November 26 – 30, 2005

Looking outside past the reef – lots of open ocean

North Minerva Reef is an odd place.  It is a nearly-circular reef with one small pass through it on its northwest corner.  It encloses a lagoon approximately 3 miles in diameter.

During high tide, only a few pieces of the reef are visible.  When the reef is not visible, the calm water inside appears to be an isolated calm spot in the middle of the ocean.  But during low tide, much of the reef is visible.

Minerva Reef is high on the priority list of many cruisers.  Bud really wanted to visit it if possible, but Nita wanted to sail on and do the passage from Tonga to New Zealand without stopping (this is the only place to stop between Tonga and New Zealand).  We decided to let Bob McDavitt make this decision for us.  If he recommended stopping, we would.  If he advised against it, we would not.  His original advice was to sail west without stopping, and that was our course for seven hours.  But when we finally got our updated recommendations from him, he recommended we stop and allow a system to move east below us, so we diverted along with SV Nokomis and SV Novia.

We got to Minerva in the early morning of Saturday, November 26.  There were six other boats there when we arrived.  We originally planned to stay only overnight, so we did not launch our dinghy.  But the following day we were advised to stay until Wednesday, November 30, so we did launch the dinghy so that we could explore our odd surroundings.

Bud wanted to try to catch a few lobster, so we spent part of one afternoon out looking for them.  He saw only one, and it got away from him.  We did not go out at night which is the best time to catch them.

A sad end to SV Getten

Another beautiful sunset

We also went over to explore the remains of SV Getten which went aground on the reef earlier this year during a storm.  We vaguely remembered hearing about a few boats that got in trouble there earlier this year, but we had not thought about it since.  We were told that 70 knot winds blew through there, and two boats reportedly dragged anchor and went aground.  The other boat, a wooden boat, reportedly broke in to pieces and has since washed away.  It was a sobering sight to see this lovely little cruising boat with her starboard side stove in.

We also climbed up the navigation light tower to take in the view.  It was almost overwhelming.  There we were – sitting in the middle of this three-mile wide lagoon.  Waves were breaking on the reef all around us, and we were in a little calm spot in the middle of the ocean with nothing else in sight anywhere.  It seemed surreal.

But our few days there went by quickly, and it was time to move on.  We were both glad that we had the opportunity to experience Minerva, and with some trepidation, we cleared the reef and headed for New Zealand.

Return to our sail to New Zealand.