It’s 2:00 P.M. Sunday here on Minerva Reef and we plan to leave in
a few hours for Fiji. It should take us 2.5 days. Weather forecast
is for very light winds for the next 24 hours followed by winds of
15 knots the next day, 20 the following day, and then a big low
pressure system with winds of 30 knots or more will be coming. We
should be safely anchored in Fiji a full day before the 30 knots
Thursday and Friday at Minerva reef were very windy – too windy to
go out and walk on the reef – but not too windy to have a good
time socializing with our friends on “Vera” and “Wombat of
Sydney”. We are all anchored a couple of hundred feet away from
each other so it is easy to hop in your dinghy and get to the next
boat. It was so windy we never felt inclined to get our own
dinghy off the deck of the boat (where we carry it on long
passages) and into the water, so we bummed rides from our friends
Yesterday, Saturday, the winds died down a bit and Mike from
“Wombat of Sydney” wanted to go lobstering. We all went on his
boat (a 47 foot Beneteau First) and he pulled up his anchor and we
motored over to the other side of the lagoon (just 2 miles away).
We pulled two dinghies behind us. Once he had securely anchored
on the other side we all hopped into the dinghies – in our
wetsuits and reef shoes and gloves – and with Mike carrying his
harpoon and his wife Lynn carrying buckets for the captured
lobsters. We dinghied over to the reef which, although it was low
tide, still had quite a bit of water on it, and we had to wade up
and down little heads of coral to cross over to the ocean side.
Then, following Mike, we looked for deep holes in the reef.
Apparently the lobsters like to hang out in those holes and Mike
is experienced at hopping into them and feeling around for the
spiny creatures and then yanking them out. He has done it many
times in dozens of places, and even caught a dozen or so just the
other day. Unfortunately he did not catch any yesterday. It was
an interesting experience though. Mark and Michael were at his
side, but not particularly keen on leaping into the holes, and the
three women were lagging 1/2 a kilometer behind, happier picking
up shells and looking at little colorful bits of coral than
struggling with the crustaceans. Just as we gave up and started
heading back to the dinghies to return to his boat, some very dark
and threatening looking thunderclouds started forming on the
horizon. We quickly made it back to our respective boats and
within an hour we had torrential rain and sheets of lighting all
around us. It was pretty scary. By 9:00 p.m. it had all passed
by and it was a brilliant, calm, starry night.
Dinner was not lobster – but chicken curry!
S 23 degrees 39 minutes
W 178 degrees 54 minutes
We arrived at Minerva Reef this morning – 8:30 a.m. local time. We had another beautiful day sailing yesterday – a few hours with some steep swell, and lots of wind (20 – 25 knots). By sunset everything calmed down a lot and we had an absolutely magnificent sail all night. We had to reef the sails so we would not go too fast – we didn’t want to arrive at Minerva before sunrise. About 5 miles before reaching the atoll we could the masts of three sailboats who were all inside the lagoon. All you can see of the reef as you approach are a few spots where there are waves crashing and a few rocks sticking out.
Minerva Reef is an amazing phenomenon. You really have to look up the coordinates on google earth to see where we are. The atoll is a doughnut shaped circle of coral with a lagoon inside. It is about 2.3 miles in diameter (about 6.5 miles around.) There is just a very pass at the western end of the circle that you can sail into. All around us the seas are 7,000 – 12,000 feet deep, but once you are in the lagoon, the depths are only about 50 to 60 feet with a sandy bottom that you can anchor in. At high tide the reef is completely under water. At low tide the reef emerges several feet above sea-level and you can take your dinghy over to the edge and walk on it. It is breathtaking. At low tide the reef is about 200 meters across as you walk from the lagoon side to the ocean side. Water from the ocean side continues to flow over the exposed reef even at low tide so as you walk you feel like you are walking on a horizontal waterfall. The water at the lagoon edge of the reef is turquoise blue and filled with fish.When we arrived our friends from Vera immediately hopped in their dinghy and came over for breakfast. We spent a few hours catching up on all that has happened to them (and us) since we last saw them. They were the ones who continued on to Minerva when we turned back to New Zealand 2.5 weeks ago – and on route they had their autopilot fail which made it a challenging trip. They have been here for 2 weeks already – a very long time to be at Minerva Reef, but amazingly enough they had their very good friends from Roxi here with them for several days – then just 2 nights here alone – and now we are together with them. The other two boats in the anchorage – “Key of D” and “Wombat of Sydney” made the sail with us from Opua this week – but arrived a whole day earlier than us. Mike from Wombat of Sydney plans to go night snorkeling and hopes to catch lobsters for us all to share tomorrow.
It was a beautiful day – sunny and pleasantly warm. Tonight we are planning to have dinner on the boat with Vera and then crash very early.
All in all a very successful and pleasant passage.
Minerva Reef: satellite photo
June 2, 2008
0300 UTC (3:00 P.M. in New Zealand)
Position: S 25 degrees 2 minutes West 179 degrees 15 minutes
Heading 10 degrees at 6-7 knots
100 miles to Minerva
Yep, if you have been looking at our longitudes and latitudes over
the past week you will see that we have passed from the eastern
hemisphere to the western – crossing the date line last night at
10:30 P.M. ( so I guess it suddenly became yesterday). We will
only be in the western hemisphere for a few days while we are at
Minerva and then when we head back west a bit we will cross back
into the eastern hemisphere and our longitudes will show “east”
again. I am sure you are waiting with baited breath for that big
We have had another good 24 hours of sailing – with the winds
picking up and gusting strongly for extended periods at speeds of
20-24 knots at times. The seas are rougher today than they were
the past 5, but still not bad at all. Sun is out again today and
it is definitely feeling warm and almost tropical.
Last night I was listening to one of our audiobooks (a fantastic
addition for our night watches) – and made the mistake of
listening to “The Life of Pi”. I had read the book a few years
ago and loved it. I had forgotten however, that it is all about
shipwrecks and storms and sharks (not to mention hyenas and
tigers) and it got me totally freaked out. Couldn’t even sleep
afterwards. I was pretty convinced I was not going to be attacked
by a tiger, but otherwise, it seemed a little too realistic to me.
All is well. Should be arriving at North Minerva Reef (look it up
on Wikipedia) tomorrow early morning. We anticipate having a fun
reunion with Michael and Britta. We are bringing them lots of
fresh fruit and vegies as they have been there for 2 weeks already
and are all out of that kind of stuff.
Things are still going very well out here in the middle of the
ocean. We really got lucky with the weather window – the winds
have now picked up nicely so we are cruising along at between 6
and 7.5 knots consistently. Seas still nice and gentle. Beautiful
sunsets and sunrises out here. Lots of shooting stars. The tiny
sliver of a moon rose last night at about 4:00 a.m. – bright
orange over the horizon and smiling just like the Cheshire cat.
This is really perfect sailing.
We should arrive in Minerva in less than 2 days. Will have to slow
down tomorrow so we arrive at the reef after sunrise.
S 27 19
E 179 34
COG: 15-20 degrees
Wind speed : 12-18 knots from the east
June 1 0300 UTC
We are continuing to have great weather for sailing. This is our
fourth day out now and the skies are blue, the seas are very
light, and we now have good wind – 10 – 15 knots – moving us along
at 6 to 7 nm per hour. Very lucky – and the weather forecast
for the next couple of days looks good as well. We decided to
stop at Minerva Reef which is southeast of Fiji. We had always
thought we might do that if the conditions were right, and it
looks like they are fine. It will be fun to sail in there – and
find our friends from “Vera” who have been there for 2 weeks –
just resting up from their hard sail and awaiting delivery of
spare parts for their autopilot. We are not carrying those parts
for them – but the folks on “Wombat of Sydney” have them and they
should arrive a half a day ahead of us.
We have the mizzen spinnaker flying which is red, white and blue.
It really increases our speed as well as makes it a smoother
sail. There were a zillion stars out last night and it was gorgeaus.
Dinner last night was Shirley’s meatball recipe – delicious of
course. (Hi Mom – love you!)We had prepared and frozen several
nights dinners and are having an easy time getting nice, simple,
hot dinners ready every night.
It was cold the first few days – but each day it is perceptably
warmer. By tomorrow the long underwear will probably be put away
Our position at 0230 UTC, May 31
S 29 10
E 177 46
Miles to go: 375 nm to Minerva
Coarse over ground: 10 degrees
Wind 10-12 from east/southeast
We are in the 3rd day now of our trip to Fiji. It has actually
been a little over 48 hours and we have made about 300 miles of
progress – very slow for this boat. It is quite comfortable
though – with very smooth seas, not much swell at all, and a light
breeze. We just set our mizzen spinnaker to get a little boost of
speed – for a while we were going only between 4 and 5 knots and
we like to try to go at least 6 knots if possible.
Weather forecast is for calm conditions for at least a couple more
days. Although we would prefer more wind, it is great to just have
a slow comfortable sail.
We are in daily radio contact with “Wombat of Sydney”. A couple
other boats are joining in on the net – including Fast Forward
(who is still in New Zealand, but is joining our net in the
morning to give us weather updates), Horizon, and Key of D.
Several other boats we know should have left New Zealand the day
after us, but we have not been able to hear their SSB broadcasts yet.
Our position is S 31 degrees 8 minutes and East 176 degrees 33
Coarse over ground: 17 degrees
UTC time: 0200 – May 30