Saturday, September 8, 2018

Breathtakingly Beautiful Bora Bora

27th August – 8th September 2018

Our trip over from Raiatea to Bora Bora was most definitely not one of our best, the trip itself just was fine but the trifector of failures wasn’t an upside by any means.

4-DSCN4648The conditions were such that we decided tp roll out our big reaching sail, the screecher. Having just spent over US$500  on “in the nick of time“ repairs to it while in Tahiti we figured we’d give it a go. All was looking rosy as our boat speed slowly increased and GWTW took the bit between her teeth and headed for the iconic island of Bora Bora. We were settling into a nice rhythm when a strange sound filled the air. Confused at first as to what it was, I lifted my gaze forward and upward and there  was the culprit. The head of our screecher was systematically delaminating and becoming threadbare.

Daylight shone through where once was mylar fabric. The repairs had held up ok,  the failure was near the head of the sail, quite a surprise. So sadly, it was money down the drain on the repairs. Now the challenge was to furl it before what was left totally separated from the furling foil. Slowly but surely we got it furled though it did look a bit like a dog’s breakfast by the time we’d finished. With the wind increasing we had no choice but to sort the mess out once we arrived.

Next up Jimmy our raymarine chart plotter, (named after the great navigator James Cook), decided that after 14 years he was done with navigating and called it quits right there and then. Obviously Jimmy was in cahoots with our screecher of the same age. Just as well we’d bought a backup plotter before we left the USA, just in case. With only a few miles left ‘till we got to Bora, the replacement would be getting plugged in tomorrow. We still had our iPads to use for navigation, so no worries there.

Our third and final strike in this ballgame happened when the fisherman of our crew, who will of course remain nameless but not blameless, very uncharacteristically  decided to leave the port side trolling line out while coming in through the pass in the hope of snagging a suicidal fish. Well there was no trophy fish for dinner, however he did manage to catch and strangle our port side propeller while we were backing down to set the anchor. Trying to reverse a cat using one engine is almost futile as the boat wants to rotate in a circle. So we ran out a heap more chain and left well enough alone while we regrouped to assess the situation.

It was most definitely time for a gin & tonic. What a cluster f **k of a day we’d had. Oh, and “welcome to Bora Bora”, the god of mishaps must have been saying to himself.


With the onset of a Maraamu (the prevailing south-east trade winds on steroids) due tomorrow afternoon we had to extract the digit and sort out a few things. The major one was getting the fishing line untangled from the prop shaft so we’d have a useable port engine. This turned out to be a far from simple exercise. As the line had wrapped around the shaft and tightened, it actually pulled the shaft back and along with it our engine which moved backwards round 1/4 of an inch or so, quite minor but still noticeable when the engine mounts were inspected. A similar thing happened in Cuba with a mooring line and actually destroyed the engine mounts while moving the engine some distance aft.


After more than an hour of tedious, tiring work in the water, pretty much all of the fishing line was removed. It was frustrating but essential work. The port engine remains a little out of position but no real drama, and can likely be rectified when we next haul the boat. There is now an absolute ban on trolling inbound through any pass anywhere. Installing the spare plotter and tidying up the screecher to a respectable look were a piece of cake compared to the underwater problem.

Well the Maraamu blew like the clappers for the next seven days and nights and us along with everyone on a boat in Bora hunkered down. For us it was just a pain in the arse,  but we really felt for the folks on the charter boats whose schedule just doesn’t allow them the luxury to sit it out for a few days. We watched many of them take to sea in the midst of the high winds and the accompanying ugly seas of up to eight feet as they battled to get back  to their charter base in Raiatea. As much as we’d have rather been getting on with  exploring what was on offer we filled in our time rather well. Menial chores which never make it to the top of the list were attended to and with a warp speed internet signal beaming into  GWTW courtesy of the Hilton Hotel, researching and  booking marinas and flights for while we’ll be in NZ at the close of this year’s cruising season was an absolute breeze.


Finally the wind stopped and the beautiful lagoon returned to how it looks in the brochure, perfect that is. So we headed around to the mooring balls outside Bora’s famous restaurant, Bloody Mary’s.

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The list of rock, pop and movie stars who have lingered over a drink at the bar or a meal here is quite outstanding. Think of anyone in “the business” and their name is likely etched into the board of fame at the entrance. Having been boat-bound for an entire week we ‘d planned on a night out  of dinner and drinks but some well heeled person had booked out the whole place, bar included for seventy of his closest friends, bummer for us.

Disheartened at our poor timing and with dinner plans now out the window, we hiked up to the signal station on the hill above the anchorage. Talk about  mind blowing views over the lagoon, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe what our eyes could see.



That scene will be etched into our memories forever. We did get to experience BM’s the following day when we stopped in for a few signature drinks, a Bloody Mary of course and lunch. Would our names end up with the rich and famous too? Probably not.


After a quick stop in the main town of Vaitape  for some much needed fruit, as well as a visit to the Gendarmerie to lodge our exit  documentation for our imminent departure from French Polynesia, it was time to have a gander at the east side of the lagoon.


It’s on this side of Bora that  paddock after paddock of overwater bungalows stretch out over the picture-perfect turquoise waters like tentacles of an octopus. Here you can check-in to any of the brand name hotels, the Four Seasons, Le Meridian, Intercontinental, Sofitel etc. Or if your credit card doesn’t self combust spend a few nights at the home-away-from home for the super rich and super famous, The St Regis Resort. It will only set you back a many thousands of dollars per night, but hey whose counting? 


So we decided to check out what all those bucks got you and anchored right in the tranquil lagoon behind the St Regis, meters away from these absurd costing bungalows. We didn’t get the to sample the culinary delights or the spa and massage,  but we did swim in the same waters as the mega rich, had the same romantic views, listened to the same annoying sound of jet skies zooming pasts and quite possibly drank the same French wines. The same stars twinkled above us and as the sun rose next morning we treated to the same view  as the people with deep pockets over towering Mt Otemanu.

The cost for us for the identical surrounds that these people pay through the nose for was absolutely nothing. A little while later we jumped into the dinghy and went in search of the manta rays which reportedly show up early morning in a shallow channel not far from the hotel, but alas no mantas today. So off we motored to the southeast corner of Bora and anchored in the clearest pale blue water we’ve ever dropped the hook in.


Pure white sand sat just two feet under our keels. It was really something. Another dinghy trip to see eagle rays was again fruitless so we headed over to a small motu to investigate the coral gardens. At last success. There were hundreds of fish of all sizes. The small ones were not shy and it was a right in your face experience.

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Everything comes to and eventually and so too has our time here in Bora. There looked to be a good weather window approaching over the next couple of weeks so our minds were now turning towards the next few legs across the Pacific. It was Friday afternoon and we needed to get back around to town to have our passports stamped and pick up our clearance papers from the Gendarmes. Sadly, this will mark the end of our eleven month stay in this wonderful country.


Our final evening was spent back at Bloody Mary’s enjoying  a few exotic Happy hour cocktails and a few plates of delicious bar food.

With papers in hand officially we are no longer in French Polynesia. Unofficially, if the conditions are right, we will call in at two more islands, Maupiti and Mopelia.

They will be our final stops in French Polynesia before heading to new destinations as we sail west into the setting sun.  


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Raiatea & Taha’a

15th - 26th August 2018.

01-DSCN4530It was a straight shot  under motor across the windless calm sea from Huahine to Raiatea’s Iriiru Pass. As we entered the pass the local outrigger boys were waiting in the wings and started paddling their sleek racing outriggers towards our stern. We knew the drill. We’ve played it many times. These fellas like to push themselves to their limit paddling in our wake for as long as they can keep up. Sometimes we have one paddler but being a cat we often have two, one for each transom. It’s sort of unofficial training for competitions and we see it happening everywhere. They get a very good workout and if they look like they are doing it easy we ease the throttles forward just a smidge. Even so, they still follow until they drop their oar on their lap and can go no more.

In the fading afternoon light we headed straight for Vairami Bay and dropped the hook in 32 feet of thick mud. Then the heavens opened and down came the rain, by morning the mud flowing down from the hills was starting to infiltrate the dark waters of the bay. It was like a giant brown blob threatening to engulf everything in its path, including us, so we changed locations and moved out to the clear waters of the reef for the night.

Next day it was time to play tourist so off we went to Faaroa Bay to explore the Aoppomau River, the only navigable river on the island.



It’s not a long river but in places it gets quite shallow necessitating our dinghy motor to be lifted. The river wends its way towards the hills through thick overgrown jungle with low hanging tree branches just waiting to give you a good kick in the head if you’re not on the ball. While below, the waterline tree roots and submerged logs demand careful navigation. We travelled as far as we dared before the vines and trees impeded our path.

On the way back we stopped at a veggie farm we’d heard about from other cruisers. Andre the owner greeted us on the river’s edge and secured our  dinghy line. He was more than happy and very proud to show us around.

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He had quite a variety of crops growing, There were all the usual suspects, bananas, coconuts, mango and papaya, but he also grew beans, potatoes lychees and a long coffee been type fruit the name of which escapes me. Andre piled us high with fruit and veg and we left with a bagful for only 1000cfp which is roughly $10. Pretty good value we thought.

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Next up on the must see list was Marae Taputapuatea, now unless you are Polynesian that’s a heck of a mouthful to pronounce. A marae is the religious, cultural and governing  centre of a village, and this marae would have to be up there in the top two restored sites we’ve seen since arriving in French Polynesia. Also known as  the “Heart of the Polynesian Triangle”, it dates back to the 17th centaury and is dedicated to Oro, the god of war who dominated the Polynesian religious beliefs throughout the 18th century.

Any marae constructed on the other islands had to include stones from this site as a symbol of allegiance and spiritual lineage.Taputapuatea was the centre of spiritual power  in the Polynesian world and its influence spread far and wide to include the Australs, the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

14-P818460415-P818461613-P8184603 With our brains spinning from the overload of cultural info it was time to head to the tiny motu of Nao Nao, a pretty little spot on the south east corner of Raiatea. We spent three lovely peaceful days anchored here on the sand flats. There were plenty of small reefs to explore just a short swim away from the back of GWTW. The water was lovely and clear and the fish life, although mainly the small guys, were as are always fun to watch..

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Over the coming days we travelled further north along the west side to  the island of Taha’a which is to the north of Raiatea but still inside the encircling reef which surrounds both islands, two for the price of one so to speak. Taha’a is relatively small compared to it’s big sister but no less impressive.

31-P8214672Inside the western edge of the reef are a couple of small motus. One has a rather ritzy resort with the usual overwater bungalows but between it and the next motu lies a small inlet from the sea known as the coral gardens. We had a late afternoon snorkel here, or rather a crawling snorkel. You beach or anchor the dinghy, then follow the trail to the ocean side of the inlet, wade in and float downstream back into the lagoon The water here is very shallow and the canyons of coral are like a maze with many dead ends. It was a lot of fun and there were a ton of fish but one run was enough for us.





That evening we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, with a lovely meal of BBQ salmon, and clinking glasses of delicious NZ Matua Sav Blanc  as the sun set over a backdrop of Bora Bora.


We stayed around this area for another few days visiting one of the two rum distillery's in the bay but no purchases were made this time time.  We also did a tour of the Iaorana Pearl Farm which was excellent. I’d wanted to see the workings of a farm since arriving in Polynesia last year.. When you take a tour you realize  just how involved the process from oyster to stunning pearl necklaces is.


This farm employs eighteen staff,  three of whom are highly skilled Chinese grafters who every day harvest the  800 pearls from the oysters and then  re- graft ( implant) the same shells with a new nuclei (seed).  These oyster shells are then returned to the water for another two to four years before they are retired and various parts of the oyster muscle and shell are pensioned off for spare parts, mostly to the souvenir industry.


4-IMG_8045We spent out final night in Taha’a on a mooring ball just off the Hibiscus Hotel in Haavene Bay treating ourselves to a dinner ashore and some very fast internet. Liam had already dinghied in to sus out what was on offer and he was told that there was meat and fish and desert and to arrive at 7pm. The meal turned out to be a bit of a lucky dip as there was no menu, so no choice in the matter at all.

We sat for at least 30 mins before any action came our way and then plates of food arrived with no hint of what would be coming next. It was the strangest restaurant experience we’ve ever had but the food was very good. Lucky we like fish because their was no sign of any red meat. The two couples at the next table were equally as surprised as we were. But like I said the food was excellent. The fee for the mooring ball which we’d read in the cruising guide, was at no cost if you ate in the restaurant  but that turned out NOT to be the case and  to our surprise  was added to our bill. The ball cost us an extra $15.

73-DSCN4556We left the following morning and headed back over to Raiatea and the main town of Uturoa where we stayed two nights on the town dock for free. No one came to collect a fee, so that was a bonus. We did a flurry of last minute provisioning and caught up for lunch with  French cruising friends who we met during our stay in Guatemala four years ago. They have since sold their boat and have taken up residency here and built a drop dead gorgeous house over looking the lagoon with views across to Huahine. Seeing them after such a long time was great and it truly felt like we’d never parted.


It was time to get moving once again and with GWTW bulging at the seams with provisions and fuel tanks ditto, we bid Raiatea goodbye in our wake and pointed our bows towards the iconic island of Bora Bora.

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