Soltai is a tuna processing & cannery in Noro, Western Province,
The company was originally a Japanese/Solomons joint venture
and fished tuna with pole and line throughout the Solomons
for decades. The operation scaled back during the period of
Ethic Tension and hasn't fished for several years. These launches called Esa or
Bait Boats plied around the country equipped with generator and powerful lights.
Their role was to lure the bait fish the larger pole and line vessels then used to chum
In June 2011, Soltai put out to tender 16 bait boats, all in varying state of dire neglect and disrepair.
There's got to be some treasure amongst this!
I took a punt and submitted a tender.
I won boat No 12, to be renamed the M.V Pagu. LOA 7.8m. Beam 1.9 equipped with
a 24HP Yanmah 2LM diesel engine.
The Gatokae recovery crew ready for action! (left to Right) Kotsi, former Esa boatman and
pole and line fisherman. Hendrick, master mechanic capable of tackling with only minimal resources a two stroke engine or a bulldozer! Not to be easily put off,
we'll get it going he told me, though might take a day or two if it's seized!
Trainee mechanic, Gibson.
Hendrick coaxes life back into the donk. She hadn't been
started in several years, but was new with only minimal hours of operation when the boat
was put up on the hard sometime in the early part of the last decade.
Gibson bails out the bilge from years of sitting under tropical torrents. She was pretty dry
really considering, so the decks must be OK.
Remarkably the engine hadn't ceased and with a liberal dose of oil
quickly loosened up.
Forward of the engine room is a small cabin with room for a
double berth and storage. Some graffiti from her Esa boatmen.
Luckily the brass props had been removed and stowed to
preventing them being stolen for scrap.
Kotsi prepares the straps to lift her out of the junk yard.
Lovely lines with proud a bow.
Pheonix out of the ashes! Flight of the M.V Pagu.
She tastes salt water again. We needed to fill a couple of small holes in the hull
making a temporary bog from resin mixed with talcum powder. Afloat again she passed leak test.
The hardy 24HP Yanmah purring like a kitten, ready for the 10 hour voyage from Noro
around New Georgia to her new home port at Kio Point on island of Gatokae.
Very satisfying to see a lovely little boat rescued with a little TLC and ready for a new life.
The heavily laid-up fibre glass hull needs new gel coat but it will come up nicely.
I hope will be handy work boat for fishing, diving, light cargo like timber and copra. Spacious and comfortable enough for multi day voyages
Capable little ships, these hardy boats plied all around the country
in their bait fishing days. There are still a few in operation and here's a smaller one used daily by Soltai to ferry cannery workers.
Looking for a project!? Catcher boats (ships) from the former pole and line
fleet in need of some serious TLC!