Day 387, Year 1: N Minerva Reef and On To New Zealand
Date: Thursday, November 9, 2006
Weather: Sunny Day, NE Winds 12 Knots
Latitude: 24 degrees 01 minutes S
Longitude: 179 degrees 18 minutes W
Location: Passage from N Minerva Reef to New Zealand
Miles to Go: Arrived in Minerva–745 Miles to New Zealand

What a day! First, we received emails about the election results in the US and about the demise of Donald Rumsfeld. We heard that Massachusetts has the second black governor ever and that the Democrats swept New Hampshire. Of course, all of you back home already know all of this, but it was exciting news out here. Wow. What a difference a day makes.

But with our first emails of the day, we didn’t receive the weather updates we requested yesterday. Then literally just before entering North Minerva Reef, we received the responses from both Bob McDavitt in New Zealand and from Commander’s Weather in New Hampshire. As the Commander’s report stated, all of our options for proceeding are problematic, but basically the reports were saying that the next good weather window for the passage would require waiting in Minerva another seven to ten days. My gut reaction to reading the reports was that we should just keep going and not stop in Minerva. We called Windcastle on the radio, and after some discussion, we made the decision to go on inside the reef, anchor, and reconsider whether to go on or stay in light of the new information. After a couple of hours of hashing through the options, we decided to push on. Some of the other boats there are leaving tomorrow morning, but we are a little heavier and slower, so we decided that by leaving Minerva late this afternoon, we have a much better chance of reaching New Zealand before the next low pressure system hits the North Island. We also have a good chance of getting south fast enough to avoid a possible tropical low that might develop and head toward Minerva in a couple of days. That, along with the headwinds we will have tomorrow and the variable winds on Sunday and Monday are the problematic parts. We will have to motor for much of our trip in order to reach New Zealand before the bad weather hits, but we think we can do it. So tonight we are on our way-certainly not where we expected to be tonight, but it feels good.

Our stay in Minerva Reef was brief but amazing. You could easily sail by and never notice the reef at high tide. There are a few breakers, but you really don’t see them until you are right next to the reef. The break in the reef where you enter is about a quarter of a mile wide and pretty straight forward. Inside it is like a big pond that is almost three and a half miles across. We went all the way to the far side to anchor where the only other two boats were located. White Swan and Kabukee (not sure how to spell) were there at anchor. All of the other boats that we had expected to see there had made the decision to go on. Campbell on Camdeboo offered to come get us in his dinghy and take us out to the reef, so we took him up on his offer. Since we had decided not to stay, it seemed silly to take the time to put our own dinghy in the water. When we got out to the reef, it was nearing low tide so Campbell had to drop us off in knee deep water and we walked the rest of the way. We had to watch our steps carefully to avoid stepping on clams and urchins, but we finally got into ankle deep water. The clams were not giants, but they were so colorful. I love the way they look like they are smiling at you. The sea urchins were all hidden in tiny little sea urchin caves, so they were a little easier to step around. We saw no fish, but we did see what looked like little crayfish scurrying everywhere and then escaping into little holes. The top of the reef where we were was almost a quarter of a mile wide. I’m so glad we got to at least visit the reef, but we regret that we weren’t there long enough to find lobsters to eat. Too bad.

Today was a whirlwind. We entered Minerva around 1 pm, ate lunch, went over and over and over the weather information, went for a fabulous walk on the reef, talked with the other boats on the VHF radio about our decision, and then left before 6 pm. I’d call this a “Handley Stop”. In addition to a fast-paced day, we rocked and rolled so much last night that sleeping was not easy. We are hoping that the calm conditions we have right now continue through the night so we can get some good rest. I think we are going to need our energy for this passage.

061109 Day 387–Minerva Reef
Day 388, Year 1: Passage to New Zealand, Day 1—Crossing the Dateline
Day 386, Year 1: Passage to N Minerva Reef, Day 2—Downwind Again