Monday, November 3, 2014

Rodrick Bay, Solomon Islands 2014

John Ruka of Rodrick Bay in the Florida group has become an iconic figure for cruisers.    With the help of visiting cruisers he has set up a little business hosting cruising yachts to his village.     We first met John as he motored past us on a  catamaran in the Russells.    He, his wife, Lillian and other members of his family often hitch rides on cruising boats and guide sailors around the area.    We met him again a few days later in Honiara when he approached us to give him a ride back to Rodrick bay, just 27 miles away.    We had as yet to fill our diesel tanks so we couldn't help him just then.    He was pretty disappointed as a ride one way for one person was 200 Solomon dollars (about $30 US).  That's a lot of money for those guys.    He did encourage us to pay him a visit before we left the area and we felt it was a must do......for several reasons.

We were greeted by John Ruka Jr and Joseph, both sons of John Ruka, and they rowed out in their kanus to guide us to a mooring.    It was very close to shore, not something we usually do, but for a while we felt pretty safe.   In the morning, Joseph came to our boat with a gift of a flower arrangement.

  Later, Lillian came with a basket she whipped up that morning.    John was away so Lillian took over the guide duties and showed us around her village and hiked over to another village just across the little peninsula.  

Farther into the bay lies a large explorer type cruise ship which had hit a reef a few years back and the skipper drove it up into the bay where it has been ever since.     It sits askew right in front of a couple of cabins built for tourism.    We wanted to go visit the ship and had to ask permission and pay a kastom fee.    As often is the case in these islands there is a dispute as to who actually owns the rights to visit the ship so we had to be careful to hire Joseph to take us over and pay the fee to his family.  (Later one of the buoys in John's little mooring field went missing and Lillian indicated perhaps someone took it,   or maybe it just floated away......).   

Lillian invited us to a Lucky Pot.   We asked, "What's a Lucky Pot?"    "You know", she said, " you bring something, we bring something"..... ahhhhh, a Pot Luck!    They made a lovely feast of local foods and decorated the table with flowers and shells.

As usual we were visited every day, several times a day, by kids and villagers wanting to trade mostly fruits and some fish or carvings.

A wind came up and we backed perilously close to shore.     Not wanting to trust the mooring, we upped anchor in a hurry and headed back to the cyclone hole.    We looked behind and there was John Jr paddling like crazy behind us and into the wind.  He tied his kanu behind our boat and guided us back into the cyclone hole where we had a couple of very peaceful days.     John doesn't like the cruising boats to be left alone so he sent Joseph and a friend out to sleep in our cockpit at night as guards.   Theft is very common in the Solomons and a cruising yacht is easy prey.    We returned to our mooring and John Jr and Lillian loaded up several bags of lime to take to Honiara to sell.    It was hard for us to understand the business model.    It takes quite a while to harvest the lime (from the coral), cook it, bag it and then transport it to Honiara.    The transport as I mentioned earlier is $200 Solomon dollars per person each way, plus cargo.     So we were saving them quite a bit to take them and their lime over, however, the were unable to sell it at the banana boat landing so had to hire a taxi to take them to the plant where they sold it for $450.   It cost them $50 for the taxi and $400 for the ride back to Rodrick bay, so after all that they made a big fat 0, not even enough to buy a lunch.

Well, we tried to help.  Lime is a bad business anyway.  It depletes the coral reefs, and is used for betel nut chewing which causes cancer.  It's the ingredient that turns their mouths and teeth red.

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