Exploring the Solomon Islands onboard MISCHIEF Yacht with Captain Mike.

Having sailed over 65 countries, sailing the Solomon Islands was a long-awaited endeavor for Captain Mike Hein - and, aboard MISCHIEF, it didn't disappoint. With stunning scenery, myriad islands, spectacular diving and fascinating cultural dynamics, the Solomon Islands make for a superb cruising and charter destination, writes Captain Mike Hein— especially, he notes, when your home for the intrepid journey is the 53-metre charter yacht MISCHIEF.

Picture yourself amidst the azure waters of the Solomon Islands, where lazy days and lively adventure mix to create the ultimate yachting holiday. Now, picture yourself on the perfect yacht. It's a match made in heaven or - as in our case - made in the Baglietto shipyard in Italy. The yacht was 53-metre MISCHIEF and the adventure an Ahoy Club charter. Having visited over 65 countries, this voyage was a long-awaited endeavor both for Mike and our intrepid crew. The Solomon Islands, nestled approximately 1,000 nautical miles northeast of Australia, consist of six major islands and over 900 smaller ones. Honiara, the capital, proudly gained independence as a republic in 1978.

The region holds a significant place in history, with the famous Battle of Guadalcanal fought between Japanese forces and American troops during World War Il. Today, it beckons with the allure of thrilling dive wrecks, including the renowned White Beach, which we had the privilege of exploring. Our bridge team eagerly anticipated crafting an itinerary that would exceed the expectations of our seasoned charter guests, and so we meticulously planned our route through this Melanesian paradise, utilising a comprehensive toolkit of navigation resources, including everything from Google Earth and the trip-planning app Bon Voyage, to notes courtesy of Giles Smith, captain of Helios 3.

The charter offered the perfect opportunity for our deck team to reconnect with traditional coastal navigation methods, radar and sounder technology, as we yearned for sonar capabilities. While the electronic aids were indispensable, they were not infallible. Nevertheless, they collectively enabled us to venture into numerous unique locations, making every moment of the voyage a treasured memory. What's more, our seasoned yachting displayed a remarkable adventurous spirit. When our yacht encountered water too shallow for passage, they eagerly embraced tender excursions for closer exploration of pristine beaches, coral reefs and picturesque villages along the way.

We were also fortunate to have Sunga Boso, an experienced divemaster from Munda, as our invaluable guide. His wealth of local knowledge and genuine camaraderie with the locals we encountered along the way enhanced our journey significantly. He expertly negotiated the anchorage fees, landing fees and excursion charges with property owners, ensuring a smooth experience that was culturally enriching. Navigating these waters was no small feat, with our anchoring depth often exceeding 40 metres due to the island's vertical reef systems. Our intention was to travel during daylight hours, however nature's occasional squalls and strong currents demanded adjustments to our well-laid plans.

MISCHIEF chose the southern route to the picturesque Roderick Bay instead in order to visit both Chief John Ruka and the iconic Pacific Adventurer shipwreck, which ran aground on Mid Reef in Sandfly Passage and provides a unique snorkeling, zip line and diving adventure. Buena Vista Island, located to the north of Nggela, offered its own intrigue. Local dynamics with Chief Alfred and various land disputes played out within the village, and we met various individuals vying for influence. Nearby Seu Island — where we anchored stern-to to a couple of palm trees and set up a beach BBQ, volleyball games and shore excursions for our guests and crew - captured a very special place in our hearts. The Russell Islands, located just west of Guadalcanal, were another spot that quickly became a love affair after we anchored near the renowned White Beach and met Chief Basil. We also made night-time entries to Mbanika Island from the east and Kilomolent Bay from the west before our journey took us to Folau, Ta, Mbutata Island and Karumoulun Island, where we were treated to traditional dances and village visits. Our encounters with the landowners and village chiefs helped us understand the local hierarchy - for example, we met Chief John Sitto, who held the highest influential position within the Russell Islands.

Our voyage led us on to the northern tip of Santa Isabel Island, where we explored both the mesmerising Kologilo Passage and the interior of Bates Island, and as we journeyed through these pristine waters, we couldn't help but notice the promise of fantastic fishing opportunities with commercial fishing boats dotting the area.

From there, it was a hop and a visit to Wagina Island, where our initial anchorage would have been good in southerly winds, but with the swell and winds backing east, we relocated to the more sheltered and picturesque Rob Roy Island as dusk descended. This new anchorage not only offered protection from the elements, but also provided the perfect setting for immersive sightseeing amidst the lush mangroves near Mananguni Island.

The true highlight of our voyage was the Hamilton Channel, an area of unparalleled beauty that left an indelible mark on each of us. This breathtaking waterway served as the gateway to Ondolou Island, and the following day we made our way to a tranquil river anchorage nestled inside the Gibson Islands. The entire region offered endless opportunities for exploration, and Morovo Lagoon, another hidden gem, beckoned us with more breathtaking beauty. Our sojourn in this idyllic lagoon was brief unfortunately, but | made a mental note to return and take the time to explore its enchanting depths.

Interestingly - and reinforcing the need for navigational vigilance - our entrance in the southwest near Ruja Island revealed depths contrary to the charts, and the harbour’s floor was adorned with the sunken remnants of three World War II ships. The Mbili Passage offered a well-marked and beautiful anchorage, while anchoring on the north side - near two small round islands and an untouched sand beach — proved unforgettable. The journey through the pristine lagoon to Karumaneke Island was also a memorable one, with eight fibre-glass pangas arriving at our vessel and transforming the swim platform into a vibrant market.

Ghizo emerged as a picturesque and multifaceted destination, boasting both a national airport for cargo shipments and the tranquil Lemba Bay, which is idea for divers and fishing enthusiasts. In the south, Kabolo - affectionately nicknamed Kennedy Island — paid homage to the famed PT-109 incident during John F Kennedy's naval service in World War II. Here, you can find Fatboys, a delightful resort with a restaurant and bar built over the lagoon offering an experience that is definitely worth savouring. Nearby Naru Island provided an excellent anchorage as well as snorkeling. Noro, with its convenient fuel wharf, supplied us with high-quality fuel courtesy of Markwarth Oil. Customs and immigration clearance for Papua New Guinea, efficiently arranged by the GS Agency, proved both seamless and hassle-free. Our voyage also included procuring drums of petrol to replenish our jetski and rescue-boat fuel reserves.

Heading south from Noro, we navigated through Noro Passage and Diamond Narrows. Although time constraints prevented us from fully exploring this region, the scenery was hailed unanimously as truly spectacular. Anchoring near Nusaghele Island, Skull Island and a visit to Lola Island both presented unique experiences. The main town of Munda has an airport, and provided another highlight for guests and crew with the capture of a sailfish while fishing! Careful attention to tidal conditions is advised when crossing the bar as we found ourselves navigating in just 5 metres.

Pacific Provisions ensured the smooth provisioning of guest food and supplies from Australia, which were flown via cargo jet from Brisbane to Honiara, cleared by GS Agencies, and then delivered to our vessel. A few items, including honey and salami, were seized during biosecurity inspections, so it’s definitely worth thinking about what you want to bring in before you decide to ship it and also check the appropriate regulations just to make sure. Our remarkable voyage on Mischief 1 captured the very essence of adventure, unveiling the hidden treasures and inspiring vistas of the Solomon Islands, while each stop along the way revealed unique cultural insights, enchanting waters and stunning natural wonders. It ended not with a sense of sorrow that it was over but with a growing anticipation as we contemplated future voyages to explore these idyllic waters further. And, we were of the same mind in wanting to encourage other enthusiasts to embark on their own maritime journey in this enchanting realm. What awaits you is the perfect combination of lazy days and lively adventure — the ultimate yachting holiday, in fact.