Position: 17 ° 08 ′ South 172 ° 07 ′ West
miles traveled from Bora Bora 1170, missing at the WP south passage of Viti Levu, Fiji 530
(600 at port Denerau – West Coast Viti Levu)
When preparing for a long ocean crossing, one of the fundamental aspects is to carefully study the meteorological situation, something that those who know me well know how it fascinates me, and like me also Amancio, sailor and guest of Milanto, so we find ourselves analyzing files grib, synoptics and Pilot Charts, which we compare with our Italian router, Gianfranco Meggiorin of Navimeteo and we also ask the opinion of the famous Bob Mc Davit, an icon of the South Pacific meteorology to which almost all navigators who are about to make their way to New Zealand or to Australia. We are not far behind, even if in the end too much information can confuse more than help, however this comparison seems interesting to us, but above all it amuses us.
The Pacific Ocean is immense, three times the Atlantic, so the meteorological phenomena underlying the famous trade winds, or carrying winds, the famous trade winds, with south-east direction in the Pacific, are not constant as in the Atlantic. they are disturbed by the depressions south of the 25th parallel, frequent like colds in winter and especially defined up to Bora Bora, then things get more complicated and very variable.
If it is true that a meteorological forecast of up to 8-10 days in the Ocean can be believed to be reliable due to the scarce orographic influences, it is equally true that on a stretch of almost 2000 miles, with this variability, it is practically impossible not to run into some challenging situation. .
We at Ariel, Milanto and Sea Lover, the three surviving caravels, are in a particular “administrative” condition given that the authorities that give the green light would like the boat to leave the waters within 24/36 hours of signing (the bureaucracy is absurd), plus the Sea Lover owner’s visa expires on 7 July; so it would be better to leave first, and then do another one in Fiji. But we decide to give a damn about the bureaucracy and leave when the weather gives us the best window … and here we realize the difficulty.
A Maramu, or the dreaded reinforcement from the southeast, is still lively and we dodged it by arriving close to the Bora Bora lagoon just before it arrived (8 days), now a good window opens for 24 hours, but the study of the long treats tells us that we will find two serious situations. The first 24 hours after departure, that high pressure “ridge” I mentioned earlier, but above all from July 12 another violent Maramu will unleash on our route for about 500 miles, with hypothetical premature force 7 and 3 wave meters. This in theory.
We set out on Monday morning 6 July at 10.00 with 15 knots from the southeast, a pleasant breeze that structures an almost regular ocean. I say almost because the Pacific is never smooth, it is too vast and too influenced by frightening low pressures in the south and north, creating a bubbling more than a classic swell. The breeze, however, does not take long to be replaced by a generous south-east at 25 knots, which makes us sail very well, although we soon understand that the sea has an energy that hides something. So 4 days at 30 knots, with waves of 3 meters, which Ariel rides with skill, doing her best, but above all it is the skill and experience of Ceci, which always guarantees us meals at the table despite the sometimes incessant rolling.
And the storm? We get used to this difficult stretch, too irregular with non-stormy winds, let alone later! Storms are never punctual, they anticipate models and above all they are of a superior strength. The reinforcements are perceived early, on the evening of 10 July, so we have an appropriate set-up, keeping the genoa tangonato to port and the mainsail reduced to an equivalent of 4 hands and two hands per genoa (less than half). Soon 40 knots arrive and the sea that regularly gets bigger, swells is too little. We run stable and fortunately the night obscures the view of the sea, always disturbing on certain occasions. Rains. The lumps are frequent and violent. We develop an ideal cover of the cockpit that we call a capsule, where even torrential rain reserves us only a few sprays,while at times it is strong enough to flatten the sea. Ariel wags his tail and we cling to the handrails.
The morning shows a crazy ocean, as beautiful as it is really giant, nervous, almost violent. Total irregularity of the wave motion to make the race a crazy ride on a roller coaster, so much so that we reach 14.2 knots gliding on a wave, with stable wind at 38/40/42 knots. He doesn’t give up and slowly we get used to going through a Dante’s circle. We hear on SSB radio twice a day Milanto’s experienced friends and the inexperienced ones of Sea Lover, the Mexican catamaran, hoping that they will listen to the advice to keep a cautious sail. In part it will be so.
Now that I write it is the 3rd consecutive day and he doesn’t give up. It stabilizes at 30 knots, then suddenly comes long and tumultuous gusts of up to 40 knots. The bulletins say that from Wednesday it will fade, so we still expect two more days of jousting.
The coolest thing? Steering Ariel in this crazy sea. I was thinking of the Atlantic crossing, a trip compared to this ocean, which to do it all you have to add 4000 + 1800 + 1600 miles to get to Australia (7400 miles, or more than 3 Atlantic oceans). All to see two palm trees and the beaches of the South Seas… when in the Mediterranean in 1000 miles you see the whole history of humanity. But here we are and we have to get to Fiji.
Luckily it rains. Think that in the Atlantic I made a point with the sextant every day with a straight line of sun, from the Galapagos to here I have never succeeded, in the sense that we have never had a sunny day. Long-range sailing this is.
But let’s get back to earthly things. When we left Tahaa it was to reach Bora Bora, the true myth of French Polynesia. Last atoll before the jump. The Bora Bora lagoon is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the world. We arrive at the only pass of the island at around 11, after a navigation half sail and half motor to cover the 28 miles from Tahaa. The entrance is easy and well signposted, we immediately head to the mooring buoys of the Yachting Club Bora Bora, where we should have attacked Ariel on May 17th, if it hadn’t been for Covid. We get there anyway, despite all the obstacles we had to overcome. The bay is truly breathtaking, now managed with buoy fields because anchoring is prohibited to save the coral.Usually this season there are between 120 and 140 boats (this is the number of buoys available in various anchorages in the lagoon). There are 5 of us, then our friend Matt’s Influencers and Amazing Grace will arrive, who will also join us in Fiji once the institutional practices have been made. But always a number that brings the lagoon back to the 70s. By heart, locals say, they don’t remember so few boats. We also discover that 25 flights a day land and depart here, normally; now three a week and only from Tahiti.We also discover that 25 flights a day land and depart here, normally; now three a week and only from Tahiti.We also discover that 25 flights a day land and depart here, normally; now three a week and only from Tahiti.
We therefore live in bad luck a great advantage, entering the heart of Bora Bora alone. It doesn’t take long to understand why it’s so successful. The island is truly a pearl. 18 shades of blue in the lagoon waters were calculated by a computer of a photographer, making it a unique place in the world. Fortunately the violent wind that arrives the day after us sweeps a lot of the heavy Pacific sky, so much so that we receive a unique gift in being able to appreciate it being able to admire the colors (always with the umbrella in the backpack) because in any case a couple of times a day one “Piss” the sky does it.
There is more life than in other parts despite the covid stop, and everyone is (perhaps) waiting for tourists from July 15th (mah…). The island is a bit hated by the others in Polynesia because more money circulates here, everything is based on tourism, from the unbridled luxury of 3,000 dollars a night at the Four Season resort, to the 450 of the less famous resort (for lower figures it is impossible ). But now they are all closed, and this gives an air of abandonment, which however does not affect the premises, which if they do not work, they sit and wait.
Two friends of Milanto, Mark and Amancio take advantage of the covid-sales and find two accommodations with seaside bungalows at European prices, just to experience Bora Bora not from the boat. We live aboard Ariel, in the most sheltered corner of the island, in a beautiful Yachting club, with a bowling green like in Corsica, a suitable restaurant and a view to the spatial west. However, just think that the management of the restaurant, as well as the property, is by a Turk, also owner of Bora Bora Beach, a restaurant on the most beautiful beach on the island; and the Polynesians to clean the floors.
We rent a red Panda for our raids, and not the bike this time (the circumnavigation is 30 km), while we prefer to invest in a guided tour with a local agency (the only one open) for a dip in the hinterland with a Jeep 4 × 4 to discover the vegetation, a sacred place (usual black stone symbol in the middle of the forest), and visit high up in the mountain to admire the beauty of the colors of the lagoon from above; every road that departs from the main one to go inland is private and paid and can only be traveled with a guide.
An attraction of the island, perhaps the only one, apart from nature, the cannons brought by the Americans in the Second World War to counter a possible Japanese attack. They made it a US base, built a dock for ships, a marina, still in use, and schools and houses, as well as the famous cannons aimed at protecting the only pass. In fact this was the reason why they chose Bora Bora: the fact that it is in the middle of the Pacific, but above all because it has a single pass, simplifying surveillance. The guns never fired, because when the Japanese decided not to give up and to prepare the attack with the suicide bombers, Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to hostilities, but this is another topic.
Pleasant island, where you can breathe an air of serenity and you can sense what can be transformed into a non-covid era! We are told by a Milanese who has set up an activity of fragrances for the environment and for the body here with her husband (in fact we immediately equip Ariel with the magic potion of Tiare, a local flower), and a nice French waiter, intrigued by our Italian speaking, and in a correct Italian with a modest Tuscan accent tells us that he got married in Follonica (yes, just Follonica) with a girl from Bora Bora, and they lived in Italy and France for 3 years, then the call of the mother-in-law and the magic of the island made the rest; it tells us that living in Bora Bora is like staying in cotton, there is no stress and no crime, and sooner or later it conquers you.
Last stop for a possible Polynesian tattoo. What’s now? Cecilia inquires and discovers that one of the most popular tattoo artists in the Pacific works and lives in Bora Bora, an artist, they say. Booking lists normally exceed 15 days, so arriving tourists book from home via the internet even a month in advance! For us from today to the day after tomorrow. Luca di Sea Lover the first, Cecilia the second and Amancio the third, I decide to postpone, I’m not a tattoo man. But it was extraordinary to see him at work, freehand, without predisposition, a great!
Fortunately, a very famous place opens, the Bloody Mary, which has hosted every star of the cinema or entertainment or sports, for a dinner-show for the few tourists present. The location is suggestive, feet in the sand and a stage near the tables and they offer us a show of tribal dances in costume, with unknown but understandable meanings, regarding courtship, love, family and war. What remains of the Polynesian civilization, the one that Gouguin had loved, painted and chosen as his homeland, is now definitely in decline.
In the meantime the miles fortunately drop, but the storm remains.
See you next time from Ariel.