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Indrek Lepson


It was a week, or so, before Christmas, 1979, when we departed from Suva, heading for the Solomon Islands, and dropped anchor at a little island on the outer fringe of Kadavu.


The island is so small that it's not even shown on the map of the Fiji Islands, although I'm sure that it is on a larger scale chart, where I met the world's richest man, by his own account.


When we were talking, while sipping kava, he said: "I am the world's richest man. I have everything that I need, and I want for nothing that I don't have. I am a happy man."


And indeed, he was.


He had a modest bungalow, large enough to accommodate his children, or grandchildren, when they visited, which they did by local boats that regularly plied these waters between Suva and the outlying islands, and towns, and stopped at any one of them where the passenger wanted to go, and got picked up on a predetermined day.


When we visited, his two granddaughters Litiana and Setita Vu, about eight and ten years old, were there during school break.

He had goats and chickens, a well-tended vegetable garden and many fruit trees, and the ubiquitous coconut trees.

Close to his island was another, smaller island, that he also owned, which was covered by coconut trees, to where he made regular forays to collect the fallen nuts.

With a mighty whack of his axe, he split open the husk and the nut, and spread them out to dry in the sun, after which he would pry out the dried nut meat, that is known as copra, and placed them into sacks, that he took to Suva and sold to a copra broker.

With the money, he bought sugar, coffee, flour, kerosene, canned goods, and anything else that they would need on the island.

Close to his shack was a natural phenomenon; a subterranean spring that flowed constantly, and he did not have to rely on rain for fresh water.


He had built a cistern around it, like a round tub.

My girlfriend Barbara, who was the cook on the boat, (and is now my wife), and I took a bath in there, while the giggling girls poured water on us, almost akin to a Parrish fantasy.

On the other side of the island was a brilliant white sandy beach, where we took a refreshing dip.


A fair size pen, constructed of bamboo stakes, was nearby, which held many good size fish, that were the surplus of a successful haul, and put there for future meals, and some turtles, for a change in their diet.


Yes, he was a rich man. His fortune was beyond calculating.

Early in the morning, we weighed anchor, and set our course for Honiara.


Preparing for Christmas, I had broken off a branch from the Suva yacht club's Christmas tree, and took some small ornaments.


Using "festive" paper, I made small presents for everybody, that I bought in Suva for this purpose.

Along the way, the engine packed up, and a day out from Honiara, around ten at night, under a full moon, and under full sail, we ground to a halt on a reef.

After three days, we were hauled off by a WW2 landing craft, and towed to Honiara.


I'll write about this episode separately.

I left the Connie in Honiara, and with Barbara, took a local boat to Kolombangara island, where we picked up a 40 foot steel cutter, that the owner wanted to be delivered to New Zealand.

While we were in the Solomons, a fierce cyclone hit Fiji, and devastated the outlying islands.

On our way to New Zealand, we sailed past the outer Fijian archipelago, and were shocked to see the destruction that the storm had wrought.


The palm trees were flattened, as if from a bomb blast, and If any of the islands were inhabited, there was no sign of it, and we wondered: how did our friend on that little island fare?

Whether one's fortune is on a small palm studded Eden in the South pacific, or on Wall Street in a concrete jungle, it can still be blown away.



Paar merendussõna seletust : "weighed anchor" ei ole ankru kaalumine, vaid ankuri ülestõmbamine, "engine packed up" tähendab, et mootor läks rikki.

"Kava" pole just merendussõna, aga kuna on kirjas nimetatud, vajab veidi seletust.


Kava on üks taim, mille juured on purustatud kahe kivi vahel, pandud riidest kotikesse ja pigistatud läbi vee, mis toob kava essentsi välja, nagu kohvi valmistamine.


Kava on õrn narkoos, mis teeb keele ja huuled veidi tuimaks ja annab väikese "buzz’i”. Sellest kirjutan rohkem hiljem. - I.L.


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