| Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation
HONIARA – Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni have beaten big odds in surviving 29 days lost at sea on a 400 km drift from Solomon Islands until their rescue off the coast of West New Britain last Saturday.
The intended trip already had its risks, a 200 km sea journey in a 24-foot open raebo (ray boat) driven by a single 60 horsepower Yamaha outboard.
Starting from Mono in the Shortland Islands they would keep in sight of Vella la Vella and Gizo to their left en route south to Toro Island.
They soon ran into trouble.
“We encountered bad weather that came with heavy rain, thick dark clouds and strong winds for about an hour,” Nanjikana told SIBC News.
They discovered the GPS tracker battery was dead and they lost visual bearings because of the weather.
“We decided to stop the engine and just float, we still had some fuel left,” he said. But the sea and wind intensified and they were driven further out to sea.
For the next nine days the men ate the oranges they brought from Mono but when the last one was gone, they survived only on “rainwater, coconuts and our faith in God because we prayed day and night for strength and guidance,” said Nanjikana replied.
Waking up in the middle of nowhere each morning, the men remain focused on maintaining their physical, mental and spiritual strength.
They trapped rainwater in canvas and whenever they saw a floating coconut, they would start the engine and drive to it, using a small axe and the boat’s anchor to cut it open.
“After several days, God gave us this thought of constructing a device to sail so we made a mast-like structure using paddles and canvas for a sail and just followed the direction of the wind,” said Nanjikana.
They didn’t know their location but the wind took them across the Solomon Sea into Papua New Guinea’s territorial waters.
On 27th day, they saw an island in the distance. It was the coast of New Britain and they unsuccessfully strived for two days to reach it.
Then. early in the evening of the 29th day, with little fuel left, they spotted a fisherman in a canoe and waved but were not noticed.
So they started the engine and moved towards the fisherman but the fuel ran out.
“We shouted and continually and waved our hands and the fisherman saw us and paddled towards us,” said Nanjikana.
“When he reached us, we asked where are we?” and he replied, ‘PNG’. Oh we are now safe.”
The fisherman towed their boat to shore which they reached at 9pm.
They were fed and later taken to the Health Centre at Pomio to be treated.
“The fisherman was a nice man. When we reached land, our bodies felt weak so we were carried by men to the house.
“We were later fed with good foods such as taro, pawpaw and other vegetables which made us regain our strength,” said Nanjikana.
“We are now well kept and fed with the people here, they are nice people”.
The men are staying with Pomio local, Joe Kolealo, who said the Solomon Islands government will repatriate Nanjikana and Qoloni.
“I picked them from the health centre on Sunday morning and now they live happily with us,” said Kolealo.
One thing that kept the two men going was a strong and positive state of mind, hope and faith in God. They indeed beat incredible odds.