—–Ahhh…Beveridge Reef, what an unkind animal you can be. We sit here on your sandy shelf and wait and wait for good weather to explore your outer reefs, inner lagoon, and your mysterious windward shipwreck. When finally a day comes, we join our neighbors for a day of spear fishing and collect your bounty as though it were our own. Grouper, Jack, Parrotfish…all relinquish themselves to the spear tip. Though we look carefully, you hide your lobsters and leave us with only molted shells. “Tis the Season” I guess, but the fishing is good. Blood gathers in the dinghy and the surrounding waters and you send your sharks to fend us off. Whitetips, no problem, but when your rally your Grey Reef sharks, we retreat and head home, taking with us pounds of fish for untold meals to come. We plan our first feast that evening aboard the good-ship Brick House, a Valiant 40 from Rhode Island. We gather and socialize while the wind outside rises, the anchor lines stretch. A shot of fine Italian Amaretto begins the meal. We sit. And then you knock us down.
It was two hours before Patrick climbed up into the cockpit to check on things. Our dinghy was gone. A miscommunication, a mistied cleat, it’s not really important. Patrick took off in their dinghy for the mile and a half trip across the lagoon to search the other side. Even with a full moon, a good light, a night vision scope, and two hours of searching…no luck. My Caribe dinghy and Nissan outboard, together one of the most expensive pieces of equipment on the boat, were gone. Either it hit the reef, flipped, and got smashed to bits or it cruised right out the pass and is halfway to southern Tonga. We thought about leaving immediately, in the darkness, to try and catch up to it, but what if it really was on the reef and this isn’t exactly a friendly place to come and go in the night. What if we passed it in the night? We looked at the situation again the next morning. A small windshift, a twelve hour headstart, a dead downwind sail, an approaching low pressure system…what were the actual chances of finding it? Patrick reexamined the reef taking into account the angle of the wind and current and surmised it most likely hit some breakers and flipped. An APB went out on all the nets for boats in the vicinity to keep an eye out. The government of Niue and the entire anchorage Alofi was notified since it could float in that direction if it did make it out of the lagoon. After a brief period of mourning, Marge and I could do nothing but pick our heads up and start searching for a replacement. Patrick and Rebecca have agreed to alter their plans as needed to help us find another one. They feel awful about it and though it’s frustrating as hell, it was an honest mistake and could happen to anyone. Right now, it sounds as though the Moorings base in Vava’u Tonga may be our best bet. I’m hoping Zen and Flashback who are only a week or two away from there can send out some feelers and make some connections. The last thing we want to do is spend weeks waiting anywhere for a shipment from the states. Thankfully a few boats have offered up loaners as well.
Other than that, we’re still here in Beveridge. There a small system passing over us today and tomorrow and we’re heading to Niue on Monday. We went spearfishing on the outside of the reef again yesterday. My feet are so blistered and raw from hours in my fins I duct-taped the balls of my feet and put on some socks. The sharks got a lot more curious. They’d swim right up to me near the surface, even if I was hanging on the side of the dinghy. A quick glancing blow with the spear gun sent them running. We finally gave in and let them have the reef. We weren’t doing so well anyways with only two groupers (one large and one small) for the day. Not that we didn’t try. Patrick and I spent hours in the water chasing groupers and parrots through the ravines and caverns of the reef. We dropped the carcass of a huge grouper to the bottom. The Grey Reef Sharks and huge snapper fought it out for the remains while we hid off to the side and watched. I wish one of those snapper would let me get close enough to shoot it. Another boat, Peter and Nikki on Bagheera arrived this morning and we all moved to the northwestern side of the lagoon in anticipation of a windshift. So far it’s the prettiest day we’ve had since arriving. In a half hour or so I’m putting my wetsuit on Margie and we’re heading out to snorkel the inside of the reef. It’s nice to be outside enjoying this place finally. Even though there’s a black cloud hanging over us from the loss of the dinghy, we’re doing our best to soak up the rays and go to sleep happy. I’m hopeful it’ll all work out in the end.