Beveridge Reef…..Arrival and Initial Disappointment…..

Dear F&F,
23 – 26 July 2010

We left for Beveridge Reef from Palmerston Atoll with a very favorable weather report. As Beveridge Reef is literally a circle of rocks 1500 miles from anywhere (anywhere truly being a relative term!), approaching it in fair weather would be essential.

This tiny coral reef, 2 miles long by 1 mile wide was discovered in 1847 by the British Sailing Brig \”Beveridge\”. Economically it is tied to the island nation of Niue, 130 miles to it\’s north-north west. Please understand. There is absolutely NO LAND here. The coral is either awash completely at high tide or it can be as high as an entire 3 feet above sea level at low tide. Navigators beware!

As we had our lovely \”weather window\”, a small flotilla of us left Palmerston at the same time believing in safety in numbers. Along with s/v \”Beach House\” were, s/v \”Na Maka\”, s/v \”Visions of Johanna\”, s/v \”Curious\” and s/v \”Bubbas\”. A two day and two night passage was planned to cover the 350 miles and have us arrive just after sunrise which would not impede our vision in looking for a needle in a haystack on the high seas. There is a safe entry pass on the leeward side, as deep as 30 feet and perhaps 100 yards wide. After Maupiti, Mopelia and Aitutaki, this should be easy….As long as we can find it!

Our flotilla was slowly approaching Beveridge Reef just after sunrise on the 25th of July. Due to the sailing/cruising coconut jungle information we had acquired from previous vistors and modern GPS equipment, we sited Beveridge Reef almost 8 miles away with our radar. Remember, not even a coconut tree exists here! But wait, it actually looked like there were some coconut trees here?

We got out the binoculars and scanned the horizon and quickly realized…..WE WERE NOT ALONE. There were already 4 other sailboats anchored inside.
We excitedly hailed them on the VHF and were relieved to hear the pass was indeed a wide and easy entry. s/v \”Visions of Johanna\” led the way and soon we were 8 boats all anchored in the middle of the South Pacific about as far away from civilization as you can imagine.

So why did we all come to this pristine atoll anyway? Glad you asked!…….DIVING of course.

We heard that the coral was spectacular, the pelagic (deep ocean) fish including schools of gray reef sharks were abundant. So the first thing we did after anchoring was get ready to go diving. The ocean was so calm, it looked like a lake. We got all the gear in the dinghy and off we went to the reef pass. Anchoring just outside and to the south of the entry pass, we were careful of the current and took the plunge. It was completely different than we thought it would be. First, the reef was not spectacular at all. It, like Aitutaki was covered in sand. There were either no fish or occasional pockets of cool schools of puffers and large snappers. We finally saw a few gray reef sharks, but not the schools we had hoped for like at South Fakarava in the Tuamotus. We were bummed! We got back to the boat, cleaned up and decided we should take a trip in the dinghy up and down the east side (protected from the swell) of the outer reef.

First, it\’s very wide shelf that starts at around 10 feet and goes seaward for 1/4 mile only gradually getting deeper. Many places were less than a 100 feet deep several hundred yards off the coral reef. So no spectacular \”drop offs\” were found which often attract big animals. Also, the entire length of the protected side looked pretty dead. We did see the odd small groups of gray reef sharks, but nothing spectacular. We felt that what was to be perhaps the pristine dive site of a lifetime, turned out to be a bust. Several of the other boats scouted other areas along the entire east side with their dinghies and reported the same.

We returned in disappointment to \”Beach House\” and almost as annoying was that the lagoon was pretty bumpy at high tide. Despite calm weather, the swell came over the reef at high tide and made this an uncomfortable anchorage. As Cindy and I are not fond of these conditions (we were just near the entry pass), I emailed friends Bruce and Alene from s/v \”Migration\” and asked them about their experience here from the year before. We received Bruce\’s email the next morning and the first thing he said was, \”Don\’t anchor near the pass, it\’s too twitchy\”!…. So it took no more than this for Cindy and I to up anchor and move to the reef on the south east side to get protection behind it and get away from the pass.

We crept across the lagoon carefully and quickly learned there we no dangers until you approached the sand/coral shelf which was 8-10 feet deep. The visibility was so clear, you could easily see any rocks, but there were very few. The anchorage was immediately 75% calmer. Jerome & Nat of s/v \”Na Maka\” asked us by radio if we like it better, we said, \”much better\” \”Na Maka\” was next to us within the hour……Stay tuned, things were about to get much better….fast!

Scott & Cindy