Bora Bora

August 24, 2002, Sunday

At anchor -- in the rain -- near Toopua Island, Bora Bora


Bora Bora Nui resort

Dear friends and family:

Greetings from the middle of a rainstorm.  Bora Bora is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places we have seen, but right now we can't see it!  When it rains hard like this, we have to close all the ports and hatches, but it's still 84 degrees, and it just gets more and more humid.  Add that to the fact that I baked bread this morning, and you have us all sitting in an unintentional sauna bath.  Both Craig and I had a shower on the back step in the rain, with a mix of warm rain water and warm boat water.

Before we came to Bora Bora (and last time I wrote), we were anchored in Faaroa Bay on Raiatea.  You'll remember we had an encounter with a persistent eleven year old Polynesian boy, who wanted to sell us more fruit than we could possibly use.  Apparently he went around to all the boats, and he may have been casing us all.  That night one of our neighboring boats had six sets of masks and fins stolen off the deck, and another boat had two surfboards stolen right out of their canvas covers which were strapped to the lifelines.  Fortunately we had nothing taken, but we've resolved to be more careful nonetheless. 

We learned about the thefts as we were motoring slowly up the "only navigable river in French Polynesia."  The Faaroa River runs into the bay of the same name.  Faaroa River: the only navigable river in French Polynesia
Yachties from Sunjamr -- we met on the Faaroa River It's about as tropical as you can imagine, with low slung trees, flowers, birds, plantations visible in many places, and apparently all the yachties in the bay, going exploring in their inflatable dinghies.

We stopped to talk to several different groups, before returning to the boat.  The day continued not so well: I dropped Craig's prescription dive mask (it does NOT have positive flotation, and disappears quickly in turbulent waters!)  Then, strong winds made it impossible to stay, as we had hoped to do, at Uturoa, where there is a nice grocery store and a barber shop.  Instead we went back to Marina Iti at the south end of Tahaa, and had a nice French dinner as a consolation prize for a less than perfect day.

The passage from Tahaa to Bora Bora took about five hours, under bright sunny skies.  We sailed downwind part of the way, but then the winds dropped to nothing, and the last few miles were under motor.  Bora Bora has a distinctive skyline, with a massive, irregularly shaped mountain in the middle. 

See a map of our route

Bora Bora

It's different and beautiful from every direction.  The pass through the reef is on the far side of the island (from the perspective of Tahaa), so it's almost as though the prehistoric gods of tourism arranged for you to have a panoramic perspective of at least half of the island before you are allowed through the pass.

When we first arrived in Bora Bora, we stayed on a mooring buoy at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, which is not actually a yacht club at all, but just a restaurant.  We surmise that the proprietor (Peter) wants to have yachts in front of his restaurant for their picturesque quality.  So he gives three nights free moorage if you have dinner in the restaurant.  It seems like a fair enough deal.  Peter doesn't actually seem to like boaters of any flavor, however.  He complained at great length that most boaters don't properly use the mooring buoys.  He especially doesn't like Germans because they take naked showers on the back of their boats, right in front of his restaurant.  As if to illustrate the point, a catamaran full of middle aged men began the naked shower routine, right there in front of his restaurant.  It wasn't apparent to me that they were German, but Peter insisted they were.  Interestingly, when we related this story to Cori and Jens, Jens (who is German) agreed that the Germans do get naked at the drop of a hat, "but the Danes are worse.  They go sailing wearing nothing but a life jacket..."

Bora Bora Nui Resort

After the Bora Bora Yacht Club, we anchored near the Bora Bora Nui Resort.  This is one of the over-the-water-bungalow resorts where the daily tariff is at least $800, not including food.  This one seems brand new, and is not in any of our guidebooks.  We learned that Jacques Chirac stayed there a few weeks ago.  We needed to receive a fax from home, so we decided to go in and ask whether we could receive the fax there.  No problem, no charge.  But they charged us $23 for the seven minute phone call to arrange for the fax to be sent.  While we waited for the fax, we walked along the raked white sand beaches, had an expensive drink at the bar, and watched the Polynesian staff setting up for that night's buffet and dance performance.  Fish under the Bora Bora Nui reception bungalowWe watched the tropical fish that congregate under the reception bungalow, where there is a basket of bread cubes so the guests can feed them.  We watched the rich American tourists and the Japanese honeymooners checking in, and we asked ourselves whether we'd ever be happy paying that much to stay in such a place.  We're pretty happy on our lovely sailboat, and it would seem quite decadent to spend that amount of money for the same view we have every day.  (But fresh sheets every night and gourmet meals cooked and cleaned up by someone else does have a certain cachet...)

Jens and Cori upon arrival in Bora Bora

Cori and Jens arrived yesterday from Germany.  They flew to Papeete, and took the freighter Vaeanu from there.  They had hoped to go "deck class" (meaning you roll out your sleeping bag on the deck), but all that space was sold out.  The cabin they paid for was hot, airless and stinky, so they wiggled onto the deck anyway.  Craig and I were having a leisurely breakfast, planning to be at the dock well before the time of their arrival, and then we looked up and the Vaeanu was coming in the pass, about two hours ahead of schedule.  We hurriedly pulled up the anchor and motored over to the Bora Bora Yacht Club, right around the corner from the Vaeanu.  They were still waiting for their bags, so not too much time was lost.  It was a very happy reunion, and we were glad to meet Jens for the first time.

Yachties at Motu TapuYesterday evening, one of the cruising boats, "Mermaid," organized a potluck on the nearby island, Moto Tapu.  The island belongs to the Bora Bora Nui Resort, and one of the resort employees was there to prevent people just such as us from landing there.  In the end, Kathy of Mermaid persuaded the guy to let us have the potluck.  He said we should go around the back side of the island, so that his boss wouldn't be able to see that there were dinghies at the island.  Apparently the island is used for the private entertainment of the richest clients of the resort, and they don't want any ordinary folks spoiling the place.  The beach is carefully raked smooth and there are beach chairs at appropriate intervals.  We stood around on the beach, or up to our ankles in the warm water, and became acquainted with some of the cruisers we know so well from our radio contacts.  This was the first chance for Cori and Jens to meet some of the cruising community, and they spent quite a bit of time with a South African fellow crewing on the big steel sailboat, Firebird.  We learned that Kathy and Mike of Mermaid (with a home port of Hollywood) are filming a TV series starring their son, Austin, called "Adventures of Austin" or some such thing.  They plan to do three episodes in Bora Bora.

We'll spend a few more days in Bora Bora and then sail west to Maupiti (briefly), Suvarov (briefly) and American Samoa. 

Best wishes to all --

Craig and Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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Fisherman and his dogs, off Motu Toopua, photo by C. Neunteufel