July 16, 2008; anchored at Latitude 16°48.6186 S Longitude 151°00.1126 W
The 93 mile overnight passage was easy. Seemed like most of the boats anchored at Opunohu Bay decided to leave at the same time we did. Eleven boats departed at about the same time, just before sunset Tuesday. Two boats set course for either Raiatea or Bora Bora and the other nine headed for Huahine, so we had a little flotilla. This was the first time we have made a passage accompanied by so many boats and I have to say that I did not really like it. Some of the boats passed us much too closely during the night for my comfort level. The winds slacked off during the night and we ended up motoring 49% of the passage, including the motoring a very long way inside the lagoon to where we are now anchored. We went over the north side of Huahine and entered at Avamoa Pass near the NW tip of the island and then followed the lagoon all the way to the very SW tip of the island and anchored in Avea Bay. This was a bit different for us because our charts ended a mile or so before this anchorage. The electronic charts and the sailing guide books all indicate that it is not possible to navigate to this area; they show it as all coral reef. But I had saved The Moorings charts and guide that they give to their charter customers for the Tahitian islands and we followed those. This is a great little anchorage behind a very wide reef. Long very white sand beaches all along the bay at the base of the mountain make a beautiful setting.
Must say that the French Polynesia government has done a marvelous job of placing navigation markers in the past couple of years. If you pay attention it is very easy to follow the navigation markers and buoys. Their system is the ILA-A which is opposite of the US system. Upon entering a pass from the sea you have green markers to starboard and red to port. No more "red-right-returning" as used in the US and Caribbean. Once you enter a pass the lagoon is marked with red to land side and green to reef side. This is consistent throughout French Polynesia. So if you are following a lagoon to the right (counter-clockwise) after entering a pass then the green markers remain on your right. But if you turn left after entering a pass then the red markers will be on starboard and the green on port. This did take a bit of getting used to, but now we are old hands at it. This is a bouyage system unique to French Polynesia, and we think they have done an excellent job of placing these navigational aids.
The island of Huahine is approximately 9 miles from north to south and 6 miles from east to west. Like Tahiti, it is actually comprised of 2 islands. Huahine Nui is the northernmost and larger of the 2 islands; and Huahine Iti is to the south. The 2 islands are separated by a shallow narrow channel and are joined by a bridge. It is possible to navigate this channel by dinghy if done slowly and carefully to avoid the numerous coral heads. On the western side of Huahine Nui at the location of the beginning of this channel is very deep Port Bourayne. The large Port Bourayne with high mountains surrounding 90% of it looks very much like a Scottish loch.
Captain Cook was the first European to visit the island of Huahine. He made several visits between 1769 and 1773. In 1777 he stayed here 7 weeks. An island native stole his sextant during his last visit here. The guide books don't say what Capt. Cook did in retaliation for this theft but I imagine it wasn't pleasant. Cook had a real hatred of theft and usually was quite violent in his retaliations. Missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived on Huahine in 1808 and converted the inhabitants to Protestantism. (Bill says they ruined everything.)
Huahine was the last of the Leeward Islands to become attached to France in 1888, forty years after Tahiti. Huahine presented strong resistance to French control and there are monuments to the dead located at various points on the island. Huahine was annexed into French Polynesia in 1897, but French citizenship was not accorded the inhabitants until 1946. Sounds to me like France wanted to make certain that all the inhabitants who resisted French control were dead before allowing the remaining inhabitants to have French citizenship.
Raiatea & Taha’a
Anchored at Baie Haamane; 16.78.22S 151.29.20W
On Monday, July 21, 2008, we departed from the lovely anchorage at the SW tip of Huahine Iti. It had rained and the wind had howled for 4 days but the weather had finally passed and the little anchorage was again a millpond. I wanted to get into the water and clean the scum line on the boat; however, the weather prediction for the week indicated that Monday would be the only day with any wind at all. So we weighed anchor and headed off for Raiatea with hopes of being able to sail. It took about 1 1/2 hours to motor through the lagoon back to Passe Avamoa on the NW tip of Huahine Nui and then we were off.
Someone must have forgotten to give the weather forecast to the wind gods because the predicted 10 knots never materialized. We ended up motorsailing the entire day, with the anemometer making circles searching for the true wind direction. The highest wind we recorded during that passage was 6 knots, certainly too low to sail even with our lightest weight sails.
We entered Passe Teavapiti on the NE side of Raiatea and motored over the north side of the island and down the west side to what was supposed to be an anchorage at Baie Vaoaara. This is the last bay that can be reached from the north side of Raiatea because the navigable lagoon does not completely encircle the island. There are bays farther south but one must go outside the reef and enter from another pass on the south side of the island. Baie Vaoaara was not at all pretty; looked too commercial or industrial for our tastes. Plus, it was too deep for us to anchor with any peace of mind.
Bill pulled out the guide books and paper chart while I drove and retraced our route back to the north side of Raiatea. Every anchorage we checked was between 80 and 120 feet deep. Bill finally found a spot for us to anchor in 30-50 feet depth on the island of Taha’a and if we hurried we could make it there before nightfall. I revved the engine higher and we motored at 7 knots most of the way. We anchored in the darkening dusk in 32 feet of water. Now this was much more like it! Mind you, we had managed to turn a 27 mile passage into 56.3 nautical miles; but we were finally safely anchored and enjoying our usual sunset beverages.
Haamane Bay is by far the largest bay on the sister islands of Taha’a and Raiatea, and we anchored way inside at the very head of the bay. It is flat calm and the view of the mountains on all 3 sides is spectacular. The mountainsides are blanketed by the low spreading canopies of an unusual type of tree. Some of the trees are covered in tiny bright red flowers and the birdsong from one area is fairly loud. There is a small village that appears very modern. The guide book mentions that this particular bay can experience high gusts of wind due to the topography of the mountainous island, but that shouldn’t be a problem for us this week since there is no wind whatsoever. A little wind would be nice to help cool the sunny days. Nights in the South Pacific are cool even without wind, but the days can be hot – nothing like the heat of the Caribbean, but occasionally warmer than comfortable.
Now for our history lesson.
Raiatea is the second-largest island of French Polynesia (Tahiti is the largest). The main town and port is Uturoa and is the administrative, business and educational center of the Iles Sous-le-Vent (“islands under the wind” or Leeward Islands). Raiatea’s population of more than 12,000 live in 8 villages around the island. According to our guide book, the west coast of Raiatea south of Tevaitoa (near where we first tried to anchor) is pure old Polynesia through and through. The rest of the island is modern. Raiatea is traditionally the ancient Havai’i or sacred isle from which all of eastern Polynesia was colonized. The islands of Taha’a on the north and Raiatea on the south are considered sister islands because they are encircled by one very large coral reef. There are 7 passes to Raiatea through the reef and only 3 passes to Taha’a. The 2 islands are about 3 kilometers apart and it is easy to follow the marked routes between the 2 islands. There are no beaches on Raiatea but there are 2 very tiny motus between the 2 islands where one can enjoy tiny spits of white sand beaches.
Legends tell how the 2 islands were cut apart by a mythical eel. Another legend tells how Raiatea’s first king, Hiro, built a great canoe that he used to sail to Raratonga in what is now the Southern Cook Islands, roughly 575 miles away. Legends also maintain that the great Polynesian voyages to Hawaii and New Zealand departed from here. According to Polynesia mythology the god Oro was born from the eruption of Mt. Temehani on Raiatea. Mt. Temehani is 772 meters tall and has a continuous cloud cover dominating the northern end of the island. The sacred white flower called tiare apetahi grows above the 400-meter level on the slopes around the summit. This special flower exists nowhere else on earth and resists transplantation. It is a distinctively fragrant, fragile, white one-sided blossom that represents the 5 fingers of a beautiful Polynesian girl who fell in love with the handsome son of a high chief but was unable to marry him because of her lowly birth. The petals pop open forcefully enough at dawn to make a sound. Sometimes the more romantic local residents will spend the night on the mountain to hear the petals popping open at dawn. These flowers are protected and there is a minimum 50,000 CFP (roughly $670 USD) fine for picking one.
Raiatea was originally called Havai’i. Queen Rainuiatea renamed the island in honor of her parents: Rai, a warrior from Tahiti, and Atea, queen of Opoa. Before European encroachment Raiatea was the religious, cultural and political center of what is now called French Polynesia. Funny to me is that Huahine 30 miles to the east also makes this claim. Raiatea supposedly was Captain Cook’s favorite island; he visited here 3 times. In one of his journals he wrote that “Haamanino Harbour” was his favorite anchorage. I assume that Haamanino Harbour is the same Haamane Baie where we are now anchored.
The islands of Taha’a and Raiatea accepted Christianity soon after the Tahitians were converted. A Protestant missionary named John Williams arrived in 1818. From Raiatea Williams carried his work to Raratonga in 1823 and then to Samoa in 1830, later moving on to Vanuatu. The inhabitants of the Vanuatu Islands were not receptive to Christianity at the time and Mr. Williams met a rather ignominious end -- he was stewed in a pot by the Big Nambas of Vanuatu.
Queen Pomare IV spent the years 1844 to 1847 in exile on Raiatea. When France annexed the island in 1887, Chief Teraupoo launched a resistance campaign that lasted until 1897, when French troops and warships finally conquered the island. Chief Teraupoo was captured after 6 weeks of fighting after the French troops arrived, and he was then deported to New Caledonia. The Queen of Raiatea and 136 of her followers were exiled to the remote Eiao Island in the Marquesas. It took the French a great many years to do it, but they finally had Polynesia.
Today the Polynesians are trying to revive their culture before it is completely lost. The revival of tattooing in the Marquesas, after being banned by the European Christians for nearly 200 years, is an example of that. Several of the temple platforms and marae have been restored on Raiatea. The largest and most important temple is the Marae Taputapeatea and it has been the best maintained. Its ahu measures 43 meters long and 7.3 meters wide and between 2 and 3 meters high from the ground. Stone backrests in the courtyard still mark the seats of high chiefs. In the old days guests would be received at the welcoming marae when they disembarked from their canoes. Then they would proceed to a temple where rituals were performed. Meals would be served in another temple platform called Hiti Tai. Marae Taputapuatea is directly opposite Teavamoa Pass and fires on the marae once were beacons to navigators in ancient times. Papa Ofeoro was the place of sacrifice and about 5,000 skulls were discovered during excavations at this site. Another temple platform called Opu Teina near the shore was where visitors would say their farewells. Departing chiefs would often take a stone from this marae to be planted in new marae being constructed elsewhere, which would then also be named Marae Taputapuatea.
In 1995 a fleet of traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes, including 3 from Hawaii and 2 each from Cook Islands and Tahiti plus a raft from Easter Island, gathered at Taputaputea to lift a 650-year-old curse and rededicate the marae. The 7 canoes then left for the Marquesas navigating by the stars and swells. Some carried on to Hawaii and the west coast of the United States in an amazing demonstration of this aspect of traditional culture. In April 2000 a Tattoo Festival took place at Marae Taputapuatea. During important events at the marae, firewalking is practiced at a site near the main temples.
The northern island of Taha’a is smaller and shaped like a hibiscus flower. Four long fjord-like bays cut into its rugged south side, the largest of which by far is the one where we are anchored. Mt. Ohiri is the highest point on the island at 590 meters. Legends maintain that the mountain is named for Hiro, god of thieves, who was born here. Taha’a is known as the vanilla island for its plantations that produce 70 percent of Polynesia’s “black gold.” Vanilla is a vine belonging to the orchid family and is locally grown on small family plantations. Vanilla was brought to Tahiti from Manila in 1848 and later mutated to the current Tahitensis type. These plants must be hand-pollinated. They are harvested between April and June, so we have missed that season. After harvesting, the pods are put out to dry for a couple of months. Between 1915 and 1933 vanilla production was 50 to 150 tons per year. This peaked in 1949 at 200 tons, but production continued to remain high until 1966, when a steady decline began because the producers began leaving for higher paid employment in Papeete, Tahiti, related to the French nuclear testing. By 1990 the vanilla production had fallen to only 39 metric tons, but production has been slowly picking up since then. It is possible to take vanilla tours but we will skip that since we have missed the growing and harvesting season. Don’t think looking at a bunch of drying pods would be too interesting.
Each October a festival includes stone fishing – a line of people in canoes herd the fish into a cove by beating stones on the surface of the lagoon. There is no public transportation on either Raiatea or Taha’a. Cars are often seen on the larger island of Raiatea but are not so common on Taha’a. The 4,500 residents on Taha’a use small high-speed motorboats to get to their gardens on the outer reef motus or to go shopping on Raiatea, otherwise they walk. The entire island comprises only 90-square-kilometers so it is not that difficult to get around and cars are really not necessary. There are many restaurants and many of them along the shores have mooring balls where a boat can secure overnight if one eats a meal at that restaurant. With the high price of food in French Polynesia, this probably means that we would easily spend $100 to $200 just to spend a night on a mooring ball and eat a meal that we don’t want.
There are numerous small pearl farms around both Raiatea and Taha’a. These appear to be much smaller operations that we saw in the Tuamotus. It is possible to take a full-day outrigger canoe trip and visit a pearl farm and a vanilla plantation, including lunch and snorkeling. It would cost $400 USD for the 2 of us. That seems a bit pricey to us; but we couldn’t do it even if we were willing to spend the bucks because the tour can only be arranged by telephone and we don’t have a local cell phone. Or, for $275 USD we could have a drive across the island in a 4WD and have a canoe ride and picnic lunch. Thinking we will pass on these excursions.
One interesting tidbit is that the inhabitants of Taha’a are authentic Maori. This is the only island in French Polynesia to claim this distinction. The warrior Maori of New Zealand are more well-known. The Maori in New Zealand are thought to have emigrated from this area.
July 24, 2008 Baie Apu, Ile Taha’a
Lattitude 16.40.92S Longitude 151.29.13W
Last night the wind changed direction and is now blowing steadily from the WEST. This is the second time since we left Moorea that the wind has switched from the normal trades from the E or SE and blown from the completely opposite direction. This abnormal wind direction is supposed to last a few days. We very obviously will not be sailing WNW to Bora Bora until the winds change back to normal.
Since we were anchored in a long bay that is known for violent wind gusts when the wind comes from the west, we decided to move before those gusts started. So first thing this morning we motored round the lagoon to the SW side of Taha’a to what is affectionately called The Yacht Club. I think the real name of this place is Marina Iti, although there is no marina here. But there are a dozen or so mooring balls set in water that is 105 to 140 feet deep. The Yacht Club is closed today and will reopen tomorrow. They will expect us to at least go to the bar and buy drinks tomorrow night in exchange for the privilege of staying on this mooring ball overnight. Ioranet WiFi is also available in this mooring field. We have less than 100 minutes left of prepaid WiFi from our original 30 hours of Ioranet time, so we won’t be browsing the net; but at least we should be able to update the website once before we leave for Bora Bora.
The wind coming from the west and southwest is cold. You must realize, of course, that anything less than 80F degrees is now considered by us to be cold. It is now noon and is 80.2F inside the boat and feels very comfortable. Sitting in the cockpit in the wind feels cold. We are loving this South Pacific weather.
August 2, 2008
“The spectacular volcanic peaks surrounded by an extensive lagoon of varied hues of blue make this one of the world’s most beautiful islands.” That is the opening sentence of Charlie’s Charts of Polynesia, the primary sailing guide for Bora Bora. We have now spent a full week anchored in the same spot – Baie de Povai near Bloody Mary’s restaurant & bar – so we have seen only the western side of Bora Bora. Supposedly the shallow eastern side is gorgeous with its light blues and greens of the shallow water. The western side is deep and just looks like dark blue water around a small mountainous island. We are not overly impressed so far but will withhold judgment until we have an opportunity to see the other side.
Hans and Georgie of S/V ARBUTHNOT arrived here the day before the winds kicked up. Hans and Georgie assisted us as line handlers during our Panama Canal transit. They transited the canal exactly one month after we did; and they have already caught up with us. They are a young couple and live near Perth on the western coast of Australia. They plan to arrive on the eastern coast and have their boat trucked across the continent. They invited us to join them for dinner at Bloody Mary’s. It was a lovely evening; the food was great; and the company was even better. Needless to say, the Bloody Mary drinks are fabulous.
Hans was very creative and constructed bamboo poles to use for downwind sailing here in the Pacific. He got the original bamboo from the jungle in Panama and his idea worked great but did eventually break. He replaced the original bamboo pole from the bamboo stands on the hillside of Moorea and plans to use the new pole for the upcoming passage to Tonga. Very creative. And being free makes the idea even better. Sorry we didn’t get a photo to show how this works.
Bora Bora was originally called Vavau. The northern group of islands in Tonga today is also called Vava’U, which leads to the belief that people moved from Tonga to settle this area. The Polynesian language has no “B” and the real name of this island should be Pora Pora. But the world knows it as Bora Bora and that name has stuck since Captain Cook “discovered” this island in 1769. Apparently the Europeans misunderstood several islander words that originally contained the letter “P” and coined similar words using the letter “B.” Taboo is another of these words. The correct Polynesian word to mean something is forbidden is tapu, not taboo.
Quoting the sailing guide authored by 2 French sailors: “In 1942 the US Army built a big naval base here during the War of the Pacific against Japan (1941-1945). I find that truly insulting. This was the Pacific campaign of World War II. I guess all the other countries that participated in fighting Japan don’t warrant a mention by these 2 French sailors. And apparently they believe that only the European campaigns are considered to be World War II.
The first airport in all of Polynesia was built by the Americans in Bora Bora in 1942. There is also a wonderful breakwater and concrete wharf in the main village of Vaitape which was built by the US and is still in use today. At times during the war there were as many as 100 transports in the huge deep lagoon on the western side of Bora Bora. As there is only one pass for entry and exit, this very deep lagoon was the perfect protected area for transports and submarines and ships during the war. A very strong cable was stretched across Baie de Faanui just inside the pass and the ships would hook onto this cable rather than anchoring. This would allow faster exit in case of an attack by the Japanese, which never happened. Eight 16” Navy guns (think huge cannon) were placed at strategic locations around the island. Seven of these guns can still be found in the heavy vegetation on the mountainsides, but all but one are located on what is now private land of luxury resorts and cannot be visited unless you are a guest of the resort.
The circumference of the main island of Bora Bora is only 32 kilometers, not including the lagoon and the many outer motus or smaller long islands that surround Bora Bora. Like most of the other islands in French Polynesia, there is only one road and it encircles the island edge at sea level. The road around Bora Bora was also constructed by the US Army during WWII and is still in use today. We have been surprised by the constant automobile traffic on the circle road, both day and night. Can’t imagine why there is so much auto traffic all night when the restaurants close by 9 p.m. and this is not a bar town. The total population here is only around 8,000 people. Bora Bora is quite the tourist destination, especially for honeymoons. Luxury resorts are scattered all around the main island and there are many private motus. But it is not a party place and the only bars appear to be those located in the resorts, plus the obligatory bar inside each restaurant where one is directed to wait an hour for seating to dine, even when the dining room is completely empty.
French Polynesia has the strangest process for clearing out. Our agent in Papeete took our passports and had obtained Immigration stamps for Tahiti exit. He also gave us a customs declaration for exit that we were required to mail from Bora Bora to Tahiti 10 days before we plan to leave. That is hard to do since weather predictions are not accurate that far in advance. But I completed the customs declaration for exit and mailed on July 31. We are supposed to visit the Gendarmerie in Bora Bora and have our passports stamped for final exit from French Polynesia one day before our actual departure, and receive a stamped copy of the departure declaration that we mailed to Papeete. All official clearance in and out of French Polynesia is handled in Papeete, even though you are supposed to visit the Gendarmerie at each of the island groups that you visit. We hope to depart Bora Bora on the first good weather window after August 9 for a long passage to Niue. Usually after strong winds lasting this long then there is no wind at all for several days, and that might delay our departure. We don’t want to leave in light winds; want enough winds to sail comfortably since this will be a fairly long passage.
More about Bora Bora history:
The island of Bora Bora is 7 million years old. As stated in previous log, there is no letter “B” in the Tahitian language; and the real name is Pora Pora. Pora Pora means “first born” and the island thought to be so named because it was the first island formed island after Raiatea, which is the oldest island in French Polynesia. Bora Bora was first inhabited about the year 900 A.D. The traditional name of Vava’u suggests that Tongan voyagers reached here because I know Tonga was inhabited prior to 900 A.D. The ancient inhabitants of Pora Pora were indomitable warriors who often raided the islands of Maupiti, Taha’a and Raiatea.
The Americans set up a refueling and regrouping base here in February 1942 during WWII, code named Operation Bobcat. This was to serve shipping between the US west coast or Panama Canal and Australia/New Zealand. The 4400 American army troops left behind 130 half-caste babies when the base was abruptly closed in June 1946. Forty percent of these abandoned infants died of starvation when they were forced to switch from their accustomed American baby formulas to island food. One guide book states that the naval guns installed as protection around the island (and never used) were 16-inch. Another guide book states that these were 7-inch guns. Yet another guide book states that these were MK II naval guns. So we have no idea which book is correct. However, all the guide books do agree that only one gun is now located on what is not restricted private land.
And, finally, our time in Bora Bora:
The pretty side of Bora Bora is the eastern side. That is where the shallow water is located that has the pretty aquamarine shades of blues and greens. Getting to the eastern side of the lagoon at Bora Bora is easy enough as long as you pay close attention to the navigation markers. The trickiest place in the well-marked channel of the lagoon is where you must leave a cardinal marker on the port side and immediately make a 90 degree turn to port and leave the next red marker on the starboard side (the main land side). After passing that red buoy you immediately turn right again. The lagoon channel is 80 to 90 feet deep all up the west side and north side of Bora Bora until you reach that cardinal marker, where the depth drops suddenly. When moving in the channel between the cardinal buoy and the red buoy, the water depth under our keel was only 2 feet 6 inches. We really get nervous when it gets that shallow. But friends who were here recently had warned us about this shallow spot in the channel and that the bottom was all sand with no coral in that area, so we motored on through. Had we not been forewarned then we would have stopped and turned around when we reached that very shallow spot in the channel.
The eastern side of Bora Bora is very pretty. The various depths of the lagoon with the backdrop of the dramatic mountain shapes are what make it so pretty. Of course, as any sailor realizes, the pretty colored water means dangerous sailing due to varied depths and coral or rocks. Much of the lagoon is very shallow which causes the clear water to appear a very pale green. The water color varies from pale green, aquamarine and turquoise in the shallow areas and in the deep areas there are blues that range from light baby blue to royal navy to midnight blue/black. This is what we expected Bora Bora to look like from the picture postcards sold in all the French Polynesia shops. Unfortunately, all the coral is permanently bleached from the effects of El Nino in 2001. Apparently Bora Bora experienced what we know as a red tide during that El Nino and the coral damage is irreversible. Bora Bora suffered more damage than most other islands because there is only one pass into the lagoon. Islands with multiple passes have better water flow and were not as severely affected by the hotter water during the worst El Nino year. Bet this place was really beautiful when the coral was still alive and brilliantly colored. Now it just looks like gray or beige rocks. There is a deep-water channel on the eastern side that allows boats to navigate down to the southeastern end of the island. You cannot navigate across the southern side of Bora Bora because of the shallow water and coral heads. We watched several boats go through the deep-water channel and most of them went the wrong direction at least once. One boat headed in the wrong direction a total of 6 times while navigating that deep-water channel. Don’t know what his problem was unless he simply did not know how to read channel markers and cardinal buoys. Looked pretty straightforward to us.
There is a splendid view of the eastern side of Mt. Otemanu on Bora Bora. Near the top there is a completely circle-shaped cave. The helicopter tour takes passengers right in front of this cave. The cave is so dramatic that I can’t help but think that this cave had some significance to the ancient inhabitants of this island. But our guide books don’t even mention this cave, so that will remain a mystery to us.
We anchored in 20-feet clear water off a motu on the eastern side. Bill decided to take advantage of the millpond smoothness and got in the water to clean the scum line. He immediately climbed right back out and dug out his full-body Lycra skin. That water is too cold for us to enjoy! It might feel great to all these Europeans, USA West Coast people, Yankees and Canadians who are all used to colder waters; but to those of us who grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, this water is too cold. Wearing even a thin Lycra body-suit over your swim suit makes all the difference in the world. That thin fabric helps retain enough body heat to maintain comfort, although neither Bill nor I would want to stay in that cold water for very long even with the Lycra body-suit. We prefer 85F degree swimming water temperature. Don’t know the current temperature of the local water, but it is certainly is lower than our comfort range. But it sure is pretty.
Bill set up a new Excel spreadsheet last week when we were so bored and stuck on the boat in the high winds. He likes to do that sort of thing when he is bored. You would be amazed at his interactive spreadsheet used to track engine hours, generator hours, fuel consumption, passage planning, times of arrival based on various boat speeds, etc., etc., etc. It is really fancy.
On Saturday we motored back and picked up a mooring in front of Bloody Mary’s and enjoyed another great fish dinner with friends.
Many years ago a man named Leo Wooten sailed down to Bora Bora from Hawaii in a boat named Alcoholic’s IV. His first 3 boats were also named Alcoholic and each one sank as he attempted to reach Bora Bora. After his 4th attempt and successful arrival, he stayed here until his death. He was the first fisherman for the Bloody Mary’s restaurant and he later taught several local men how to do deep-water fishing. He became a permanent fixture at Bloody Mary’s – they even had a barstool set aside for him with a plaque identifying it as his. No one dared to sit on Leo’s barstool. Leo died several years ago. The owners felt that Leo was such a fixture of Bloody Mary’s that they buried him in a small corner of the restaurant. He has a very nice stone-covered grave with a bronze plaque and 3 headstones. So you can have drinks or dinner seated next to Leo even today.
NOTE ADDED 6 APRIL 2009 --- On our message board on this blog a man named Alain posted the following about Leo Wooten:
(Excuse my bad English)
By chance I read your comment on the Bloody Mary's and particularly on Leo Wooten.
Thank you a thousand times for this tribute to him. Leo was my friend, I was proud to be his.
He died when I was in France, unfortunately, I was not with her friend to help.
It seems that when his death was known in Hawaii, all his fishermen friends put flag down on boats.
Léo was a “Man”, with a great “M”
Thank you again for him."
How nice that Leo's fishermen friends in Hawaii acknowledged his death that way and that Alain was kind enough to let us know. Now back to our blog as originally posted.......
Bloody Mary’s is the nicest sand-floor island restaurant we have ever visited. They sift and rake the fine white sand daily. The fresh catches-of-the-day are filleted and placed on a large container of crushed ice. The manager calls several groups of customers to stand around the ice table and he describes each fish and the recommended method of preparation and states the price. There are no menus. And they really know how to grill the fish perfectly to order. They also offer boneless chicken breast, various steaks of prime New Zealand beef and baby-back ribs for those who prefer not to eat seafood. Both times we ate there I had Moon Fish, grilled rare; and it was wonderful. Moon Fish is only found locally and is caught from 700 to 900 feet deep; it is not exported. Figured I should try something that I will never have the opportunity to eat again elsewhere. The tables and stools are all made from coconut palms. This place has been here for many years and is famous among the filthy rich and famous folks. There are 2 large coconut palm “walls” at the entrance near the road where names of famous visitors are engraved. The names range from old actors like June Allyson to present-day actors like Pierce Brosnan , Cameron Diaz and Jack Nicholson, just to name a few. The 2 names that surprised us were Buzz Aldrin and Warren Moon. Another set were Bill & Melissa Gates, along with Warren Buffet and Paul & Jody Allen. Bloody Mary’s is a “not-to-be-missed” place when visiting Bora Bora.
Weather forecast is good for departure today or tomorrow. We subscribed to the weather guru for the South Pacific, Bob McDavit, for passage planning to Tonga with a brief stop in Nuie. We have cleared out with the Gendarmerie and filled up with diesel. So, next stop will either be Nuie or Tonga.
P.S. We learned something yesterday that Bill’s brothers and sister will find interesting. Their dad fought with General Patton’s army and he was stationed in France for years. Their dad even was awarded the highest French medal for something done in battle (can you tell I don’t know anything about military medals and stuff like that?). Anyway, the French believe that the US did not rescue them from German occupation in WWII. The French say they did it all by themselves. This belief is pervasive throughout France except in the Normandy area. They feel no gratitude whatsoever to the US for saving their butts in WWII. And history is re-written yet again.