April 25th, 2011

Minerva Reef Directions

Minerva sailing directions
South Pacific voyagers, particularly those bound from Tonga or
Fiji for largely cyclone-free New Zealand, should keep
North and South Minerva Reef in mind for a possible storm refuge,
rest stop, adventure destination, or at the very least as a
potential hazard to navigation. These two atolls also represent
an opportunity to see tropical Indo-Pacific sea life in a nearly
undisturbed condition.
Weather windows
The best times to visit the Minervas are either northbound
during 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) invites
exposure to severe weather conditions. Depart New Zealand
for the voyage north right behind an outgoing low, not in the
middle of a high, and embark from the Minervas southward just
as the leading edge of a preferably mild high reaches the area.

Information sources
British Admiralty Chart 985, Mi nerva Reefs.: accurately depicts
both atolls and includes a close-up of the pass into South Minerva
useful for orientation. Approximate CPSentrance coordinates, for
use in good light in conjunction with the chart and a lookout only,
are 230 37.36′ S, 178056.11′ W (North Minerva) and 23° 56.55′
S, 179007.60′ W (South Minerva). Sailing Directions Planning
Guide for the South Pacific Ocean (Publication 122) also contains
useful data for a visit to the Minervas.
General layout
North Minerva Reef is nearly circular, with an approximate diameter
of 3.5 nm. Using a proper lookout, one can move around
inside the atoll in order to anchor in the greatest protection for the
prevailing wind. South Minerva Reef consists of two roughly circular
rings of reef joined in the middle, like a number “8” tilted
slightly in a northeast-southwest orientation. Only the two-milediameter
eastern lagoon is accessible to larger vessels, and anchoring
in Herald Bight, outside the pass, is tenable for wind directions
lacking a northerly component. Like North Minerva,
movement throughout this eastern lagoon for optimal anchoring is
possible with a vigilant lookout. We noted a narrow pass on the
northern rim of the western lagoon not shown on the chart, potentially
navigable for centerboarders and dinghies. Good holding
ground is prevalent inside both Minervas, and both feature slightly

bumpy conditions at higher tides in normal weather conditions.
Gear
A fully stocked medical kit, manuals, and training; good longdistance
communication capability, such as single-sideband or ham
radio or an Inmarsat transceiver; and survival fishing and watermaking
equipment are all critical for a trip to the Minervas. Fishing
and diving gear will greatly enhance your pleasure and dinner
menu. Specifically, bring medium to heavy trolling gear for offshore
fishing, 10- and 20-poundclass spinning rods for lagoon fishing,
wetsuits for diving and snorkeling in the cool water, thick dive
boots or other protective footwear for reef walking, and a Hawaiian
sling and lobster snare.
Jurisdiction
The 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 yet
checked in when you visit. The Minervas, however, have been long
considered 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, and
do not disturb giant clams, sea turtles, or other threatened creatures.
A visit from a Tongan patrol boat should not, under these
conditions, be cause for concern.

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