We're here at Minerva Reef (latitude 23° 39.291' S, longitude 178° 53.731' W) - a ring of coral less than 3 miles across and 250 miles southwest of Tonga. It's like the atolls we visited in the Tuamotus with beautiful coral reef and a pass to enter the inside lagoon. The big difference is that there is no land. At high tide, everything is under water except for a few large chunks of coral thrown up on the reef by storms. It's a beautiful place with crystal clear aquamarine waters and - though there is no shelter from the wind, good anchoring and protection from the seas. At low tide, when the reef is exposed about one meter above sea level, the water is smooth and the boat doesn't even rock. There are 8 boats anchored here with us. The weather has been sunny, although a bit cooler than we've been accustomed to…
BB: What a perfect place for a special occasion. That's what I thought on 7 November when I threw a bottle into the water in front of the boat, then called Alene on deck under the pretense that I needed some help stowing fenders. It didn't work out quite as simply as I'd hoped, but eventually Alene did see the bottle and, after retrieving it in the dinghy, opened it to find a marriage proposal from me.
ADR: What a clever, inventive way to propose! Of course I said yes.
ADR & BB: We went to visit our friends Betsy and Richard on s/v Qayaq. When we told them the news, and invited them to an engagement party the next evening, they were very happy and immediately said, well, if you want, you could get married here because Guy and Karen of s/v Szel are licensed captains and they just married a couple three months ago on Suwarrow atoll. Hmmmm…. Now that's something to think about.
The next morning we went to visit Guy and Karen. We invited them to our engagement party that evening. Their first reaction was, "If you'd like to get married we can do it!".
How could we pass up the opportunity? We spent the day inviting everyone to the party, writing our vows, and planning our wedding for the following day, Nov. 9th.
The engagement party that evening was great - 14 guests aboard; everyone brought wine and food and gifts. We announced our wedding plans which were received with great enthusiasm all around.
The next morning a few new boats arrived in the anchorage -- most importantly, our friends Rebecca and Patrick on s/v Brick House. Most of the boats were "dressed" with strings of flags running up to the tops of their masts. Soon our boat was also dressed as we were inspired when Mike and Devala from s/v Sea Rover arrived with an enormous bouquet of 30 balloons. It was a busy morning, as you might imagine, but we were ready with nearly a half-hour to spare. An noon, our guests began to arrive. We had a total of 19 guests from 7 countries, only 4 of whom we had known previously. We had a short ceremony (that we'd just finished writing that morning) which included the story of how we met and our first day together. We had a toast of a coconut for us and fruity rum drinks for our guests, then we pulled up the anchor (Alene still in her wedding dress and pearls!) and towing a flock of dinghies, we headed to the other side of the lagoon. On the way, everyone snacked on the abundant dishes people had brought to share. We anchored just inside the pass and shared two delicious cakes. One of the cakes was made by Betsy of Qayaq: a traditional white wedding cake with butter and sugar frosting decorated with a bride & groom (little dolls from Guatemala), shells and a mast and sail wishing us Fair Winds Together.
We all changed into wetsuits, piled into the dinghies and, for the reception, went snorkeling outside the reef where the water is clear, the coral carpet is plush, and the edge of the coral wall plummets down to profound blueness. It was a bit chilly (the water temp is about 75° F) but we'd filled our fresh water tanks with the watermaker and turned on the heater so everyone had hot showers upon our return. It was clear that we were among seasoned cruisers as 19 people showered and used only 12 gallons of water!
We snacked and drank our way back to the anchorage. The hot tea was popular at the start of the journey but soon that gave way to jaeger tea, wine, and rum drinks. The anchor was down around 5pm. People slowly drifted away but the party didn't end until midnight. We were left with lots of empty wine bottles and many gifts, including brandy, rum, fruit, a tapa cloth, poems in our honor, an illustrated booklet about our history, shells, a handmade necklace, and more.
People were very enthusiastic about the unique opportunity to be part of probably the only wedding to take place on Minerva Reef and the only wedding reception to include snorkeling. Everyone was so generous, and so visibly happy for us. It was a perfect day.
We're sorry you all couldn't be there with us. We're sending this off on the 10th, which is the 9th for most of you, so it still is our wedding day in your part of the world!
Alene and Bruce
Minerva Reef, Kingdom of Tonga
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