Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bora Bora (part 2)

[Kyle]Our anchorages at Motu Piti Aau turned out to be just as uneventful and wakey as the one by the airport. We stayed for only one night and then move on to another anchorage about halfway up the east coast of Bora Bora.

It was another nail-biter as the depth readout went down into the two meter range and stayed there for much longer than we would have cared for. We were headed for a spot just across the reef from what was reputed to be a Manta ray cleaning station - where they go to have the wrasse clean off parasites.


Begonia in Bora Bora - Snorkelling with spotted rays, turtles and of course MANTA Rays

The next morning, we snorkeled over the reef to the spot and found a few of them gliding over the bottom of the pass. The depth there was about forty feet. That was far enough down that I would only have time to take three quick shots before it was time to start heading back to the surface. There would be no lingering conversations about their life stories.

The giant creatures are deceiving like 747s. Their size makes them look slow, but when you get close to them you have to kick like hell to keep from getting left behind too fast by their one flap per minute pace. Kicking hard us not good for oxygen use at depth. We learned from a fellow cruiser that the mantas didn't appear on the next two days - so we were especially lucky.

Bora Bora Yacht Club (Beautiful place, but bring you BIG credit card)


A morning rainbow before moving to
Bora Bora "Yacht Club"

Bora Bora "Yacht Club"

We moved from the ray anchorage to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. Actually, we first moved to a mooring at the Maikai marina, but after going ashore, we found them closed (closed on Sundays) and with no services whatsoever. We were hoping for at least nice, long showers and Internet, so we headed backwards to the BBYC. They were very nice and their location was beautiful. They are a bit pricey, though. I think they're capitalizing on the trade of tourists who are on their once-in-a-lifetime vacation and don't mind spending $90 for their very own BBYC t-shirt.

We set a new record for laundry - $90USD for three loads - ouch! We really needed it after having guests, but geez! If that happens again, I'll do it myself in buckets. It would still be cheaper, even with 4¢/gallon water. We decided to suck it up and not look back (and topped up our tanks with $25 of water).

We both took LOOONG showers.

Bloody Mary's

Since no fuel was available at the fuel dock until the afternoon as they were still waiting for a delivery. Plan B was to return to the mooring field at Bloody Mary's for the night. Since it wasn't Sunday this time, they were open. Their food was excellent and not too expensive. We spent much of the afternoon on their slow wifi, which they were happy to share. One of my favorite moments was when a chicken, who I assume was named Lunchmeat, came in and started pecking the dropped food bits out of the sand floor.


Bloody Mary's

Once we returned home, it was time to get the dinghy back into lifeboat mode for our next offshore leg. The rest of our stops in Bora Bora would be docks and we wouldn't need it anymore. From here we officially leave French Polynesia and head towards the cook Island (the island of Suwarrow) and then Niue. We'll be out of touch for a while.


Hanging out in Viatape to do paperwork and provisioning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bora Bora

[Kyle]We left Taha’a amidst a bunch of big charter boats for the sail to Bora Bora. We sailed the whole way using the Spinnaker (Geoffrey and Sarah helping out again). It is hard to really comprehend that we are in BORA BORA (the lagoon at least) – and the great caldera looms in all our views. All over the place are luxury over-the-water accommodations – no wonder this is a popular honeymoon destination!


Sail to the amazing Bora Bora - we can hardly believe it!

Our first stop was just east of the islet of Toopua in the southwest corner of Bora Bora’s big lagoon. We didn’t have ideal anchoring conditions for the short stop, so Maryanne stayed aboard while the rest of us snorkeled. We had a look at a few of the bommies for a bit and were heading back to Begonia when we spotted a bunch of tour boats disgorging swimmers in the distance just past where we had turned around. We called to Maryanne, who had a look through the binoculars and confirmed that it looked worth going back.


Yay - Sarah & Geoffrey got to see Rays and Sharks too!

We arrived to find a whole lot of legs with stingrays swimming amongst them. There was even a Blacktip shark thrown in for good measure. This is the closest we had been able to get to them and it was nice to see their effortless grace as they circled, although I was a bit rankled to see a few spoiled brats chasing and grabbing at them.

When we’d had our fill, we returned to Begonia for the short trip to the anchorage in front of Bloody Mary’s restaurant, where we planned to go ashore for drinks. Lots of different guides say Bloody Mary’s is the must-do thing on the main island.

The few moorings there were taken and the water is eighty feet deep. We tried looking for a spot suitably large enough to accommodate our swing in such deep water, but were unable to do so. As we were leaving, we noticed another boat leaving the mooring right in front of the dinghy dock and pounced on it. These moorings don’t even have a chance to get cold!

At the dinghy dock, we met Dan and John, who joined us and gave us our first news about Tanda Malaika. Bloody Mary's turned out to be closed on Sundays, so plan B was to walk to a nearby Tiki Bar. It was under renovation, so Plan C turned out to be a 30 minute walk up the road to an upscale pizza/seafood place. Even though our shore excursion had turned out to be a lot longer than planned, we still kept our order down to a beer each with some appetizers to split. Back at the boat Sarah and Geoffrey cooked for us and we opened one too many bottles of wine for their last evening with us.

From Bloody Mary’s, we went to the main town of Viatape and looked for either a mooring or a place to anchor in the deep water. Eventually, we took a spot at the Town Quay. It gives easy access to the Airport ferry, which departs from the opposite side. We asked at the local information point and they confirmed that docking there is free, but asked us not to spend more than one night at the wall so that others could have access when they need it.

Ashore in the main town, I picked up our outbound clearance forms from the gendarmerie while Geoffrey and Sarah found time to source a new mouse to get the computer functional again!!! Whew!


The ferry takes away our great guests: Sarah & Geoffrey

After a nice final lunch together and a delicious ice cream, they boarded the airport ferry as an intermediate step to a brief night in a hotel before their flight to Tahiti the next day. We waved our friends off as the ferry left, and then took Begonia to an anchorage off of the departure end of the runway, where we immediately filled their berth back up with ‘our’ stuff. It was time to enjoy the views, get caught up on boring admin and make a point of NOT getting up when the first light starts shining through the portholes.

After a couple of boring days in the shadow of Mt Otemanu, Bora Bora’s main spire, we relocated to an anchorage off the southern end of Motu Piti Aau, where we had a slightly different view of Mt. Otemanu. My God, is it Friday yet?


We take a couple of days to reorganize the boat and chill

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Taha’a

[Kyle]The island of Taha’a sits within the same reef system as the island of Raiatea.

After pulling up anchor in Raiatea, we left via the Teavamoa pass into the open sea and reentered at Teavapiti Pass. From there it was smooth flat sailing through the winding channel between the two islands and towards Hurepiti Bay where we’d reserved a tour for the following day.


An evening sunset, and morning rain brings a brings a rainbow in the bay before we arrive ashore for our tour

When Maryanne had called to book, we believed we’d exchanged all the necessary details but were cut off towards the end of the call and were unable to reconnect. When we arrived at 1pm, we found that the mooring ball was not free until 4pm, an important bit of information we’d missed from the truncated call. We briefly looked in the bay for a spot to anchor, but it was deep water with several boats already anchored. We decided instead to go to the nearby reef for lunch and a snorkel.

Eventually, we were ready to relocate to the vacated ‘Vanilla Tours’ mooring ball and went ashore to introduce ourselves to Alain (the owner of the property) and take an evening stroll.

That evening, we met with the other party that was to join us on the morning tour, and we agreed we’d start a little earlier to accommodate their tight schedule.

It rained all night, but thankfully stopped just before our dinghy ride ashore for a 7:30am start. There had been LOTS of rain there and the morning light greeted us with a double rainbow – but luckily we had a dry tour.

Now Alain has retired, tours are now led by Noah (Alain’s son) and both guys are very welcoming and knowledgeable, they answered all our questions and were very amenable to all requests made.

The tour was described as an ethno-Botanical tour of Taha’a and some of the highlights included seeing vanilla plants manually pollinated (by Noah), nibbling on an assortment of fruits, and a trip to the Pari-Pari rum/vanilla distillery.

It turns out that vanilla is a very labor intensive crop. If the flowers are not pollinated they drop within a day of opening, and if the fruit pods aren’t collected at as soon as they are fully ripe then they drop too. So the every plant in the plantation has to be visited every day just in case any action is required. It seems that farming vanilla outside of central America was impossible until relatively recently when it was established how to manually pollinate the flowers (in the absence of the native bird that does it naturally in central America).


Quite the education (and we were fed too)

After the tour it was our turn to leave the mooring ball to make way for the next group, so we returned to our familiar spot by the pass for a snorkel before the sun set behind Bora Bora (our next destination).

Not surprisingly during our snorkel there was a heavy downpour. This would not have been an issue, except that we’d left the hatches open to try and air out the boat. When we returned from our snorkel we found our laptop sat open on the table and covered in rain. Thankfully the computer still booted up, but the trackpad took the brunt of the water and decided it would no longer play. We can verify that not much can be done on a Mac without the ability to click on the mouse pad…. UGH!


Snorkel & another great Sunset

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Exploring Raiatea

[Kyle]After the previous day’s snorkeling, we decided to relocate to Hotopuu Bay on Raiatea to be near the Taputapuatea (Tahua-Marae) archaeological site, reputed to be the most important in French Polynesia. The bay had two depths, way too deep, and way too shallow. We opted for way too deep and put everything out. Fortunately the anchorage was suspiciously un-crowded.

We rowed ashore and hauled the Portland Pudgy out at the canoe club much to the amusement of a few local children who gathered to shyly watch and giggle at us. Maryanne warmed them to us with some of her French, which eventually had them calling out to us in English as we began the walk to the site.

The walk was short, and flat, but the weather was warm. We were on the look out for a store (possibly to find bread?) but were not hopeful. As we rounded the corner of the point we spotted the signs outside the grounds of the site.

The Taputapuatea Historical site has several large Marae (huge stone plazas backed by a raised platform and adorned with occasional carvings etc). There was also an archery ground (although we would not have known it as such except from the map). The large site is situated right inside and in line with Teavamoa pass, the various texts indicated that the site held huge importance for Polynesians from as far as New Zealand and Hawaii and would be regularly visited by these great sea fearers of the past.



Taputapuatea Historical Site - Most important site in French Polynesia

We sat in the shade of a large tree for our picnic of granola bars, and a local tour guide with her own group of tourists offered us sandwiches and fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste – we were very obliging.

Fed, rested and newly cultured, we decided to continue on to the next village of Opoa still on the look out for a store. One of the first things Maryanne spotted was an older guy busily processing coconuts in his back yard. We were aware our own coconut skills were a little on the slow side and Maryanne was keen that we get tips from an obvious expert so she tottered on over and asked if it would be OK for us all to observe. He seemed quite happy to show off his technique and he was soon chatting away in French at full speed leaving us just (hopefully) agreeing in the right places. It turns out his procedure (that we later saw others use) was no good for us, as it sacrifices the coconut water that we so enjoy. The ‘expert’ way is to break the whole coconut in half (outer husk and all) with the use of a giant axe, and then (once the pile of halves is big enough) swap to scooping out the meat with a purposely bent knife/tool – making a pile of coconut meat ready for the drying phase.

We left him and shortly spotted a ‘Snack’ store sign. ‘Snacks’ in French Polynesia are sometimes stores selling chips/crisps and soft drinks, and sometimes fast food cafĂ© type places. Either way we were excited. However, as we approached it was clear the place was closed, and quite possibly had been for years. Out back we could see bananas hanging in the doorway, so Maryanne popped her head in and surprised a couple of kids in what was obviously a home (and not the extended store Maryanne had expected). Oops. She explained herself away saying we were looking for a store to buy some bananas and the kid just looked confused and shook his head. We left apologetically. Within a minute, Mom appeared at the door and called us back. She explained that there was no store, but gifted us some of her bananas anyway. Powerless against the Polynesian generosity – we all left nibbling away at these sweet delicacies.

We saw a church (and Maryanne likes a church like I like a hill), so even though locals were clearly painting and renovating it, we took a look inside and found a basic design filled with simple wooden bench pews, and tall stained glass windows protecting it from the intrusion of rain.


Coconut lessons from a pro - and beers to recover from the walk

On the way back, Sarah spotted an derelict looking sign for a hotel that pointed down a rather moss covered and overgrown road – so we followed it just in case and found the Hotel Atiapiti, a beautiful place where we stopped for a cold beer and enjoyed the turquoise waters and free wifi. We eventually returned to the boat, but the thoughts of enjoying a cockpit sunset were soon dashed by heavy rain. Oh well, not a bad day overall.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Raiatea: Relocate to Raiatea

[Kyle]We started the day in Huahine by pulling up support documents for our engine systems to help further diagnose the alarm issue. Once that was fixed, the wind was up and we had a relatively fast but rough sail to Teavamoa Pass at Raiatea Island. Sarah and Geoffrey continue to help with the sailing and it is great to have so many extra hands aboard.


Fixing stuff before some more snorkelling

Learning from our anchorage in Huahine, we had all eyes inspecting the shallow sand ahead as we left the deep channel and proceeded over a mile of less than 2 meter deep water to a place we eventually dropped the anchor to snorkel. It was brilliant! We were surrounded by that incredible turquoise bath water, we had the tall green hills of Raiatea behind, and ahead of us, beyond our chain and the anchor, lay the protective reef giving us calm waters despite the violent surf beyond.

We spent the following day relaxing and snorkeling from the boat. (More rays, little pipe fish, crown of thorns starfish – known as a great risk to coral reefs)

Note: We later learned that while we sat protected inside the reef at Raiatea, a fellow 2017 Pacific cruiser, Tanda Malaika, had just gone aground in Huahine near the same pass we had used. They lost their boat, but all aboard were safely rescued by the amazing French Navy and the helicopter rescue team. Their Blog posts tells the harrowing story