Day 263, Year 1: Snorkeling, Snorkeling, and Birthday Dinner at Bloody Mary’s

Day 263, Year 1: Snorkeling, Snorkeling, and Birthday Dinner at Bloody Mary’s
Date: Friday, July 7, 2006
Weather: Mixed Rain and Sunshine and Wind—Front Passing Through
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

The weather here really has not been cooperating, but we are still having a great time. During our time in Bora Bora, we have spent more time wet than dry, sometimes soaked from rough dinghy rides into town, but we have survived. Tonight for Mark’s 64th birthday, Lee and Mary Ellen took us out to eat at Bloody Mary’s. In order to get there we had to wear full foul weather gear over our Polynesian dress-very strange attire! Bloody Mary’s is a really interesting place-from the sand floors to the waterfall sink for washing hands. Tonight Australian TV was there video taping for their version of the Travel Channel. It was a fun evening and a great way to spend our last evening with Mary Ellen and Lee. They fly back to Tahiti tomorrow and we will miss them very much.

Our day started with a snorkel not far from where we are anchored. It is an area where the local dive establishments bring their clientele and this morning there were lots of people. It was still enjoyable, however, as we got to benefit from the local knowledge of the dive masters on the different boats. They were feeding an eight foot-long moray eel and then holding it up for all to see. I felt a little sorry for the eel, but it was fun to see one that large. Most of the local dive masters all seem to be male and dress in very traditional Polynesian dive attire-a sarong thong. Mary Ellen came up to the dinghy from snorkeling to make sure I didn’t miss that sight! Some of the female tourists that were diving also had on very interesting attire that kept Mark and Lee busy.

After the morning snorkel, we went to town to have lunch and on our way back to the boat we ended up in a driving rain. But never fear. As soon as we returned to the boat, the rain stopped, the wind came up, and the sun shone through the clouds. The second snorkel of the day was back at the same place, but this time Windbird’s dinghy was the only boat there. It was fascinating to see the difference in fish behavior in the same area from morning to late afternoon. This afternoon the butterfly fish were swimming in schools along with other schools of fish. During our other visits we have just seen a few of each kind of fish. There was even a school of trumpet fish this afternoon and a really big spotted ray. Mark got to swim with that one which made a great birthday present for him.

We will be here in Bora Bora only another day before we return to Raiatea for a few days. We hope to come back here for Bastille Day on July 14, and then it is off to Raratonga.

060707 Day 263 Society Islands, Bora Bora–Mark's Birthday, Dinner at Bloody Mary's

Day 262, Year 1: Circumnavigating Bora Bora

Day 262, Year 1: Circumnavigating Bora Bora
Date: Thursday, July 6, 2006
Weather: Mixed Rain and Sunshine
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

The sun was shining this morning which made us all very happy, so we took off in the dinghy to travel all the way around the island of Bora Bora. Our first stop was in town for some French pastries, but on our way in we realized that we were headed right into the start of the one-man canoe races that are part of Heiva. The guide boats motioned for us to head to shore, which we did, but that put us in very shallow water with lots of coral heads. We had to turn off the motor and paddle our way to town carefully. That was a bit of a hassle, but we were very excited to have a front row seat for the races. There were the one-man junior and senior races, and the 12-man (actually not “man”, but vahine) race. Once the races were over we left the town dock and headed further north. We made a stop at a resort called Top Dive, which is a dive resort, in hopes of finding a guide to reef fish in the South Pacific. This was our last hope, but that book is no where to be found in French Polynesia. As we traveled on, the sunshine disappeared and we once again had rain. None of us had expected to be wearing ponchos and foul weather gear in Bora Bora, but that has been the case. With the rain came the clouds, but we could still easily see the shore. The mountains, however, were veiled in clouds. When we were about half-way around the 32-kilometer circuit, the rain stopped and sun tried hard to peek through. That made us all very happy. Once we rounded the southern tip of the island, we prepared to snorkel our way back to Windbird. I, of course, was in the dinghy but hanging over the side with my mask on. The current carried the boat faster than Mark, Mary Ellen, and Lee could swim, so once in a while, I would start the engine and back track.

The snorkeling here is just fantastic. The fish come right up to you and the water is just so very clear. We are going to try to work in two snorkels tomorrow before going out to dinner at Bloody Mary’s for Mark’s 64th birthday. Could he really be that old?!!!

We went to Monica and Felix’s boat, Makani, for sundowners before going into town for another night of Heiva competition. The other thing that is amazing here is the dancing. How people can move their bodies like these people do is simply beyond understanding. The singing and dance presentations were once again just spectacular, and the drumming and music is just wonderful. In the log for Day 259, I explained about the different types of dances. I guess I should also explain about the different types of singing. I’ll do that here and sign off for tonight.

The first himene (singings) created in the early 20th century are a sort of mixture of Polynesian traditional polyphonic singings and religious hymns brought by the first British missionaries. There are three types of himenes: 1) himene tarava is very complex and is sung by 60 to 80 singers with 6 to 10 different parts, 2) the himene ru’au is sung acapella and has a slow tempo with all singers sitting in a semi-circle facing the chorus chief, and 3)and the ‘ute which is much more light-hearted and sung by two or three people accompanied with traditional or modern instruments. Every night when we attend the Heiva presentation, we see all three kinds of himenes performed. There are only about five thousand people on this island and each town competes. The singing groups have at least 80 singers and the dance groups have at least 60. We’re not sure where all of the people are coming from. We assume that almost everyone in some of the little towns are performing, but they perform like professionals while making their culture come alive for the visitors to the island.

060706 Day 262a Circumnavigating Bora Bora in a Dinghy
060706 Day 262b Society Islands, Bora Bora–Heiva Races and Eve Performances

Day 261, Year 1: Fighting the Weather

Day 261, Year 1: Fighting the Weather
Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Weather: Another Cloudy, Rainy Day in Bora Bora
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

The weather here is really not cooperating. Today started out as a bit of an overcast day, but by 10 AM the rains set in and we continued to have heavy rains for the remainder of the day. Every time we thought it was going to clear, the rain returned with a revenge. In the middle of the afternoon, we had 25 knot winds in the anchorage with white caps. By 4 PM calmer weather returned and at this time it looks like things might clear up. Let’s just hope that is correct.

Last night we attended a Heiva program in Vaitape. We arrived around 7:30 PM for the 8:00 PM show. First we saw singing which was very good and then the dancing program started at about 9 PM. This was spectacular. There were about 60 dancers involved and their costumes were really beautiful. It was so great that we hope to go back tomorrow nights to see other groups perform.

We started our day today with another snorkeling adventure and just as the rains started, we returned to the boat. We took it easy for the remainder of the day and waited for the rains to stop. The snorkeling adventure was truly remarkable. We tied to a buoy used by the hotel dive boats and it was immediately obvious that they feed the fish in this area. You could literally put your hand in the water and scoop up fish if you so desired. There was a greater variety than we saw yesterday and we just truly enjoyed the moment.

The rest of the day was spent trying to stay dry. We are truly hoping for a better tie tomorrow. We had Monica and Felix from Makani over for dinner tonight and had a great time socializing with old friends. Unfortunately, it is late and I am very tired, so I’ll sign off for tonight. I will add more detail tomorrow.

060705 Day 261 Society Islands–Bora Bora Heiva Festival

Day 260, Year 1: Happy Birthday, USA!

Day 260, Year 1: Happy Birthday, USA!
Date: Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Weather: A Cloudy, Rainy Day in Bora Bora
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

Morning comes early these days. Before 0700, Lee and Mary Ellen are up and making coffee. Mark and I slowly wake up and by 0730, I am on the radio listening to the Coconut Net. On this morning’s net it was reported that Steve on the sailing vessel Oz was flying an American flag in Papeete the size of a spinnaker this morning. I’m sure that got the Americans there in the celebration mode. It’s hard to keep track of US holidays out here. Mary Ellen is wearing red, white, and blue today, but I don’t think we will see any fireworks. Hope your July 4th has been a good one.

By 0800 this morning, we were off in the dinghy to go snorkeling. I decided to go along and try what my daughter Heather suggested-putting on my mask and snorkel and hanging my head over the side of the dinghy with my mask in the water. It works! It’s a little hard on the back and I really need to be careful of that, but I do think I am going to be able to enjoy all of the underwater wonders here along with the rest of the gang. The fish we saw this morning were beautiful. Lots of different kinds of fish-butterfly fish of all kinds, lots of Moorish Idols and Sergeant Majors, a few parrot fish, beautiful yellow trumpet fish, and many other varieties that we are still trying to identify. We returned to Windbird by 1000 and did a little fish and flower research in the limited books we have aboard.

The weather took a downturn when we returned to the boat. We had watched rain storms in the distance as we snorkeled, but they caught up with us. The rain continued until mid-afternoon when the clouds persisted without the rain. We are hoping that there will be a return of beautiful sunny weather here in paradise tomorrow morning.

After lunch, Mark, Mary Ellen, and Lee headed into Vaitape, the major town here. They went to see if it is possible to rent some sort of wheel chair for me so I can negotiate better on land. I am using the crutches, but it is very difficult to walk long distances. Either I am in terrible physical shape or walking on crutches and hopping about on one foot is much harder that one would suspect. And then there is the crawling up and down steps that I have to do. Great way to travel! Unfortunately, the only way to get a wheel chair here is to have a doctor order it from Papeete and you have to buy it for $600-no rental. While in town, the crew also checked into the schedule for Heiva activities over the next few days. We will be going in tonight to see the festivities.

Heiva (pronounced Hay-ee-va) is a major cultural event in French Polynesia that begins on June 29 and culminates on July 14, Bastille Day. Before 1985, when it became the Heiva I Tahiti, this famous cultural event was called Tiurai, which is a local form of the English word “July”. Tiurai was organized for the first time in July of 1881, one year after France had annexed Tahiti. Absolutely no dancing was allowed as it was considered obscene by the British missionaries and had been abolished in 1820, but the French gave a party for the locals that was festive and included games, entertainment, and a singing contest. This went on for almost 100 years. In 1985, just after French Polynesia obtained its ability to govern internally, the South Pacific Art Festival was organized in Tahiti and the Tiurai became the Heiva I Tahiti. The local government instituted a gathering day on June 29th – called Hiva Vae Vae- which marks the beginning of the Heiva festivities. Under the current government, this is a national holiday, but as we found out in Tahiti, most locals have no idea why they do not work on that day. When asked, they just reply, “Holiday.”

If the weather holds, we will head into town for the 8 PM Heiva presentations. There will be singing and dancing. Dancing returned in the mid-1900s and although there was a terrible cultural loss of original authenticity, prizes awarded today for dances perormed according to strict traditional form encourages a return to tradition. Four type of dances are presented during the Heiva contest : (1) the ote’a, (2) the aparima, (3) the hivinau, and (4) the pa’o’a. The ote’a is a dance that was once reserved for only men, but has become the dance we associate with Tahiti-wide and abrupt moves with quick, jerky hip movements. The aparima is the dance where the hands tell a story and is performed in either a cloth dress that “let’s you guess the vahine’s curves”, or in a costume of local vegetation like the traditional grass skirt. We have seen lots of examples of these two dances as we have traveled through the islands. The hivinau is the easiest and is not technically demanding, so I’m assuming that it is not often performed. We have not seen this dance, but it is performed in two concentric circle, usually one of vahines (women) and one of tanes (men). The pa’o’a dance is an acting out of making tapa cloth. It is accompanied by drums and there is slapping of the thighs. We think we saw this performed by men in Ua Pou.

I’ll talk about the different kinds of singing in tomorrow’s log and report on tonight’s performance.

060704 Day 260 Society Islands, Bora Bora–Snorkeling

Day 259, Year 1: Here in Bora Bora

Day 259, Year 1: Here in Bora Bora
Date: Monday, July 3, 2006
Weather: Another Beautiful Sunny Day in Paradise
Location: Bora Bora (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

Here we are in Bora Bora. This is one of those places that we have thought of as a landmark destination and it is almost unbelievable to us that we are here. We are so thankful to be enjoying this part of the world with Lee and Mary Ellen. It really made the arrival here even more special.

We made plans last night to get me to the hospital for blood testing, to get the groceries bought, and to get the boat filled with water as soon as possible this morning. Around 0730 Lee and Mary Ellen went across the street from the dock to the hospital to get a wheelchair to transport me to the hospital. Mark wheeled me to the hospital and we tried our best to convey information to the staff, even though no one spoke English. All I needed was a blood test to make sure that the blood thinner the doctor in Papeete prescribed was doing its job. We felt like we got the message across, and then I told Mark to leave me and go back to the boat . The testing was done fairly quickly and then I waited in the outside ER waiting room to get the results. By 10:00 AM, I had the results and the go ahead to leave for Bora Bora. I will return to Raiatea next week for x-rays, but at least at this point, all is well.

While I was at the hospital, Lee and Mary Ellen did the grocery shopping and then Lee and Mark hauled water to fill the tanks. Yesterday when we arrived at the town dock in Uturoa, we were the only boat on the dock except for one other charter boat. By this morning, the dock was crowded with boats and there was no way to move close enough to the fresh water outlet to use a hose, so hauling water one jerry can at a time was the only option. By 1100 we were on our way out of Uturoa. We crossed the lagoon to Tahaa passing pearl farms on the way, and then exited the lagoon on the west side of Tahaa and headed for Bora Bora. By 4:30 PM we were at anchor in the southwest lagoon here in Bora Bora. The water is crystal clear and the view of the mountains is beautiful. As soon as we were anchored, Lee, Mary Ellen, and Mark were overboard swimming in the turquoise water.

We decided that we had to visit Bloody Mary’s tonight. This is a famous bar and restaurant very close to where we are anchored. They have a great place to dock, but unfortunately for me, the walk to the restaurant is a long one. I made it into the restaurant, but had to literally crawl up the steps to get inside. I’m sure many crawl out of the establishment, but I think I might be the first to crawl in. We all had a Bloody Mary and enjoyed talking with Kathy and Jerry from the sailing vessel Poo’ina Roa. We have heard them on the radio many times, but this was our first face to face meeting.

It was a good day and it is so exciting to be here in Bora Bora. We have a lot of exploring to do tomorrow and will report on that in tomorrow’s log.

060703 Day 259 Society Islands, Bora Bora–Raitea to Bora Bora

Day 258, Year 1: Safe Arrival in Uturoa, Raiatea

Day 258, Year 1: Safe Arrival in Uturoa, Raiatea
Date: Sunday, July 2, 2006
Weather: Another Beautiful Sunny Day
Location: Uturoa, Raiatea (Society Islands, French Polynesia)

We arrived at the town dock in Uturoa, Raiatea, at 1130 this morning. We had a good sail with fairly consistent 15 knot winds all night. Once in a while we would dip down to 9 knots and go as high as 18, but that was the range. Seas were fairly calm, but downwind sailing is always an adventure. Mary Ellen and I had a chance to catch up on family news while on watch together and we had a great time. Not sure what Lee and Mark did, but the good news is that no one got sea sick and we all enjoyed the overnight voyage. It was great for Mary Ellen and Lee to see what night watches are all about. We saw a fishing vessel and a couple of sailboats during the night, so Lee and ME got the practice of tracking vessels with just the lights visible.

Mary Ellen and I went on watch at 4 AM and just before sunrise, we spotted the island of Huahine. At first we saw only one light, but then all of sudden there were a dozen lights. This was not our destination, but we certainly wanted to spot the island as a waypoint on our way to Raiatea. Just after sunrise, we could see the outline of Raiatea. Sunrise here is about 0630 and sunset is around 1730, leaving us only an eleven hour day. But they are glorious days. At about 0700, Mark and Lee got up and joined us as we sailed toward Raiatea. We were using the wind vane steering since our auto pilot is not working, and the wind vane did a fantastic job. We were sailing downwind which was a little rocky and rolly, but the wind vane hung in there. Thank goodness for small miracles!

When we got into the harbor of the main town of Uturoa, we had a little difficulty figuring out where to anchor. I got on the radio and called the boat Ranger who I knew had been here just a couple of days ago. They are presently in Tahaa right across the bay. I explained that I have broken my leg and need to get to the hospital tomorrow morning for blood tests. They answered and gave us great information on anchoring possibilities. I signed off with them and then a boat named Dawn Breaker called us. I had never heard of this boat before. The person calling identified himself as Richard, a local here, and suggested that we should anchor on the town dock. He had heard my conversation with Ranger about my broken leg and need to get to the hospital tomorrow and he had great directions for us. He is also a boat repairman, doing electronic work, so I told him we might be contacting him for help with our broken auto pilot. He said he would be by the dock to meet us and shortly after we got settled in, he did drop by. We told him to come back later in the evening and that we would have the gear box removed and ready to give to him to check out. Richard, an American, has been here for about 10 years after living in Haiti for 30 years. Glad he is here now. What a stroke of luck to have someone right there to help us deal with our problem.

Once we were tied up at the town dock, Mark, Mary Ellen, and Lee were ready to explore town. Just before they were ready to leave, a gentleman walked by and noted that we were from Concord, New Hampshire. He introduced himself as Richard (another Richard), originally from Stoughton, Massachusetts-small world. He explained that he came here after the Vietnam War and married a 17 year-old vahine. They are still married and he has enjoyed his life here. He explained to Mary Ellen that he has written a trilogy about a Polynesian family going back about four generations. The books are almost ready for publication and he gave us his e-mail address to contact him in about three months. He will then have a website publicizing the books. Richard also told us that we should get to Bora Bora ASAP. The Heiva celebration has started there and he says it is fantastic-much more traditional that at other islands.. That helped us to decide to get to Bora Bora as soon as possible. After talking with Richard, the gang left to visit the hospital which is directly across the street from us. They made arrangements to pick up a wheel chair early in the morning to wheel me across the street. They also walked through town and visited the Catholic church here-unfortunately not as impressive as many we have seen.

As the day progressed, the sleepy little dock here became a haven of activity. Many locals gathered on the adjoining dock waiting for the arrival if an inter-island ferry. Other boats came in and tied up to the city dock. It is great that we are here on a dock so that I don’t have to get in and out of the dinghy. Lee and Mary Ellen will go to the early morning market tomorrow to pick up a few items that we will need in the next few days while Mark and I will head to the hospital for the blood tests. If all goes well, we will be headed to Bora Bora before noon.

As I am writing this at 9 PM, Richard, the boat electrician, has returned with the news about the auto pilot. He is going to have to order new parts-the gears-which will arrive here in about ten days. So we will return here after Lee and Mary Ellen fly out of Bora Bora to get the repaired auto pilot before taking off for Rarotonga. There are helpful people everywhere we travell and we are so very grateful for that. Life is good.

060702 Day 258 Society Islands, Raiatea–Passage and Arrival