Reef Islands - Solomon Islands

We’ve anchored at a place of which little is written in the few available cruising guides, no recommendations from friends, and virtually 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, though. It looked too beautiful to miss.
Reef Islands… the little group of islands surrounded by reefs just north 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.

s/v Perry with line of kids in canoes
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.

Denzel comes out, too, a young man in his twenties in a fiberglass canoe. He kindly offers to guide us through the reefs to a place where we can easily walk ashore. Kids line the beach and the nearby cliffs whooping and waving a warm welcome, and then the crowd follows us up to the center of the village. Many of the adults are seated, their mouths full of the red, juicy spit produced by chewing a betel nut/lime powder concoction that is infamous here. They seem happy to see us, but also unsure of what exactly to do with us. We aren’t the first visitors they’ve had, but they don’t get many!! There is a discussion among the prominent men and we’re not sure exactly what they are trying to decide, although I imagine they are contemplating an anchoring fee or donation request. In the end, they asked if we could donate some school supplies to the kindergarten. No problem!

Everyone is kind, but shy. I meet the teacher of the kindie and Mark asks if we can please see the kindie classroom. It’s walls are layered pandanus leaves, with a row of windows just below the eaves of the roof. The floor is sand, and there is a row of papers hanging up to showcase counting and coloring work. Along one wall leans a large piece of particle board on which the teacher has written with chalk. It is starkly bare, an indication of how remote they are here. The supply ship comes monthly if they’re lucky, but the last one came quite a while ago.

Fixing a sewing machine
Mark promptly offers up help to fix things, and as he walks back to the dinghy, one-by-one people come and ask in hushed tones for help with things - an outboard engine that isn’t working, a sewing machine that needs repair. His project list for the following day quickly fills up.

Everyone is hot and exhausted, so we say goodbye with promises that Mark and Matt will return in the morning with their tools. Elizabeth, Michael, Conrad and Mark are excited to get back to the boats. It happens to be Michael’s ninth birthday, and we have some flan to eat and Xbox to play!! Yes, he requested flan, steak, and Xbox - who is this kid!? I’m prepared, though, as I’d happened to find a flan boxed mix in Port Vila a few months ago and have saved it just for this occasion. It’s not quite like the real thing, but my Argentine flan recipe requires multiple eggs, which are now a precious commodity.

We all gather on Field Trip, fire up the grill, and enjoy a birthday celebration with friends. Michael told me earlier how thankful he was that his friends, Conrad and Mark, are here to make his birthday a ‘real’ party. There have been few kid boats around lately, so the timing could not have been more perfect.

Michael's present from dad
Sarah's creative sign for Michaels b-day - MineCraft!

Taking the kids for a joy ride in dingy!


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