We try out a mixture of old-fashioned methods and modern technology to enter an uncharted lagoon


To experience the extraordinary beauty and cultures of the Pacific under sail, you need a few specialist cruising techniques under your belt. We have been sailing in Fiji with Dan and Em Bower on their yacht, Skyelark, to demonstrate some of these and film them for our new sailing techniques series.

This took us to the island of Mana, which has a wonderful lagoon behind coral reefs. Here we entered a narrow coral pass and anchored in an area containing coral heads.

Mana is particularly interesting because it illustrates some of the knottier problems of navigation and pilotage in these areas. Charting in the Pacific is notorious inaccurate. Large areas have been poorly surveyed and never properly updated - I have heard of some atolls in French Polynesia where the charts have been four or more miles out. 

Here in Fiji, charts are said to be up to two miles out in some places. At Mana, electronic and paper charts alike don't show any lagoon at all, as the screen grab below from MaxSea illustrates. But a lagoon does exist, as does a very narrow tide-swept pass through the coral reefs. 

A much more exact representation of the island, the pass and the coral reefs was obtained by Dan and Em in the form of Google Earth overlays that have been precisely geo-referenced, as shown below. (More about exactly how this works and how to get this information in one of the next issues of Yachting World.) We used these to establish the pass entrance and its winding course, while using the good old Mk 1 eyeball to con our way in carefully.
Fiji Mana island

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