November 5, 2011

Chesterfield Reef--a stop in the middle of nowhere

If you were to draw a line on a map from Port Villa, Vanuatu (assuming you can find it) to Bundaberg, AU and then zoom in at the halfway point (well, slightly beyond halfway) you might find Chesterfield Reef--an uninhabited atoll that is 500 miles from the nearest land.
Chesterfield has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since July 2008. It's a nesting site for dozens of different types of birds--including red footed boobies, frigates, and a variety of terns as well as for sea turtles. It's also remarkable because as sailors the last thing you expect to find during a 1000 mile passage is a comfortable mid-ocean anchorage.

We pulled in yesterday at noon--after a smoking hot spinnaker run. Discovery and WGD arrived a few hours before us and we all spent the afternoon walking the beaches--being enthralled by birds that had no fear (can't wait to share these pics!) A favourite moment came while watching a juvenile boobie learning to fly. It flapped its wings with an uncoordinated rhythm that nearly knocked it over. We also found massive turtle tracks leading up the beach to deep holes where they had laid their eggs.

As the sun set we all gathered on Ceilydh for sundowners and snacks. Connect 4 pulled in a hour or so past sunset and joined us for the end of the evening. Today we plan to explore some more, dive in the afternoon then potluck on the beach. We hope to stay ashore late enough to sea the turtles arrive to lay eggs--a long-held dream of mine.
For those wishing to follow in our wake you need to request permission to stop at Chesterfield Reef (the atoll is patrolled by the French Navy). Contact
The area is poorly charted but we have all had good success with these waypoints and directions that have been passed along:
Entrance to Chesterfield reef: 19 46.7594 S 158 25.3997 E
This was well clear of any reef. The water dropped to 28m at one point but thereafter stayed between 30-40m. If you were a little more to the south you should also be okay as we did not even see any reef from here let alone any islands. We sailed to our next waypoints well clear of any reef: 19 47.9446S 158 24.3276 E Then to 19 50.6577 S 158 25.2825 E. The anchorage is at WPT: 19 52.9980 S 158 27.7850 E The water here is about 10 metres with a sandy bottom. There are some bommies and shoal patches on either side but they are easy to see on a clear day.
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