09 August, 2006

Huahine and Bora Bora

Huahine and Bora Bora______


A rare feeling: Sitting on deck, computer in lap, chocolate milk by my side, Jack Johnson on the radio, floating in fifteen feet, sand bottom, only boat in anchorage, and I’m staring at the peaks of Bora Bora.  Wow!

A cruise ship is leaving the pass I sailed in this morning.  Se la ve!  So sorry to see you go. . . ha.  Oh, better yet, there goes the second one.  Bora Bora brings a collage of memories and sensations to mind, but I am far ahead of myself.  I must back up and try and remember where I left off.




It’s in my journal, but I didn’t send it out as an email.  My favorite island thus far, perhaps, though you can’t compare them.  They are all different and stand alone with their own pros and cons.

But Moorea had a bit of everything: shallow, wonderful anchorage just inside of the lagoon, diving right off the boat in numerous spots.  We’d drift to the pass and dive that or just the coral heads by the boat.  We followed the dive boats and dove on the outside of the reef—great coral, better visibility and a big lemon shark.

Everyday was like this: diving, boatwork, a dinghy trip to the next bay over, Cook Bay.  Anyway, more in the journal, but the time flew by so fast there.


From Moorea Herb and I decided to go to Huahine, many friends had recommended it.  It isn’t as popular as other islands—one guide book said that it was “ugly”—ha!  I think it must have been the author’s favorite and he didn’t want any more visitors.

Huahine has turned into one of my favorites.  The sail there was a good overnighter with a fine breeze.  Timed it perfectly and approached the island as the sun rose.  The pass was intimidating: Huahine has a reputation as a great surf spot, and the southern reef of the pass was one of those spots.

The wind would be close to the nose, but the pass was wide enough that I didn’t think it would be so bad.  And for the most part that was how it turned out.  The gods played a bit of a joke on me by turning off the wind just as I entered and could watch the great tubers breaking on the reef.  But the wind came right back and I made it through on one tack. 


Part of the allure of Huahine is the small town feel. 

We could feel it before we even hit shore.  The town was shady with a quaint bar right on the beach—something Herb has been searching out with surprisingly difficulty.  Food was cheaper.  I don’t know how to say it: it just felt good.

One night we heard about a festival that was concluding with a big singing and dancing “thing”.  We walked to the spot and enjoyed the first really cultural event I’ve experienced in French Polynesia. 


Next, Herb decided it was time for some exploration.  Since I have no engine and we were talking about navigating narrow, coral-ridden passages in the lagoon, we decided to leave my boat in Fare (the town) and take his boat south.

This turned out to be a blast.  It was a nice change to be on another boat, to be sailing as crew with someone else.  We bought ice and steaks for a bar-b-que (both firsts).  Fare was on the NW part of Huahine; we headed south through the lagoon all the way to the southern tip.  We anchored in a bay there and found some more diving with the dinghy.  More huge breakers!  Didn’t ride any of them unfortunately.  Am dying to do it though.


So that was Huahine in brief.  We didn’t stay long.  I have been a bit pressed to get to Bora Bora to get my bond back.  Early Tuesday (August 2nd) morning we headed out.  It was a fair haul so we thought about stopping in Raiatea for the night.

But I found the wind to be excellent.  After a brief squall I headed north, leaving Herb who decided to stick to the course.  It was a tremendous sail.  Bora Bora is hailed as “a perfect island”.  Many scoff at this and a few have even recommended skipping the island all together, but as I sailed around the northern reef of Tahaa and saw that outline I started to grasp some of the hype:  Bora Bora has incredible symmetry.  I have never really seen a picture of it.  From the east, it has a spire in the middle with exact ridges flowing down north and south, both with a sentinel raising up before dropping to the lagoon. 

Such an impressive outline.  I knew already that the island had a grand shape—the reef makes a pentagon, which is strange and rare and nice.

I was surprised to see the island so green.  With its reputation as a honeymoon spot, I expected the whole coast to be covered like Cabo with hotels and resorts, but not so.


I didn’t make it in the pass before dark so I sailed out a few miles and hove-to for the night.  Fortunately, I still had the favorable north wind to help me through the pass.  With luck I’d be able to make the pass on a beam reach with is ideal: fast and with many options.  A Frenchman on the VHF told me there was only slight current and no swell so I was able to cruise through with a great smile.

But now the deliberation: where to anchor??  Everything seemed deep, very deep, 60 – 80 feet.  This is no good with a faulty windlass for pulling up all that chain.  On the chart I found a spot on the edge of the reef that looked great: 10-15 feet, sand.

I asked around and no one seemed to have ever heard of the spot used as an anchorage.  As I rolled in, sure enough, there was no one there, but bukoos of boats in the popular spots.

I thought I’d try it.  I wanted a nice shallow spot over the reef away from the mangle of yachts closer in.  I tacked high into the wind and came up, dropped the main and started falling off the wind as I approached the reef.  If it was too too shallow I’d have to fall off fast!   

90ft. . .75. . . 40, 50, 35. . . 20. . .here I started to get nervous and almost shied off, but it was a slow drop.  A few moments later I was in 15 feet.  The jib was free flying to slow me down and I ran to the bow for the drop. 


So here I am, all alone in paradise.  Boats pass a bit close by, but hey, I’ve got the view.  And now the sun sets and everything is quiet.  I don’t know when I’ll ever find a spot to send this.  I’ve heard internet is $9 for 30 minutes.  Ha!   

The big news is that I did get my bond back. . . I’m rich!  I didn’t like them having my money.  Now that is over and I am officially checked out of French Polynesia.  I won’t leave til Herb and I do a bit of exploring, but soon enough we’ll head out to Suvarow or Nuie and then American Samoa.  No Cook Islands I don’t think.




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