Busy Bora Bora and Stories
18 June 2017 | Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Rosa, honey, it's about time we take a vacation! Let's go to Bora Bora, that exclusively scenic island of the wealthy and famous that I've been reading about in glossy travel magazines for 40 years.
Our passage from Huahine was a pleasant sail with 10-12kts (NE) of wind from the stern which took us over the top of Ile Tahaa, via the southside of BoraBora and around to the west side pass. For a while, I thought I was in the Caribbean again! For as we entered western Passe Teavanui it was charter yachts as far as the eye can see! We decided just to find an easy location and anchor for the rest of the day on a shallow sand bank behind Isle Toopua. But no sooner did we have our hook down when 3 other Moorings (chartering outfit) cats decided they would anchor here too. I don't want to read into this too much!! The next morning we enjoyed a nice snorkeled at a nearby reef which, despite dead coral, was quite busy with many shy reef fish. In the afternoon we headed over to Viatape (BoraBora's surprisingly not so charming village i.e. charmless) and took a mooring at the MaiKia Yacht Club as tomorrow is Monday and we could load up on fruit and veg at the Chin Lee supermarket and refill the dinghy fuel tank. MaiKia's mooring field was mostly empty: 14 balls; XPF3500 for the first day (US35 - ouch) and XPF1500 for each day thereafter; includes wifi (barely reaches the mooring field), 100L water (we have a water maker), laundry facilities (we have a washer/dryer and you still have to put coins in the machines) and garbage disposal (which is a bin on the main street).
Bora Bora, the jewel of the South Pacific is surrounded by high end hotels with their water bungalows; most of these are on the motu's, the small surrounding reef islands, and why is that? Well they get this great view of the Bora's twin peaks and I suppose it leaves the island itself to the locals. We didn't do any star-gazing of the rich and famous. There are lots of dive and shuttle boats zigzagging everywhere moving tourists around and plenty of charter yachts motoring (not sailing) around the area. Vaitape supports most of all these with restaurants, craft shops (pearls, pearls, pearls), dive shops, groceries stores, fuel stations, water supply, airport, etc. However we found the village quite shabby and the local folks not as friendly as we've met at other FP islands - I suppose one looses their courtesy when you have to constantly deal with demanding tourists every day.
So lets find a nice spot for our vacation! There seems to be plenty of parking spots around these surrounding islands. After getting out of Viatape we went around to the east side of Bora Bora to find some peaceful anchorages for a week or so. The route getting to the SE corner was a bit nerve wracking, negotiating the shallows where at times we had only 0.2m under our keel (gulp!) but we kept a track going for our return trip. The sunlight overhead was bright and reflected from the white sand bottom making it confusing at times to estimate the depth in front of us. But in the end we found wonderful spots, the ocean swell breaking behind us with a steady roar along the outer edge of the reef. All this against the big backdrop of lush green peaks of Mount Pahia, Mount Hue and Mount Otemanu with its surrounding woodlands.
So what did we do on our vacation. Well, we met young fellow Canadian solo sailor Josh from SV Maistral who started his journey from Vancouver via Mexico via Marquesas via Society's enroute to New Zealand in his 29ft yacht. Here is a guy who practices minimalism for he lives a very basic simple life onboard - a lesson for all us! We all had a great few days together chatting, snorkeling, chowing with lots of wine therapy. Why else did we do? We made cookies, pizza's, paella, lots of swimming and underwater photos, moved Emerald around to various spots. We chilled in the hammock. We got rained in for a few days. And we found three great snorkeling spots (16 32.525S:151 43.501W with abundant reef fish, grey moray eel) and (16 32.799S:151 42.104W with good living coral, abundant and relaxed black tips) and (16 32.479W:151 43.557W with lots of reef fish which are not shy as the they are chummed by the tour boats). We looked for the famed manta's but I think we're out of season. Later we sailed back to Viatape for our last bit of groceries and final outward clearance from French Polynesia noting that this is the last stop for doing this even if stopping in Maupiti. It was a bit of an obstacle as it was Saturday and I went into the Gendarmerie to clear-out and they asked me to return on Monday as Papeete Customs/Immigration was closed on Saturday (?). When I said I really needed to leave the next days as we had a weather window they agreed to email the documents to Papeete and then Papeete would email me back with an attached official outward clearance document. An then at that moment the complete town of Viatape had a power cut! The Gendarmerie's aircons turned off, the French were confused, smoked a lot and got loud, and in the end they told me to email the docs to Papeete myself. All I needed to do now was find some wifi in power-loss Viatape, photo the 3 docs and email it. It worked out in the end and the next day we departed.
Most mornings and evenings (08:00 and 18:00hrs), and particularly while on passage, I listen in on the Polynesian Magellan Net and report our position, course, speed and weather conditions. As well as listen in to others. This is a valuable volunteer service run by cruisers for cruisers and it provides a safety net predominately for those underway - for if any are having trouble, they have a voice that can offer support or assistance. We have joined various Nets now while crossing the Indian, South Atlantic and now the Pacific Ocean. And we have been party to providing assistance to friends in stress. Truly a great service!
We eat nearly all the time onboard and make our own meals - I'd say about 95% of the time. Tonights dish was 'Emerald Paella' with fresh tuna, local assorted veg, rice with a fresh coconut milk base. We always focus on tasty healthy dishes! After years of cooking for our children you get a pretty good idea of what ingredients blend well - of all sorts of styles. We have a few cookbooks onboard we can consult including the great Joy Of Cooking (thanks Anne!). And we eat healthily i.e. lots of veg and fruit and fish. We do eat meats (chicken and beef) but very rarely any pork (maybe bacon on burgers!). And buying locally produced food almost always assures us it's not GMO (fuck Monsanto). There are times in some countries or remote islands where available fresh foods can be scarce; sometimes we have to wait for a supply ship to arrive to stock the village or we trade with locals. Sometimes there is just nothing. Having a freezer helps, for many reasons, and we'll keep a bag of frozen vegs in there for those times. Our oven is pretty good so Rose makes her own nutritious whole wheat bread and other dishes.
Also, I figure we're experts on local supermarkets! We have been to every grocery store/market/kiosk in each country we have visited. Of course we need to and we've formed various opinions about this - but thats another conversation. Our favorites are the Carrefours in the French islands (Reunion, Martinique, Tahiti), supermarkets in South Africa (anywhere) and the Albert Hien's in the ABC's and our favorite open market: Port Louis, Mauritius .....and worst .... the so-called supermarket in Gan, southern Maldives.