Minerva Reef Not a “Safe” Spot for Cruisers at the Moment

Cruising sailors are being advised to stay away from Minerva Reef, one of their favorite stopping places in the Pacific, between the islands of the South Pacific and New Zealand.

The Reef consists of two atolls, one of which is an almost perfect circle. It boasts pristine waters and safe anchorage, and has an amazingly colorful history. Now it’s in the news again, all because of the escape of a high profile Fijian politician who took refuge in Tonga.

The Fijians, recognizing that Minerva Reef is a sore point with Tonga, which claims ownership of the remote reef, placed one of their warships in the lagoon of the remote atoll, much to the anger of the Tongans. This week two Tongan Navy patrol boats returned from the atolls claiming that they had chased away a Fijian Navy warship they found in the lagoon.

Tonga first claimed the two unpopulated Minerva Reefs in 1971 after an American tried to create a republic on them. The Pacific Forum recognized the Tongan action, but Fiji did not. Last year Tonga erected a beacon at a lagoon popular with yachties heading to and from New Zealand, but the Fijians destroyed it.

The Tongan government is now warning yachts to avoid the area after Fiji ordered away a number of vessels away from the reef and announced it would use whatever force necessary to protect the territory.

“The best thing to do is not to go there for the time being until we get our differences solved with Fiji,” Samiu Vaipulu, Tonga Deputy Prime Minister said.

Rod Alley from the Center for Strategic Studies said Fiji was using this dispute to “flex their muscles” and to “to show their neighbors… that Fiji can stand in its own corner and declare its interests.”

Courtesy of www.sail-world.com.

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