Paradise has lousy weather, but it also has baguettes, brie and circus acrobats. Ginni Callahan discovers all this and more on Bora Bora, an island in French Polynesia, as her sailing and kayaking adventure continues.
They say the best kept secret of French Polynesia is the lousy weather. It can certainly be exciting! Last night, we got some of the hardest rain I’ve ever seen this side of northern Australia. Wind gusted over 30 knots, heeling Misty over on her side at anchor and straining the anchor line snubber. Blue lightning seared the sky.
It’s been 4 months and a day since we arrived in the Marquesas, and we’ll be heading out of French Polynesia in a few more days. The hurricane season is at our heels, and we have 2,500 nautical miles to go to New Zealand.
The last week at Bora Bora has been one of those slow, uneventful weeks that you look back on and are surprised at all that happened.
We ran aground inside the lagoon, within meters of a channel marker (on the proper side). We were headed into the sun, and there was no other side mark. Just a reef. The GPS was utterly worthless inside the Bora Bora lagoon. Worse, actually. It inspired false confidence. But Misty’s steel hull proved its mettle here as we rested, embarrassed but unhurt, until a helpful local with a big motorboat pulled us back off. We weren’t the first ones to have made this mistake.
In various excursions, I paddled almost completely around the main island of Bora Bora and around some motus within the lagoon. We pulled our kayaks up on an old, sharp reef and drift-snorkeled through a waterscape of fantastic formations and colorful fish. We hung under our kayaks with masks on to look about at other reefs and at the hulls of some boats. Henrick is designing his next boat, and is perpetually on a mission to study hulls he likes.
I’ve concocted several uses for a stubby cooking banana. Our garden tour guide in Raiatea gave us a stalk of these, which we hung under the solar panels off the stern of Misty. They ripen at a rate of about 10 a day. The progression looks cool, but keeps the chef hopping. Breakfast smoothies, happy hour banana coladas, banana-coconut-chocolate cake. They must be cooked first, so I slice them lengthwise and fry them, then blend them with a little milk for smoothies, or oil for cake.
According to our tourist literature, Bora Bora is supposed to have a mini maritime museum of model boats. Its location differs on our various guide maps. We’ve asked nearby residents, fishermen, and outrigger paddlers. Only one paddler had even heard of it, and said it was somewhere between this point and that one. We looked about twice from our kayaks along the shore, which is where the road and the buildings are because the rest of the island is so steep, but saw no sign of a museum. Almost all yards have a collection of old boats: fishing skiffs, solo outriggers, 6-person outriggers, open canoe outriggers. So we’ve experienced a museum of sorts anyway.
We did catch another performance of the sailing acrobats we’ve been playing tag with since Mexico. They are professional performers who now support themselves by doing shows wherever they go and passing around collection tins. The couple does two shows on board their yellow boat in an evening. One is a comedy. They are rookie sailors knocking each other overboard – almost – or ending up dangling on a boom out over the water, or stringing each other up by the rigging lines. Ignorantly working against each other to make everything go wrong. Very Tom & Jerry. Done to cartoon music and quite funny.
The second show is a romance, with breathtaking acrobatics done hanging from two thin sheets of fabric strung up from the backstay, among other stunts. In Raiatea, the shows drew cruisers, charter yacht renters, local families, and their energetic children. We happened to be tied at the dock on the far side of the island when we saw their poster up in the grocery store. For a couple of days we hunted around for a bicycle, scooter rental or bus schedule to get us there for the show since we were headed the other way with our boat and didn’t want to go back around. No rentals anywhere. No public bus system. Asking at a local hotel for nonexistent bicycles, we ended up carpooling with the owner, who was going to see the show anyway. We were thankful since we’d missed their show in Loreto, the Marquesas, and Tahiti.
On Bora Bora, we finally tasted the famous local Poisson Cru, or raw fish and veggies in coconut milk . Very tasty. We picked up more baguettes at the local grocery store. I wanted one of the outriggers for sale there too, but Henrick vetoed that. Baguettes and outriggers at the grocery store. I like this place more and more.
One of the reasons I like French Polynesia is also one of the reasons we MUST go. The French influence. Baguettes, brie, and red wine. Never mind visa limits and impending hurricane season, I’ll need a new, wider kayak if we stay too long.
Boat chores must be done before we head out. We cleaned the hull with a green kitchen scrubby to remove the mini ecosystem of slime and crusty things and restore a hydrodynamic surface. Little fish take great interest in the particles we set free in the water. We dive repeatedly and try to swim close enough to the hull against the current to get some good scrubbing leverage. One day when I jumped in for a scrubbing session, the visibility was less than six feet. A cool current moved through, and within half an hour, the water was crystal clear. I could see the anchor and its chain coming off the bow when I swam behind the 36′ boat.
We don’t mind the occasional “lousy” weather. When it’s windy and rainy, we call it good “cozing in” weather, and enjoy the excuse to curl up with a writing project or a boat model to work on.
For more great pictures from Henrick, visit his blog, onvoyage.net.