08/08/2008, Bora Bora
Hideko and I decided to circumnavigate Bora Bora in our dinghy today. It was a little choppy and overcast in the morning but not too bad. We loaded up the dinghy with the portable VHF and the cell phone (standard equipment), as well as lots of sun screen and some snacks. We brought our garbage and empty gas cans as well.
Shooting Star was almost broken in. We were looking forward to completing the break in so that we could go down to a 100:1 oil mix. The break in mix has much more oil and produces dirty exhaust while reducing performance. It does of course allow the engine to smooth out with appropriate lubrication.
We took a route south through the five markers that outline the pass from the motu side of the reef to the island side near Point Puhia. This is a tricky bit that must be followed carefully in a big boat as there are bits of reef everywhere outside of the natural channel.
Once in the Bay of Haamaire we headed south around point Tuiahora. This point has a lone monolith of volcanic rock rising 10 meters above the promontory. Patrick took us here to look out over the east side of the island. Upon reflection this was a valuable exercise. Coming in and anchoring in the safe well charted west side of the island and then doing an island tour with lots of vista stops, chart in hand, would be an excellent precursor to an exploration of the poorly charted east side.
We motored back into the shoal area of Yairou Bay, carefully dodging the coral heads. This rocky area is so easy to see from the point but sort of jumps out at you when you are down on the water.
From there we headed south to Aponapu Bay. Along the coast we noticed many docks and support stations for the large ritzy hotels cropping up all along the eastern motus. For environmental reasons almost everything is built and assembled on the main island prior to being delivered by barge to the motus, where posts and entire over water bungalos are simply craned into position. Anau is the only sizable town on the east side of Bora Bora but we did not see a dock or the rumored gas station there (though we did not look hard).
The fuel ran out somewhere in Aponapu Bay. Hideko and I quickly mixed in 5 gallons of gas on top of the 100:1 two stroke oil measurement. As we worked we drifted toward the shore where a bunch of silly kids were playing in the shallows. They did their best to entertain us, quite successfully, as we worked. They beckoned us to join them but the water there was a bit too skinny and our trash a bit too stinky to detour.
We headed southeast from Aponapu to Taurere, the southern bit of Motu Piti Aau. There is a beautiful anchorage here well protected from just about every direction sea wise. Most anchorages on the east side have little wind protection due to the low motus and shallow banks or hotels that keep you from snugging up too close to the palm trees.
We saw O'Vive here and stopped to say hi to Dave, Nathalie and crew. They were really enjoying the spot they were in. After collecting all of their snorkeling recommendations, and their trash, we headed back to sea, er to lagoon.
Heading west we passed below Point Paoaoa where the Club Med is located. This is an all you can eat resort as best I can determine so while they have a nice dock there's no real reason to stop there as you can not get food or beverage as an outsider.
Next along the coast is the Sofitel Bora Bora Beach resort. They have a sister resort across the lagoon on the second of two small motus along the south side of the reef. There is a Teppan (Japanese barbeque) restaurant here and a nice dock. Next is the Mai Tai resort which has a nice moderate restaurant. Also in this area you will find the Avis car rental and a good basic market across the road.
From the Mai Tai we headed south toward Matira Point where the Intercontinental Resort is located. The water here is skinny (the chart says 0.5 meters) but there is a staked channel you can follow with good results in good light. You basically travel a B line from stake to stake leaving the stakes on the island side but carefully steering around big black spots that crop up in the track line from time to time. Around the west side of Matira you have Matira beach where the cruise ships dump their burden. It is a nice spot with several Snacks (European for small casual lunch spot).
At the north end approaching Point Raititi there is a lovely bay. While you can not take a big boat around Matira point you can sneak around Raititi from the west side if you are careful (or follow a crewed charter boat). The old Hotel Bora Bora, oldest of the great hotels on the island, sits on Raititi point. It is old but timeless in a way and certainly a classic place to visit.
After rounding Raititi Point we headed north across the well trod Bay of Povai. It was a choppy if short ride to the passenger harbor of Viatape. We tied up in the northeast corner (our favorite spot), locking the stern and motor to a cleat and tying the bow up to a bollard. I don't think the lock is necessary here but better safe than sorry.
Walking along the quay we ran across the crew from Free Spirit, a Catana we had met in Moorea. They were getting ready to head off to Tonga. We wished them fair winds and made the short walk to the gas station to fill up the gas jugs. I got the gas at the Chin Lee station and Hideko picked up some groceries and the Chin Lee grocery. After taking the trash to the dumpster we were ready to head out.
Once back on the water we headed around the point to look for the fuel dock. Paul and Michelle from Free Spirit clued us in as they had just been there to fill up. The little bay just north of Viatape and directly across from the pass has a fuel dock, the Top Dive resort (which I understand is just a dive outfit now), and the Saint James, an acclaimed restaurant with a nice dinghy dock.
The next bay north is the home of the Bora Bora yacht club. The yacht club has a bar, a restaurant (that should be open again), moorings, wifi, laundry and other yacht services. The moorings are reasonably priced and it is popular with many yachts, although we have found plenty of nice spots to anchor at no charge.
Passing point Farepiti we headed into the large and deep bay of Faanui. This bay shoals around the edges but the large central area is at least 60 feet deep. The back end of the bay houses an abandoned marina project. You can explore the neatly carved out basins but each has a rock reef with less than three feet of water (down to even one in places) guarding its entrance. Perhaps the logistics of clearing these barriers contributed to the shut down. The north side of the bay has various little harbors and docks nestled into it. In particular you can still see the old US submarine base.
Heading around the northwest point of Tereia we reentered the large deep water channel that we used with the big boat. Still in exploration mode we decided to visit the airport on the northern most motu, Motu Mute. The approach is not really marked but the bottom is nothing but glorious white sand for almost the entire way in. You can basically follow the deep water channel until you are due south of the airport dock and then just head north (clear the shoal at the green marker before you turn). Once you close on the airport it gets very skinny, not sure but could have been two feet in some spots. There's a reason all of the hotels with large boats use shoal draft power cats. We hadn't been to the airport for three years so it was fun to look around again, though I wouldn't rate it as a top tourist attraction.
From the airport we inched our way through very skinny water down toward, but well off of, motu Ome. Once past the rocks and shoals between Mute and Ome the bottom drops to 6 to 10 feet of beautiful sand, allowed us to get back up to speed in the failing light.
We tied back up where we started after a wonderful day looking around this spectacular island.
08/07/2008, Bora Bora
Hideko and I had a relaxing day today. We filled up the dive tanks enjoyed the beautiful view from the cockpit and worked on projects around the boat.
Our washer dryer went on the fritz about a week ago and I finally decided to check into it. After crawling into the access area in the skinny part of the bow I discovered that the power cord connector just inside the case was burned up. Best I can tell the plug was not making good contact and started heating up. Seems to be going around. I disassembled it and contacted Splendide by email. Their US support is pretty impressive and very responsive. Spare parts pricing, on the other hand, is not so impressive. I think I will rewire it myself, make it marine grade and add a breaker!
This anchorage turns out to be in the lane of traffic between the hotels to the south and the airport to the north. Also many circle island tour boats run through the area. Some leave quite a wake. It also seems that the jet ski tours are instructed to pass by as close as possible to any yacht they see (or is it my imagination?).
As we relaxed on the foredeck in the afternoon we saw Patrick go by! It was so cool to see him again. He was in an outrigger with a boat full of guests, steering with his feet while playing a uke and singing Polynesian tunes. It reminded me of our wedding. He stopped on the way to a nice picnic spot on the motu he takes guests to and said hi. All of his guests were having a great time. It made me want to take a tour with him just to hear the songs.
08/06/2008, Bora Bora
Hideko and I have been having a true Bora Bora vacation. Thus when the alarm went off at 6:30 AM it took me a while to shake off the haze. Our friends from Rahula were still aboard and needed to get back to their boat in order to make good their offing to the Cook Islands. After checking the dinghy over everything looked set. James had already loaded Shooting Star up so we were off in short order.
The lagoon was a bit calmer this morning and we had drained the hull of the dinghy after our scuba dive outing yesterday. Shooting Star planed up with no problem and we shot off across the lagoon toward the yacht club.
After a fun trip around the north side of the island we cross loaded all of the dive gear and crew onto Rahula who had waited patiently on her mooring for our return. After a goodbye with hopes for a reunion down island I headed back out across the lagoon. Rahula was getting underway as I rounded the corner.
Back at Swingin' on a Star Hideko had made a nice breakfast after which we decided to take Roq on his first tour of Bora Bora. Roq had a nice trip around Fatu Hiva and a little jaunt around the harbor in Tahiti and Moorea but had yet to see Bora Bora up close.
He is getting to be an old boy and Hideko and I had to help him into the dink. Once aboard we motored around the motus in the area and explored the interesting cuts that separate the otherwise unified islets. The cuts go back part way or, in some cases, all the way to the barrier reef. We found some with still lagoons in deep water, others with super shoal sandy bottoms and still others with moderate depth and soaring coral heads. One had trickles of water from the breakers on the reef creeping in and the next had waterfalls of water rushing over the two foot drop between the barrier reef's shelf and the lagoon below. It was eerie and wonderful to see the ocean and the lagoon in one frame and with a couple feet of height difference. It is miraculous to think how independent the lagoon is from the massiveness of the Pacific Ocean all around it.
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.