Passages, Places

Passage to North Minerva Reef

On Wednesday, November 1, we sailed in nice conditions out of the pass on the western side of Tongatapu and then continued on course to North Minerva Reef in nice conditions until early afternoon. At about 2:00 p.m., the wind went light and shifted direction. We shook a reef out of the main and furled the jib so we could motor sail for a while and charge the batteries. About an hour later, the wind picked up and we shut off the motor and unfurled the jib. We put the second reef in the main. We sailed through most of the night with two reefs in the main and the jib partly furled. Johno unfurled the jib completely during his watch at 4:00 a.m. 

Night sailing on the way to Minerva Reef

On Thursday, Novembert 2, we continued sailing with good speed with a double-reefed main and a full jib. In the afternoon, we couldn’t hold our course, we were being pushed to the east. We jibed over and sailed for three hours before jibing back. At that point, we had a perfect angle for continuing on to Minerva Reef. After my shift ended at 4:00 p.m., Johno started hand steering and got the boat moving very fast. He clocked 10 knots of boat speed at one point and was having a great time sailing. At 8:00 p.m., Pat took over and we slowed the boat down for the night by furling the jib a bit. Later, we took the main down and just sailed with a reefed jib. When I came on watch at midnight, I calculated that we could go a bit faster and still get to Minerva after daybreak, so I unfurled the jib completely. My shift was uneventful except for hailing one boat that didn’t have AIS and was on a collision course with us. We sorted that out and sailed smoothly until arriving at the entrance to the reef. By that time, Johno was on watch and he furled the jib and took us in through the pass. We anchored on the northeast corner with Szel and Blue Beryl, Amae, Elixir, Blue Marine and Jollity. Midnight Breeze, Susimi and La Vida anchored on the southeast corner but joined us the next day. It was a windy day inside the reef.

Getting ready to enter the pass at Minerva Reef

Saturday, November 4 was a cold and gloomy and windy day. We went to lunch on Blue Beryl, enjoying Ota Iki and sashimi. That night we had lobster for dinner, which Alex had given to us.

On Sunday, many of us took our dinghies over to Pogeyan, and Richard escorted us outside the pass to snorkel what he calls the Blue Lagoon. Richard and Michelle have been coming to the Minerva Reefs for years and are very gracious hosts, showing all of us newcomers where to go. That night, we had a huge potluck on their boat. There were 38 people, having a great time visiting and eating.

Potluck on Pogeyan

We had thought that Monday, November 6 would be our day to head for New Zealand, but the weather routers postponed it. Instead, Johno and Max from Elixir and Isabela from Blue Beryl went lobster hunting and brought back ample lobster for dinner.

Successful lobster hunt

Johno and his lobster

They repeated the hunt the next day, taking lots of other cruisers with them. Again, we enjoyed a lobster dinner. Before their Tuesday hunt, most of the boats in the anchorage (we had now moved to the southeast corner because the wind had shifted) went in their dinghies with Richard to explore the reef while it was exposed by the low tide. We all stood around on the reef and visited, our first time walking in several days, and possibly our last time walking for a week.

Hanging out on the reef

Boats anchored at Minerva Reef

Boats anchored at Minerva Reef, taken from the top of the mast on Aldabra

We all had lots of conversations about when to leave, and even thought we would leave for New Zealand on Wednesday. But on Wednesday, the weather routers agreed that Thursday would be a better day. So Wednesday was spent on the boat, a very gloomy, windy, rainy day.

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