Sunday, November 1, 2015

North Minerva Reef

We went through the pass at North Minerva Reef at about 9am today. The passage down was pretty easy with light winds, not too much in the way of seas, and a 3/4 waning moon for half the night. We started out sailing close hauled for most of the first day and then it clocked around to ENE winds, giving us a run for the second half of the last night in light winds.

Minerva is a 3.5 mile wide classic-looking atoll with a narrow, but very clear entrance. We entered using the leading waypoint of 23* 37.08S, 178* 56.247W with no real current in the pass. We are anchored in the NW corner of the atoll (23*37.5S, 178*53.9W) in about 45 feet of water over sand. At high tide it was a little rolly, but now the tide has gone down and it's very snug - even with a decent east wind blowing.

It is really strange to stop at reef with no land in the middle of the Pacific. I was hoping to get in here in time to stop at Denny's and get a Grand Slam Breakfast but it wasn't happening. There's no WiFi or cell service here either. Matter of fact, there's no land here, just a big circular reef the sticks up at low tide surrounded by water over 3,000 feet deep. Weird.

We crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn early this morning. The line where the sun goes to its maximum southern position. I tried to talk the onboard cooks into having Tropic of Capricorn Dogs as a celebration dinner tonight, but got roundly overruled -- think Captain Bligh.

Looks like we'll take off in the morning for Opua in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Its about a 6 day run from here if all goes well. The basic routing approach is to watch the succession of highs and lows that march from under Australia, past Tasmania and into the Tasman Sea. They then curve up and pass over the top of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a parade of highs and lows in swift succession. This means the winds clock around continually on the passage and often get their strongest and most contrary nearer to the north coast of New Zealand, where we're heading. You can take the direct rhumb line straight from Minerva Reef to Opua or head west to a spot about 250 miles north of North Cape, New Zealand, and then turn south toward Opua. The latter approach means that if you get hit by the strong SW winds from a system you take them further north where they are typically less nasty and you have a better angle to sail them into Opua. Of course, then there are the times when there are actually SE winds and going west will make it all much worse. Looking at the weather predictions we're seeing now, it looks like we will head down the rhumb line for a few days and then when we see S and SE winds from a low that is shown on the GRIB files we will head off west, probably going half way to the typical western point. Then as the wind clocks to the SW head straight down toward Opua. Best laid plans... We will see what the weather goddess has in store for us.


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