Current position: 20 degrees 01 minutes south, 167 degrees, 45 minutes west
Do have a look at this location on Google Earth, if you get a moment. We can't quite believe where we are!
It goes completely against the grain to purposefully sail towards a coral reef in the middle of open ocean. Particularly when said reef is about 2 miles adrift from its charted position, is unlit at night and has nothing more than 50cm above the water line; only when we were about 4 miles away did the surf pounding on the coral show up on radar, so our decision to heave-to for 6 hours last night, in order to make a daylight approach, was a sound one.
This reef must have claimed many ships and the lives of their crew. By the time an alert lookout spotted the line of white surf (if they were lucky enough to approach in daylight), the unwieldy sailing ships of the 19th Century would have struggled to change course and manoeuver clear. For those unlucky enough to hit the reef, there would be no land for temporary refuge, only razor sharp coral, and no prospect of rescue. There's a wreck of a sizeable modern trawler still visible on the eastern rim and no doubt the remains of other ships beneath the water.
Given all that, it was a slightly heart-in-mouth approach that we made this morning, armed only with a sketch-map downloaded from the internet which purported to show the true GPS coordinates of the reef and its entrance to the pass on its western side (we were relieved to find that it was in fact accurate). The pass itself, a quarter-mile wide between two coral banks that were dazzlingly white with crashing surf, had a strong tide and choppy water and, as we slid into the lagoon, the water was so clear that the 7m depth looked, disconcertingly, much less. However, our heart-rates subsided as we moved into the relatively calm water in the lagoon and anchored close to the inside of the SE reef; Graham dived over the side to check the anchor and we attached a fender to the anchor chain to buoy it up over a couple of coral heads below the bow before finally relaxing with a well-earned beer on the foredeck.
So we find ourselves in a refuge of calm in the middle of the ocean where the swell remains at about 2m and the wind is blowing a steady 18 knots. What should such intrepid sailors do in this situation? Go and drink, of course! So we're invited aboard Genesh, anchored close by, for sundowners this evening and then have a team-effort supper planned aboard Stormvogel; after a sleep-deprived passage it should be a fun evening!
We'll stay here tonight and, perhaps, tomorrow night before the final 100 miles or so to Niue where we should have internet access to post a few photos....