09/19/2008, Bora Bora
The Gendarme that we checked out with yesterday was a nice guy and told us that we had 24 hours to leave once clearing out. The big task after clearing out is getting your bond back. Americans and Japanese (and most other non EU passport holders) have to post a bond to enter FP by yacht. The bond is approximately equivalent to the amount of a flight home. This made the Japanese bond 176,000 fp francs and the US bond 150,000 fpf. We hit the Gendarmerie at 4PM yesterday but the Socredo bank (holders of our bond) closed at 3:30.
The bank opened at 7:30 this morning so I arrived bright and early to get things handled. In order to make for a fast get away I decided to dinghy over to the Saint James restaurant dock one bay over from the yacht club. The Saint James is in a little plaza with a computer shop and a nice bakery with yummy breakfast items. A half block farther toward town and you are at the big grocery store, the chandlery and the Socredo Bank.
I purchased the bonds with my credit card and thus expected the symmetrical credit. Nothing doing. They would not credit my card. I was very insistent but they would not budge. This is not only inconvenient but seemingly unreasonable. If you can charge the card, certainly you can credit it? The cash amount is over $3,000 US. They suggested I take francs. The last thing we needed was more francs, we had just cleared out!
In the end I had to settle for US and New Zealand Dollars (good in the Cooks, Niue and Tonga). We made about 10% on the US dollar over the three months we were here, not sure whether to be happy or sad about that.
I made my way back to the boat with a stop at the pastry place. It was 10:00 when I returned to the boat. It was getting late to make Maupiti in good stead for clearing the tricky pass. After a nice breakfast, we had the dinghy up and the big boat ready to go by 11:00. Then I noticed that the bank had taken my clearance out and not returned it. They, of course, close from 11:30 to 1:30. So we enjoyed one more day in Bora Bora.
It was choppy in the lagoon but we ran the dinghy over to the Pearl Beach Resort on the motu across from the yacht club just to check it out. It was the only large hotel on Bora Bora we had not yet taken a look at. It was a nice place with the expected over water bungalows and all. The location was not optimal however. This resort, like the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort and Spa, faces the east and there is a fair amount of fetch off the resort beach. This makes the dock and beach of the resort choppy quite often. If you're going to visit Bora Bora and stay in a hotel our recommendation is still #1 Four Seasons or Nui (tie), #3 Saint Regis.
After lunch we returned to the bank to get our clearance papers. We also stopped at the Total station, the only fuel dock I know of in Bora Bora. We picked up a little 5 liter emergency tank for the dinghy that I had been looking for. I was surprised that the station did not take credit cards. Some yachts must run up a pretty serious bill which has to be rough on the cash reserves When we returned to the big boat I downloaded weather over the yacht club's Iorana Net WIFI site (you get one free hour a day with a mooring). The Bora Bora wind guru report among other resources indicated that wind and seas still looked good for Maupiti tomorrow, so we turned in early to prepare for a crack of dawn departure.
09/18/2008, Bora Bora
It was our three year wedding anniversary today! We were married here in Bora Bora so it only made sense to enjoy our anniversary here as well.
We had a relaxing morning. I made lattes and we thawed out some of the frozen Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants which are actually really good) while our recently repaired washer dryer reduced the size of the dirty laundry which had been building for some weeks.
We took the dinghy around to the east side of the island and visited the new Four Seasons hotel for lunch. They just opened on September 1st and it is a really nice place. I still have to give the Bora Bora Nui the number 1 rating here because of its location, laid back style and bar/restaurant with the sand floor. If you are looking for sterling service and great food I would have to give the Four Seasons the nod and it is now clearly my #2 with the Saint Regis coming in third.
It is not only our anniversary but also the anniversary of Chile's independence. There was a group of Chileans at the bar where we had lunch and they were whipping up some crazy drinks with the bar staff made from distilled wine. They graciously included us in their celebration. The beverages were very tasty and very dangerous.
While I could still see to drive we departed the Four Seasons and made a circumnavigation out of it. We dinghied back around Matira point on the way to town to clear out. I think that this is the longest we have been in one country for a few years. It has been over ten weeks in French Polynesia for us. If they would let us stay another six we would. Things as they are we will be off to Maupiti tomorrow on the way to the Cook Islands.
Clearing out was easy and the Gendarmarie guys were very easy going (contrary to the cruiser rumor mill I had heard). They cleared us out even though I told them we were leaving tomorrow. The bank was closed so we couldn't redeem the "make sure you have enough cash to fly home" bonds we purchased upon arriving anyway.
After a quick stop for dog food (it is a long way to the next Purina dealer) we headed back to the Bora Bora yacht club. The cruisers in the anchorage were having a BBQ and we didn't want to miss it.
After a quick turn around at the big boat we headed into the yacht club with a steak to split (still full from lunch) and enough of Hideko's yummy tomato and cucumber salad to feed several cruisers.
We had a great night with a very interesting group of folks. Yachts Honalee, Plan B, God Spede, Slap Dash, and Thulani where there with their crews of two or three. Most are heading west soon just like we are. We look forward to seeing them in the next harbor.
09/17/2008, Bora Bora
We took a bike ride around Bora Bora today. It was a lot of fun and I've been wanting to do it for a long time. The Bora Bora yacht club has bikes you can use for free and they're pretty nice beach bombers. You get a totally different feel for a place when you ride a bike around it, as compared to taking a car or a dinghy for that matter.
We hit the ATM in Viatape to get some cash (only the Bank of Tahiti seems to work for us). The yacht club only takes cash which is kind of a bummer because we're trying to leave the country with 0 French Polynesian Francs.
We ate lunch at a snack (lunch place in french) on Matira beach. It was a lovely day out and the beach here is wonderful. Before we knew it Patrick came by. He was teaching some kids how to fire dance (without the fire). It was great to see him again.
As we made our way around to the east side a full blow squall came in. It was crazy windy and Hideko and I got cooled down by the stinging rain. It was amazing how fast it went from beautiful to nasty. You couldn't see it coming on the west side. The GFS had predicted overcast and here it was.
It never rained long or too hard. By the time we reached the north side of the island the sun was out again. We made one last stop to pick up a few things at the chandler and grab a 10 pack of frozen chocolate croissants from the grocery before we headed back to the boat.
We were going to leave tomorrow but tomorrow is our 3 year wedding anniversary and we got married here so we figured we'd enjoy tomorrow and take off the next day. Still looks good for a Maupiuti pass entrance so we're looking forward to the next stop as well.
09/16/2008, Bora Bora
We haven't been around other cruisers for a while. Last time in Bora Bora we were alone on the east side most of the time, although there were charter boats about. There were a few other folks in the yard at Raiatea but we were trying to get out of there with every spare moment. We were also the only cruisers at the Marina Iti, though there were some nice charter folks there also. Everyone has headed west but us stragglers.
The Bora Bora yacht club is a cruiser hang out though. It is nice to talk tourists stuff, routes, weather and official-dom with similarly minded folks again. We have heard that Fiji is having Dengue Fever problems, Palmerston Atoll (in the Cook Islands) has 8 new moorings with comfortable protection from the north around to the south and that the French Customs in Bora Bora are as much of a pain as the ones in Tahiti (you can't check out until 30 minutes before you depart...). It is advisable to double check the factual nature of the cruiser network, yet there is usually some truth to most of the flow.
We are working on the boat a bit today. We removed the aft edge canvas tracks when we finalized our side curtains with snaps. This left holes in the glass and some rust stains. Nothing some gel coat and a little elbow grease can't fix. It is so beautiful here it is hard to work, at least we're outside!
09/15/2008, 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.
The weather is finally coming around but this morning it seemed like we ware in for one last gasp of disturbed air. It rained most of the day to day. We spent the day enjoying the beautiful harbor and calm, if wet, conditions. The Marina Iti/Yacht Club is a perfect cruiser hang out especially in these conditions. The manager, Maui, is a very friendly and helpful fellow. He is from Bora Bora but went to collage in California and speaks perfect French and Californian. They have a full bar and fantastic food.
There is a pearl farm base next door to the Yacht Club and you can take a walk through the Marina Iti gardens to visit. They will give you a complete run down and demonstration of the pearl making process.
After a rough night with squalls and stink exhaust from the Paul Gauguin, I was woken by a wrap on the hull. It was 7AM and the guy who runs the fuel dock wanted us off. As it turned out we wanted to top up with another 60 liters or so now that our tanks had fully equalized.
I told him I wanted diesel (in French) and he said go in 5 minutes and walked away. We were having communications problems? I asked again to get diesel. He got nasty and once again insisted I get off of his dock (which was really the city's dock).
Of course the wind was up over 20 again and blowing from about 20 degrees off of the port bow with us starboard to. Swingin the stern out would be tough due to how close Jellyfish was behind us, our wide beam and the wind trying to put us back on. Also once backing off I would have to stay on it hard to clear Jellyfish and avoid the dock that curved around on the far side. Springing off by the stern was a no go with the ship on the dock off the port bow.
As I was considering all of this I began stripping the lines down to just a bow and stern. At this point I had apparently over run my allotted five minutes. The owner or manager of the Shell station returned and untied our bow line and threw it aboard the boat without a word. I was standing on the dock watching the 20 some knot wind begin to peel our bow off the dock with the stern still tied up.
After a few seconds on time stop disbelief I jumped on the rub rail and grabbed the bow line and quickly made it fast again. Fortunately the wind hadn't gusted around to starboard and I had enough line to make fast.
So not only was this lunatic not willing to sell me diesel but he was also willing to put our home and the yacht behind us at risk. I was on the fuel dock, yes, but no one was waiting and I wanted to buy fuel! This nut was a westerner as was the guy who owned Raiatea Marine who would not let us stay on his mooring after finding we had done business with the Carenage, I am ashamed to be related. I can't imagine a Polynesian ever acting so.
There was no room for us to slide back and I didn't want to wake the Jellyfish crew. There was a tight spot behind them but given the wind and chop we decided to just head out.
We left a forward spring looped onto a bollard and drove up on a fender. This boat seems big to me only when doing this type of thing with the wind howling. It was really hard to get the stern out in the conditions. Once out is was even trickier to pull back quickly to avoid slipping into Jellyfish. The key is keeping the rudder centered or a little to port. If you let it run to lock it will act like a break.
Once out of the harbor we headed for Tahaa. The channel that runs east of the central bank between the two islands is gusty and choppy in these conditions. I would have preferred to have brought our dinghy up but given the hospitality of the non indigenous business interests we decided to leave it in the water.
We circumnavigated the whole island of Tahaa over the day. It is a beautiful island with deep winding bays which we explored fully. There is a cruiser friendly pension and restaurant in Haamene Bay with a Turtle nursery and free moorings for guests. Tahaa itself is not long on beaches but there are many lovely sand spots on the motus at the north end of the island. You can anchor off of the southern most motu on the west side near the Tahaa Private Island Resort and Spa for a nice but expensive meal. The west pass of Tahaa, Pass Paipai, faces southwest but seemed pretty reasonable even with the 25 knot winds coming through the break in the islands. Late in the day we saw the Paul Gauguin cruise ship come through this pass so I would imagine that it is large enough to serve in most conditions.
We wrapped up our day in Apu Bay on a Marina Iti Mooring (aka The Taravana Yacht Club). The marina is really a restaurant with cruiser services (such as laundry, water, internet and the like) and a mooring field. The moorings are nice since the anchorage is about 100 feet in most spots. The restaurant is also fantastic. Hideko and I went in for a late lunch and greatly enjoyed it. Many of the charter boats bound for Marina Apooiti across the bank in Raiatea spend their last night here, so you may want to radio or call ahead to reserve a spot. Maui runs the Marina and is a wonderful host.
The mooring field is well protected but still has some breeze from the trades. It is a great spot to enjoy a day or two at Tahaa.