Beveridge Reef

We stopped off for a few days at Beveridge Reef while en route to Tonga from the Society Islands in French Polynesia. Beveridge Reef is an uninhabited, but anchorable atoll, about 130 miles southeast of Niue. Perhaps one reason the atoll is unininhabited is there is no land–the entire reef is underwater, giving the feeling that you are anchored in the middle of the ocean. All reports have the entry as relatively easy, but the chart looked a bit like a child’s crayon drawing, so we knew we’d be on our own on the way in.

A small note on the chart said the reef is three miles NE of where it is charted. As we approached, the radar confirmed that: the U-shaped radar overlay showed the shape and location of the southern end of the reef compared to the green circle where its charted, and the reef extended a good three miles north of the radar image. And with no land above the surface, the only way to see the reef is by the waves breaking over it.

The break in the reef wasn’t apparent until we were quite close to the entrance. We had found a couple of hand-drawn charts online from other cruisers indicating safe waypoints to enter, but we mostly went in by eye with Jennifer watching from the bow. Fortunately, the water was so clear that we could see the bottom in 80 feet as we followed the channel into the center of the reef.

We anchored in the sand shallows at the south end of the reef. Beveridge Reef was amazing: we were effectively anchored in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, without a speck of land in sight in all directions. The color and clarity of the water over the sand made it look like a swimming pool. That line and small circle at the right of the left photo below is our anchor chain and rode. Rarely can you watch your anchor set from standing on the flybridge. We’d pulled the chain back under the anchor in turning the boat to test the set and it was good to see the anchor rotate over, pull down and completely bury itself after being tripped by its own rode.

We were anchored in about 9 feet of water. With our 6’7″ draft, that leaves a little over two feet under our keel. Jennifer, at the bottom of the left photo below, is barely able to swim under it. Fortunately we were at low tide. In the right photo below, the chain rode is extending towards the camera from where Jennifer is holding the anchor on a free-dive.

The fringing reef here is a little different from others we’ve been on, such as in the Tuamotus, because the water depth is about 6 feet right up to the reef, then drops to a few inches. So we didn’t need to take the smaller dinghy to visit. Another difference between this and other fringing reefs we’ve visited is the sealife: the reef had excellent tidepools, and was packed with corals, fish and other sea life. Presumably this is because it’s always underwater

Big waves pounded into the outside edge of the reef and then poured over into the lagoon, not retreating back as would happen on a beach. The lack of undertow felt strange.

We weren’t the only boat at Beveridge Reef. Anchored along the east shore were Michele and Phillipe Rubiere on their catamaran Tereva. They had sailed from their home country of France across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. Theirs was one of two other boats at Beveridge when we arrived. The other, Samuri, was the last of the Canadian-built PDQ catamarans and was owned by Swiss couple Evelyne and Christian Nigg.

A wreck of a fishing vessel is along the eastern side of the reef. With no land or water, Beveridge Reef is a pretty inhospitable place to be shipwrecked. Several vessels have wrecked here–the reef being three miles off its charted position likely is a contributing factor.

The reef blocks the ocean swell effectively at low tide, but at high tide 2-3′ waves rolled through the anchorage. The 24-hour view below shows the boat motion at anchor, with the times of high and low tide clearly visible. Dirona was moving quite a bit at anchor. We toured the lagoon by dinghy and didn’t find anything substantially better, but at our first anchorage the waves were hitting us on two different angles, causing the boat to both pitch and roll. So we moved around to the southeast corner and put out the flopper-stopper. That didn’t entirely stop the motion, but helped substantially.

After seeing the water clarity and the healthy fringing reef, we really wanted to dive at Beveridge. We ran the dinghy outside and investigated a few locations outside the reef. But the current was ebbing quite strongly, with 6-8′ closely packed waves in the entry channel, and we couldn’t find a place outside the reef that was both sheltered from the southwesterly swell with little current. Getting blown offshore away from the dinghy likely would be a permanent problem here. The lagoon is mostly in the 30′ range throughout, and the most likely spots inside were near the channel, but currents there also were quite strong. In the end, we anchored in about 25′ in the lee of a coral head off the south side of the channel. We swam into the current around the head until we started to get pulled the other way, then returned. It was hard work, but we enjoyed the dive. The coral was healthy and diverse, and we saw a wide variety of fish, including the yellow-gold variation of the Guineafowl Puffer.

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10 comments on “Beveridge Reef
  1. Paul Wood says:

    Very enjoyable read; and talk about the water being crystal clear? That photo of the boat nearly on the bottom is something else. Amazing stuff, and a great autobiography beckons when you retire!

    Just an idea. I presume you’ll have a GPS track log of your safe passage into the atoll with proximity alarms? Could this track log not be shared within the sailing community on your own website, or perhaps, the Nordhavn website like they are in the fell walking, mountaineering community?

  2. James Birkin says:

    A blindingly obvious question but why if everyone knows it is wrongly charted are the charts not corrected?

    • James asked “why if everyone knows it is wrongly charted are the charts not corrected?” What happens is cruisers and/or professional mariners report the error. If the error is consistently reported, it sometimes ends up on charts as “reported to be as much as 3 nautical miles …” but, since no official surveys have been done since, the underlying cartography remains unchanged for years or even decades.

      • James Birkin says:

        I missed your reply – two years late – thank you – still seems kind of bureaucratic when the error is so catastrophic even occasionally

        • I agree and the lesson here is to watch that depth sound, watch that RADAR, keep a good lookout, and don’t get complacent and take the charts as “true” — they are mostly pretty good but we have been to lots of places where the last survey was done generations back. And, there are some locations with swirling sand banks that change year to year and sometimes even more frequently. It’s unnerving working through shallows following the marked channel while the charts show us 100s of yards ashore :-).

  3. Scott Coffen-Smout says:

    I was living on Niue when that fishing boat, the Nicky Lou, grounded
    on Beveridge Reef and was abandoned. The incident arose in March
    1992 when the Nicky Lou, a U.S.-registered albacore troll boat, transited Niue’s
    EEZ by dead reckoning due to broken navigation equipment, en route to
    Pago Pago from southern albacore fishing grounds.

    • Even with good navigation equipment it would easy to go aground on Beveridge Reef with the charts being three miles off and no land showing. Hopefully the crew made it off–that’s a pretty inhospitable place to go aground.

  4. Went for a snorkel at Beveridge (low tide) 24th Dec. 2015. Awsome!! Trawler wreck still there.Christmas Day Church service Niue.
    John B.

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