Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chesterfield Reef

Lying almost smack-dab right in between Vanuatu and the eastern Australia Coast is the 75-mile long, apostrophe-shaped reef of Chesterfield. Since it's claimed by New Caledonia and therefore the French, all of the islands that make up the reef have French names: Ilot Brampton in the north, Ilot Reynard to the east and Ile Longue, which is v-shaped and in the southern part and that's where we're anchored. The shape gives us perfect protection from the southeast trade winds although we're anchored far enough from shore that there's enough fetch to make riding in the dinghy a wet affair.

We arrived yesterday morning after being hove to for about seven hours about 12 miles from the entrance. The water shoals gradually so the color of the water changes gradually as well. From the dark, midnight blue to the almost-clear water at the shore, the water is a perfect spectrum of the color. The bomies (coral heads that rise up from the ocean floor - that can easily hole a boat at worst or foul an anchor chain at minimum - I don't know where the term comes from but it's an easy way to scare cruisers away from a particular anchorage: "Lots of bomies there, mate," and it's likely that boat will find an anchorage somewhere else) were widely spaced and easily recognized amongst the soft sand. No sooner had we dropped the hook but Corie had her mask, snorkel and fins on and was in the water. She checked out the bomies near us, pronounced they were too deep to be an issue and then swam over to Merkava where she had a beer with Mark. After all, it was after noon somewhere.

The shore is teeming with birds and we can hear their non-stop squawking 24 hours a day. Corie and Ruthie went with Mark to explore the narrow strip of land that is Ile Longue where they found some exquisite shells but also copious quantities of bird shit (we can smell that from the boat 24 hours a day, too). Later in the day Corie and Mark went snorkeling and returned saying it was some of the best snorkeling they had ever done with more and larger fish than they had ever seen. Our friend, Bill, on Dilligaf, said he saw a brown sea snake, which is one of the most poisonous and there are many jelly fish hanging around the boats. We had cocktails aboard Dilligaf and those aboard Tenaya, a 40' Hallberg-Rassy, were invited as well. We had to row there as our outboard is buried deep in the lazarette (too bad Dilligaf was anchored so far away from us! Up wind, too!). I brought my last bottle of single-malt scotch which we all enjoyed. Corie stayed on board and made Hawaiian pizza with pineapples we had bought in Vanuatu. As I fancy myself as something of a pizza connoisseur, I can say without qualifications that hers is amongst the best.
At 10/31/2012 9:02 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°52.96'S 158°27.87'E

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