Solomon Islands 2018 - the final chapter
13 November 2018 | Brisbane, Australia
As our homeward passage continued the wind slowly backed and eventually died. Combined with this a cold front was forecast to cross the east coast of Australia within three days. This would mean strong headwinds for several days afterwards. On top of this we didn't want to arrive in Australia on a weekend (the cost of Biosecurity attending during business hours alone is $200Au/hr). It was either aim for Brisbane or change our port of landfall further north and then make our way southward when the weather changed. Looking at the forecast we reluctantly decided to motor for 24 hours and then use the strong pre-frontal northerlies to slingshot us into Moreton Bay before the front hit. Which amazingly worked out! We were screaming into the Bay at around 9 knots with more than 30 knots behind us -t'was an exciting ride, then sailed all way to the mouth of the Brisbane River arriving at 3 am dodging sandbars and container ships along the way. And... would you believe it that the cold front hit six hours after our arrival - several hours earlier than forecast. After three hours sleep (a total of approx 7 in the previous 48) we were up and dealing with the authorities.
The 2018 Eyeglass Assist Project comes to an end.
A few stats to think about: -
Time in the Solomon Islands - 21 weeks / 147 days
Anchorages - Dropped anchor - 71 times - deepest water 32 metres
Miles travelled - 4,500 miles (8,300 kms)
Nights at sea - 22
Islands where clinics conducted - 25
Number of clinics conducted - 74
Pairs of eyeglasses fitted and supplied (distance and reading) - 9,500 pairs
(The remainder of the spectacles (approx. 2,500 pairs) we delivered to the National Eye Centre Honiara to be shipped to the provincial hospitals
Oldest person to receive spectacles - 100
Youngest person to receive spectacles - 9
Sunglasses provided - 6,000 pairs
Beaches walked - ....1
The Solomons are remote. Every year around 750 yachts visit Fiji and we estimate that in the Solomons it would be less 50, the overwhelming majority of those restricting their movements to well known areas such as Marovo Lagoon and the New Georgia area. Many of the places we visited had not had any visiting yachts in several years, some places yachts had never stopped at in living memory. What this meant for the project is that we didn't connect up with any other yachts which was probably the only negative aspect of the project (other than almost losing Monkey Fist on a reef at the Duff Islands...).
If we were to put a monetary value on the project's contribution to the people of the Solomon Islands, including the value of the glasses donated, as well as Frances and my "in-kind" donation of time and resources we estimate conservatively that it would be around $500,000Au. If a large aid organization was to undertake a similar project the cost would be in the tens of millions of dollars. Over the last 18 months we have invested many thousands of hours and much of our own funds to ensure the project was a success and we are very proud of what we have achieved. There are now many thousands of people living in remote villages who would otherwise have no hope or prospect of having clear vision and thanks to the people who believed in us, together we have been able to help so many people who are less fortunate than ourselves. We would hope that everybody who has kept up with our progress through our blog has an appreciation for the work we have put in and the challenges we have faced and overcome along the way.
Many people who told us something we already knew - that they, the people living in remote areas get very little help from anyone. We have developed a huge respect for the Solomon Islands people - their resilience and resourcefulness, their senses of humour and for the remainder of our lives we will have a special place in our hearts for them.
We cannot thank enough the people and companies who have helped to make this project the tremendous success that it was. Especially Chris at "On The Nose" reading glasses who stepped in at the last moment and donated the short fall in the number of glasses needed to make the project viable.
We might all live in different places and we might have different cultures, speak different languages and eat different food and we might look different, but deep down we humans are all the same and that is something we should be celebrating rather than focussing on what divides us. There are no strangers, just friends we haven't met.