Saying Farewell to French Polynesia from Bora Bora

We had a great break in the weather for our sail from Taha’a to Bora Bora, just half a days hop away.  That annoying southerly swell continued to roll us around on the downwind passage but at least the sun was shining so it was enjoyable.


Approaching the beautiful island of Bora Bora

Just after entering the lagoon we followed a marked channel to starboard and tucked ourselves in on the leeward side of the private motu ‘Toopua’ and anchored in a large patch of sand right behind an even larger superyacht catamaran called Hemisphere.   The government has tightened anchoring regulations in recent months, and many moorings have been placed in the ‘anchoring zones’ which makes life a little difficult for any yacht who would rather trust their own ground tackle over a possibly under rated mooring.  We checked out the anchoring zone just the other side of the channel behind Toopua and found numerous coral heads scattered about which made it impossible for us to find a big enough patch of sand to anchor in without damaging the coral or getting too close to a mooring.  So we settled for our large patch of sand behind the superyacht.  The mooring operator came by and paid us a visit, he was sure our 37 ton would be fine on his moorings (for a fee of US$100 a week) even with a forecast of 30 knots of wind for the next few days, but we firmly declined and insisted we stay put in our sand.  He very generously said ok we could stay one night, we ignored him and stayed here for our 5 day visit to the island and neither he or anyone else bothered us again.


The view towards the reef and the ‘anchoring zone’ from our secure patch of sand

During our first evening in the anchorage we noticed a motor boat ferrying people to the superyacht in front, we were intrigued as to what was going on as a dozen or so locals were loaded on to ‘Hemisphere’.  When the sound of  drums began to flow out from the back deck and chanting began we took our places, peering over the sprayhood, for a traditional performance.  The human delivery had been local dancers and musicians performing an exclusive show for the lucky (and very rich) guests of the superyacht.  Well, not that exclusive as us two curtain-twitchers looked on through binoculars in awe of the men and women dancing and singing, including several costume changes in between. The icing on the cake was the finale involving the guests getting individual dance lessons taking ‘dad-dancing’ to another level.  Priceless.  What an evening of entertainment…through the looking glass. Good job it gets dark early here.


Our Entertainment Yacht “Hemisphere’ leaving Bora Bora with a crew member in the main boom. She is the worlds largest luxury charter catamaran at 145 feet long and costs up to US$280,000 per week to charter!

Although our anchorage was lovely and protected, the dinghy ride across the lagoon to the main island of Bora Bora was a real bone shaker, punching against 25-30 knots of wind and associated waves was a wet and bumpy affair. My coccyx may well be a couple of mm shorter than before.  We were lucky enough to be joined in the anchorage by ‘Bruno’s Girl’, a British boat we had met in the Tuamotus, so despite the strong winds and heavy downpours we managed some fun evenings together and a hike across the northern part of the island.



What a view – from Bora Bora to Motu Toopua


Daredevil Claudia enjoying the view


Beautiful decorations outside a local wedding celebration


Following the trail across the mountain, just before the rain set in for the afternoon

It is certainly a very pretty island and has numerous tourist resorts in the lagoon area so the main town was bustling, it was just a great shame our visit had 90% bad weather as this really limited what we could do.  Just a few days after arriving, a weather window appeared for us to sail to our next destination, American Samoa, about 1100 miles to the west. Here we will collect a replacement gearbox oil cooler that sprung a leak in the Marquesas. Parts can be delivered here cheaply from the States using the US postal system without any tax added, our oil cooler worked out less than a third of the cost  of having it delivered to Tahiti.   Clearing out of French Polynesia was a rather long and slow process compared with checking in. After completing 6 forms repeating the same information at the police station, and 2 more wet rides across the lagoon as they still hadn’t received our clearance papers from Tahiti, our departure was delayed by half a day.   So from Bora Bora we said our final goodbye to the wonderful French Polynesian Islands and we head off out into the swell once more.

Our 1100 mile passage to the main port of Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango), on the southern shore of Tutuila Island in the American Samoa group, started in squally weather which kept us on our toes.  Early on day two we had a sudden 36 knot squall which the autopilot couldn’t cope with in the swell, so I took over quickly as Joy attempted to round up into the wind.  Another reef in the mizzen certainly helped the helm.  We poled out the jib sail to stop it collapsing when the boat rolled in the swell, and from day 3 the squalls subsided and slightly better conditions set in. Three other boats that had left the same time as us peeled off to Suwarrow Reef for a stopover but as the forecast was so good we decided to take advantage and carry on to collect our parts.  Two days out from our destination we added to our small list of parts required.  The gas strut inside the main boom kicker, which supports the boom and allows us to raise and lower the boom from the cockpit, suddenly blew which meant we had to use the topping lift (fancy name for a rope that runs from the top of the mast down to the end of the boom) to support the boom.  When it blew, the boom smashed the electrical box on the hardtop serving the solar panels.


Catch of the day – a tasty Wahoo, a similar sized barracuda was also added to the freezer


Downwind sailing – Poled-out Jib sail to starboard and staysail to port

After a 9 day sail we arrived very early morning off the coast of Tutuila, hoving-to for a couple of hours so that we could delay our arrival and enter in daylight.  It was really nice to see our friends on ‘Larus’ in the anchorage and just before we dropped anchor they whizzed over and told us that Customs here require clearance on the dock. Luckily there was a Joy-sized space on the concrete dock squeezed in between a large fishing boat and another yacht and Nancy and Tim from ‘Larus’ very kindly took our lines.  We had arrived!


A view of the channel in to Pago Pago, American Samoa

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2 Responses to Saying Farewell to French Polynesia from Bora Bora

  1. Wow! Gorgeous places and photos and what an experience! Thank you for sharing your adventure.


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