Teddy Fong: Being skipper on a ship is not easy, let alone captaining a drua like the Uto ni Yalo, with self-trained crew members. Trust is needed, especially when sleep overcomes your will to stay awake. I have the privilege of being privy to skipper Johnathan Smith's movements as we share the same cabin.
This morning I woke to the sound of the pods (solar powered propellers) being lowered. From my two weeks' experience, I know that when the pods are dropped we would either be heading through a passage or berthing at a port. The latter is what I suspected. However, First Officer Seta came down to inform skipper that the pods were lowered because there were "breakers" (a reef) right in front of us.
In a situation as such, there is no time for panic, no time to rub ones eyes or to yawn and stretch. Skipper while swiftly getting off his bunk was already barking orders to which the young crew responded. I concurrently rushed up deck to observe and lend a hand where needed. Like clockwork the crew went about their roles with diligence. Already the drua was facing away from the breakers, with Peni the watch captain at the Uli. Kele, Seta, Mausio, Agnes and Alisi were going about sheeting the sails and scanning the seas for any other danger.
Skipper used the pods to move us a good 50 meters away from the breakers before ordering that we maintain course away from it until daylight so we can re-orientate our heading. Seta and Peni both replied with a "roger" and went about informing the watch team. I stayed on deck for another 15 minutes in awe of the short but learning experience.
Upon returning to my bunk for an hour of shut eye before our watch, I noted skipper already snoring from his. While I had an adrenalin rush it was all in a days work for this Lautoka bred from Ovalau. I reckon the crew are lucky to have Johnathan as their mentor, father, brother when appropriate and tauvu, kai or mataqali in the social context.
In our meeting when we left Espiritu Santos for the Solomon Islands he named 7 crew members as potential trainee commercial captain's ticket holders; two of them female; all under 30 years of age. They will be under his tutelage and are expected to show more leadership and less commanding attributes.
Yesterday, was another painful day of drifting, with close to zero winds and the heat of the Solomon sun upon us. What made our day though was the wahoo caught and perfectly cooked in duruka and lolo by Ben. We had "breakfast for dinner" with the leftover lolo buns and pancakes. Then it was to sigidrigi with none other than our favourite thirst quencher.
Solomon Islands is presenting the crew with a new set of challenges or are forcing them to re-visit previous manouvres. This is good considering they are nearing the end of their Te Mana Te Moana journey, which most are already dreading. Having to part with their brothers, sisters, matua and newly forged personal relationships over the last 2 years will not be easy. Maybe it is Tangaroa himself prolonging the process. Perhaps our good Lord can already feel the silent tears pouring from within their souls. I don't know.
What is certain though, is that the Pacific has gained around 120 new ambassadors for her ocean, our identity. A network has been created and this must be maintained, strengthened and aired as the combined voice of people who have walked the talk.
We are 10.5 nautical miles from Honiara and travelling at a steady but very slow speed of 0.7 knots. It is Sunday and skipper has informed that our Sunday service will start at 10am. Peni and his watch team will lead this Sundays program. I can hear hymn practice on deck so I must head there.
Here's to a blessed Sunday to us all.
Lukim iu bihien.