08/14/2008, Bora Bora
Today we took the dinghy out to explore the outer reef area on the east side of the lagoon. The motus running along the east side are connected to the barrier reef for the most part. However in the south end there is a big gap between the Piti Aau motu and the outer reef. There are many interesting coral formations in this area.
One large coral island rises up above the water just behind Piti Aau. You can approach carefully by dinghy and explore the island and its tide pools. There are lots of fish and many colorful clams in this area.
As we were getting ready to leave a Polynesian family arrived on their power boat. The wife tossed a danforth onto the rocky island (helping mother nature make sand of it) and they all came ashore. We said hello and then they headed off into the coral shallows. I wondered what they were up to and then I saw the wife prying clams from the coral with a big steel bar as the son followed along with a floating plastic box to house the harvest. I was pretty fond of all of the colorful clams on the reef. There are a lot of them at present however so hopefully the harvest is sustainable.
Once away from the coral island we headed through the submerged coral to explore the bank behind the reef to the south. There are some buoys here in the sand flats that we saw a tourist boat leaving from. As it turns out this is one of the shark feeding spots. We saw lots of little black tip sharks and several rays patrolling the grounds to ensure that all of the scraps had been cleaned up.
There were many other interesting areas to explore by dinghy on the southeast side and we had a wonderful day of it.
08/13/2008, Bora Bora
We moved the boat down to the southernmost anchorage on the east side today. The trek from the Saint Regis to the bottom corner of Motu Piti Aau can be made in two ways. We took the Motu side route but you can also go back north to the marked channel and pass over to the island side. The island side is deep water (40-80 feet) until you get down to Piti Aau. The Motu side is about 10 feet and you need to stay close to the hotel over water bungalows (but out of the buoyed swim barriers) as you go. The charts in this area are very out of whack. Our track took us right over several charted reefs that supposedly dry at low tide. We never crossed anything but white sand and though we saw 8 feet as we edged toward the middle of the lagoon, there was nothing less than 10 feet closer in on the motu side.
Once you pass the Intercontinental you can just eyeball your way down. Closer in to Piti Aau at the end of your trek you will come across some coral heads. You can zig though these and head straight into the anchorage or you can head back toward the big island into deeper water and come in farther south where the approach is a little less littered with rock.
The Piti Aau anchorage is gorgeous. It is mostly white sand on a very large 8 foot shelf. The bay in the southeast of Bora Bora's lagoon is bordered on the north and east by Piti Aau, on the south by a 2-3 foot white sand bank, and on the west by Bora Bora. All of this of course is inside the barrier reef. You are pretty protected ocean wise.
The bay does get shallow closer in to the Piti Aau motu, so you can't get too close. This leaves room for a bit of chop and wind when the trades are up. It still has our vote for best anchorage in Bora Bora.
When dropping the hook you do need to check the weather and your swinging room. There are enough rocks around that you could easily get your chain wrapped around one in a wind switch. Of course you can lie to 60 feet of chain and still be at 6:1.
We moved all the way into the anchorage. There are two boats, an old sail boat and a power boat, that are on permanent moorings up in the bay. If you draw 5 feet you can easily anchor in front of them. Until you know your way around you should enter during high sun and keep a good eye out because some of the rocks have less than 5 feet of water over them.
We put our hook down in about six to seven feet of water close to the rise. The wind was predicted to blow strong from the east for the next few days, but I still snorkeled around to make sure we could swing a 360 if need be. We spent the rest of the day settling in to our new spot, meeting the neighbors and snorkeling about. It was beautiful.
08/12/2008, Bora Bora
Today we decided to continue our hotel tour (after eating lunch aboard!) with a visit to the Le Meridian. The Le Meridian is the oldest hotel in the area and it looks it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you want the Ritz, go to the Saint Regis or the Bora Bora Nui, or perhaps the new Four Seasons (there is no Ritz). That said the Le Meridian reminds me of the old Polynesia, which I am only acquainted with through Walt Disney.
The main buildings are big and open with high pandana covered roofs. The bungalows are smaller and more reserved but still charming. The lagoon is big and beautiful and things look a little less perfect and a little more natural (after all the Le Meridian had first pick of the east side motu spots). But in my opinion, the best thing about the Le Meridian is the turtles.
The Le Meridian has a sea turtle sanctuary where they rehabilitate and raise sea turtles. Some are in pens to protect them as they recover but many are loose in the enclosed lagoon. You can swim and snorkel with them if you are careful not to disturb them. Teaching them not to fear man may not be the best thing for their long term survival. Humans are one of the turtle's deadliest predators, but I suppose you have to raise awareness somehow.
Our favorite turtle spent most of his time playing with (tormenting?) a damsel fish. Damsel fish are famous for being very territorial and will often go after creatures much larger than themselves who get too close to their layer (i.e. SCUBA divers). The turtle would swim boldly into the damsel fish layer and then paddle away as the fish nipped at his flippers.
It is fun to just walk around these resorts and look at the architecture and the landscapes. Most of the large modern resorts have really worked hard to create an idyllic setting. Beaches, trees, endless swimming pools, flowers, lagoons, Koi filled lily ponds and bridges with wandering paths all work together to create quite an impression.
08/11/2008, Bora Bora
There are really no designated anchorages on the east side of Bora Bora. The entire area along the eastern motus is good with few exceptions. For good or bad the whole run of motus on the east side is either developed or being developed. The first opulent resort you run into on your way south is the Four Seasons (opening in September of this year). Next (a stone throw) is the Saint Regis. The Le Meridian follows and they must feel crowded as they were alone here for almost 10 years. Following that is the Intercontinental Motu and then some smaller spots such as the Eden Beach and a place I don't know the name of at the end of Motu Piti Aau.
Today we decided to move down between the Saint Regis and the Le Meridian. Our primary reason is that the bay allows you to get fairly close to the palms and has good protection from the chop farther out in the lagoon. The wind is hanging in the 20s and we wanted to find a good spot for the conditions. The bay is also beautiful with views through the rivulets to the barrier reef and the ocean breakers crashing beyond. The bottom is all beautiful sand and 8-10 feet deep almost all the way in.
We also picked this spot because we wanted to visit the turtle sanctuary at the Le Meridian and look up our friend Eleonore at the Saint Regis. Eleonore worked at the Nui when we were married there and she handled everything for us. We owe her quite a debt and we looking forward to seeing her again at her new hotel.
The Saint Regis has been open about two years and is our favorite of the hotels on Bora Bora after the Nui (perhaps that is a sentimental judgment although I don't think so). Service at the Saint Regis is certainly excellent.
The Saint Regis has a lovely dock and I have seen charter boats tie up there to take guest ashore for the Polynesian dance shows on Wednesday nights at 8PM. They have a wonderful beach bar restaurant, a great sushi place and a nice proper restaurant and bar with views of the sunset and tables out on the dock.
We shared a drink with Eleonore and caught up a little before she had to get back to her busy schedule. It was wonderful of her to take time out to see us and update us on the latest in Bora Bora hospitality. We had lunch at the Beach Restaurant and it was wonderful. The prices are of course astronomical, at least for us, due to the weak dollar. The food was excellent but at a price for two that easily cleared $100 sans booze (with desert though, of course).
We walked around the grounds admiring the lovely beach, gardens and spa. As we crossed over one of the bridges to the small islets that for the base of the over water bungalow network we saw an interesting sight. Three eagle rays were playing in the current flying in formation but staying stationary over the ground below. We watched them for some time, enchanted. We also spent some time on the barrier reef, which the Saint Francis adjoins and has a nice walkway to.
After a full day we returned to the boat only to find our private anchorage invaded by three charter yachts. It is said that if no one anchors there, no one will anchor there, but if someone anchors there, everyone will anchor there.
08/10/2008, Bora Bora
I have never considered myself a Trekkie. Geek yes, Trekkie no. I loved the cheese of the original series but could never buy into the Next Generation or any of the other spin offs. I also gave up TV back in 1985 so I more or less missed the wave.
At a company I started with some friends in the 90s we began naming computer servers after Lord of the Rings characters. Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, Gandalf and the like. Then I hired a guy named Rob and he took things to a whole new level. We had a new data center coming up with lots of machines to name. Rob went the Star Trek route. I could keep up for a while with Kirk and Scotty, but then machines called Data and Quark started to show up. Rob was a sharp and fun guy. I decided maybe I'd better give the new stuff a try if for no other reason than to keep our servers straight.
Well as expected the new Trek is Sci Fi cheese with a lot of Triungulating Retrogamma Xeno particles, but it is fun. Hideko and I have watched little else when we are alone aboard since we left the US. We finished the three seasons of The Original Series (TOS), all of the original series movies, all seven seasons of The Next Generation (TNG), two of the four next generation movies and we just finished all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine (DS9). We are now starting into the seven seasons of Voyager (the hard core geeks will chastise us for not starting Voyager contemporaneous with DS9 season 4 but hey, they're in the D quadrant!). We have only the four seasons of Enterprise awaiting.
I suppose we will not be able to dodge the Trekie appellation much longer. I guess even Geeks need a break from paradise.
08/09/2008, Bora Bora
We set sail from For Lauderdale with a good sized collection of DVDs. We have movies, TV series and various other diversions to keep us busy on passages and rainy days. Cruisers love DVDs. Almost everyone has a laptop and thus at least one way of watching movies. While there's nothing wrong with exploring paradise it is nice to watch a cheesy Hollywood production now and again if just to get a taste of home.
While not surprised, I am disheartened to see how many places around the world sell stolen property. Movies are the property of the studio that created them (or whoever they've sold the rights to). Just because it is easy to copy a movie these days does not make it ok to steal. Large otherwise reputable stores are involved in some countries. "Would you like and original or a copy of that movie? The original is $30 and the copy is $5". Statistics show illegal DVD production as an important source of funds for many criminal organizations that are also involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and assorted violent crimes (mpaa.org).
I am surprised how many people, in particular those who know better, are willing to involve themselves in theft of intellectual property. Movies, navigation software, books, music, you name it. Stealing denies the property's creators of revenue they need to stay in business or, in the best case, just makes the rest of us pay more. Why otherwise wonderful people do this I can not understand.
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.