Mid Ocean Assist

Patrick and Rebecca Childress had just dropped Brick House’s mainsail in preparation for an oncoming squall as they sailed among the remote southern Solomon Islands, when Patrick spotted something extraordinary and frightening. An 18-ft open fiberglass boat was fast approaching their Valiant 40′s stern. “A man in black was at the bow getting a face full of waves. Another man in black was at the outboard engine. Additional people were hiding under a black tarp in the middle of the boat,” recalls Patrick. He knew about the common pirate attacks near the Red Sea, but in the Pacific? Fortunately, their first impressions vanished as the small craft pulled-up alongside Brick House and the Childresses saw a woman and children under the tarp. “We need help!” the men yelled.

As the family of eight were motoring among the islands on their way to a funeral, a storm moved-in and sent them 65 miles off course. They’d begun their journey with only 10 gallons of gas, two liters of water and some dried breadfruit; now they were desperate for assistance. “Soon, we had the natives spread around the cockpit and deck with their motorboat on a very long tow line,” says Patrick. Although conditions were cramped, the guests quickly learned how to sail Brick House to a compass course and help out where they could.

Life in the Solomons is not easy. Access to fuel, food and medical care is extremely limited. “Some of our guests were picking nits from each others head and the lips of several people were drooled red from chewing and spitting betel nut. A couple people had sheets of sores with scabs and mild infections on their legs and feet. We applied topical antibiotic ointment to the infections,” Patrick says. Charles, the owner of the powerboat had a bad knee. “A year ago, with his own hands, he reset his knee which had been knocked completely out of joint. Even Rebecca was suffering on this trip, fighting her own tropical intestinal parasite.”

“Somehow they will have to find enough gasoline to get them to their destination, 58 miles northwest to Temotu. Then reverse everything to get back to Duff Island where their journey began. Their ordeal is a long way from over, yet far easier than if our paths had not crossed in the middle of an ocean.”

Courtesy of latitude38.com, where you can also see more photos.

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