Honiara Hell

Another overnight sail (well, motor) brought us to Honiara, the country’s capitol.  I’d been looking forward to some civilization after being out in remote places since the beginning of October - three months ago.  The other ladies and I were fantasizing about the grocery stores we might encounter and the idea of a dinner out.  But Honiara didn’t just promise the positives of civilization, but also the negatives - busyness, noise, petty theft, and trash… lots and lots of trash.

Alongside the Point Cruz Yacht Club, brightly colored water taxis were pulled up on what could possibly have been a sandy beach.  No sand could be seen however, beneath the piles of plastic bags, bottles, chip wrappers, styrofoam containers, and absolute nastiness.  It was like the sea was ridding itself of the gunk that didn’t belong in it, purging mounds of pollution with every crashing wave.  Yes, we had reached civilization, alright, and I was already to get the heck out again.

We tied to the mooring ball, and the mad dash to re-provision began.  There was a long list this time - fuel (which would have to be hauled by jerry jug), propane, customs and immigration, and many trips back and forth to the grocery stores and fresh produce market.  We’d need all hands on deck to get it all finished, but unfortunately, that wasn’t an option here.  Throughout our travels in the outer islands of the Solomons, village chiefs have been adamant in urging us to always keep someone onboard the yacht when we get to Honiara.  Whenever we mentioned our plans to stop here, we were warned over and over again to beware of rascals who would case out the boat and then help themselves to whatever was out on deck when no one was home.  Local knowledge deserves to be heeded, so I stayed onboard with one of the pikininis (children) while Mark and the other dashed around town checking off the list.

Then we’d switch, and I would rush ashore to do the next round of shopping.  At one point, we even got to stop and eat an actual hamburger in a kind of food court-type place!  And soft serve icecream for dessert!  We were loving the indulgences available in the big city!  Friends of ours had connected us with a missionary family here who gave us all kinds of insider information about where to find the best prices and best quality items.  The best grocery stores were Wings, The Bulk Shop, and my favorite, Pantina (a bit out of town, so get a taxi), where we found all sorts of familiar imported items like syrup and salsa!  That was certainly a provisioning jackpot!  A place called Island Enterprises on the main street was the best hardware store.  Once I had the taxi filled up, we’d head back to the yacht club, haul it all down the dock, stack it up in the dinghy, and load it into the cockpit of Field Trip.

Load after load had to be unpacked (we don’t bring any cardboard on board to prevent cockroach infestations), inventoried on our provisioning spreadsheet, and organized into our storage areas.  This whole process continued throughout the next few days until we’d finally ticked off our final shopping list items.  We found necessities (phone recharge cards, fuel, toilet paper) as well as a few novelty items (dill pickles, salsa, and Mark even managed to surprise us all with a new Christmas tree!).  We were in consumer heaven…but it wasn’t all frolicking bliss!

On the first afternoon during our shopping marathon, I was on board with the kids while Mark was on shore.  Out in the distance, I noticed a dark line of clouds coming our way.  A squall.  This anchorage is not very protected or comfortable in average conditions, so I was immediately worried.  It was a small, crowded bay with a big roll, but the only place with a dinghy dock.  Within an hour, the storm was upon us.  Luckily, this time, Mark was able to get back to the boat through the steep chop that the storm had stirred up.  It was a highly tense situation as we heard other boats radioing back and forth.  Our friends who tied stern-to the rock wall realized that a huge rusty fishing boat tied to the wall next to them had lost the holding on the bow anchor line.  The sailboats had to untie quickly to get out into open water and avoid damage from the heavy, drifting bow of the industrial-sized vessel.  So quickly, actually, that one of the crew had to be left on shore!

It got ugly really fast.  The huge yellow mooring buoy we were tied to began to bonk, bonk, bonk against our fiberglass hull when the wind direction changed.  Should we leave the security of the mooring ball and go out in this messy sea/weather state?  Or should we risk damaging the hull with the incessant banging?  After careful thought, we decided it would be best to release our lines and go to the more spacious anchoring area - right after we picked up the crew member who’d been left behind.   Thankfully, everyone was able to get out during the storm and anchor among the big fishing vessels and container ships.  No one slept extrememely soundly that night, but we were safe and together.

The MUCK from the river wash approaching Field Trip
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only nasty storm that Honiara dealt us.   This time, we had opted to anchor, rather than tie to the mooring buoy.  But I was alone on board with the kids, and Mark was not reachable via VHF radio.  Torrential rains and howling, gusting wind descended upon us.  I sat at the helm with a child squished up closely against me on either side, watching the wind speed climb and the massive clouds move across the radar screen.  This storm was a doozy.  The boat behind us radioed to check-in, and it was comforting to know we weren’t alone.  I asked one of the kids to sit at the navigation desk inside to monitor our anchor watch.

“If we go outside our swing radius, tell me right away.  And be ready to relay the distance readings to me.”  The anchor watch would warn us with an alarm if our boat started to drag in the heavy wind, but I needed to stay at the helm, ready to motor forward if necessary.  We were all hands on deck and mission control - monitoring every instrument we had available for information.

Rubbish on the beach by yacht club
The anchor held fast, and all was fine.  My stress level dissipated as the rain and wind died down.  Behind us, I could see the wall of sediment-muddied water that had been washed away creeping closer and closer to us until it enveloped our hulls, and we were floating in a sea of murky muck the color of chocolate milk.  When you see our other blog photos, the water is usually a tranquil, surreal turquoise, but here’s another view.  Just so you know, the seas are not always bluer on the other side...


  1. Been there....done THAT - even dodged a cyclone there. I still cannot get all that rolling garbage out of my mind either! So, you met the Havenga fam?


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