Minerva Reef

Tue 28 Oct 2014 02:49
23:38.79S 178:53.564W

I think Phil's overreacting. Last night he was in jeans, t-shirt and a lined fleece, had added a fleece blanket to the empty duvet cover on our bunk and was even starting to discuss the possibility of the 's' word - socks! Eventually sense prevailed, they would be far too slippery onboard a heeled rocking boat. I was holding out, dismissing the need for extra layers, although, I must admit, somehow a fleece blanket made its way to the pilot berth during my night watch...

Something strange is certainly happening though: I can leave the butter out without it dripping it's way down the counter, and I took the coconut oil out of the cupboard to make some popcorn and found it was no longer clear and no longer a liquid! I've never seen it that way since we started to buy it in Trinidad. How are you s'posed to get it out of the bottle?

We are in such a strange place. We've been in many an atoll, little islands strung along a reef enclosing a lagoon, but here there's no islands at all, no beach, no palms, just a reef that's exposed at low tide and well underwater at high tide. Minerva is a pair of reefs in the middle of the ocean, one circular, one like a figure of 8, hundreds of miles from anywhere. You see no sign of it until you're right up to it then all you see is the white breaking surf and, once you're coming through the pass, the change in water colour: greeny brown over the reef turning to aquamarine on the shelf just inside the reef, then a bright ocean blue within. The lagoon is perfect for anchoring: 10-15 m deep, sand with occasional low coral bommies. Good holding. If someone were to think "How could we make a perfect rest point for boats on passage to new Zealand without the bother of having an island?" they would come up with this place.

But it's surreal to be inside it. 360 degrees around you you see a thin line of white with darker blue beyond: waves breaking from the surrounding ocean, with it's 2 m swell and constant motion. In here there's hardly a ripple, just wind waves of 6 inches or so. Think of a polystyrene cup filled with water floating in the sea. It bobs along, the waves moving all around it, a little calm lake within. It's like we're anchored in that lake, the white surf around us like the rim of that cup.

So, tomorrow we'll listen to the radio, examine the Grib files and try to decide when it's best to carry on, when we should leave to try to have wind to sail, in the right direction, and still avoid any bad weather on the way. In the mean time we have safe anchorage: some catch up sleep, a chance to cook without having to stop everything flying off the counter and an opportunity to take a dip in the clear cold bright blue water.

Passage Food

Day one: Tonga bakery sausage roll and salad; peanut butter, banana and jam sandwich.
Day two: Oatmeal and tinned pears; Tonga bakery pie with crushed potatoes and mange-tout; chicken noodle soup from a packet.

Night passage food included popcorn and some pumpkin cake, baked under very trying circumstances.

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