Monday 27th August - Still in Bora Bora

Jon & Carol Dutton
Wed 29 Aug 2012 04:52

Monday 27th August – Bora Bora

Well, we’re still here in Bora Bora.  We had an issue to sort out with the freezer last week when we discovered that one of its two plates was not doing anything to keep the temperature down.  Finding a refrigeration expert in Bora Bora didn’t look easy and we toyed with the idea of going back upwind 20 NM to Raiatea until we discovered that even that wouldn’t help. The thought of going back upwind about 150NMto Tahiti definitely did not appeal.  Fortunately the Bora Bora Yacht Club (BBYC) were able to put us in touch with a man who knew what he was doing and in the space of an hour on Thursday he’d sorted us out.  A small puncture in the plate was the problem and we solved that for the time being with Chemical Metal before he recharged the system with the right sort of refrigerant. We’ll be able to sort the problem out properly once we get to NZ.

That resolved we planned to leave at the weekend.  However, there is a weather front on its way towards us and it won’t be clear of these parts before about Tuesday or Wednesday.  Earlier last week it looked reasonably benign.  Now it looks a lot less so.  The average winds associated with such fronts look pretty reasonable on a weather chart. However, that average conceals the fact that you have to deal with frequent quite violent squalls, stair rods of rain and winds coming from every which way for a day or so as the front passes over you.  All of which we’ve done before – not least en route for the Galapagos.  And, Arnamentia is a tough ol’ bird and we hope her crew is not entirely lacking in robustness.  But, we’re not queuing up to do more of that than we need to.  So, we’re sitting tight – as is everyone else; the moorings off the BBYC are all now taken and have been for some days – until it passes.  Lokman – the Turkish/French co-owner/co-manager of the BBYC  – has cheerfully pointed out that the British should be used to this sort of thing “You have only two seasons in England – August and winter; non?”


                                    It’s a grey, wet, windy August Bank Holiday.  Just like being at home!

One of the casualties of the heavy showers we’ve been experiencing over the past few days has been our normal computer keyboard.  Yes, we thought the hatch above the chart table was done up tightly, but…. This called for another visit to the only techie shop in town, the one where we bought our new camera. The good news was that they had several keyboards, the even better news was that they were very reasonably priced – about £15.  The bad news was that they were all French ie they are AZERTY rather than QWERTY.  Using one would undoubtedly have been very annoying.  So, this is being typed on our back up, roll up,  rubber keyboard which has the advantage of coping with a bit of rain.  But the keys don’t always register and it’s pretty horrible to use.  Ho, hum.

The deteriorating weather involved a change of plan on Sunday morning and a quick visit to the Gendarmerie to explain why, having booked out of French Polynesia on Friday to leave on Saturday (and picked up our duty-free fuel) we were still here and intended to be so for several days yet.  That was zero hassle.  All they asked is that once we’ve decided when to go we pop in and they’ll change the dates on the exit forms and in our passports.  All this is in stark contrast to some of the advice to be found on Noonsite (cruisers’ website) about the cumbersome and massively bureaucratic procedures that it is allegedly vital for cruisers follow in French Polynesia – in particular once you get to Tahiti (go to the airport – south of town - to see immigration, go well north of town to see customs, blah, blah).  As previously reported, we booked into French Polynesia in the Gendarmerie in Hiva Oa.  We have not troubled customs, immigration or anyone else in authority (except for obtaining our fuel duty exemption form in Tahiti) since then, despite having archipelago/island-hopped for many weeks.  We ignored the advice relating to going the whole hog in Tahiti to ‘regularize’ our allegedly ‘provisional’ entry status.  When Jon originally nipped in to see the gendarmes in Bora Bora on Friday to book out of French Polynesia it could scarcely have been simpler or the gendarmes more helpful.  So, you cruisers out there, our advice is “Relax – it’s a lot simpler than some would have you believe”. And, do try not to be too Anglo-Saxon about whatever it is that someone tells you the regulations are. This is French Polynesia, guys, and both the French and the Polynesians have better things to do with their time than make your life a misery.  One thing though – when buying duty-free fuel in Bora Bora, take along photocopies of your clearance in/out form, your fuel duty exemption form and your boat registration document and be prepared to part with them.

The Cook Islands are back on the agenda again but not quite as originally planned.  We are still steering clear of Rarotonga because we gather that the harbour is still off-limits to yachts.  But, about half way to our destination in Tonga lies Palmerston Atoll. It has 6 islets, one of which is inhabited, surrounding an atoll about 6 miles by 4.  All the islanders are descendants of William Marsters (originally Masters) – a Leicestershire man (variously described as a carpenter or cooper) who arrived there in 1862 with his Polynesian wife from Penrhyn Island (further north in the Cook Islands) and her cousin. He apparently had 17 children by these two women and the wife of a friend who was also based on the island but absent for lengthy periods.  The swarthiness of his friend apparently gave rise to no queries when the relevant children looked rather fairer-skinned than might have been expected.  Moreover, the friend died relatively young and the issue went away.  In addition to his Polynesian brood there was, apparently, a wife and 2 children abandoned in England. In time his Polynesian families produced 54 grandchildren before his death at the age of 68 in 1899.  After quite a battle with authority he was leased the island by Queen Victoria.  He divided the one mile long main island and the other reefs and islands into three portions – one for each ‘family’ – established strict rules regarding inter-marriage and decreed English to be the spoken language.  He is still known as ‘Father’. There are about 50 inhabitants today and around half of those are children. By 1973 there were, apparently over 1,000 descendants scattered over the South Pacific. The island prides itself on being welcoming to yotties but there are some very unusual arrangements and traditions associated with such visits.  And, given that there are 3 families there are apparently 3 somewhat different versions of the family history – all passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation.  More of which when we get there.