Bora Bora, Society Islands, French Polynesia

Several people had told us about this island’s nickname, Boring-Boring: apparently the majority of the tourism funnels through resorts, and not much remains outside of them. Between that and the $40 per night mooring fees (anchoring is banned to protect the coral), we figured we’d just stay long enough to check out. So we sailed up from Taha’a, motored into the channel, and grabbed a mooring ball outside the Bora Bora Yacht Club, the closest mooring field to the town and its gendarmerie.

Our three priorities were laundry, checkout, and eggs. Laundry proved easiest: we found a service that would collect our huge bags from the “yacht club” (which is actually just a restaurant, with a sad version of the in-water palapas from Fakarava). Pictured is twenty-two thousand francs, or about US$184, worth of laundry.

While changing the sheets, we heard a sloshing sound from the back of the port bedroom, and opened up the door to check it out. We found that the crash locker back there was full of an alarming amount of water. Checking the salinity we found it was maybe 2/3 fresh, indicating that it was coming from the top rather than the bottom. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, as well as a good bit of salt splash, so all of this points to the culprit being the makeshift deck plates over the emergency tiller access holes. We emptied the water and resolved to seal them better. Of course, both our bilge pumps turned out to be broken in one way or another, so Andrew had to fix them before putting them away again.

The next morning, we took the dinghy over to town to check out. We had hoped to leave that night, but the official informed us that we would have to wait until the next day, as the paperwork had to be sent to Tahiti for processing. This is pretty wild to us; we’ve never had checkout be a two-day process before. As a sailor, missing a weather window can be complicated. The extra wait probably added a day to our trip to Samoa, because the wind was dying away. But it meant breakfast, which was nice, and several walks through towns. We really liked the garden on the right!

Since we would be stuck here an extra day anyway, we were only slightly disappointed when both grocery stores we checked told us that there were no eggs, but that they would be arriving the next day. We got the rest of our provisioning done, along with a bit of hardware shopping: a meter of new, not-rusting chain for our dinghy anchor, a garden sprayer for de-salting after passages, and a section of 2×4 to rig up our laundry wringer.

Other highlights from our stay here: Gandalf on another boat in the anchorage, and (according to Jazz) the best meal Andrew’s made yet on Villa. He pressure cooked some beef into barbecue, finally cut up the last sweet potato we’d bought months ago in Nuku Hiva, and threw some sauteed zucchini on the side. The secret is a little bit of vinegar and scallion in the sweet potato mash!

And, since we had some extra time and two full dive tanks, we took an afternoon scuba dive outside the pass. We headed a couple of hundred meters south of the entrance, and drifted back towards it.

The highlight was probably the abundance of moray eels; we had to have seen a dozen at least.

There were also lots of different kinds of butterflyfish.

And the coral was reasonably healthy.

We made it back up to the channel, where we found a sharp drop-off in the coral shelf and in the visibility. There were a couple of big fish hanging out here, including this unusually large scrawled filefish; a variant we haven’t seen in quite a while. Also here’s a goatfish, just because.

The next day we got into town early to finish checkout and get our COVID tests. Checkout was straightforward enough, once we got through the language barrier: the first officer we spoke to regretfully informed us that we could not leave today because checkout takes two days. We eventually conveyed that we had started the day before, and he found our completed paperwork in a drawer. Well, mostly completed: we had to walk two blocks down to the post office and buy a one-dollar stamp to send the pre-addressed form they handed us to Tahiti.

We had been dreading the COVID tests, but they turned out to be painless. For the first time, the nurse both let us take our own swabs, and let us swab the ends of our noses. Every previous test had been a variation on a violent nurse mining for brain tissue, so this was a welcome change, and we almost didn’t mind the swarms of mosquitos at the test site.

So now everything was ready, except the eggs. We grabbed an early lunch to kill some time, then saw a supply truck pass by and headed for the Super U. When we arrived, we saw a truck unloading, and we lurked in the back of the supermarket waiting for the eggs to be released. We followed them through the store, expecting them to be unpacked somewhere, but found ourselves led to the front counter and told to ask the checkout clerk. She informed us that we were only permitted to buy a dozen eggs, not each but per household. When we told her we were going to sea for two weeks, she reluctantly issued us a second dozen. We had intended to buy five dozen, but this was clearly the best we were going to do.

As we walked back to the dinghy, we saw unloading under way at the other market. We split up, and helpless adorable Jazz spent a good 20 minutes waiting with heavily-loaded pathos and watching the boxes emerge from the back. Eventually someone took pity and asked what she was waiting for. After a little help from Google Translate, the guy disappeared in back and came out with two boxes of eggs over his shoulder like a hero.

He led her to the counter, with the same checkout clerk who had given her the cut direct for asking about eggs an hour earlier. Everyone in line around her snapped up their allotted dozen as the eggs alit. Jazz bought her dozen, then swapped places with Andrew who had been hiding outside with grocery bags. That got us to four dozen, so we would be properly breakfasted as nature intended all the way to Samoa. Clearly there is a market failure throughout the Society Islands, as we had not been able to buy eggs freely since Tahiti. (Huahine was out for several days, and in Taha’a, where we’d been told that they keep them behind the counter, we were turned down in rapid dismissive French.)

We spent the last of our francs on some fruit and a shell crown for Jazz, and headed back to the Villa to take off for Samoa. Pictured: a table of bananas, just sitting in front of someone’s house, because that’s how fruit is sold here. And our last selfie leaving the island before watching sunset over Maupiti.

We hear, after the fact, that there are beautiful mooring fields in Bora Bora. We didn’t have the visa time to look for a better spot and do fun water things. But we do hear that they’re there, so don’t let our boring experiences on land turn you off of this island completely. As long as you don’t mind paying $40 per night for a mooring ball.


    1. They’re not super expensive, maybe $5 US a dozen. There are a lot of things in FP that are price-subsidized by the French government; it’s possible that eggs are on that list, but it’s hard to tell because they’re not sitting on shelves where you’d see a red sticker.

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