08 August 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.