Monday, October 31, 2011

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora
24 Sep - 31 Oct 2011

It's 20 October and I'm sitting at the bar in the Mai Kai Yacht Club on Bora Bora, French Polynesia (For the Facebook savy here's their page). This place is pretty spectacular. Everything is brand new. The original Bora Bora Yacht Club was destroyed by Cyclone Oli in February 2010. Teiva and Keito have worked very hard to make this a special stop in paradise. And they have succeeded. Still some things to iron out: The floating dock was supposed to be installed this week, but didn't materialize. The showers are not quite right yet. But the lodge, the food, the drinks, the deck, and the atmosphere are great. Teiva goes out of his way to make everyone feel special and welcome.

I still complain about the prices out here in the Pacific. But the prices here at MKYC are the same as you'll find anywhere in the islands of French Polynesia. A twelve-ounce beer costs only $3 in the grocery store. The same bottle of beer costs $6 here at the yacht club. But, then here you have lovely ladies pouring it for you. And many nights there's live local music.

But let us digress back to where my last narrative left you in Opunohu Bay on Moorea.

First of all I have to say that every morning I woke up to the most beautiful skyline I've seen to date. As shown near the end of my previous Facebook note (or previous log entry for my Still-Facebook-Free friends) the view from the anchorage on Opunohu Bay is spectacular.

View from my cockpit while anchored in Moorea

The water was warm and crystal clear. The wind blew pretty hard most days but that made for lots of electricity from my wind generator. All in all this was a very pleasant place to be.

Once I was settled in and was satisfied the anchor was holding I dinghied to shore and walked around a bit. There was supposed to be a settlement on the western shore of Opunohu Bay (I was near the eastern shore). So my first walk was in that direction.

The beach near Galena's anchorage was a part of a public roadside park. As such they had water and trash receptacles available; always nice near an anchorage. The road is a two-lane asphalt road that circles the entire island. I headed west and quickly came upon a small general store and then a small ice cream stand. Then nothing. I walked for an additional hour and a half and saw nothing except a few homes. Finally on the far west side of the bay I gave up and walked home.

The next day I walked east toward Cooks Bay. I immediately found the Hilton Moorea Resort and Spa. This was the typical island resort with bungalows on stilts built out over the lagoon allowing guests to get into the water from their backdoors. They had three bars and a very nice restaurant. Again, prices were standard for the islands which means pretty high. But I loved people working there.

View from my place at the bar in the Hilton, Moorea. Those are some of the villas on stilts out in the lagoon. There's also another bar out there in the middle of all that. At night they often chum the water and feed the sharks under the bar.

After I'd walked over there a few times, eating and drinking more than I should, the staff got to know me. Soon the barmaid was comp'ing me beers and spending time practicing her English with me while I practiced my French. The walk from the beach near Galena to the Hilton took about 15-minutes. I also had the option of rowing my dinghy to the Hilton's dock. But that took about 30-minutes. I guess I also had the option of putting my little outboard on the dink, but the lagoon was very shallow and I didn't want to risk hitting the coral with the prop. As it was when rowing home in the dark at night I would occasionally feel the dinghy slide up and over the vegetation covering the shallower coral heads.

The guests that I met and talked with were either young couples on honeymoon or older couples on anniversary holidays. Most were passing through as part of a multi-island adventure lasting a week or ten days. They were all very happy to be there and fun to talk with.

One morning I was pleasantly surprised to see s/v Paramour III pull into the anchorage. I mentioned in my last post that I had first met Jamie in Panama. Then I had spent a bit of time with him in Papeete. Anyway, I dropped my in my dink and we chatted a bit.

Over the next week or so I would get to know him much better than I had to date. I have to say that while in Panama I didn't really like him much; not really sure why not. But once I got to know him he turned out to be a really good guy.

Then again it might have been his new traveling companion, Hanne that made the difference. Jamie had with him two young men, Jimmy and Chris, a young lady named Jocelyn, and his friend, Hanne. They were all in their 20's and were full of youthful enthusiasm. By that I mean they could/would party all night. Hanging with them sometimes made me feel my age; but always made me smile.

Anyway I had talked with one of the local guys at the Hilton about his tattoo's. He said he was a tattoo artist and would be happy to do one for me. By this time I had decided I wanted an authentic Polynesian tattoo. I also wanted it on my neck, behind my ear. I had tried to get one on Tahiti but was not satisfied with the artists I talked with. This guy said he would pick me up on the beach and take me to his shop next Monday morning.

I told Jamie about this arrangement and he wanted to go along and perhaps also get a tattoo (his first). Well, we went to shore that Monday and waited and waited. After a hour of waiting Jamie gave up and went home. I gave up and walked to the Hilton. There I paid for a shuttle ride to town ($12 round trip). In town I shopped a bit and asked a couple of people to recommend tattoo shops.

The shuttle driver had recommended an artist named Tommy but he was on the other side of the island. Two of the shopkeepers recommended Albert, just a 10-min walk down the street. My good friend and Chesapeake Bay boating buddy, Mark Brown, had visited Moorea recently and got a tattoo that he was very happy with. He had tried to describe where the shop was. The description of Albert's shop/shack from the shopkeepers sounded similar to what Mark had described in his e-mail so I headed off. Sure enough, just behind a little restaurant was his shop.

Albert's tattoo shack, Moorea. That's Joce, Jamie, and Hanne looking at the books.

Albert was just the tattoo artist I had been looking for. I described what I wanted and he both understood and liked the idea. He drew it up directly on me and went to work. 40-minutes and $86 later I had a new tattoo.

My new Poly-Tat. Really hurt much more than any other I've had.

My little sister, on seeing this new tattoo, was a bit taken aback by my choice of location. She said that I would probably not be able to work again in the corporate world. Don't know where she ever got the idea that I had any intention of going back to work.

I caught the shuttle back to the Hilton and had a couple beers. The next morning I realized that I had forgotten to bandage the tattoo and my pillow case was stained with blood and ink.

Then next day I was hanging out on Paramour with Jamie, Hanne, and Jocelyn.

This is Jocelyn. I've mentioned her a couple times so I'd better show a picture.

And this is the lovely Hanne. I didn't have a good picture of her so I borrowed this one from her Facebook page. (Hope you don't mind, Hanne.)

When Jamie saw the tattoo to Jamie he insisted on going to town the next day and talking with Albert. While onboard his boat I met a couple from one of the large cats in the anchorage: Kim and Tamara. Kim was also interested in a new tattoo.

The next day we headed off toward town. Kim wanted to drive his dinghy so we started off with five of us in a dinghy heading directly to windward across the lagoon to Cooks Bay. We soon gave up on the idea because it was just too wet and windy. The waves over the bow were filling the dink.

By the time we decided to abort the mission we were soaked. Kim dropped Jamie, Hanne, Jocelyn and me at Hilton's dock while he and Tamara went back to their boat. The four of us shared a taxi to Alberts tattoo shack.

Jamie wanted a classic Navy "fouled anchor" tattoo. But Hanna and Joce convinced him to replace the rope with a stylized hammer-head shark. The result was very cool. And certainly unique. The girls opted not to get tattoos just yet.

Since on my first visit I didn’t take any photos I took a few of Albert in action while Jamie tried to man-up to his first tat.

Albert, the tattoo artist.

Jamie getting his first tattoo while Hanne cheered him on.

Jamie relaxing after his ordeal with a closeup of his new ink

I spent a few nights carousing with Kim, Tamara, et al. But Kim is an Ausie and I just can't keep up with those Ausie when it comes to drinking beer; but I tried.

Jerry, Kim, Tamara, Jimmy, Chris, and Me at the Hilton very late one night.

Finally it was time to move on. Gonna miss Moorea. The people here are friendly and always ready with a smile and greeting, either in French or Polynesian.

02 October 2011 - Raiatea, just inside Rautoanui Pass
16 44.6 S 151 29.6 W
Trip: 116nm/ Total: 6216nm Eng: 2694hr

The passage from Moorea was an overnight trip; uneventful but not good sailing. Most of the trip was motorsailing (more motoring than sailing).

Once the sun had set I noticed the alternator light was lit on the engine panel. I tried the usual non-mechanic-that-I-am response of wiggling the wires to no avail. So I put off any further diagnostics till after I arrived in Raiatea.

During the early morning hours I was hit with repeated squalls. Rain and wind in considerable quantity. This resulted in repeatedly tucking in and shaking out the reefs in the main sail.

Once I turned north up along the western shore of Raiatea the wind was right on the nose. I dropped the main and used the staysail as a riding sail. The wind and waves were severe enough that I had to tack to make any headway. The 10-ft swell breaking on the reef created an amazing display of this force of nature. I tried taking pictures but they just don't capture the majesty of what I was watching. I'll try words:

The swells were running from the SW, I was heading north along the western side of the island. So the swells rolled under Galena and headed over to the reef, which I was careful to keep about half a mile away. (Ron: I may have to take the title of "Capt Cautious" from you.) As Galena settled into the trough the size of the swell was demonstrated by the fact the all I could see was the back side of the swell. As the wave approached the reef it would begin to stand up. From the back side the top took on a turquoise, translucent look along the top edge. As the top became taller and thinner the wind, blowing hard from the north, began to blow the upper edge of the wave off of the base. A heavy mist blew off the wave until she tumbled on herself. At that point the wave exploded in a spectacular, churning white line that jumped at least fifty feet into the air. Now that I've read my meager attempt to explain what I saw perhaps a picture might have worked better after all.

The reef around Raiatea from about a half mile off. Looking for the pass.

There are three major passes into the lagoon on the west side of Raiatea. I was headed for the northernmost. Maneuvering through a pass in a reef is one of those high-anxiety events in cruising. I remember my first true reef pass. It was April of 2008 on my trip from Eleuthera to Little Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas. Big swells and narrow passes result in white knuckles and plan reevaluations.

As I looked up the reef-line all I could see was this continuous line of breaking swells. The chart-plotter said the first pass should be just a mile up. Still no opening in the breaking surf. I started to worry: I couldn't/wouldn't go into a pass with breaking 10-ft swells running. Would I have to go all the way around to the east side of the island to get through a pass? That would take the better part of the next night. I worried. I fretted. I make contingency plans: If I saw breaking waves all across my path I would turn and head to Bora Bora. But I needed repairs done to Galena. So what to do? Angst was my co-pilot for an hour or so.

Then, as I looked 'back' to where the first pass was supposed to be I saw the opening. Several hundred meters wide where there was not breaking waves. The angle of the opening had prevented my seeing it until I had passed it. Suddenly everything was OK. Except for the adverse wind, of course.

I found my pass through the reef and entered without difficulty. There were a couple of small sailboats anchored just inside the reef and I joined them.

The next morning I moved the 0.8-nm over to the mooring field just outside the marina that I though could to my work. This was the Chantier Naval des Ilse Sous Le Vent (how's that for a radio callsign?).

Picking up a mooring turned into a rather frustrating event. I was ready to spend some money here. I wanted to get some serious structural work done on Galena's boomkin, do a haul-out, have them do bottom paint, etc. So I figured I'd pick up a mooring and go in and do some negotiating. I motored up to a mooring. There was no pickup line. There was no eye on the top of the mooring ball. There was nothing but chain under the 18" float. With the strong current running the chain was rather taut. I looked at all three of the free mooring and they were all the same.

Not to be deterred by the lack of a pickup line I motored back to one of them. Stopped alongside. Dropped a loop of line over the float. My intent was to wrap a line around the chain under the ball. But before I could get the line tight it would slip off the float... every time! After three attempts I gave up.

The water here was 100-ft deep. Too deep for me to anchor with my 200-ft of chain. But I had seen a shallow spot where the water was only 40-ft deep and I can anchor there. So I motored back to that place and dropped the hook. I seemed to set. But six-hours later when the tide turned, Galena took off. So I reset the anchor. Then as she swung back and forth her rode got caught under coral heads. This causes the 200-ft of chain to go straight down. To the rock she's wrapped on. As she bounced she would come up short on the rode. Too much strain. So I fired up the engine and motored around the rock. When she came unwrapped she pulled back on the anchor and pulled it loose. Off she went. After a day of this (set, wait, tide change, drag, set, wait…..) I moved back over to the first place I had anchored. 20-ft deep, sand, few corral heads.

During the time I was near the marina I went in and talked to them about hauling Galena for bottom paint. $500 to haul and sit for 2-days. $30/hr for painters. Expensive but I was willing to go with it. Then she said, but all our cradles are in use. We might be able to haul you next week but you could only stay on the hard for a few day. That would have to do.

I went to the metal fabrication people. They looked at the pictures I'd sent them of the boomkin and the repair I was contemplating. They said, "No. We cannot do that kind of work. We don't have the materials. We don't have the skill for that kind of work." Shit! I asked about just getting some wood so I could rebuild what I had. "Not on this island. Maybe someone on Tahiti could find good wood for you." Shit, again!

So I have to find another solution for my rotting boomkin problem. I gave up on the whole thing.

Frustrated with the anchorage, the moorings, the "marina," I decided to head over to Bora Bora where there would be people who would at least be happy to sell me a beer.

Bora Bora was an inviting sight from my anchorage inside the reef on Raiatea

So on 08 October I weighed anchor and sailed to Bora Bora. I could see this island just on the horizon, some 24-nm away. I motorsailed six hours to get there.

As I came around the south side of the island I began looking for the only pass through the reef. Again the swell was crashing on the reef throwing spray high into the air. I saw several resorts inside the lagoon. They all had the now-familiar row of bungalows on stilts extending from the shoreline out into the water.

Getting Closer to Bora Bora. See the volcanic core in the center and the resort bungalows at the waterlines

I couldn't see the pass, but now I knew that was no reason to panic. Sure enough, when I was directly in front of the pass as shown on the chart I turned toward the reef and there in front of me was the pass: wide and calm and inviting.

My track from Raiatea to Bora Bora and the detail of the pass.

As I had been heading north along the reef I had heard on the radio the Mai Kai Yacht Club (my destination) talking with another boat. He was giving them directions to and descriptions of the mooring field. I was happy to hear him say, "… orange mooring balls with blue floats on the pick-up lines." This would mean there should be no problem with picking up the mooring.

As I came through the pass I was not sure if I had to turn north or south to get to the yacht club. I called a few times on the radio but no answer. Finally Heather, on the s/v naho 'aua, answered me and directed me to the mooring field; which is at S16 29.987 W151 45.434

I setup my mooring lines running from the bow hawse pipes along the outside of the boat to the stern where I planned on picking up the mooring. I made my approach dead slow. Stopped as the mooring ball came abreast of me at the stern. Reached over with a boat hook and lifted the pick-up line and passed my line through the eye. I then walked my line back up to the bow and secured it. I now had a loop of rope from the bow, down to the mooring and back to the bow. I pulled in the slack and shut down the engine. All secure. Later I'd add additional lines with nice nautical knots and no chafe points.

As I launched my dinghy I waved my thanks to Heather and her husband, Peter, as they rowed by heading to shore.

I followed them over to the Mai Kai Yacht Club; just 100 meters away. Teiva and Keito, the guys in charge, shook my hand and said, "We watched you come in and pick up the mooring. Very well done." Aww shucks, said I. Days later I watched as a French-flagged 45-ft sloop came in with a couple on board. They made four attempts to pick up the mooring. Then they moved over to another mooring and after several attempts there they finally hooked up. The problem seemed to be that the guy at the bow gave very few and poorly articulated directions to the lady at the helm.

When I have someone on board to help with picking up a mooring I have a simple communication scheme: The bowman holds the boat hook over his shoulder as you would a spear. He keeps it pointed it at the mooring ball during the approach. When the mooring disappears from sight at the helm the 'spear' points the way and shows the relative position of the mooring. Simple and effective.

Back to my arrival. I asked them about rates and such and asked if I had any mail. My daughter, Michelle, had mailed new credit cards to me c/o the yacht club. Teiva said, "Yes, it just came yesterday. Perfect timing." That being so, it took just about a month for the letter to make the trip.

The mooring here costs about $60 per week. I plan on staying a couple of weeks. The village is small and geared toward providing the tourists with Tahitian Black Pearls, locally crafted necklaces and bracelets of beads, coral, and shells, and authentic Polynesian food. Oh and all the Tahitian beer you can afford.

So on the first day here I got a beer and invited myself over to Peter's table. We had a few beers and got to know each other a bit. He's from England and Heather is from California. They were going back to Raiatea where their boat, Naho 'aua, will be hauled for a few months. Then they will sail north to Hawaii and then back to California.

One of the places that visitors "must see" while here is Bloody Mary's restaurant. So I strolled over there. Well, it turned out to be about 1.5 hrs walk south of town. Just after I arrived Peter and Heather showed up for lunch, too.

Peter and Heather of s/v Naho 'aua, at Bloody Mary's on BoraBora

A few days later they sailed back to Raiatea. To date only one other english-speaking cruiser has arrived. And he was from Ireland and had not a lot of good things to say about the US.

I spent a few days wondering around the village and seeing what's what. There are two convenient grocery stores that are well stocked. Again, things are expensive here. A bottle of average wine is $30. A liter box of cheap Chilean wine is $7 and it was only $2 in Panama. Eggs, bread, and produce is pretty good and not too expensive. Cabbage is $3 per head.

I met a man at MKYC who runs a bar just down the street. He has a big TV and is having specials during the World Rugby Championships. So I wandered down there a couple of times. I guess I'm getting well enough known. I was sitting at his bar (The Reef) and a couple came up after the rugby game and asked if I wanted a ride back to MKYC. Saved me 10-minutes of staggering down the street. Cool.

I've been doing what I can to support Teiva and Jessica. I have lunch there a few times a week and beers just about every day. Except those days when I'm in serious recovery-mode after a night of too serious drinking.

A few pictures of the MKYC and staff.

Two of the waitresses and the cook (Purea, Rahera, and Maire)

Temeio, another waitress, and Teiva, one of the owners of the Mai Kai Yacht Club and the head chef.

One of the local combo's that entertain in the club. These guys generate a lot of great sounds

Me at the bar in the MKYC

The real expense comes when you have dinner out at any of the restaurants. One can reasonably expect to spend $50 per person. But that's the same as it was in Papeete and Moorea.

Even a burger and beer will cost you twenty-five bucks. But at the MKYC at least it's served with panache.

$25 burger and beer at MKYC

Enough of all that. I'm having a great time spending my daughter's inheritance as fast as possible.

I've sent my broken alternator to the mechanic to work on. When it comes back to me I'll head out of here. Probably to Samoa; 1100nm west of here.

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