Petra Bošková is one of the most experienced captains and has sailed in places that many a yachtsmen could only dream about. She knows French Polynesia and the Society Islands of Tahaa, Raiatea, Bora Bora and Huahine like the back of her hand. We interviewed her at length and she shared her breathtaking experiences.
Where is French Polynesia located?
Magical and enchanting island paradise in the Pacific
You told me that out of all the destinations you’ve visited, you prefer French Polynesia the most. Why do you find it so captivating?
French Polynesia gets you as soon as your onboard the flight. Shortly after take off from Los Angeles, the flight attendants change into traditional Polynesian costume and wear a white flower behind their ear, called a tiara. Upon arrival at the international airport, you’re welcomed by a local music group and traditional flower wreath is hung around your neck. French Polynesia is literally a paradise on earth, at least I see it as such.
When the manta rays dance beneath your boat
In the Pacific, everyone is fascinated by the underwater world. Is it true that there is no nicer snorkelling to be found elsewhere?
That’s true. Right here, on the island of Tahaa, I have discovered the most beautiful snorkelling spot in the ocean current, in a coral garden with thousands of brightly-coloured fish. It would be difficult to find any more beautiful. Don’t hesitate to spend the whole day here and enjoy your rollercoaster ride through the magnificent corals.
Is there something more here, that you wouldn’t have a chance to experience elsewhere?
Something that we haven't experienced elsewhere, is during one of the night time anchorages in one of the lagoons, wonderful giant manta rays would dance under the boat. It was truly one of the most beautiful experiences.
What are the conditions for berthing and sailing in French Polynesia like
Sailors are certainly most interested in the conditions for sailing and anchoring. What is the yachting infrastructure like there?
While cruising along the Society Islands in French Polynesia, you will not experience marinas, at least not as you know them from Europe. For anchoring, you can practically go anywhere in the lagoons where conditions allow, but you must be very careful about the depth as the lagoons are very shallow. It is often necessary to have one crewman at the bow to navigate what is going on under the surface.
And what about anchoring at night?
Over the last few years, a number of state-subsidized buoys have appeared to help you safely moor for the night. For a comfortable voyage, however, a boat with a watermaker is a must.
Sailing the lagoons can really fuel your adrenaline.
Certainly. The biggest adrenaline rush definitely comes sailing from the open sea to the lagoons of the islands, especially if there are some big breakers, you get the feeling that you’ll barely make it through the narrow entrance and then a huge freighter emerges.
Mango and coconut straight from the tree to your mouth
What do you think Europeans sailing in the Pacific find most surprising?
Europeans will most certainly be surprised by the unspoilt nature, which is one great botanical garden. The vibrant colour of the flowering plants is utterly amazing and coconuts and fruit grow everywhere. Within just a short walk you can bring back lime, banana, or mango, which grow freely around the paths.
Similarly, you will be taken aback by the helpfulness and hospitality of the locals who you’ll never find with an outstretched hand trying to get extra money, but if you show some interest, they’ll be the first to help.
How are the infamous black polynesian pearls formed
In addition to sailing in incredible surroundings, French Polynesia is full of other attractions. What shouldn’t be missed?
French Polynesia has an incredibly rich history that spans thousands of years. As an example, on the island of Raiatea it is possible to visit the most sacred place of Polynesia - Marae Taputapuatea. This is an ancient sacred complex of several marae - bordered rectangles paved with basalt or coral. Religious ceremonies took place here, but it was also a meeting place of travellers and ship navigators.
Don’t miss a visit to a pearl farm. You’ll see with your very own eyes how the famous black polynesian pearls are born.
Do you recommend something in particular that we shouldn’t leave at home?
Take a quality snorkeling kit with you, you can rent flippers at the location, and take plenty of sunscreen, because even if it’s behind the clouds, the sun can still burn. The islands are the ideal subject for photography, but bring an underwater camera as well, because as vibrant as the life and nature is above the water, it is equally vibrant and varied below the surface. Also a true fishermen should not leave their rod at home, but make sure it’s a good really one.
Because we managed to catch tuna weighing 10 kg. There is nothing better than freshly caught fish. Half of us ate it raw and the other half grilled it onboard.
4 things you need to watch out for when visiting French Polynesia
Petra, is French Polynesia purely idyllic or are there any dangers lurking there?
There are 4 things you need to beware of when visiting French Polynesia:
- cone shells – cone-shaped shells, small and inconspicuous, but it won’t help you if you get stabbed by one
- stonefish – this fish lives at greater depths, but an encounter with one, may be your last
- coconut – a coconut falling from the palm onto the head of a passerby head often has fatal consequences
- Credit card in the hand of a wife when visiting a pearl farm :)
What’s your final word to any sailor that might be hesitating?
It's a truly wonderful part of our planet, you could spend weeks here and every day there’s still something to surprise and amaze you. And it’s worth biting the bullet and enduring the 24 - hour plane journey, because your reward will be literally be paradise on earth.
Who is Petra Bošková
Petra Bošková, marine commander, has been actively engaged in yachting since 2004. Her sailing began in Mediterranean waters (though Italy, Croatia and Greece), but she has since gained a wealth of yachting experience in the Caribbean, the Seychelles, Asia and the Pacific. Sher has her own sailing boat Dehler 92 Optima and she is the Executive Director of the company Zindulka hausboty www.hausboty.cz.