Friday, August 17, 2007

Bora Bora, August 17

We have arrived at Bora Bora, the last of the French Polynesian islands on our itinerary. Along with dozens of other boats waiting to make the jump west, we are more or less ready to go but it feels pretty good just to hang out and enjoy this last bit of French paradise. We have filed a mound of paperwork to leave the country and will also have to visit the gendarmerie for final processing. We are told you are supposed to state you are leaving same day or they will make you come back the next day. The practice seems to be check out and stay until they chase you out.
You can observe a lot of anchorage etiquette here. If the dinghy is by the boat, it means someone is home, but you never enter without permission. You knock on the hull or call out. You can also call on the radio, which is the party line. You call by boat name, not personal name, and if there is a response you move to another frequency for a “private” conversation. If not, you give up. No voice mail. (Although your neighbor may tell you when you arrive home that you were being hailed on the radio). You don’t anchor right next to another boat. Good form, if you are close, is to seek approval of the boat who was there first. Bad form is to do nothing. A boat that does nothing earns the scorn of its neighbor, who may try to get the message across by putting out its fenders or parading naked while the offending boat entertains or eats lunch. Conversation consists of what is your current boat problem, how you are going about solving it, and suggestions from the other parties about how they would do so or war stories of what they have done in the past. Since there is a new problem on a boat almost every day, it is an extraordinarily fruitful topic of conversation. Much better than the weather,politics, or sports.
Last night we saw a collection of World War II photos of this island. There was Eleanor Roosevelt greeting the troops, construction of a massive airfield, huge warships in the harbor, armaments in the steep hills, and a big dunk tank for the troops to play in. Bora Bora was an R & R stop for American officers. They say it was here they met the likes of Bloody Mary, were beckoned by Bali Hai, and washed those men right out of their hair.
We spent four nights at Tahaa, the smallest of the major Society Islands. People fish, cultivate vanilla, coconuts and fruit, and work for the one big resort on a nearby motu (reef island) which ferries in tourists by helicopter to see the coral gardens. It took a long time and a lot of walking to get halfway around Tahaa on its extensive paved roadways because there were virtually no passenger vehicles to give us a lift. When we told them where we were going – maybe eight miles away – drivers were apologetic because no one travels that far. Don’t hold your breath for the next entry, it will be a while before we have access to the internet again. We love to hear from you. Write us at ateealex@aol.com or italex@aol.com or respond in the form box.

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