Beetle in Bora Bora

This morning at 7:55AM Beetle motored in through the pass at Bora Bora. This island has a lot of name recognition, even if it doesn’t have the most outstanding reputation as a cruising destination. It definitely has lots of sand flats inside the outlying reef, and on those sand flats are lots of grey sting rays that don’t mind dinghies driving over them at all, and lots of Eagle Rays that are definitely gun-shy of a dinghy going by. Plus lots of resorts built out as individual bungalows on concrete cylindrical stilts with a common gangway that run out into the bay; the bungalows even appear on the charts as obstructions, which I find somewhat humorous.

The sail over was straight forward, a 135 mile run from Moorea to Bora, take Huahine to port and run over the top of Tahaa on the way to the airport beacon at Bora. The sea state was reasonably unpleasant, two swell trains running plus the wind waves on top of that. At least it wasn’t three or four swell trains running, that is even more interesting to bump and hop through and over.

The giant sailing cruise ship Wind Spirit went by a mile off in the middle of the night (they were upwind under power, we were downwind under sail, they gave way), and the Aranui 5 combination supply and cruise ship also went by, though they were a bit further away.

When we cleared the pass into Bora there’s a question as to where best to anchor. The most popular anchorage with the cruisers is to the west of Motu Toopua, just to the south of the pass. We weren’t certain if we were going to go there of across the main lagoon to “Bloody Mary’s”, a deep anchorage (80-100′) on the south side that is also popular with the cruising crowd, mostly as it provides relatively close access to the coral snorkeling on the SE corner of Bora. The hurdle for entering west of Motu Toopua is a marked shallow shelf/bridge that needs to be crossed in order to get into the deeper bowl inside for anchoring purposes. With Kristen calling directions from the bow while I motored along slowly, we passed over an underwater ledge of 11′ of water and we were in. And promptly discovered that Pangea was present, so we stopped and talked with them to learn more about the anchorage – which sort of follows as marked navigation channel that a lot of small passenger boats (think catamaran with 14 people on it going 20 knots) use to shuttle folks to and from the airport at the other end of the lagoon.

‘Anchor anywhere’ was the response. I eyed the traffic, lined up with a 70′ Oyster, got the anchor to stick in the sand on the first short, and we promptly wrapped the anchor chain around a bommie on the bottom – shades of Fakarava! So tonight we are firmly attached to the bottom, as the anchor isn’t doing much some 60′ behind us, while the 60′ of chain descending from the nylon anchor snubber is securely fastened to the bommie. Something to sort out tomorrow.

A deciding factor in today’s Brownian Boat Motion across the Society Islands is the weather has laid down considerably, therefore everyone that has felt stuck is suddenly on the move – boats are shooting about going every which way. When Beetle arrived we anchored behind two and in front of one, plus a couple others on our side of the channel and perhaps 10 on the other. Most of these boats departed by mid-day, all headed off to somewhere else, the anchorage emptied out to almost zero. A ‘rule’ of anchoring is that the first one into the anchorage is fine, and any subsequent boat that swings into the first boat’s way needs to up anchor and move. It’s always nice to be the first boat in. We were number 6, then 5, then 3. And now 2. All the other boats on our side of the channel were up and out. By late afternoon the anchorage on the other side of the channel emptied out and refilled with all kinds of boats, including Ocean Star – a larger (Beneteau?) that has a salt water leak in their generator and is planning to motor over to Tahiti tomorrow to get their generator worked on, thus explaining the two 55 gallon plastic drums of diesel lashed to their mast.

On board it’s been a fairly slow day simply because Kristen and I didn’t get a lot of quality sleep last night. We got the dinghy up and out, went off and found Eagle Rays on the sand flats, did some snorkeling in two spots (coral definitely in better health in Moorea than we saw in those two areas), talked to some folks on the radio, had dinner, and now is 8:30pm and feels very late. The moon has just risen, and that moon was fantastic on the water last night – made everything super bright and I never needed to use a headlamp while adjusting sails in the dark.

General plan for tomorrow is to check out the water at the SE corner of Bora, I’d like to find a Vini (cell phone provider) store to enquire after a cellular data card, and I need to resolve the chain-on-the-bommie situation. Simply unwrapping from the bommie and resetting right here doesn’t help as all I’ll do is wrap up again. So we might move over to Bloody Mary’s and the moorings that they maintain there – if there is any room.

All is good, it’s odd to be in the middle of the South Pacific and feel like we’ve landed in the Las Vegas of the Society Islands – but it is fun to see the activity and the boats going by and the bungalows. Lots happening here. Tomorrow we will go exploring further afield, visit the town, and learn a bit about how things work here.

– rob


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