From the get go, during our passage from New Zealand to Fiji, we’ve formed the hope to stop at Minerva Reef, but only if it was reasonable, weather-wise, to do so. Our hopes are crushed time and again by the models and our weather router (MetBob) who advises the detour will unlikely be achievable with winds intensifying from East-NorthEast. Regardless, as stubborn French people, when we’re told to turn North, we keep putting as much East in our course as we possibly can (some friends are even concerned our compass may be having a fit as they see us head towards Chile) observing that the reality doesn’t quite match the predictions, with winds lighter than anticipated and with enough South in them to let us keep Minerva on the cards, almost comfortably (hear, we’re very lucky that our boys are as curious as us to see the much-talked-about lagoon, that they’re ready to endure the constant bashing, although at some point Zephyr, who is preparing something in the galley, throws the towel: “Can someone else do it, I’m sick of being thrown against the walls!”).
And after twenty-four hours battling upwind, we’ve managed to get 20 nautical miles West of the reef when the wind gets resolutely East and we switch on Mr. Petter (our engine) to get us to the safe haven we’ve been dreaming of. Four hours against wind, waves and rain, and we finally make it to the pass while the sky is slowly clearing up as a tribute to our perseverance.
I’m the first to spot the whitewash of the waves crashing against the reef and Thomas keeps a close eye to spot the entrance of the pass which is, we’re glad to validate, very accurately chartered, and we make our way in, like a wriggly spermatozoon fecondating an ovum.
No boat on the horizon, the four-kilometre wide lagoon is ours and the water temperature reads 28 degrees! As soon as we’re anchored, we’re off swimming in our birthday suit in the bright blue water, the visibility is second to none. Thomas ventures to check out the anchor and survey the bottom, but returns shortly after announcing that Azur’s wish will be granted: swimming with sharks. I want to see, so I follow him but as soon as I glimpse the recognisable silhouette in the distance, thoughts about the recklessness of leaving our two children aboard in the middle of nowhere and risking our lives as shark food flood my brain and I promptly retreat to the safety of Obelix’ deck.
After a first still and horizontal lunch in a while, the idea of a nap is tantalising, but, no rest for the wicked, we’re off exploring with the dinghy as it is low tide, the only time we can set foot on the reef.
We feel like explorers on a faraway planet, disturbing the locals with our heavy steps. Unusual ground under our feet and hundreds of creatures with the weirdest colors scattered among a dull brownish “soil”, a moray eel waking up on our passage and squirming in a panic in the shallow water before seeking refuge under a rock, and the monotonous roar of the oceanic waves in the distance.
Thomas progresses ahead and when I look in his direction, he’s disappeared. I yell (a common pattern) but he can’t hear me with the sound of the waves, I come closer and notice him burried in a hole, then lifting his head victoriously.
And unusual places, lead to unusual circumstances and unusual proposals…
To celebrate, we have the most decadent dinner with crayfish and Nutella pancakes, watching Zazie dans le Metro with the kids, sluggishly lying on the saloon double bed. I am no longer awake when the movie ends, but I get to see a beautiful sunrise the next morning before departing.