What a fascinating place. Cruisers everywhere love to talk about it as if they’ve reached Nirvana once there. Nirvana; it is not. Fascinating it is.
We arrived in the early am. The only entrance for boats is on the W side and quite easy to transit. I wouldn’t do it at night, even having a gps track. There are no man made navigational aids in the channel. In daylight you can see the reef shallows. At night not. Further; at night you don’t see any of the eddies from water flowing out of the lagoon.
And water is always flowing out of the lagoon. Slower during High Tide and faster during Low Tide. That’s because while the volcano rim acts as a fringing reef it is not high enough above the surf break to keep water out. Twenty four hours per day waves are breaking against and over the reef all the way around.
And for us; anchored anywhere in the lagoon provides plenty of slop. Generally there are 2 High Tides and 2 Low Tides per day. With the low tides the wave breaks on the outer rim of the volcano washing over the top. There is constant flow of water over the top but limited wave action gets through. This flow of water reaches the inside lip and there we have a constant 1-2’ water fall. The sounds of the waves against the reef or the water fall is 24/7. Not what one would think of as … peaceful!
During High Tide the waves and seas break against the outer rim still. The main energy is taken away and spread over a larger area. This energy continues with the smaller waves inside the lagoon. The smallish waves create a constant washing machine. The motion wasn’t bad enough to keep us away but it was down right annoying.
Remember – I complained about no shake downs. Three of our items never checked are; the dinghy, the 15hp engine and the 2 1/2 hp engine. There are more items still not checked but here those are the ones important. Besides that; we prefer to not travel off shore with gasoline on board. This left us at the mercy of other cruisers. Fortunately Art and Nancy from sv Second Wind were kind enough to share their dinghy ride to the top of the volcano rim and to do a day’s snorkeling.
They day after we arrived we were lucky. Those in the lagoon were lucky. The Tongan Navy arrived and said they had planned to do some war games here. Every yacht would need to move to S. Minerva. Yuck! They never told us. South Minerva is 30 nm S of where we are and not as well protected from the seas. Moving there requires motoring into the winds and the seas. I said we were lucky. One of the yachts here was a leader in the rally from New Zealand to Tonga. The rally had planned a stop in North Minerva and they had permission from the Tongan King! Whew. When they informed the Navy of the Kings permission they asked the sailors to clear the change with the Tongan King. Wisely the sailors might be in their interest to play the war games at South Minerva. Sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes.
The top of the rim was wider than I would have guessed. We arrived; secured the dinghy and stepped up to a river of ocean water flowing into the lagoon. Depth; about 1-2 feet. In reality Lewis (Quizotic Charters) told me to look for lobsters under the coral bommies on the volcano rim. We all were hoping for a nice haul. All were disappointed. I looked, Art looked, W/ looked. Nancy and Keith (sv Sadiqi) were smart enough to not be too enamored with looking. We were snookered. None, Nada, Zip.
We had always heard how abundant lobsters were here. Ha! You could fool me. I guess it’s like land in Arizona or Florida; how wonderful and “cheap” it is. That is …until you try to live there or build there.
We didn’t find lobsters there. What we found was a world of constant motion. Water flowing over the rim as a stream over shallows. At low tide the waves broke on the outside of the volcano rim and wash atop of it. The flow was continuous to the lagoon. During high tide it was rougher and a bit deeper over the rim. Yet the reef broke up the seas to a barely tolerable action such that one could hide inside in relative safety. We’ve friends that have stayed anchored in winds up to about 40 kts. I wouldn’t want to be there then. That however doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Uncomfortable maybe, not unsafe. The winds were changing to the east so we moved from the S lee to the E lee. There we would spend another couple of days watching the weather and looking for passage N.
After returning to the boats another fellow cruiser stopped by. They gifted a HUGE Lobster each to sv Second Wind and us. How sweet it is. They are lobster fishermen from the S. Island in NZ and I guess they mostly have had enough anyway. That evening everyone arrived at our boat to share in the feast. Yum!
Daily we looked for weather window heading to New Cal but Mother Nature was having none of it. Time and again we would think this was it and prepare to go. Time and again, David from Gulf Harbor Radio and the GRIBS would say “oh-oh”. A Low is forming between New Cal and Fiji or there is a mean frontal system that is arriving there in the next couple of days. We waited.
After being in Minerva for over a week, limited on what we could do, looking for a way out, we made a sacrifice. We decided we would burn the diesel if need be and motor to…. Fiji That opportunity to motor came and we left. Fiji it is.