We had a terrific 3-1/2 day sail from Luganville to Chesterfield Reef. Seas were a bit rolly at first with about 2 meter seas on the beam, but died down after the first day. The only challenge then became trying to slow down in the 15-20 knot broad reach to allow for a daylight entry into the reef. Actually, scratch that.....there was another challenge.....Bravo became an official Booby Transport Vessel. Each night, we had from 2-5 large booby birds stowing away for a several hour ride toward Chesterfield. We thought it was pretty funny to watch them make landings on the flat glass solar panels.....sort of like watching Top Gun fighters try carrier landings without a tail hook!!! They'd usually skid right off, and keep at it until they settled in for the ride. But the challenge came in the morning, when we found that, like all animals, birds are what they eat. And they eat fish, and show their gratitude for a nice night sail with a leave behind of piles of stinky fish crap.....thick enough to nearly shut off our solar panels!!!
Chesterfield reef itself is extraordinary. Actually part of a few reefs joined together over a distance of nearly 60 miles, Chesterfield is a series of low sand bars and rocky shoals surrounded by ocean depths of over 10,000 feet, all hundreds of miles away from any other land, with occasional entries into a beautiful blue inner lagoon. While the low sandy shoals offer nearly no protection from the wind, they break the swell nicely, allowing for a terrific interlude in the passage to Australia.
The reef is a major sea bird rookery, with various boobies, noddies, shearwaters and terns all nesting in the low scrub or right on the sand. Young hatchlings are learning to fly (the beach is littered with the carcasses of the slow learners!!!), and the area where we've anchored has continual fly bys of parents out fishing. Walking on the beaches is amazing. You can literally walk right up to the birds, as they have zero fear of humans here in this remote outpost. We remain a respectful distance, and save the occasional feisty booby parent, all seem fine with our quiet presence.
The sand also serves as a nesting beach for loggerhead turtles, which we frequently see swimming near the boat. Although we've seen many tracks on shore, as well as the big holes indicating their nests, we have yet to find a turtle laying her eggs, even when we stayed ashore after dark one evening.
The big issue now is the weather. We've now been here at Chesterfield for 5 days, and are ready to head on to Australia. Unfortunately there is a very large high pressure system south of us, creating winds of 30-35 knots on the passage route, with higher gusts in the squalls. The winds will likely reach us here at Chesterfield in about two days, and hopefully after they pass, in 5 days or so, we'll be on our way again to Oz in a nice weather window. In the meantime, the sun is shining in this beautiful spot, and it may be time to head back to the island for some more photos!!!
We also plan on some snorkeling or diving while here, as the coral looks promising. The 3 meter tiger shark that swam by does give a bit of pause, though!!!
Sorry for the lack of photos. We obviously have no internet here (how refreshing!!!), so this blog post is made via ham radio Pactor email, which is extremely slow...text only. Photos will have to wait until we arrive in Australia, hopefully in 1-2 more weeks.