Reef Islands - Solomons

Author: Sarah & Mark
Date: Nov 21, 2016, 6am Solomon Islands
Location: 10 18 S - 166 18 E
Conditions: 0-5kts ENE, calm anchorage with overcast skies and a bar of 1005

We've anchored at a place with no write-ups in the few available cruising guides, no recommendations from friends, and no information at all except for the satellite images that showed a plausible anchorage here. The images from space were exactly what brought us here. It looked too beautiful to miss.

Reef Islands… the little group of islands surrounded by reefs just east of Santa Cruz is reminiscent of the Tuomotus with the bright turquoise shallow water inside the lagoon. Yet also similar to Fulaga, Fiji where we saw our first mushroom-shaped coral islets capped with shrubs poking up from the sea. I am captivated by the view from the bow as we drop anchor in 20 meters of water. The water is every shade of blue and green imaginable as the depth changes from extremely deep to barely covering the sand near the shore.

The canoes begin to surround us quickly- all of them full of smiling, curious, naked children wielding paddles. After introductions I hand each child a pumpkin cookie. They are so careful not to bump the boat with the dugout wooden canoes, and can steer skillfully close enough to reach out a hand and politely take the cookie from me with a shy giggle.

Our time here has been amazing. The guys have been kept very busy fixing outboard engines and sewing machines. While the gals have helped with cooking and an adult literacy program. The kids have befriended a playful calico kitten, but can't seem to break through the shyness of the local children yet. We brought a ball to shore, which resulted in a big game of keep away involving the cruising kids and the local kids, but as soon as the game was over the shyness returned and the kids just stood back and watched our kids from afar. Hopefully, more time will allow for some friendships to form among them.

To give you an idea of how off the beaten path these islands are from fellow sailors, there have only been four yachts here all year. Three of the four are here now - our friends s/v Perry from Chicago with two kids, s/v Rehua from Europe on another Antares 44i with two kids and Field Trip. Some of the children in the villages have never seen a white man before. It was funny to see the sheer look of terror on the small kids face as we walked through the village. Literally this one little boy was screaming bloody loud and running away as we walked towards him. The chief laughed and said the boy had never seen a white guy before. Truly an amazing experience to be in remote areas like this, meeting new people, learning about their customs and traditions as they have been passed down through generations.

One particularly interesting tradition that has not changed in the reef islands is how a man finds a wife. Here in the reef islands, the father of the son picks out the bride. He scours local villages, asks lots of questions and identifies the right lady whom his son will marry. Then he negotiates a price for the bride - about 8,000 - 10,000 solomon dollars (1,000 to 1,200 USD) and seals the deal with the father of the bride. We asked the chief, who just found a suitable wife for his son this week, if he got a 'good deal'. He smiled and said he hopes so, as a wife is "very expensive". Yup, that about sums it up!

We plan to spend the next five months in the Solomon Islands, exploring the reefs, learning about its WWII history, lending a helping hand, and finding ways to stay cool in this sauna of a country! So far we are enjoying our time here, and are heading (unfortunately) quickly to the Western province (north west of Guadalcanal) to avoid cyclones.

That's it for now. We only have slow satellite connections in this remote area so no pictures or video....

Comments

  1. Now that is cruising. Off the beaten path where the experiences are like no other and makes for a great read by us armchair sailors. Looking forward to the next installment and pictures.

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