Posted by yachtcamomile
Our arrival in the remote Santa Cruz group in the Solomons was on the back of a deep trough that had treated us to strong gusty squalls and kicked up a nasty short sea well beyond what could be expected from the wind strength. But the sky was the most dramatic thing I have ever seen, clouds of every size, type and colour paraded across the brightest blue backdrop; an effect of the South Pacific Convergence Zone that we had entered. After the choppy sea we were relieved to motor gently into the lee of Vanikoro island’s deep and sheltered anchorage.
Our arrival seemed to be the signal for dugouts from miles around to come and introduce themselves and find out what we had on board to trade for their local produce. The dugouts here differ from the Polynesian outrigger style by being beamy enough to sit inside, being equipped with crude downwind sails similar to the Egyptian felucca and a pole for punting through shallow reefs. They are also monohull making them less stable but this didn’t stop them from standing up to fish with bows and arrows.
Although we were unsettled by all the warnings we had received about being here, the only disturbing thing we had found so far were the blood red toothy smiles from those addicted to the locally grown narcotic betelnut. This is chewed after lime is taken for a more intense “hit”. It leaves stained and damaged teeth not to mention its more sinister carcinogenic effects.
The people though were lovely and traded fresh produce like eggs, beans and tropical fruit for the clothes, writing materials and other paraphernalia we had brought for this purpose. Some requests we could not help with; we had to explain that it was not normal for a yacht to keep roofing nails suitable for their church on board. Even when a large boat full of fierce looking men turned up wanting to know if we could help to fix their SSB set (no mobile phones here yet) they were polite and did not make us feel uncomfortable. I even gave away my last tube of Araldite epoxy glue to the local chief, he was over the moon with it!
Onwards to Ndendo where we anchored up in Graciosa Bay to check in at the town of Late, an unremarkable collection of ramshackle buildings with some shops but where the bank was unable to change any money. Sue managed to persuade a local shopkeeper to exchange a few American dollars for some Solomon dollars.
We stayed five days before continuing on to the next island. After a 40 hour passage we arrived in Santa Ana in a deluge of rain but were delighted to see another yacht in the anchorage skippered by Feri, a Swiss Turk, travelling the “wrong way” from the Med with his crew Deniz. The next couple of days the rain shrieked down on us filling our water tanks to the brim.
When it finally got dry long enough to go ashore we met Chief John who welcomed us to his village. We mounted an expedition to the other side of the island together with the Turkish contingent to inspect a “custom house”, where the bones of past chiefs were interred, and to a lake in the centre of the island which was responsible for their reliable water table supply.
The village was very tidy and there seemed to be children everywhere but their houses were made from all local materials with wonderful views through to the ocean.
This was the only form of transport from one side of the island to the other on the road cleared by the Americans during the war
We met Karen the missionary who was teaching the local people how to write down their local language then teach it to others.
We moved on with trepidation when a fair wind arrived. The brisk wind 25 knots from square astern and with the twizzle poles on our double 135% genoas drove us along all day towards the eastern end of Guadalcanal Island where we arrived shortly before 18:30 which is “lights out” around here. We anchored up alone again in a quiet bay but the holding was good first time, it was flat calm and we were both tired from an exhilarating day sail.
Waking in this jungle anchorage was a joyful experience and it wasn’t long before the local characters started to make themselves known. The canoes started coming out to the boat again but this time with stories of Prince William and Kate coming to the Solomons. We thought we had missed them but it turned out they were arriving in a couple of days time.