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Bora Bora – The Beautiful
Popping his head through the hatch, the salty breeze slaps his captain across the face. Loaded with moisture it touches the face, threatening to rain. Like lead, the southern sky is a gray, flat, endless expanse from the horizon up. Either you are navigating a weather system or it is another local anomaly. Running a weather fax print does not show any major systems in your part of the ocean. Remembering a similar situation on the run to the Tuamotu when he lost the shroud, his crew carries a reef on their mainsail just to be safe. Mid-afternoon sees the cloud turn blue and, with the sun coming in, the breeze is released again for the “Trades”. His crew shakes off the reef and before long they are moving forward in style again, at their usual seven to eight knots. Her waterline, scrubbed before leaving Raiatea, has the water bubbling merrily along her waist and sleek, full sides: it feels great.
Having parted earlier in Raiatea, the agreement is to meet again in Tonga, if not sooner. Both ships are making the same course, visiting Niue on the way, but as the vhf only has a range of twenty-five miles, it will be difficult to keep in touch with their friends. On leaving Raiatea she had steered the upper end of Taaha Island, and looking into one of the ‘Steps’ our crew saw one of the meanest surf breaks imaginable. Curling at the tip of the Passe, rising to the reef, the glassy black rollers bounce off the jagged coral, the white spray of snow leaps high. A few surfers are riding them, taking their lives every time they catch one of these monsters. Our crew could hear the scream of the occasional surfer brave enough to try to survive.
Her captain, looking at the sea, is again surprised by the multitude of different moods that she herself parades, revealing everything, but revealing nothing. Every day is different, from shimmering blue to stone gray, sometimes to almost black – from calm to rough and sometimes stormy, and back to calm – sometimes bright and sometimes menacing – constantly changing, so that even half an hour can make a difference. The only constant is constant change. No wonder artists always struggle in their spots to capture the true image of the sea. She is so elusive, even in a fractured moment, too much for the artist’s eye. Capturing it on film is fine, but transfer that with a medium to canvas or paper and something is always missing. The restlessness of a human face can be conveyed in a portrait, but the steady, constant restlessness of the ocean is beyond our capabilities. The best the artist can hope for is a fair representation of this element that covers seventy percent of the planets surface. That statistic, plus the fact that our bodies are seventy-two percent water, makes you wonder if there’s any connection between the two, and in the end, we’re all mixed together, like in a giant washing machine, and part of it. a huge giant whirlwind called life. Whatever it is, water in all its forms, fresh or salty, sea or lake, river or pond, has a colossal effect on our lives as joint inhabitants of this Earth.
Pushing the companion way, a whiff of freshly cooked food snaps him out of his musings, and his thoughts turn to a more basic requirement: food. ‘Insufferable glutton!’ she taunts her captain. “That’s all you think about: fill your belly!” There are few things more satisfying than demolishing several warm buttered scones in the cabin of a yacht on a windy tropical afternoon and washing them down with pure drinking water with a touch of lime from the desalinator.
We head for Bora Bora, our little boat sailing quietly now as the breeze moderates, notices an increasing number of glutinous floating objects gliding by. These are round, mushroom-shaped, transparent jellyfish with four darker rings placed precisely in their center. By the time our crew notices them, they’ve multiplied to legion proportions and their bow is cutting them down, pushing them aside by the hundreds. They travel like this for about thirty minutes and during this time the animals are so thick that they have a dampening effect on the surface of the water, smoothing it from a surface of light to moderate breeze waves to a gently undulating mass of them. strange creatures
They don’t know how far they have drifted from our little ship this way and that, but considering how long it takes to navigate them, the bank must count for several million. Our crew idly wonders if these animals have any natural predators; perhaps they are whale fodder, and since there are fewer whales now, the jellyfish have thrived. With this gummy carpet of living jelly billowing around him, even as the breeze lingers, a kind of eerie stillness pervades the scene. It’s going through them at about five knots, but it’s leaving no trace. Her cut of water sweeps them aside and they slide over her sides, the full length of her hull, only to close immediately again as they pass under her stern.
There is no sign of where they had been moments before. The phenomenon begs the question, why such a concentration of these animals right here? What do they do here? Are they going somewhere? Or are they just drifting in the globe’s ocean currents? Are they here in preparation for mating? If so, there is no shortage of options! Nature takes care of its own, maintaining a balance, and no doubt has them here as part of its master plan. Coming out the other side, the dwindling numbers are shaken and she moves forward and away from the mass gathering. A few minutes later, she cleared most of them and they were reduced to the occasional straggler slipping in her wake.
The twin peaks of Bora Bora are emerging from the horizon ahead and the island is taking shape exactly as described in the pilot. Part of the minds of their captains is always surprised at how the geographical features of a new destination, seen for the first time, are a faithful replica of a printed or photographic description, as if there was a possibility that there would be some change or difference. or that the cartographer was wrong! And so there is that slight sense of surprised satisfaction that the real matches the representation and has been narrated correctly. The leisurely approach of a sailing yacht enhances this feeling and gives our crew the opportunity to study this island gem up close as they approach. Bora Bora is known as ‘The Most Beautiful’, and from this distance it is shaping its reputation. James A Michener immortalized it in his ‘Return to Paradise’ with the following: ‘I saw it for the first time from an aeroplane. On the horizon was a speck that turned into a tall, blunt mountain, with cliffs that dropped steeply into the sea. At the base of the mountain narrow fingers of land shot up, forming magnificent bays, while over the whole a coral ring of absolute perfection was thrown, dotted with small motus on which palm trees grew. The lagoon was a crystal blue, the beaches were dazzling white, and always on the outer reef the spray leaped mountainously into the air.
On this perfect day in the south seas, the sun casting its flawless and radiant light on the mountain tops of the island, it is indeed the embodiment of paradise. The searing white of the sand below, the delicate pale water of the lagoon is reflected upwards on the underside of the fluffy white clouds around the twin peaks, creating a unique and dazzling display, floating and turquoise in the skies. The coral reef surrounds Bora Bora like a necklace as it is almost perfect in its symmetry and equidistant from the main island. Fortunately there is a Step, the only one, on the west side of the reef. It’s called Passe Teavanui and it flows into a magnificent deep water bay just below the splendid and towering twin peaks that Bora Bora is known for. Our small boat navigates easily through this wide passage, across the bay and to the Bora Bora Yacht Club, located in a cove one and a half kilometers north of the main town, Vaitape. The clubhouse water is a dark, still, fifteen fathom, dotted with glasses of various description and vintage. Also, there are a number of orange mooring buoys in the bay and one of these she steers rather than drops anchor in this deep water.
“Take the line of least resistance when offered.” She thinks, her captain runs directly. She judges it perfectly – there is no wind here – they hook up, her captain turns off the engine and she prepares to rest in this, another corner of paradise.
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