Arrival at Guadalcanal

Alex Rust

13 October 2010 | Honiara, Solomon Islands

It was night as we approached Guadalcanal and we had just been hit by another lightning/thunder squall forcing us to reduce sail. We continued sailing in and came within a stones throw of three tankers rafted together lit up like their own floating city a couple miles off of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara. Because the American forces bombed the only good harbor during WW2 we had no protected place to anchor and when we got close to land we took all sail down and threw the dingy in the water. The three of us felt like navy seals operating in the stealth of darkness with each of us playing our well rehearsed roles of taking the outboard engine off the back of the boat and handing it down to the other while another got the gas tank ready and hooked up. Ben manned Bubbles while Isaac and I took a spotlight and began searching the rocks where we found three other sailboats anchored out with their stearns tied either to a sunken barge or to the rocks themselves. For us to secure in would be quite an operation during daylight and it being night would require devine intervention but I decided we would try anyway as our only other option was going back to sea and waiting for daylight knowing there was cold beer somewhere on that rock waiting for us.

As we backed in I changed my mind for the prop walk the boat was giving me was taking us perfectly alongside an old three story fishing boat. I yelled to secure the anchor, ready the lines and throw over the jerry cans we used as fenders – we were going to raft to the giant piece of floating rust. The boat looked abandoned and creaked loudly as it swayed from side to side in the swell we were exposed to. I quickly secured a line to a cleat and was ready to jump onto our new friend when an islander appeared on the second level and offered to take my line. His said his name was Ben and this added further confusion in the darkness as we already had a Ben as crew and no one really knew what was going on and so every time I yelled for Ben to do something either they would both attempt the task or both do nothing at all and usually whichever of those two options would take us further from our objective. After entertaining the french crew on the sailboat next to us we were finally safely rafted up and raced into find that beer which we did indeed find.

I woke at sunrise to the banging of our stay with the third level of the fishing boat from the increasing swell. Ben was already awake and didn’t seemed too concerned about the banging but I thought it was important that I keep my mast so I woke the boys and we parted ways to find another spot that was a mooring ball a couple hundred yards away. So easy with the lights on.

I grabbed our passports and boat docs headed in to begin the check in process. After being sent from one building to the next I was finally told to back to the yacht club where the customs officials would meet me. Upon a hand shake and a smile I was repulsed to see the customs officials teeth were red with what appeared to be blood. I assumed he had some sort of gum disease and so didnt mention it. After the boat search I was sent across town for the immigration check in. It was only 9 am but I was already sweating profusely. The sun baked anything it caught in its rays and the air was thick with humidity. As I walked down the street I noticed groups of people huddled on every block surrounding a couple ladies selling something spread across the ground. As I approached one of the huddles I was distracted as I had to avoid stepping in what I thought was a puddle of blood. As I stopped to look at the red spot of earth a man spit more red into it, then another man spit, then another. I quickly learned the the drug of choice had switched from kava in previous islands to beetle nut here. The nut itself is first chewed for a while followed by the biting of a mustard stick dipped in coral lime powder. This special mixture creates the bright red color as well as a gentle addicting narcotic. I tried it and must admit that dirt mixed with gravel would taste better although I did manage to create an uproar of laughter amongst the locals as I drueled red all over myself while spitting in disgust. After my first beetle nut experience I ended up in six different government buildings, some twice, and even the prime ministers off

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