Final days in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Sunday morning we were up early and by eight we were underway heading to the lagoon on the windward side of Bora Bora. The weather, of course, decided not to cooperate so we had 20+ knots of wind and grey skies – not what you need when you are planning on eyeball navigation!   Anyway….we worked our way around the corner and thankfully the skies cleared a bit…so we had some visibility when we needed it most to get through the chicanes of channel and cardinal markers.  You can see we did a 360 at one point to allow another boat to come through as there wasn’t room for us both to navigate through the cut.   It was pretty tricky and we had only 5 feet under our keel at times going across shallow stretches but the most nerve-wracking part was going through a very narrow cut in the reef.

We made it unscathed and continued to work our way down to Motu Pitiaau where we eyeballed our way in through numerous coral bombies and dropped the hook in the most beautiful blue water over sand.  Perfect!   We relaxed a bit and had something to eat before getting our diving gear together.

We got in dink and motored up the coast in very shallow water towards the Intercontinental Hotel. We found a place on the jetty to tie up dink, located the dive centre and sat and waited for the boat…..chatting for a while to one of the jetski instructors…..and admired the views across to Bora Bora from the resort.

It wasn’t long before we were on board the dive boat heading up the coast to the Four Seasons to pick up some more guests and another instructor who was taking a couple of tourists on a “Introduction to Diving” dive. We arrived quickly at the manta ray dive site but the visibility was zero due to the amount of plankton in the water – great for mantas as it is gives them something to eat but rubbish if we can’t see them! So the dive leaders decided to take us further along the canyon near the reef where the beginners could play around in shallow water while we could head off down the walls. We were both excited about this dive, especially as it was only us and the dive leader, with the possibility of seeing mantas so were surprised when we submerged. The coral was tired, dreary and broken…..little colour….with very few fish around. The visibility was rubbish and we had to stay pretty close to each other and of course no rays. I managed to find a few bits of coral to photograph but that’s about it sadly. We spent almost an hour underwater for very little reward other than getting wet. We returned to Morphie disappointed but at least we had tried. We both decided that was probably the worst (and most expensive) dive we had ever been on together!!!

We had a quiet night on board enjoying the anchorage although it was quite chilly. We have noticed that it is much colder at night now and I guess this will continue to be a theme as we move further west and south. It might be time to break out the fleeces.

Monday morning we were up early and checked out the weather forecast as we were looking at passage weather for our departure from French Polynesia. The weather window keeps moving on us but it was looking good for a departure this week. So we picked up anchor and worked our way – again in 20+ knots of breeze – through the reef system back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. We had intended to go closer to Vaitape but with the wind still blowing we decided to seek shelter behind the mountain again. We were pleasantly surprised that the ball we had vacated the day before was still vacant.

We got ourselves secured and rang Dolly our favourite Bora Bora taxi driver.

Dolly picked us up and we went into town to see the gendarmes. We were there for about an hour or so filling in five separate forms which all covered pretty much the same information. Oh well….never mind…. Surprisingly they said we could get the papers done in 24 hours – rather than the three days we had been told – so we said ‘yes please’ to a Tuesday departure date. We now feel ready to leave French Polynesia behind us and move onto the next adventure.

After leaving the gendarmes we went into a café for a light lunch and then returned to the yacht club. Back on board we wrote up a list of things we needed to do before we leave and spent some time doing our passage planning including looking at an alternative destination if the weather deteriorates significantly on us during the passage. Once we’d done this to our satisfaction and the waypoints / routing had been checked for hazards – Richard got on with his boat jobs including engine checks and making a new (temporary) lifting bridle for dink which we’ll need later on. I got on with computer-related stuff.

The forecast had brisk and feisty conditions (25 knots) and the wind should be on our port quarter to a beam reach rather than dead downwind (fingers crossed). The wind should ease as we arrive at our preferred destination Palmerston Island a passage of around 660 miles – so based on our normal average passage speed of five knots we are expecting to be at sea for about five and a half days. The mooring balls (which are compulsory as anchoring is not possible here) are outside of the reef so any north or west winds make this stop untenable. We will continue to monitor the weather closely and adapt our sailing plan to suit.

Palmerston is unique in that it is owned and exclusively populated by the descendants of Bill Marsters, the ship’s carpenter from HMS Bounty (think Mutiny!). He married three Polynesian women and then went on to produce 28 children – and they are the only families that continue to live there to this day. Apart from the obligatory entry / exit fees (in New Zealand dollars) we will have to trade goods for their hospitality and services and it is so remote the supply ship only visits every four months.

Our back-up plan if the conditions do deteriorate – this area is called the Dangerous Middle for a reason – is to pull into Aitutak instead, which is about 200 miles before Palmerston.

Monday evening we went into the yacht club for a couple of sundowners, enjoyed the sunset and watching the local guys practising in their long boat, before having an early night on board.

Tuesday morning we downloaded the weather again – and the conditions had deteriorated significantly already with 30 knot winds forecast. So we want to revert to a Thursday departure. We went to the gendarmes and told them – they weren’t happy as they had to amend the documentation. They refuse to give any leeway for weather delays so the day you get your exit papers is the day you have to leave the territory for your passage. So we put our heads above the parapet and agreed on a Thursday departure and had fingers crossed that the forecast would remain favourable.

We got back to Morphie and got on with more jobs on the list….my main task was to defrost the freezer and cook passage food. Richard got in the water and cleaned the hull again. The new antifoul we had applied in Guatemala is not up to the job here in the South Pacific as the marine-friendly product we used – which is approved by both New Zealand and Australia – doesn’t really repel growth. Oh well perhaps we’ll have to think again for the next time. Maybe a hard paint rather than ablative might suit better…we’ll see.

Tuesday night we went ashore for sundowners and got on with more computer jobs and had a ‘tapas’ plate to give me a night off from the galley after spending all afternoon slaving over it LOL. We watched two catamarans come too close again – the mooring balls were really not spaced with 55+ foot charter cats in mind – and to avoid a collision they ended up tying a line ashore to the restaurant so we had to do the limbo in dink to get back to Morphie later on LOL.

This morning, Wednesday, we were up early. Richard went back in the water to finish cleaning the hull, cooked lunch and did the laundry while I cleaned the stainless steel. You see we swapped blue and pink jobs around today LOL. I’m now blogging and expect to go ashore later to get it published. We are also having dinner out at the yacht club tonight as it is our last night here in French Polynesia and we anticipate being at sea for our 21st wedding anniversary on 2 September as we are not allowed to stay in Palmerston for more than three days apparently.

Tomorrow morning, Thursday, we’ll return to the gendarmes, pick up our exit papers, and then come back on board – put dink on the bow and the outboard on the rail and then we’ll be ready to go. We expect to pull out around 4pm to get through the pass while the sun remains relatively high in the sky. We anticipate arriving in Palmerston at sunrise on Wednesday morning although we may need to slow down to arrive in daylight hours but we’ll see. I’ll blog from the passage using our satellite system – so it will be without photos – and will let you know when we have arrived and when we get back online.

Bye for now