Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bora Bora

After awaking at our peaceful anchorage inside the lagoon on the west side
of the island of Raiatea and completing plumbing repairs resulting from
Mark’s lost contact lense episode, we set sail for the fabled island of
Bora Bora.  From the aerial photos we’d seen of it and from descriptions
and reports from friends who had been there, we knew that out 24 mile sail
would take us to one of the most beautiful island in the world.  The
island’s lush, green interior mountains are surrounded by a blue lagoon
and a number of palm-covered motus (islets).  It is on these motus that
some of the world’s most exclusive and exotic hotels can be found making
it a destination of choice for honeymooners and celebrities looking for a
romantic, tropical getaway.  Because most of the lagoon areas near the
island’s main town of Vaitape are either reef-strewn or too deep to anchor
comfortably, most cruising yachts choose to tie-up to moorings that are
offered at several locations.  The most popular are located at the Bora
Bora and Mai Kai Yacht Clubs.  Moorings are typically constructed of very
heavy nylon line spliced around a steel thimble and chained to a concrete
block weighing several tons that is dropped to the sea floor.  Throughout
the word, in areas without conventional marinas, moorings are frequently
found.  After sailing through Bora Bora’s reef pass, we proceeded directly
to the Mai Kai Yacht Club where we found an available mooring and secured
“Blue Rodeo” to the mooring line using our 1” diameter nylon bridal.

Once were we settled, we took our dinghy ashore to check in with the
club’s staff and were pleased to find that they were offering a week’s-
worth of free moorage to attract business to the facility and dock-side
restaurant.  Knowing that many boats would be arriving within the next few
days to take-in the island’s Heiva and Bastille Day celebrations, we felt
fortunate to get a spot near the center of the action.

While in the Tuamotu’s at the atoll of Fakarava, we had purchased a
package of guided SCUBA dives from a dive operation that also had a
location in Bora Bora and saved several dives to use there.  With a
forecast of increasing winds and deteriorating weather for the area, after
checking-in with the club, we wasted no time in arranging two dives each
for the following morning.

The next morning, the dive boat picked us up at our boat a raced out of
the reef pass to our first dive site.  Along the way we had a chance to
get to know several of the other divers in our group and compared notes
about our favorite dive locations around the world.  The two dives we did
that morning were enjoyable but not especially interesting.  We are
realizing that we’ve been a bit spoiled by the Tuamotu’s with the
incredible variety of corals, fish and multitude of sharks.  On our second
dive outside of Bora Bora’s surrounding reef, we did see two large Lemon
sharks that definitely got our attention as they have somewhat of an
aggressive reputation and look more menacing than the more common, Black
and White-Tipped Reef sharks.

Over the next several evenings we connected with cruising friends for
dinners ashore and walks into town to watch the nightly dance
performances.  Throughout the week, the weather remained unsettled with
strong winds and frequent rain showers that prevented us from ever getting
to totally see and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.  The wind
gusts, many in the 30 knot range, that funneled down off the nearby
mountains would send “Blue Rodeo” and neighboring moored boats sailing
back and forth while straining at their mooring lines.  Several times
daily, Mark would go forward to the bow of our boat and examine the
condition of our mooring line and attachment bridal.  Despite this effort
a failure of one of our lines nearly resulted in disaster.

While ashore one evening with a group of friends watching the dance
performances, we noted wind gusts even more extreme than we’d experienced
during previous days.  One cruiser would later mention that his
instruments registered a wind speed of 53 knots.  While walking with our
group back to the Yacht club, we encountered another cruising friend
running toward us, nearly out of breath, who reported the shocking news
that “Blue Rodeo” had broken free of her mooring and gone adrift into the
very dark and stormy night.  In a second, our hearts sank and our minds
raced as we considered the awful consequences.  Had our floating home
collided with another vessel?  Had she been blow onto a reef where she was
being battered and broken by the wind-driven waves?  Fortunately, before
the shock set in, our friend included the information that “Blue Rodeo”
had been rescued by other cruisers and anchored around a point near the
Bora Bora Yacht Club.

The next 30 minutes proved to be agonizing as we hurriedly returned to our
dinghy at the Mai Kai.  With winds howling and a heavy rain beginning to
fall, we were happy to accept the assistance of the club’s owner would was
waiting for us with his large, high-powered, inflatable boat to take us to
“Blue Rodeo”.  While towing our dinghy, he shuttled us back to our
anchored boat where went found 3 of our heroic cruising friends huddled
out of the rain under our cockpit awning.  Upon our arrival, they gave us
a brief summary of what had happened and returned to their own boats for a
well-deserved sleep.  It goes without saying that we gave them our most
sincere and heartfelt thanks.  Before they left, plans we made get
together the next day to hear the whole story.

Our night aboard “Blue Rodeo” at anchor was less than restful as we were
buffeted by severe wind gusts.  We awoke many times to cross-check our
position with GPS coordinates and lights ashore to insure that we were not
dragging our anchor.

The next day, we returned to our original mooring and re-secured “Blue
Rodeo” with another stout mooring bridal and a back-up line.  Once that
was done and we were confident that the boat was safe, we walked over to
the Bora Bora Yacht club where we learned exactly what had happened and
continued to thank those involved with the rescue.  As it turns out, a
young, female chef at the club had been driving home along the coastal
road when she noticed “Blue Rodeo’s anchor light and cockpit lights in an
area not normally transited by boats, especially at night.  Fortunately,
she had the good sense to call the club and alert them that a boat was
possibly adrift.  Had it not been for her call, it’s likely that the
strong winds would have blown ‘Blue Rodeo” across the lagoon and onto the
leeward reef where she would have been severely damaged.  When the young
woman’s call came in, the club manager alerted several cruisers who
actually accomplished the rescue.  John, from the vessel “Red Sky”, was
first to respond aided by Pedro and Mark from the vessel “ La Condesa del
Mar”.  With their dinghies lashed alongside our wayward boat, they were
able to tug her to an area clear of other vessels where they could pull
out our anchor chain, hand-over-hand, from its locker and drop the anchor,
securing the boat until we arrived.  Considering the strong winds, driving
rain and very dark night, their accomplishments were nothing short of
heroic and we will forever feel the utmost gratitude toward them.  Later
reflection on the incident made us feel so very fortunate to be traveling
in company with so many wonderful, competent and caring folks.  Of course,
had the situation been reversed, where another vessel had been in
jeopardy, we would have been quick to lend a hand.  After all, that’s what
cruisers do…that’s what the cruising community is all about.

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