The azure waters of Chesterfield Reef
If I was stranded on a deserted island what are the three things that I would wish to have with me? 1.Rutea (everything on board included), 2.Merkava - we all need a buddy, especially one with a dive compressor, and 3.A few other boats, just to keep the party going.
Voila - we have them all. The French territory of Chesterfield Reef is a quintessential deserted island setting with small, sandy islands spread out around the fringing reef of the huge lagoon. The water of the lagoon changes from deep blue to electric turquoise. I have only ever seen this color in crystal clear, clean water of 20 feet in depth over white sand. It is stunning. We are anchored off a low lying sand island covered with brush (no coconut palms) and inhabited by thousands of birds ranging from boobies to frigates to terns.
We arrived here yesterday morning after being hove to all night. We had decided it was better judgment not to go into an unknown and not very well charted reef at night, so we hung out outside the pass all night rolling around. It was a bit nerve racking (not to mention annoying) - after all we were moving at about 1 knot/hr and knew that there were reefs surrounding us - but we were fine. As the sun rose we set the sails and headed for the pass.
It is always such a relief to get into calm waters after rolling around on the ocean for days. It felt so good to be able to move around the cabin without doing ninja moves and not having to hang on to my cup of tea for fear that it might fly across the cockpit. We motored up to the anchorage where Diligaf, Merkava and Tenaya were all comfortably anchored (Rutea is usually last). After setting the anchor I dove in to check the anchor and a few bomies around the boat. While the water is some of the most beautiful I have ever been in, it was a bit of a shock. The water here at Chesterfield is a chilly 78 degrees, down from 85 in northern Vanuatu. Nevertheless it felt amazing - the first bath I have had in 5 days.
After checking the anchor I went over to Merkava where Mark and I had a celebratory breakfast beer. After that we decided to go for a walk on the beach of the bird infested island. I wouldn't say that I have a bird phobia, but I really don't like birds. I was a bit nervous as we walked past the nests of huge, prehistoric birds with blue beaks and beady little eyes, guarding their fluffy offspring rather viciously. There was a constant din of bird calls, shrieks and cooing that, mixed with the sound of surf made me feel like I was once again in Jurassic Park. While I was waiting for a pterodactyl to swoop down and peck my eyes out I got a stick for protection, although unfortunately it did not protect me from being pooped on at least three times.
Birds, Jurassic Park stylee
As we walked down the beach we disturbed thousands of birds from nesting and sleeping, sending huge flocks up into the air screaming in a frenzy. I am sure many of them thought we were going to fry up their babies for dinner, a thought I considered but decided on pizza instead. When we walked over to the ocean side of the island (a mere 100 feet across) I saw the ocean choppy and windy, which made me feel very warm and cozy to be anchored in such a nice, protected lagoon. As we walked down the beach we saw stunning shells - nautilus, cowrie, hermit crab, giant clam, etc. It made for some great beach combing.
There was also a fair amount of trash on the beach, washed up from who knows where. Fluorescent light bulbs, shoes, beer cans, fishing gear, crates and all sorts of other junk lined the beach. It was a bit depressing to be in such a remote and pristine place but still encounter evidence of human pollution. The birds seemed to make the best of it, as we found more than a few nesting on plastic boxes.
After our land excursion Mark and I went snorkeling. The coral is pretty good although there is quite a bit of dead stuff, but the fish are out of control. I saw more fish and more different kinds of fish here than I have ever seen anywhere else. No wonder there are so many birds here. We saw a few baby sharks in the shallows which is a good sign - where there are baby sharks there are bound to be mama sharks - and from the looks of it they are well fed.
By 5 PM I was struggling to stay awake, but managed to make a pizza dinner (I had been fantasizing about since our first day of passage) and drink a few beers before I crawled into bed at 8 PM for 12 hours of delicious, calm-water, uninterrupted sleep. The last thought that entered my head before I passed out was, "It's October 31... It's Halloween!" This means that for all you reading this in the Western hemisphere it is Halloween today, so have a good one!
P.S. This post and all material on this blog are copy written by me, Corie Schneider, 2012. Copywrite 2012.
At 10/31/2012 9:02 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°52.96'S 158°27.87'E
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