Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Popping out of Opua


3 Reefs and leaving BOI, NZ
Well we got our southerly winds, that follow the low trough, but they ran out of puff rather too early! Winds of 18-20knots for the first day gave us a good send off, but the sea state following the low was somewhat uncomfortable. Especially for those of us who have been languishing around in the Bay of Islands for a while, and not doing much sailing!

Cruising buddy, Scott-Free, beside us as we leave

Before long, we were in the washing machine!
By day 3 we were motor sailing in 7-10 knots of wind, in much calmer seas, but it made for slow progress. After doing 397 miles in the first 3 days, we did between 110 and 119 for each of the next 3 days. 

Amazing.....still close after 300 miles as shown on the
 AIS image below!

By day 5, when it became clear that we would have to motor sail for the next 6 days to Fiji, in very light winds, we elected to “hang a right”, and make for Minerva Reef, where we could anchor for a few days, and wait for the winds to turn in our favour. To compound the problem, Scott Free didn't think they would have had enough diesel to motor the distance, while we had enough to spare them 60 litres.
Besides, one tires of the noisy Donk after 3 days! And what a good call it has been… thus far! Situated 700mile north of NZ, and 480 below Fiji, the Minerva Reefs are special.
The easy way to get to FIJI......Pacific Pearl passes closeby
 Minerva South is like a tilted figure of eight shape, with only the one half being accessible.  Even so, it has a tricky entrance, and has too many “bommies” for my comfort! Minerva North Reef, is circular in shape with a 2-3 mile diameter, and a single and easier pass.
There are widely different takes on how safe it is to anchor there in a real blow. Some people regard it as a “Venus Flytrap”, enticing you into the sanctuary within, only to lock you in, with no wind protection, and lee shores all around you! Others use Minerva as a staging post…. deliberately aiming to anchor there, and to wait out the next front for a few days, before continuing their journey with southerly winds again. A number of boats have been lost here in big blows, but equally, many have sat out severe storms, saying that although it was uncomfortable, it beat the hell out of being out there sailing!

In our case, a weak front is expected to pass over today, where after the winds should switch from Northerly, to South east, light at first, and then building to 20knots as we approach Fiji. So our plan is to wait until Saturday before resuming our passage. In the meantime, we are just taking time out to chill, rest, and appreciate this Magical Minerva. At high tide, all one can see is the waves breaking all around you on the outer reef, making the anchorage rather bumpy. At low tide, the reef dries out, and the inside becomes a peaceful lake! Yesterday we went ashore at low tide, and walked around the edge of a small portion of the reef, fossicking in the pools, and watching Moray eels slithering around in 10cm deep water.

Scott-Free at anchor in Minerva......
note the reef in the background
Sunset and moonrise in Minerva.
 Lucky to have a full moon while there

Expolring the reef at low tide with Chris and Steve

Camouflaged little crablet

 The sunset, and full moon rising over the reef made for some amazing sights, and we were delighted to have had this experience almost forced upon us!
Another very good reason for diverting to Minerva on 2nd June, was to cross the dateline back into Yesterday…… which meant I could celebrate my birthday all over again! Not that there’s much to celebrate these days, apart from more aching joints, and suddenly advancing 2 years in 2 days! My mates now reckon I’m 67 , but hope is around the corner, as when we cross back over the dateline en route to Fiji, I will return once more to a more youthful 66!

Thanks Chris........my 67th?

When the wind turned south, after the front had passed, it was time to leave Minerrva.

Leaving through the pass with breaking waves on either side

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