Happily spluttering and chugging, the prehistoric outboard clung to the stern of our wooden dug-out like some half drowned mechanical rodent. Its salt incrusted workings exposed to the slate gray sky, the little engine valiantly propelled us over each mountainous wave towards the threatening clouds, fat and cold with rain. In the distance the black / green mass of Simbo – the “Magical Island of the Solomon” – appeared and disappeared in the swell, ghost-like in the curtains of rain.
Once in the lea of the island, the swell dropped and our speed increased, the bow wave disturbing hundreds of flying fish, a blur of tail propelling them across the water like miniature fighter planes. On rainbow wings of gossamer one inquisitive aquanaut dipped his wing slightly and flew parallel to us, for long seconds his strangely human eye seemed to appraise me. Then effortlessly he changed direction and skimmed off across the waves before sliding under the surface fifty metres away.
As we negotiated a small swell that washed over Simbo’s reef, the last of the rain was carried out to sea by the freshening trade wind and the welcome sun bathed the lagoon in warm light. The otherwise perfect reflection of steep hills and vibrant green jungle was distorted by our wake as we knifed across the crystal expanse towards a crumbling stone jetty. In the distance yellow stained cliffs betrayed the island’s seaside volcano, the pungent odour of sulphur confirming its activity.