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Monday, June 28, 2010

Rocking and Rolling in North Luconia

June 25
Our first night, anchored more or less in the open sea at Hayes Reef, went well as the weather remained quiet and the next morning we continued further north. We headed for Tripp Reef some 9M NW of Hayes. By the time we reached our destination the reef turned out to be in a different position than our charts showed. When we finally spotted the reef with Kevin in the mast it became clear that we could not dive here. The wind was too strong and the reef did not provide any protection from the prevailing wind.
By the time we found our next reef at Seahorse Breakers the day was almost over but we did manage to make a dive before the sun went down. Our second night at anchor in North Luconia was very uncomfortable.The current set very strong over the reef which was quite deep at 7-8m and it provided no protection against the waves and at night with wind against tide it was a ball on board. ALK rolled and pitched heavily but amazingly everybody managed to get some sleep.

Mild rocking and rolling in Buck Reef, nothing compared to Seahorse Breakers!

The third dive day in North Luconia we were again unable to find a place which offered any shelter but the dive Kevin and Eric made in Buck Reef was very exiting so we decided to put the anchor down there. This time we knew what we were in for and we were not disappointed! The only difference now was that we were somewhat used to the wild movements. Occasionally a pan or dish went flying and salt water poored into the open porthole in the toilet when we rolled, but nothing worse than that.
The next morning Kevin and Hans did the first dive after breakfast on a nice wall with some gorgonian seafans and whip coral. Mid-day Kevin and Eric made a dive and late in the afternoon Hans and Eric did a dive together.

Sea squirts on sponge

Small porcelain crab hiding under an anemone

By this time the weather had calmed down but we did not trust the situation enough to stay for another night and before the sun went down we got our anchor up. Kevin had to dive a couple of times to clear it from a big piece of coral but then we motored off into a quiet moonlit night on the way to Louisa Reef.

June 28
This morning early we arrived in Louisa Reef after an overnight sail from Buck Reef in North Luconia. Eric was still half asleep after his night watch but he jumped in the water without any hesitation to check out where we could anchor. Anchoring without damaging the rich coral growth was not feasible so he looked for a big bommie where we could make a mooring. Meanwhile we followed him with ALK. Once he found a suitable spot we put down a shot-line (a piece of lead on a long line with a fender attached at the end) to mark the bommie he had chosen and then we mounted the outboard motor on the dinghy, got chains, line and shackles out and prepared Eric's dive gear. With all this stuff loaded in the dinghy we set off to make the mooring leaving Rachel alone behind the wheel of ALK. The wind blew her away from the reef and I felt a slight anxiety about leaving her alone on board in the middle of the South China Sea.... I instructed her not to drift out of sight while we were working on the mooring. When Eric was down in 14m, I manoeuvered the dinghy in position, Kevin dropped the mooring material down to him and he went about laying the chain around a huge bommie. Once that was done he shackled another piece of chain to the loop before we attached the mooring line to avoid chafing the end of the mooring line. After 45 min Eric's work was done, Rachel sailed up to us and we could safely moor ALK.
An important job well done!

Eric is getting ready to make our mooring close to the shot line with white fender

The reef looks very beautiful and we plan to spend some time here. Moored on the N side behind Louisa Reef, which comes right up to the surface, we will have better protection from the waves than on the deeper reefs in Luconia.

On our own mooring behind Louisa Reef

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