28 October 2018 | Honiara, Solomon Islands
Our project in the Solomon Islands has come to an end and we're back in Honiara hoping to clear out of the Solomon Islands early this week.
After leaving Simbo en route to Honiara we anticipated that we were unlikely to have favourable winds, expecring either south easterlies or calms. Northerlies are often associated with stormy weather which we would welcome regardless, it's just that they are few and far between. We did manage a few hours of sailing here and there associated with local weather events.
Our first stop was Rendova Harbour on Rendova Island (why it's called a harbour I have no idea, it is just another lagoon). Just before dusk and short of our intended anchorage, and after trailing fishing lines all day, we caught a fish …. another black marlin, our third. We planned to release it but deemed it too dangerous so we dispatched it, dragging it behind for 20 minutes until we were able to flag down a passing OBM.
“do you eat fish?”
“yes we do”
“well we might have something for you, come around the back”
Frances said she was watching the young man steering who saw the fish first and she said his jaw dropped when he saw it. They all shuffled over to one side and hoisted the fish in with them. Big smiles and thank yous and they were on their way again. We just managed to anchor before the light failed. Plenty of visits from kids in canoes with handfuls of veggies they no doubt had stolen from mum's kitchen wanting to trade. We also had a visit from a lovely guy named Edward and teed up an eyeglass clinic in his village or the following morning. I must say it was one of the poorest villages that we have seen which was rather unexpected. Plenty of kids again and according to Edward almost all of them had malaria – let that sink in, and it was the first time we had heard whingey kids. Edward (66) told us he was one of 10 kids and two of his sisters still lived in the village. He said that one of them had 12 children and the other had had 14....
Over the next couple of days we transitted the famous Marovo Lagoon on New Georgia Island which is probably the tourist mecca of the Solomons but in truth there are not many tourists here either.
Motoring to the Russell Islands with again no wind we were barely able to anchor before dark and were forced to redraw our line in the sand. The shallowest water we could find was 32 metres – over 100 feet deep. We had a visit from a local guy named Mark who was very friendly and we had a good chat. The people here are no better off than anyone else we have come across and would have benefitted from our assistance but we needed to keep moving. We were the first yacht (and most likely the only) for the year to anchor there. The Russell Islands is another one of the spots where yachts have had troubles over recent years with theft, etc., unfortunately.
The next day we motored around to Faila Island to allow us to make Honiara in one day from there. We soon has visitor after visitor in dugout canoes, mostly young adults and ended up giving away the last of our sunglasses, ones that previously people had turned their noses up at and were now gratefully accepted. We asked if there was anyone on the island who may need eyeglasses, yes there were. So we donned our travel backpack loaded with glasses and dinghied to shore. We were escorted around the island, stopping at each family group homes and testing and dispensing our final glasses.
The chief, James (in his late 30's) volunteered to perform security for us during the night as he said that people from the main town of Yandina would come around fishing in their canoes at night time. It was a still night with a full moon and we didn't see anyone fishing nor did we see James but perhaps he was keeping watch from his verandah. His brother Henry was telling us how both their parents and their sister were dead. They had died some years previously (a few years apart) of the same thing - “poisoning” they said. We can only surmise it was blood poisoning (septicaemia). Henry said they were treated in the hospital at Honiara but all were released to die at home as there was nothing the medical people could do for them. Henry said that they had boils all over their lower bodies. Life is hard for people living in developing countries there is no doubt.
By the time we arrived back in Honiara we have supplied and fitted around nine and a half thousand pairs of glasses to people living in remote areas of the Solomon Islands. We contacted Pamela at the National Eye Centre and took what spectacles we had left, around 2,500 pairs, to the centre for distribution back out to our vision specialist friends at the Lata and Buala hospitals, who need all the help they can get. The project has been a tremendous success indeed and we couldn't have in reality asked for anything more, other than time. We just ran out of it in the end.
Another quick story: Pamela said that she came from a village on the north side of Santa Isabel Island and she went home recently for a funeral (which apparently is not something she does very often, the deceased was an “honorable” [a sitting MP]). She said that she travelled via OBM – a boat with twin 75 hp motors – it took seven hours to get there and on the way back it was quite rough and it took 10 hours. How long was she there ? Only overnight, she said it was very unpleasant on the way back and no doubt the voyage had not been cheap either.
Hopefully on our passage home we'll have just the right amount of wind and from the right direction. If so then we'll take 7 to 8 days to Brisbane and, if the Wind Gods don't come to the party, then we may have to turn off and make landfall further north along the Queensland coast. So keep your fingers crossed. Monkey Fist is sitting high in the water, the lightest she has been for years, it's great to see the top inches of the anti-fouling paint, she should revel in the reduced weight on the journey home.
It it with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to the Solomon Islands knowing there is still so much to be done but knowing that we have made a difference.