Ten days at sea with a 30-hour stop at Minerva Reef (North Minerva). The trip of a lifetime with a couple of lovely cruising days, one which we had to motor most of the day but the others saw us pretty much in survival mode. The boisterous seas, like a huge agitator washing machine tossed and pummeled us as we tried to negotiate our way between the cockpit, cabin and head. Imagine this, you're standing on a 45 degree angle in the head, watching the toilet heave one way then the other, trying to get out of your wet weather gear and wishing you hadn't left it so long before starting this task, holding on with one hand co-ordinated with knee pressure while unzipping clothing, and, finally, you're seated. Then the very same process has to be repeated in reverse. Everything is an effort but you know it's going to end eventually. Showers; what showers? Wet wipes were wonderful for everything from top to toe; also, you could wash/wipe in any position. Don't think about that for too long!! On our first day with a flat sea, we had a shower - you know what they say about the simple things in life? It was bliss! Seeing boats around us - miles away - was a real treat, especially at night when their navigation lights twinkled, like messages from heaven. And, with AIS, we knew exactly who was where.
The normal nausea hit me for the first few days; best position is horizontal but then again when on watch the fresh air is good. Prepared passage meals were a Godsend; one-pot meals with everything in it, pop it in the oven, heat it up, dish it up, eat and that's dinner over for another night. The very worst day I ended up getting a small block of cheese and crackers in my cabin and for a good day and a bit when the hunger pangs struck, I nibbled at the block of cheese, had a cracker or two, and washed it down with water. Did the trick and, in the conditions, it seemed like a banquet! Had one happy hour on the very last night before arriving in Tonga. Didn't feel like it before that! Can't say I made up for it but I did have two rums and they were good!
Minerva Reef was amazing for so many reasons. The first boat that got there was approached by the Tongan Navy and told the Navy was conducting an exercise and they'd have to leave immediately. Well, yachties always have something up their sleeves and they told the Tongan Navy that they were the first boat of a fleet of 30, guests of the King of Tonga, all of whom had been invited to a Royal Dinner on the 30th June and showed them the invitation. Had to consult the Commander of the Ship now - the message came back that the Navy would conduct their exercise elsewhere and for the yachties to enjoy Minerva Reef for as long as they wished. The sea-life was out of this world - painted crayfish in particular. It was pouring with rain when at low tide we jumped in the dinghy to go for a walk on the reef but it was all part of it. Hard to believe that we were standing on a reef in the middle of the Pacific Ocean thousands of feet deep!! The sheltered circle of the reef was 20-30 metres deep and a huge circumference. This shelter from the waves was a great respite in what was really a gruelling trip.
Slowly, the temperatures started to warm up and layers peeled as we travelled north. In NZ, I started with 4 layers on the top and three on the bottom; after Minerva Reef much warmer and now in Tonga very warm. When we could start moving around the boat, we found that it wasn't that watertight. We arrived with heaps and heaps of washing that Big Mama took care of at $5 per kilo (weighed when wet we found out).
Have got to say, the whole trip in perspective was great - a bit bumpy, but not that bad. Life goes on, we all survived, our boats did us proud and we learnt heaps. The sight of land was the best feeling and we arrived on a glorious day in Tonga!