mary's called Kaina Hut that we had walked by the other day which advertises free internet. We decided to take a lunch trip and get our very behind blog updated.
We took the dinghy over to shore directly across from Kaina Hut and tied to a palm tree at the water's edge. It was high tide and this made the approach fairly eventless. After navigating the shallow river in Huahine with our new dinghy I have come to have great confidence in its ability to handle shallow waters. Our old Walker Bay was great in skinny stuff too but I think the AB is even better. The Walker Bay had a keel and as you loaded it down it gained draft faster than the AB, which has 18" tubes. The AB also has a flat bottom from the mid point aft and the bow is Veed but curves up keeping the draft thin.
A big issue with squeaking through shallows is of course the prop location. The good and bad of this dinghy is that the prop does not completely extend below the hull. Yamaha suggests that the prop be completely below the lowest section of the hull to avoid cavitation. AB specifies a normal shaft outboard for this boat yet the normal shaft Yamaha leaves the prop about 15% shadowed by the hull. This does cause some cavitation when trying to get up onto a plane. On the other hand it makes the prop very hard to bottom out. If you tilt the engine up you can still trawl along with the entire prop protected by the hull. I would be surprised if the boat draws 6" with Hideko and I aboard and the engine tilted up.
Kaina Hut is a lovely little place. It is like a small Bloody Mary's from an ambiance stand point, though it is brighter and perhaps a little more refined. Unlike Bloody Mary's you order from a menu here and the menu is more balanced rather than fish weighted. It is equally as expensive however and lunch for two with a cocktail and desert can easily run well over $100 US with the current exchange rates.
We had a wonderful lunch and fantastic deserts at the Hut. One of the owners was there and the service was very good. We couldn't get on the net at first but after rebooting the hub we had no problem and the Internet access afterwards was the fastest I've had since the US. We spent so much time online that we had to race with the laptop battery to get the blog updated.
Like every place we've found on Bora Bora except for the large hotel bars (some of these serve a more or less room service menu between meals) Kaina Hut is only open for lunch and dinner in specific time windows. The bar is open in between but if you want to get food at odd hours the little Café at the north end of Viatape is the only spot I know of.
The tide was out when we returned to the dink and it was looking really thin on the way back. The location we had tied up is a little grassy park like spot used as a look out and complete with a picnic table. The key is to make it out to where the local boats are stowed up on their lifts, from there on you're in deep water. We motored most of the way out with the engine tilted up and then ground to a stop. The wind was so strong that with no keel and a tilted up motor we had to crab along and there wasn't always room to go through the rocks sideways. So we broke out the paddles.
Hideko and I have not developed a team operation when it comes to paddling just yet. It is actually more like the keystone cops. Fortunately we didn't have far to go before I could get the prop back in the water. We passed by a local guy on one of the boat platforms rigging hooks with bait. He seemed well entertained by our antics. As soon as we passed him we dropped the motor and acted as if everything had gone to plan as we made our way back to the big boat.
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.