Caroline says goodbye back in Lata
10 July 2018 | Lata, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
After our pain free departure from the anchorage at Taukmako we thought we were in for a gentle downwind sail back to Carlisle Bay but instead of 15 knots we had squally weather with winds gusting up into the mid 30's and on top of that, the biggest swell we had seen for some time coming from the south east �- walls of water up to 8 metres high. We were uncertain if then entrance at Carlisle Bay would be passable due to the huge swell but luckily it was sufficiently in the lee of Ndendo Island that it was protected so we were very relieved when we entered the bay just after 9 pm. The bay might have been protected from the swell and the seas but not the wind, and we were still experiencing gusts over 30 knots. Still the water was flat and the bottom had good holding so we have the first good night sleep in a few days.
Over the next few days the weather went downhill again. The wind remained strong, gusting to 40 knots with torrential rain hour after hour. It turned out there was a tropical low pressure system passing to the east of us so were even more pleased we had left the Duffs when we did. On the way north we had planned to conduct a couple of clinics at Carlisle Bay upon our return and so we did. One day we returned to Monkey Fist and some distance out I noticed that the wind generator looked odd and as we got closer we heard a bone shaking vibration coming from the stern of our boat. A blade had sheared off the generator. I managed to climb up and tie off the blades and we were relieved that there seemed to be only minor damage (other than the missing fan blade). We were lucky as there could have been much greater damage, the blade, instead of flying off into the sky could have speared into one of the solar panels so we count ourselves lucky.
The weather moderated slightly and we sailed the 20 miles back into the anchorage opposite Lata at Shaw Point. Shaw Point ,or Louisalo, is a small protected bay with a small village and a natural spring with a shady pooly, only 50 metres from where we were anchored. The only bad thing about it is the sound of multiple chainsaws cutting down the rainforest trees a kilometre or two away. The log truck can be heard all night carrying the logs down to the earthen jetty for shipping out. So far we have not spoken to any local person who supports the logging and there are no apparent benefits to this extraction by foreign multinational companies and it appears without the consent of the local people. Tensions are running high which is understandable and recently six �"logging machines�" were torched by locals who knew no other way to fight this. The legal way to help these people is through the court system which an organisation called Oceanswatch (www.oceanswatch.org) and we urge everyone to go to their website, donate and help the local people keep their forest.
If the wind is strong it can be a challenge getting from Shaw Point to Lata on the western side of the bay but as we had planned to conduct a number of vision screening clinics at the hospital they provided an OBM to ferry us and our gear to and fro which made things considerably easier. Over the next few days we conducted several very busy days with the assistance of six registered nurses and over that time we were there we supplied and fitted over 1,200 pairs of glasses. We were requested by the Commander of the Correctional Services Facility here to attend and help the inmates and staff which we gladly did and as you can imagine they were very grateful.
The time came for our friend Caroline to leave and we would miss here company as well as her skill and compassion and hard work when conducting our clinics. I don't think there are too many people who would have the qualities that it takes to undertake such a challenge, but her extensive experience in indigenous communities throughout the NT gave her a huge head start. We shared many amazing memories and will never forget how she has helped us help so many.
Today we head back out into the wilderness. Our plan is to head south east to the islands of Utupua and Vanikoro for the next two or three weeks before returning to Lata and then leaving the Temotu Province. These two islands are considered remote even by the people of Lata's standards. And we'll have to be careful as both islands are inhabited by large saltwater crocodiles. A few years ago an unsuspecting European yachtsman was taken by one when he dived on his anchor to check it.
To date we have fitted and supplied over 2,800 pairs of glasses �- both reading and distance.