Minerva sailing directionsSouth Pacific voyagers, particularly those bound from Tonga orFiji for largely cyclone-free New Zealand, should keepNorth and South Minerva Reef in mind for a possible storm refuge,rest stop, adventure destination, or at the very least as apotential hazard to navigation. These two atolls also representan opportunity to see tropical Indo-Pacific sea life in a nearlyundisturbed condition.Weather windowsThe best times to visit the Minervas are either northboundduring the late Southern Hemisphere fall near the end of May/early June or southbound during the late spring in October.Arriving too early (northbound) or too late (southbound) invitesexposure to severe weather conditions. Depart New Zealandfor the voyage north right behind an outgoing low, not in themiddle of a high, and embark from the Minervas southward justas the leading edge of a preferably mild high reaches the area.
Information sourcesBritish Admiralty Chart 985, Mi nerva Reefs.: accurately depictsboth atolls and includes a close-up of the pass into South Minervauseful for orientation. Approximate CPSentrance coordinates, foruse in good light in conjunction with the chart and a lookout only,are 230 37.36 S, 178056.11 W (North Minerva) and 23 56.55S, 179007.60 W (South Minerva). Sailing Directions PlanningGuide for the South Pacific Ocean (Publication 122) also containsuseful data for a visit to the Minervas.General layoutNorth Minerva Reef is nearly circular, with an approximate diameterof 3.5 nm. Using a proper lookout, one can move aroundinside the atoll in order to anchor in the greatest protection for theprevailing wind. South Minerva Reef consists of two roughly circularrings of reef joined in the middle, like a number 8 tiltedslightly in a northeast-southwest orientation. Only the two-milediametereastern lagoon is accessible to larger vessels, and anchoringin Herald Bight, outside the pass, is tenable for wind directionslacking a northerly component. Like North Minerva,movement throughout this eastern lagoon for optimal anchoring ispossible with a vigilant lookout. We noted a narrow pass on thenorthern rim of the western lagoon not shown on the chart, potentiallynavigable for centerboarders and dinghies. Good holdingground is prevalent inside both Minervas, and both feature slightly
bumpy conditions at higher tides in normal weather conditions.GearA fully stocked medical kit, manuals, and training; good longdistancecommunication capability, such as single-sideband or hamradio or an Inmarsat transceiver; and survival fishing and watermakingequipment are all critical for a trip to the Minervas. Fishingand diving gear will greatly enhance your pleasure and dinnermenu. Specifically, bring medium to heavy trolling gear for offshorefishing, 10- and 20-poundclass spinning rods for lagoon fishing,wetsuits for diving and snorkeling in the cool water, thick diveboots or other protective footwear for reef walking, and a Hawaiiansling and lobster snare.JurisdictionThe Minerva Reefs were ceded to Tonga in 1972 and ratified by the South Pacific Forum the same year. In 2010 Fiji disputed the Tongan ownership and placed gunboats at North Minerva to try and force their claim. The claim is currently under dispute.
Obviously,you will have either cleared customs out of Tonga or not yetchecked in when you visit. The Minervas, however, have been longconsidered a stopover between countries, certainly in severe weather or for vessel repairs.Nevertheless, go easy on the seafood harvest, never taking more than you can consume in a short time, anddo not disturb giant clams, sea turtles, or other threatened creatures.A visit from a Tongan patrol boat should not, under theseconditions, be cause for concern.
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