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The Two Captains


2C Update #127 - Bora Bora Encore - June 2005

Much like last year, Bora Bora for us was a two part experience:  The view of the twin- peaked island from our favorite anchorage at the NW reef edge of Taha’a now seems to us like a required prerequisite.  Even the fancy bungalows of the Taha’a Pearl Resort don’t have that view.  So, from the boatyard, we trundled on up there and plopped our hook down in our favorite spot (here’s a gift to future cruisers: 16*36.164’S 151*33.428’W) where we had seventeen feet of water and a swing radius clear of coral bommies.  I can’t stress enough what a treasure it is to find an anchoring spot that isn’t sixty feet deep …or more!

This visit we had many more boats coming and going, mostly bareboats, especially the first two days before the wind kicked up. Kindly retired charter captains that we are, we adopted one nice group from Hawaii and guided them to the Coral Garden snorkeling site tucked so well out of the way between the two motu.  Don had blown it off last year, but this year we gave it an hour’s visit and were delighted to find it just as special as before. In barely six feet of water, the garden is a bright nursery of many coral types and various tropical fish.  Don’s favorite was the huge mat anemone with the four clownfish (aka Nemo fish!)  At the end of the coral corridor, snorkelers can drift out to a sand bar and loll in six inches of water surrounded by palm trees.  I do honestly think that of all the resorts we’ve passed in French Polynesia, the Taha’a Pearl might be the one where you’d get your money’s worth.

When the wind kicked up, most of the charter boats fled for more encircled waters, but we stuck it out, confident of our bite in the sand, and we relished having the reef edge and sunset view to ourselves.  It was not kayaking conditions, however.

Four days out from CNI, we finally raised the anchor and set our course for Bora Bora.  The wind was forecast to be fifteen knots, but it was non-existent as we set out and sadly stayed light the whole twenty-six miles to Bora Bora, making the motorsail rather rolly.  As usual, the wind came up for the last little bit and we reached nicely in to the pass before rounding down to our favorite Bora Bora anchorage in the lee of the northern end of Toopua Island.  Here again (16*30.5S 151*46.1W) you have an anchorage in reasonable depths (40’) protected from the gusty drafts Bora Bora is prone to.  Here you have fabulous sunsets, calm water for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, and with just two or three small houses ashore, as atmospheric a South Pacific ambience as you could ask for.

During the next eight days we moved back and forth between the peaceful calm of Toopua and the more cosmopolitan moorage of the Bora Bora Yacht Club which, since our last visit, has been bought out by two local property owners and given new life.  It is a handsome spot, a picture perfect place to enjoy a Mai Tai and watch the sunset and mingle with other cruisers…if there were any other cruisers there.  The BBYC moorings are a convenient alternative for those who want access to town but don’t like anchoring in 70’.  The problem is they cost $20 a night unless you eat a dinner ashore.  Believe us, the $20 a night is the better value, because we indulged in the dinner ashore, and as scrumptious and elegant as it was, it did painful damage to the pocket book!

Our first trip to town was to lay the groundwork for departure.  We caught the gendarmes in a very good mood, but learned we’d have to return at the end of the week just before we wanted to leave.  Next we visited the bank to give them notice so that they would be able to return our bond in dollars (Pacific Francs not being much good on your way out!) And lastly we checked out the fuel dock where we hoped we would be able to finagle duty free fuel on our expired import certificate.  Fuel at the pump in FP is about $1.28 a liter ($4.92/gallon); the diesel is $.99/liter ($3.81/gallon.)  Duty free, available on diesel only, would save us about 35%.

While ashore, we discovered that the Heiva festival was about to get underway and that Bora Bora had a full two-week schedule of events, including dance troupes in the evening.  So, after several days back in Toopua, we bounced back to the Yacht Club to position ourselves for the evening festivities.  This time we hooked up with the English crew of a Hallberg Rassey named Halo on one of the other moorings and in tandem dinghied around to town for the first night performance.

Much as you might see in the Caribbean, Heiva produced a festival village of makeshift eateries.  In the Caribbean these would be plywood booths with such West Indian dishes as roti, pates and callaloo that you carry away.  Here, the eateries were full-fledged restaurants built of traditional stick and thatch, with tables, glassware and varied menu options.  Most impressive was the stunning decoration.  The one we chose had walls covered in tropical flowers and foliage, so well misted to stay fresh that they dripped.  Here we had a very nice meal – poisson cru and chow men with beer for about $12 apiece, very reasonable for FP.  We must have been in the right place because as we were leaving, we noticed the Heiva Queens dining at the table next to us.  I was trying to finagle a casual shot of beautiful Miss Bora Bora in her orange gown against the flowers, but she jumped at the chance to pose with Don, by chance in matching colors!

We got tickets in the grandstand to watch the performance. Most of the locals were drawn up to the sidelines with folding chairs and blankets.  Like Tahiti last year, this was a competition between troupes from different villages on the island, first in traditional choral groups and then in Tahitian-style ballet (See Update #117 – Tahiti & Heiva: second half). Unlike Tahiti, the announcers here explained each presentation in Tahitian, French and ENGLISH (bless their souls), so we had a much better understanding of the themes and storylines.

Since Bora Bora is a smaller island, there were only five troupes competing in each category, one of each per night, so each troupe would perform three times during the festival.  The traditional chants, done in acapella harmonies and in rounds, are an acquired taste to the Western ear.  We enjoyed it more this time than in Tahiti, but we noticed many tourists bailing out in the first half hour.  Such a shame because the dance troupe that followed – 36 young men and women from the village of Faanui, just around the bend from the Yacht Club – was fantastic.  The theme was essentially “a call to the Youth of Faanui to remember and revere your ancestors and great leaders of the past.”  The dancers were dressed in outfits and headdresses of white feathers and they danced on and around eighteen two-level platforms bedecked with greenery and flowers.   We learned later that each of the performers not only must learn all their steps but must make his or her own costume as well as any props, reminiscent of the Carnival troupes of Trinidad.  The dance is so vigorous and sensuous it is incredible they can keep it up for the hour.  Far more faint-hearted, the cruise-ship and resort-based tourists in the grandstand thinned even further when a rain shower came through.  What wimps!

The next day was the day of our scheduled check-out.  Filled with the enthusiasm of the night before, leaving actually came hard!  Who ever would have imagined that French Polynesia had finally wormed its way into our souls?!   Our Heiva mood continued to influence our departure because it prompted all sorts of spontaneous conversations with the gendarmes, their cleaning lady, the bankers and the young fellow who kindly drove me back from the grocery store to the dinghy when I over-shopped, all of whom were full of holiday spirit.  It was more casual chit chat in one day with FP locals, than we’d had at any other occasion in the country. 

Against all Don’s dire expectations we got the check-out paperwork complete, we got the money that we’d posted for our bond fifteen months earlier in the Marquesas back from Bank Socredo without a hitch and at a good exchange rate, and we got our fuel duty free, even if we did have to wait ‘til late afternoon for the station to refill its tanks!  We slipped back before sunset to our spot at Toopua for a good night’s sleep, before setting sail the next morning out of French Polynesia in a fair breeze under a sunshiny sky.  We said to each other, as we always do when the sailing is fine, “We could go around the world like this.”



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Published at Burlington, VT