Day 6 North Minerva 23 37.60S 178 54.02W

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 7 May 2012 09:10
Continued close hauled under triple reefed main and small headsail throughout the night, making 4 to 6 kts, in the same old big and lumpy seas, with winds of 20-25kts. The boat is absolutely covered in salt as being hard on the wind we've had huge amounts of water over the bows and cascading down the decks. The back of the cockpit has also taken a lot more water than usual. There's going to be a lot of cleaning needed!

Arrived outside North Minerva reef at first light and hove to, waiting for the sun to rise sufficiently to negotiate the small passage into the lagoon. At high tide, when we came in, the whole Minerva reef is under water, so negotiating the narrow pass is strange - we put a lot of trust in our chartplotter to find it and keep in the middle of the channel. Going in at half tide would probably have been easier as the coral reefs either side of the pass are then visible. We're now anchored in the north east corner of the lagoon to get protection as the wind is currently from the east and expected to go round to the north east and then north. It would be right on the nose so anchoring in here is a much better option. The forecast is for the winds to be in the south again on Thursday/Friday, so we will remain anchored here for the next 3 days or so.

As one of our American friends put it when planning for the passage to NZ from Tonga and considering stopping off here on the way: "anchoring in the middle of the ocean - how cool is that!" Unfortunately the weather systems didn't allow a stop here then. The nearest land is 250 miles away. That's Tonga to the northwest. In a southerly direction there's no land until New Zealand 800 miles away. To the east there's no land until South America, 5700 miles away and to the west, no land until Australia, 1600 miles away. So it's a minute haven in the middle of the ocean and just a little bit special. The Minerva Reefs are 2 atolls. South Minerva is about 30 miles to the south and the anchorage is smaller and more tricky to enter. North Minerva is almost a circular lagoon 2.4 miles across and 2.9 miles long surrounded by a coral reef with just a small gap of about 200 yards that allows entry. The coral reef gives good protection from the breaking seas. At low water the coral dries to about 3ft and the water in the lagoon is flat. At high tide the reef is covered, so not quite as good, but there's only a small chop on the water. There's acres of space in here to anchor and there are another 8 yachts anchored near us and another group down at the southern end - they got in when the wind was in the SE and that was the best place to be. They will probably all move up to where we are when the wind changes to the north.

To get here we've sailed 810.2 sea miles. Sailed is the operative word, we've only run the engine for a total of 6 hours and that was to get out of Opua and to get in and anchor here. When we leave, we have another 425 miles to go to Fiji.

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