Ah Bora Bora...seriously, enough of that, what's it like? Well, up close the mountain which forms the centerpiece of the island's landscape is beautiful, and diverse, with several distinct profiles depending on which angle one is viewing, but "Matterhorn like"? Umm, in reality not so much, imagine one of those tasty Teuscher Matterhorn chocolates you can purchase by the box full on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich with it's pointy peak neatly bitten off and you'll form a more accurate mental image. Resorts? Yes, lots of those, I hear there's a Four Seasons on the other side of the island, and cruise ships arrive regularly. Windy? Rainy? Yes, and yes again, there seems to be a regular cycle of weather moving up from the south, which at this time of year, on this side of the equator, means they are winter storms that bring a pleasant freshness with them. When the sun does come out though, and with the island's lush jungle foliage set against sparkling gem-clear water, Bora Bora is truly glorious.
Giamma, Carmen, Ivan, and I are sitting at the mahogany bar inside Bloody Mary's on a Saturday evening. We're flanked by middle-aged American tourists which seem to be the most prevalent sort around here. BM bill's itself as "the most famous bar in the world", they have an elaborate thatched-roof billboard out front listing all of the celebrities, luminaries, and high-profile politicians who have visited since they opened in 1979. Hey look! Led Zeppelin! It's a big billboard, which also lists Senator John McCain, not sure if Jimmy Page would be too excited to hear he's sharing billing with old stone-face. Personally speaking of course, just as a matter of opinion, if there is such a thing as "the most famous bar in the world" wouldn't everyone already know? We ask the bartender for a suggestion, "Bloody Mary", he chimes, "it's our signature". I normally associate a Bloody Mary with morning after hangovers and/or Sunday Brunch, but hey, it is the most famous bar in the world right? Giamma orders a Margarita, which turns out to be the better call because, to me at least, there's just something weird about sitting at a bar on a Saturday night sipping a Bloody Mary, like waking up from a hot date and it's too late to change for work, you know you're gonna be uncomfortable for the duration.
Black water pump goes tits-up, Nav screen goes permanently dark..yep, what was at dawn looking to be a perfect opener to a lovely, relaxing Sunday, has now degraded into a full on maintenance nightmare. As anyone reading these words who has lived aboard a boat, any boat, knows so well, the issues never end. Solving problems on the fly in remote areas that often lack the most basic of supplies to aid in said maintenance issues is a hallmark of ocean travel by sailing vessel, and in fact, the exact origin of the term right of passage. Giamma, our perennially affable captain, always-calm-regardless-the-circumstances, barely raised an eyebrow over the situation. Plunging into these problems with gusto, even donning a Marquesian tribal necklace said to empower the masculine warrior spirit, he led the team to victory, or at least back to the point of properly functioning toilets; crisis averted. As for the B&G Navigation plotters, the main unit at the Nav-station appears to be dead as a doornail unfortunately, but the two smaller ones on the pedestals are, for the time being, still functioning... Oh mother of heavenly sailing virtue deliver us from overtly complex electronics, poorly written software, finicky cable connectors, and operating manuals created by individuals of questionable character...
Eric's here! Yes, Art's son Eric has flown in from LA, the last time he joined us was this past February in Antigua, and like the rest of us, it's his first visit to Bora Bora. After getting him settled in, we of course jumped in the tender and headed for the nearest beach bar. This particular one called, "The St. James", is very French, decidedly much more sophisticated than Bloody Mary's, but of course lacking in universally uplifting kitchie goofiness, which as we all know, the French have no grasp of whatsoever. We pulled up to the bar's tender parking and piled out onto the dock wearing our usual attire of crew T-shirts, shorts, and flip flops. A dock which happened to be right in front of the waterfront lounge seating, where the well groomed, resort-wear clad patrons seemed a bit surprised. We were immediately peppered with odd looks and questions, "did you just come here from one of those boats?" "Well, yes but no worries, we have a hall-pass from the monitor", no, I actually didn't say that. One young woman; slender, blond, in a designer floor-length dress, high heels, and copious amounts of jewelry attempted to help us with the ropes which was actually very polite, "you're on a sailboat?" She asked, "how did you get here?" "We sailed here from Spain", then I told her how fabulous she looked, at which point she seemed a bit confused and wondered off, as did everyone else. So with the lounge area now ours to command, we settled in, ordered a fried Pu-Pu platter and a round of brightly colored cocktails with flower arrangements sticking out the top...ah Bora Bora...
So here we are, fully acclimated and solidly enjoying our Polynesian adventure after first arriving last April. Being that it was Eric's first full day here we decided to go scuba diving. No sooner had we descended into the pass we'd selected when we suddenly encountered a school of nineteen Eagle Rays effortlessly circling in a graceful ballet of undersea enchantment. They were the leopard spotted variety, visually spectacular, their wingspans measuring nearly two meters across, we were of course stunned and enthralled. There may in fact have been twenty Rays, or even twenty-two but I think "nineteen" just sounds a bit more cool. Back on board for lunch and relaxing after our undersea adventure dive, it was shaping up to be a really terrific day when Eric looked up and saw a catamaran under motor that was heading straight for us. I didn't think much of it at first but it was in fact, a rental boat from "The Moorings", so I should have. Indeed, the sorts of severely seamanship-challenged individuals who rent these boats by the week are a common scourge throughout the Caribbean. What's worse is that these clueless crazed yahoos of the bare-boat charter world have found their way to Polynesia. The depths of their indifferent ignorance to the most basic and fundamental principles of safe boat operations is legendary, local Coast Guards should designate them an official danger to shipping: "All skilled, responsible seamen be advised, The Moorings rental fleet, a known hazard, are prevalent in this area, please take all precautions necessary, and blow these buttheads out of the water on sight"...ok I added that last bit.
Allow me to set the scene, we are a twenty-five meter yacht, resting at anchor, clearly marked and flagged, on a bright sunny day, inside a large bay with nearly a full kilometer of space between us and anything in all directions. So Eric points out that this catamaran is heading straight for us, and I guess, for me at least, the fact that they were truly HEADING STRAIGHT FOR US, just didn't click in, I mean seriously, who does that? Giamma of course spotted the danger immediately as he had not only read the Coast Guard bulletin, he'd caught the distinct smell of "stupid" wafting in on the breeze. As the rent-a-cat blissfully closed in with dastardly precision, I noticed a group of passengers standing on the foredeck gleefully snapping photos and pointing. Giamma's attempts to wave them off went unheeded as the Catamaran continued on its collision course, then suddenly, and with only a few meager meters to spare, someone on board realized they had a helm wheel in their hands and decided to see if it actually worked.
To their amazement, turning the wheel did in fact cause the boat to change course. Giamma by this point was standing on the farthest point of our bow, staring straight into the eyes of the driver with a grave seriousness unique to Sardinian sea captains, a piercing deathly coldness that typically induces a loss of bowel control in the recipient. By now the people onboard the catamaran taking photos suddenly appeared puzzled; we had not in fact moved out of their way as they had assumed we would, and so began to panic. With perhaps fifty centimeters to spare, the stern of the catamaran brushed past our bowsprit; a heart stopping near miss. Seeing the exasperation on Giamma's face I immediately offered to motor over in our tender armed with Molotov cocktails made with the cheap rum we bought in Panama for trading purposes, set The Moorings catamaran ablaze, and rid the seas of this scourge once and for all... Oh mother of heavenly sailing virtue we humbly beseech you, mercifully deliver us from the total raving lunatics of The Moorings, who freely encourage complete imbeciles to rent boats for the express purpose of terrorizing able sailors with their deadly fleet of plastic catamarans...Amen
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