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'A Nice Break From Everything': Two Men Rescued After Drifting in Open Sea for 29 Days - Report

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The men drifted for 29 days, surviving on oranges they had packed for the voyage, coconuts they picked from the sea, and rainwater they collected with a piece of canvas, until they eventually saw a fisherman off the coast of New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Two Solomon Islands nationals were rescued off the coast of Papua New Guinea, about 400 kilometers from where their trip began, as their GPS tracker stopped working shortly after they encountered a sea storm, the local SIBC News reported.
On the morning of September 3, the men, identified by the outlet as Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni, set out from Mono Island in Western Province, Solomon Islands, in a small, 60-horsepower boat. Using the west coast of Vella Lavella Island and Gizo Island to their left as a guide, the two reportedly intended to go 200 kilometers south to the village of Noro on New Georgia Island.

"We have done the trip before and it should have been OK," Nanjikana told the outlet in his mother tongue, per the Guardian's translation.

But the Solomon Sea, like many in the Pacific region, is famously unpredictable and stormy, even for a very experienced sailor.
So, when the seamen's navigational system was challenged by the turbulent skies, they opted to wait out the storm by turning down their engine to save fuel until they could resume their journey. However, torrential rains and winds would cause their rudderless sailboat to veer off course, and their GPS to malfunction, stranding them 400 kilometers northwest from their starting point on Mono Island.
“When the bad weather came, it was bad, but it was worse and became scary when the GPS died,” he said. “We couldn’t see where we were going and so we just decided to stop the engine and wait, to save fuel."
For the next 29 days, both unfortunate men prayed for their lives and hoped they would live to see land again.
Completely disoriented, they reportedly drifted towards Papua New Guinea's territorial seas with the help of the wind, and on the 27th day, they sighted an island in the distance. New Britain Island is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago, which is part of the island nation.
By the 29th day, the sailors managed to get much closer to the island, despite the weather and sea current. They saw a fisherman in his wooden canoe in the distance and waved while shouting, but were not immediately noticed. They started the engine and throttled towards the fisherman with the last drops of fuel they had, until their fuel ran out and they could not proceed any farther.
CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / Stefan Krasowski / Tasivorongo Point
Tasivorongo Point - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.10.2021
Tasivorongo Point
Luckily for both distressed adventurers, the fisherman spotted them and was able to tow their boat to the shore.
“We didn’t know where we were but did not expect to be in another country,” Nanjikana is quoted as saying.
According to the report, the boat crew was so weak that they had to be carried off the boat and into a nearby house when they landed in Pomio, Papua New Guinea on October 2.
At the moment, both sailors reportedly are staying with the local resident who sheltered them after a medical examination and is helping them gain strength to return home. And the authorities of the Solomon Islands are said to be working to ensure their return.
However, Nanjikana reportedly said he learned some valuable lessons from the incident, including how to take a breather from the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I had no idea what was going on while I was out there. I didn’t hear about COVID-19 or anything else," he said. "I look forward to going back home but I guess it was a nice break from everything."

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