Of all the places Allora has taken us, North Minerva Reef, is a stand out. The reef literally emerges only 90cm at low tide, and when walking on what feels like the Pacific’s very precipice, we had the surreal sensation that we’d been transported to another world. I urge you to read this article from New Zealand Geographic, which lays out the inherent hazards and contentious history of this fascinating ‘land:’
We, like many others, made a stop at Minerva North, to break up the often difficult passage between Tonga and New Zealand. Most boats poise themselves to try to stop, but the weather conditions have to be right to enter the pass and take the time in ‘pause’ mode as opposed to continuing onward, so we felt lucky to manage 3 days in the fold of the protected lagoon. We weren’t alone, though! The 30 boats at anchor around us were dubbed, ‘The Minerva Yacht Club!’
I’m going to ask Marcus to wax poetic about our final weeks in the Tuamotus. Suffice it to say that this region of French Polynesia is most definitely a favorite of ours and I even heard Marcus say he could live there. If fresh produce was available, I might be on board! For the time being, these pics can be a placeholder. These are shots from Tahanea, Fakarava and Rangiroa.
“This time is hard to find heaped under a mountain of machines and motivations all founded on hours and minutes.” ~Wyatt Stevens
The decision for Shannon, Josh and Wilder (3, almost 4) to visit came down fast, and within a week and a half we were picking them up at the little motu off the eastern side of the Gambier Archipelago. They dove in, they played, they pushed themselves. We laughed, we learned, we loved. It was a 3 week plan, which, in hindsight, should have been simply spent in the lagoon, but Josh was keen to take an ocean passage, so we gave it a shot. Shannon was facing some real demons by even considering the feat. There’s a superstition in the sailing world about not undertaking a passage departure on a Friday. Well … not only was it a Friday, but guess what the date was?! Yep, the 13th!! Needless to say – we ended up shifting gears; they flew instead and we met them with Allora in Fakarava, 5 days later. Plan B worked out great! The memories from this adventure have been distilled into flashes of Wilder being wonderfully true to her name, snippets of her remarkable imagination with words (notably ‘Shit Bullet’) and scores of her laughter as she’d commune with the fishes. We were struck by a force from which we will never recover. Oh, and yeah, her parents are sensational, too!
“To see the world as it awoke in its own defenseless candor.” ~WS
“I am neither happy nor sad, neither really tense nor really relaxed. Perhaps that’s the way it is when a man looks at the stars asking himself questions he is not mature enough to answer.”
~The Long Way, Bernard Moitessier
Ian likes to plan and he has a knack for thinking through the details, even when the boat he’s planning for is not his own. He’s also devilishly persuasive. Long before we’d given any real focus to the question, he’d figured out that we needed to know where Maddi would fly in and out of when she came to visit in December. His suggestion turned out to be Fakarava, where by incredible coincidence, Makara (Ian and Erika) and Starlet (Jennifer and Mark) both intended to be for Christmas. We regretfully explained that while we didn’t really have a plan, per se, we would be much too far east by then, well on our way to the Gambiers. But every once in a while, he’d gently ask if these poor, confused American sailors had a plan yet. After luring us to join them in Moorea for an unplanned (by us) detour, we burned up enough time that, as predicted by Ian, Fakarava actually did make the most sense.
Lo and behold, we found ourselves Christmas eve, faced with an unusual northwest turn in the weather, sailing upwind and backwards (as in north and west), to get to Fakarava according to Ian’s plan, for a delicious Christmas dinner with Makara and Starlet.
This was only the beginning. Jennifer and Mark had their own devilish ways of derailing our plans, mostly involving Mark’s boyish grin and sentences like,”Let’s sail to Kauehi, dive the pass!” Why not? More north. Then all voices raised the call, “On to Toau!” West.
Ian, meanwhile, had been doing some more scheming. He was willing to concede that we did indeed need to start logging some south and east miles but… rather than sail back to Fakarava in April after visiting the Gambier (as planned?) it would make much, much more sense for us to sail north and meet them in Hawaii to join them for a northwest cruise up to Alaska and down the coast of North America. Back to our beloved Baja and from there, almost a year later than planned, we could hit the Palmyra and the Line Islands on our way to Tonga.
We actually got out Jimmy Cornell’s World Crusing Routes to check it out. Ian’s plan was diabolically clever (it sill sounds a little tempting).
It was only an extra 12,000 miles.
It was difficult indeed to finally turn southeast (as planned?) and leave our friends to continue their northwest journeys. This is the very hardest part of sailing. These goodbye’s feel so sudden and irrevocable. We will almost certainly see Starlet more, which is great, as they are circumnavigating along the same route, more or less, that we will be. But after Alaska, Makara is headed back to the Caribbean and then home to England.
And that’s a long way around for Starlet and Allora.