Well, it has finally come time to leave the Solomon Islands. After a couple of long nights of partying, great fish prepared by our captain and saying goodbye to all of our new friends, we departed Ghizo Harbor for the last time. Having cleared customs, we are going to take our time making our way up to Papua New Guinea. A series of day sails, fifty miles or so being the longest, we will travel through some even more remote and rarely visited islands, particuarly the Shortlands, the most remote islands in the Solomon Archipelago.
Last night, we stopped in Ranonga. This was the island I previously visited that had been lifted out of the water after the big earthquake earlier in the year. It was on our route to PNG, and everyone else on board who had not yet seen Ranonga, wanted to not only see the way it has been lifted out of the sea, but also visit our friend Waldie and meet the owners of the guesthouse where I stayed. Once there, Bill and I thought it would be a good idea to invite them all on board for dinner. Having purchased a couple of beautiful fish in the market before leaving Ghizo, I was able to prepare some tuna, mahi mhai, and blue fin trevali for everyone. Gilly and Gladis, the owners of the guest house showed up first with some of there freshly squeezed lemonade and two plates full of yams, papayas and cucumbers all picked fresh from their garden. As I was finishing preparing dinner, Waldie and his family showed up with another plate of fish and some kasavas Waldie had baked in a traditional oven, using hot stones buried beneath the ground.
I think other than Waldie, none of the others had ever set foot onto a yacht before. They had all seen a few of them come to their harbor each year, but none had ever been invited on board, especially not for dinner. As everyone arrived, it began to rain which cancelled our plans for a typical dinner on deck. Somehow, we managed to stuff our four crew and six guests down below, complete with the heat being generated from the small oven and stove on board as well as kerosene lanterns on the walls. The generosity and manners of our visitors was overwhelming. I never expected them to show up with as much food as we were preparing to serve them. Not to mention the fact that all of us who live on board were probably the worst dressed ones on the boat! All our visitors had made an effort to look nice as if they were on their way to a Sunday morning church service.
After thinking there was room for nothing more, Monica brought out a wonderful surprise for our guests, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know that they had ever eaten anything like this before, especially not homemade cookies. Maybe they had tried something similar that they found on another island in a small store, but this was a real treat for them. It was fantastic to see their reactions at the taste of so sweet a snack. They ate all of the cookies until there was nothing more than a plate of crumbs left on the table. The entire night was an experience that has created a memory that will last a life time. To share a meal with such a wonderful group of people while exchanging stories about the places we have been and their experience with the tsunami and earthquake was in itself worth the visit to the Solomon Islands.