It’s not until we sail into Honiara, bustling capital of the Solomon Islands, that I realise how much I have been struggling with co-habitation in such a confined space. Faced with long hours of sailing and days of having few other people to talk to, the conversations between the Captain and I of late have become a little more repetitive, a little more strained and a lot less light hearted than when we first started out. Adding to my festering stress is the lack of exercise that has always been a way for me to release tension, not to mention the lack of chocolate on board.
As soon as we anchor we go ashore. The Captain obviously as keen as I for some ‘time out’, we head straight to the bar at the yacht club, making friends with the stereotypical collection of ex-pat alcoholics that are gathered around this early in the day drinking the local drop, Sol Brew. Sipping my beer, I catch up on some local gossip before slipping out with a smile to breath in the dusty diesel-fume filled city air, leaving the Captain to it. I wallow in the hustle of the packed, dirty, beetlenut stained main street for a minute, bumping shoulders with the locals gathered on the corner, then take off, pounding the pavement with thigh-stretching side steps to avoid streams of red spittle flying out in all directions from the hoicking spitting chewing masses – tactics worthy of any All Black offensive – cutting through the crowds, finally stopping at an ice cream parlour where my exertion is blissfully rewarded with a cold chocolaty melting mess. I am very careful to avoid drips onto my top as I am down to my last one, even though I have been wearing it for several days it is never certain when I will be rewarded with the right to do another load of washing.
Water and power consumption is closely guarded on board. Although we are self-sufficient with a couple of solar panels, a heavy duty generator for extra power, a desalination water-maker system AND a washing machine, the places with reliable and accessible diesel to keep the generator running are few and far between in this part of the Pacific, hence a tightening of the power producing belt. Let’s not talk about the record of consecutive days without a shower – lucky we can dive off the boat for a rinse for free, although looking at the murky water here in Honiara I am rather loathe to do so.
Being a very social person who relishes company and good yarns, I cannot help wonder what most people think when they meet me, stepping off the flashiest boat in the marina, bowling up to them and shaking their hands overflowing with enthusiastic joy of having someone new to talk to, all the while smelling like an urchin and wearing five day old clothes. Laundromats are as uncommon as council rubbish bins here, and today I have to put my foot down and bravely ask the power-thrifty Captain to grant me a clothes wash (the third since we left Townsville three months ago), in hope of avoiding more sideways glances from freshly shampooed, perfumed and well-presented ex-pats that I trap in conversation. Talk to me! Talk to ME!
So yes, this glamorous life of sailing the high seas in the lush Gin Palace has its foibles. But the amazing places we have seen and snorkelled and anchored in are beyond belief, some as remote and untouched as I have ever seen. And although I have to work hard at not letting the confines of power consumption, self-indulgence and lack of exercise get to me, my imagination and wonder are free to roam, inspired by this unique experience – I would not change a second of my here and now, as stinky as it may be!