Daily Archives: November 19, 2015

We five

There were just four boats inside North Minerva Reef when we entered, including some old friends. When we heard there was a beach party organizing, we just knew Oceanna’s Kaycee and Greg were at the bottom of it. They seem to be running a traveling world cabaret tour of mayhem and fun. The only problem I could see was that there’s no beach. Those two put the energizer bunny to shame so you just have to believe that they’ve somehow found a spot of sand somewhere that dries out at low tide. We just didn’t know where this “beach” was.

At the appointed hour, with the sun just getting low we piled into Catnip along with your major beach party requirements; old magazines for burning, a couple of beers for drinking, and something to nibble on. Marce thought she’d heard Greg say it’s over to the right of the lighthouse so we cranked up Catnip and headed out across the anchorage, which has to be a couple of miles wide, looking for…we didn’t know what. We soon found it, a dinghy traveling at high velocity towing a wakeboarder. Greg always travels at full throttle so we figured it had to be them. We caught up as they beached Marie (their dink) on a spit of coral sand 3 meters by 8, just beginning to dry out.  

  This party has a built-in time limitation as the tide would soon be coming back in so Greg started furiously chopping coconuts for the husks to start a fire, with a short break for competitive juggling.   

 It gets really, really dark, really, really fast out here but we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset. It was Photo Op Central for everyone.  

Our toes started to get wet on the incoming tide as our beach disappeared and in near total darkness we headed out toward our twinkling anchor lights way off in the distance. Macushla had the foresight to bring along a flashlight or torch as they say, so I tucked in behind them nestled in the middle of the vee formed by their wake. It was then that I noticed things flashing by in the water! Finally I realized that in near total darkness, with no moon, lit only by a few stars, I was looking at the bottom of the lagoon 70 feet down.

What a night.


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Hello from the Pacific Ocean

At low tide this tiny strip of sand offered up the perfect spot for a beach party. North Minerva Reef.


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Knock knock. Who’s there?

We finished our usual post passage tidy up and were down below when we heard the unmistakable reach-the-back-of-theatre voice of Allison from Saraoni anchored about 200 feet away from us. “Escape Velocity, you brought the heat on the entire anchorage!” We ran outside to find an airplane overhead. Let me reiterate that we are anchored in the lagoon of a mid-ocean reef about 250 miles from the nearest land, a place Jack and I had just been wondering who had jurisdiction, if anyone. Huh, we thought. We don’t often see planes anymore, which is probably hard to imagine when you live in civilization.   

  We went back to our business but the VHF radio crackled to life and a voice called, “All vessels in North Minerva Reef, please switch to channel 6 and identify yourselves by boat name.” It was the New Zealand Navy in an Orion search and rescue plane. Well, that answers our question about jurisdiction, I thought. And then hard on the heels of that thought another, dreaded thought crept into my mind. Is there serious weather coming and are they going to tell us to leave the reef? We had just settled in and the idea of going back out there was not appealing in the least.  

 We changed the channel on the radio and of the five boats at anchor, three of us answered with our boat names. The crews of the other two were together on one boat and apparently didn’t have the radio on. The Navy guy asked the names of the other two boats and we told him. Then he went one by one and asked us a list of questions. Boat name, last port, date of departure, destination port and expected arrival, port of registration, hailing port, registration number, name of captain, number of people on board, whether we had any animals or weapons on board. We all answered very business-like, following marine radio protocol.  

 All this time the plane was circling the reef, making dramatic banking turns and flying so close sometimes that twice I had to wait until he passed us before answering the questions. “You’re very loud,” I said at one point.

By the time he finished with the three of us that initially answered his hail the other two crews noticed what was up and got on the radio. The last boat to answer was Oceanna, the catamaran with the two young and fun-loving Canadians who’d organized the beach bocce tournament with coconuts months ago in the Marquesas. The skipper, Greg, answered the call, then exclaimed, “It’s so cool to see you up there!” There was a long pause, then a deadpan reply, “It’s nice to see you too.”

Greg answered all the questions on ports and people and weapons and animals, and at the end, when the officer thanked him Greg asked, in his inimitable surfer dude voice, “Did you see my backflip off the back of the boat?!” Another, longer pause, during which Jack and I nearly doubled over with laughter. We hadn’t been watching Oceanna but we could well imagine Greg timing some kind of perfect performance for the plane at just the right moment. Then the deadpan voice came back. “We did. It was pretty spectacular. We got it on video.”

“Awesome!” said Greg. And with that the plane signed off, wishing us a safe passage, and was gone.


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