Roncador Reef - Part I

Drone shot with Field Trip anchored in red circle
Satellite images have changed sailing dramatically. Roncador Reef (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roncador_Reef) is a perfect example. While looking at the satellite images months ago and planning our stops on the way to PNG, Mark noticed a small reef just
between Ontong Java and the Arnavon Islands. Zooming in, he could see a clear entrance to the circular reef, and that was the tipping point. This little spot in the middle of nowhere suddenly found its place on our agenda. It reminded him of Minerva Reef, the remote reef between Fiji and New Zealand where many cruisers stop for a rest if the weather permits. Fish and lobster are abundant and enormous, the water is crystal clear, and the diving is pristine. These are places that you won’t find on a travel brochure or in any cruise itinerary.

Our trip here was not a long one, but it was tough. I think I’d lost my sealegs after months hopping between the Solomon Islands, and unfortunately, I was sick the entire way. The southeast trade winds have kicked in, and for the rest of our trip to PNG they will be comfortably behind us, but to get here, we had them on our beam. Wind on the beam is good for filling the sails, but it also means swell knocking us back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. A few waves came over the side even, dowsing the windshield and giving me a salty shower as I sat at the helm. Thankfully, Mark was able to do most of the watches while I laid face-up in bed trying not to get sick again. Usually, I can watch movies or listen to audiobooks when I lay down, but not this time. If I’d even roll on my side, my stomach would protest. Yep, I was a useless, seasick slug this trip.

Initially, the idea of anchoring in this remote reef with no other boats around kind of freaked me out. I imagined someone needing stitches or worse, and my mommy mind started spiraling into the abyss of fear. Flashes of the huge tiger shark our friends had seen in Minerva Reef riddled my mind. Mark couldn’t wait to hop in the water and explore, while I was just trying to handle us being here at all! The familiar mantra replayed in my mind as it has many times along this journey, “do not fear. be still and know. choose gratefulness and joy.”

The seas were calm as we entered the pass, and the sun high in the sky made reefs easily visible and avoidable. Mark had shown me the track he planned to take before we entered, so I could reference what I was seeing as I spotted for reefs on the bow. Slowly, we navigated to our proposed anchoring spot, and all looked good. We dropped the hook in 23 meters of water, clear of any obstructions. Ahead of us loomed a massive ship sitting high up on the coral reef, wrecked. Mark called to the kids, “Hey guys, check that out! We’ve got to go see if we can get on deck and explore that ship while we’re here!”

“Not exactly the thing you want greeting you as you anchor in a rarely visited remote reef!” I retorted under my breath. Again, scary scenarios began to fill my mind and I fought back, willing myself to join Mark and the kids in the excited anticipation of a shipwreck expedition. How many people get to do this, right? I looked around us, amazed that we were here. Sure, it’s the middle of nowhere, but oh my, it is the middle of nowhere!! This is what it’s all about! Think of what the stars will be like at night? Think of what kinds of fish and beautiful reef creatures we’ll see! Look at that 360 degree view! This is truly amazing.
View from the bow of Field Trip at our first anchorage
And just for good measure (and because I just cannot make that momma voice shut up sometimes), “Now kids, please keep yourselves safe. You don’t want Mom or Dad stitching you up!”
Mark looks at me and shakes his head then turns to the kids, “Okay, who’s ready for a dive?”

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