Bora Bora, and then Beyond

We’ve been in Bora Bora since crossing over from Hurepiti Bay on the island of Tahaa on August 25. Approaching Bora Bora, one sees on the horizon what is perhaps the most well-known island profile in the Pacific.

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Approaching Bora Bora, with Mount Otemanu distinctly identifying the island, in case anyone is in doubt.

We enjoyed the small island of Tahaa, as we wrote in our last post. Lest, after reading that post, you are left with the impression that Tahaa was all about rum for us, we did do more than drink rum and see more of the island than one anchorage. In fact, we circled Tahaa completely and anchored in bays on both the windward and leeward sides.On the windward side of Tahaa, we took a mooring in Baie Haamene in front of the hotel Hibiscus. Hibiscus was noted in our older cruising guide (1999) as a hospitable establishment offering good meals. Ruth was greeted by gracious owner, Leo, in the traditional way – a kiss on each cheek. Hibiscus, the hotel and restaurant, has been around for many years and is well known among many cruisers, not only for its hospitality but also for Leo’s involvement in rescuing sea turtles caught in fishnets. He was one of the founders of the Hibiscus Foundation in 1992, formed to educate the public and promote the protection of sea turtles. The interior of the main building  is a real museum, full of art pieces and interesting furniture, and photos. High overhead, the ceiling above the rafters is hung with a hundred or more yacht club burgees, race burgees, and flags on display.

Hibiscus on Tahaa

Decor from yachts visiting from all over the world at Hibiscus Restaurant on Tahaa.

We enjoyed a nice dinner and, the next morning, contributed a burgee on behalf of Rose City Yacht Club.

Leo & Ruth at Hibiscus on Taha

Our host, Leo, with his RCYC burgee, which will be hung with pride from the rafters of Hotel Hibiscus.

We left Tahaa on a breezy, sunny day, motor sailing out of Paipai Pass on the leeward side before we raised the jib and staysail and turned right, putting Bora Bora in sight on the horizon ahead. We had a fabulous sail all the way on a comfortable reach, averaging 6 knots but seeing the occasional 8 on the knotmeter. A little more than five hours later we were sailing up the coral reef surrounding Bora Bora toward the only viable pass into the lagoon, on the leeward (northwest) side. The pass is well marked as all of the big cruise ships use it. We picked up a mooring near the main village, Vaitape. We needed to visit the offices of the gendarmes to complete our departure documents. We also needed to refuel, give the engine some routine care, get laundry done, and restock the boat before we leave French Polynesia for the Cook Islands. Across the lagoon are numerous larger motus, many with protected anchorages. We hope to visit one of these before we leave Bora Bora. Almost all of the larger motus have bungalow resorts on the beaches facing the island, providing guests with a view over the lagoon to Mt Otemanu.

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A view looking the other way: Toward Motu Tapu, across the lagoon from Vaitape.

We’ve met so many interesting and friendly people in the last year. Not only people living in the places we’ve visited, but also other people doing what we are doing: Living aboard and cruising on their yachts, some for just a few months, others for several years. We’ve met a lot of couples, but also some younger families and the occasional single-hander. And people from all over the globe: Europe, Canada, Asia, one person from South America, a lot of people from New Zealand and Australia, and – of course – many folks from the US. A couple of evenings ago, we were part of a “happy hour” gathering on board a lovely catamaran, Tactical Directions, a Crowther 42. Present were two Australian couples, including our hosts, a charming German couple, and two Americans (us). Everyone had been involved in helping to solve an engine problem on one boat and everyone had contributed experience, supplies (hose clamps, Rescue Tape, part of a bicycle tire inner tube) and labor to getting the boat underway again. MacGyvering stories were told by those having more experience with engine failures to encourage the intrepid newbies to think outside box (hence the bicycle inner tube from Velic). We don’t know where we will see any of these lovely couples again, but we will always remember them, with a smile!

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L to R: Sebastian (Puffin), Neal (Echo Echo), Christine (Tactical Direction), Ruth, Tony (Tactical Direction), Jeannette (Echo Echo), and Susan (Puffin). Randy was behind the camera.

Some photos of Bora Bora:

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Looking toward the MaiKai Marina & Yacht Club and their wonderful restaurant from the mooring field. The restaurant and moorings are operated by a very competent couple, Teiva and Jessica, who welcome cruisers warmly. Teiva is a Paris-trained chef and all around great guy; Jessica is his wife and partner in the restaurant business. Teiva is also a licensed captain, and Jessica has experience as super yacht crew. They understand what cruisers need. In this same complex are several other businesses: a scuba dive operation, a hotel, a jewelry and gift shop, and the business office for a realtor.

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Looking at Mount Otemanu rising behind the town of Vaitape. The cruise ship wharf is directly across the bay. Bora Bora is a popular cruise ship destination and we have seen several of them while we’ve been here. A larger commercial wharf is around a point in the next bay. That one was built by the US Navy during WWII (as were most of the paved roads here) and is still in use.

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The second time we stayed at Vaitape, we tied up to the floating dock below the restaurant at MaiKai for a few days.

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Almost all restaurants restrooms in French Polynesia are decorated with fresh flowers daily around the sink. It makes you feel a little special when you are washing your hands.

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One of the Princess line of cruise ships in the distance, departing the Bora Bora lagoon and passing a few smaller “cruise ships” at anchor. It’s hard to appreciate the size of the big cruise ship; the photo doesn’t do a good job at this distance. Note the large movie screen on the top deck, which was showing what looked like a previously-recorded concert for the entertainment of passengers. We think it was an Elton John concert; it sure looked like him up there, from our cockpit.

We’re currently still in Vaitape, waiting on bureaucracy. Clearing out of French Polynesia requires filling out six forms in the gendarme office of the port from which you’ll depart. In our case the office is a short walk away in Vaitape. One form (hard copy) must be mailed to Papeete; another two forms (DIY digital, take a snapshot with your camera) must be emailed to Papeete. These forms must be received and acknowledged by authorities in Papeete, and then they will send your outbound clearance document to you (also digital). Then you print out this document (also called a “zarpe”) so that you can take it with you to the next country to show the authorities there that you left French Polynesia as a person in good standing. Our next country will, we hope, be the Cook Islands. We are intending to clear in at the island of Aitutaki. This island has only one passage through the surrounding reef, so – if the weather isn’t cooperative – we may have to pass by Aitutaki and continue on to Niue. Niue is one of the smallest nations in the world, comprised of its one island. But we’ve heard that a visit is well worth the effort it takes to get there. Besides, both Aitutaki and Niue are on our route to Tonga. Ross, our son, had the following response when we informed him of our plans:

Let me get this straight: you’re going to aim your tiny boat at a tiny island that’s 5-6 DAYS away, across a GIANT ocean, and if the fickle wind happens to be fickly unfavorable, rather than wait for better wind, your plan B is to aim your tiny boat at ANOTHER tiny island that’s ANOTHER 5-6 days away across a GIANT ocean?  I’m laughing at how your “normal” is comically extraordinary to me.

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5 thoughts on “Bora Bora, and then Beyond

  1. It looks a bit different from when I was there in ’84 or so. I chartered a boat in Raiatea and sailed from Raiatea to Bora Bora one day. An offshore breeze at sunset caught us with a balky engine that wouldn’t start. But after a radio call a sailboat came out and saved my fanny. The Pacific looked mighty big that sunset w/o any navigation equipment. We came into a beach with a bar under a palm frond roof; a sight that will forever stay with me.

    Christian Steinbrecher

    PS don’t through any garbage over the side, it attracts sharks.

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    • Christian,
      The sail from Raiatea to Bora Bora is wonderful, all in one day with a stunning landfall. And yes, westward is the vast south Pacific Ocean with just a few islands and reefs to fetch up on. A safe anchorage and a cold beer are very welcome! A few nights ago, at cocktails on the catamaran, it was so clear that as the sun set on the horizon we could see the profile of Maupiti: Stunning. There are still a few thatch roof bars around. It’s not yet all corrugated sheet metal. The restaurant at MaiKai Marina & YC has a real palm frond thatched roof through which we can see the stars and feel the rain. The showers that might exist are “under repair”, so we swim in the pool and rinse off, with shampoo, using the hose on the dock. It’s the Polynesian way. No one seems to mind, or even notice. We do try to be done before the tourists arrive for dinner.

      Randy

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  2. What an adventure! You guys are great. Bora Bora sounds wonderful. I laughed at your picture of the Princess cruise ship. Your less adventuresome cousin (me) and wife Lynn just got back from a cruise on the huge Emerald Princess up the coast of Norway. 3000 passengers. I hope you hit that tiny island nation of Aitutaki.
    Aloha,
    Cousin David

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  3. As you travel west, I want to know that your Uncle Bud Bosshardt help build the airstrip on Espiritu Santos. It is long way to go. Chuck (Kathi’s hubby)

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