THE last surviving mission boat currently serving Western Province will mark its 75th year in operation next year.
That’s according to Cyril Vavozo, 79, one of the men who continues to look after the boat over the past seven decades.
Speaking to this paper recently during a visit by the Solomon Star to Meresu, near Kukudu, Kolombangara where the boat is located, Mr Vavozo who is currently in-charge of the boat said, the boat will mark its 75th year in service next year.
“Next year will mark the 75th year of MV Varivato since it started operating in Solomon Islands. This year marks its 74th year.”
Mr Vavozo said, although there is plan to host a celebrate to mark the boat’s anniversary, the final say will come from the Solomon Islands Mission (SIM) head office in Honiara.
The boat was built after the second world war as a medical boat and was named MV Minado (Happiness in Marovo language) at that time.
Later it was renamed MV Varivato by Late Pr Ragoso Senior which means ‘Give Life’ in Marovo dialect.
Since then it has been used to transport missionaries and teachers around the Western Province and the Papua New Guinea Mission.
There were other missionary boats operating in the Solomons in the past, but in the early 1970s most of them have been sold, leaving Mr Varivato.
Today, the boat continues to transport mission workers and students between the various islands of Western Province.
It is also available for charter services where schools and communities can hire it.
During the recent visit by the Suva-based Trans Pacific Union Mission President Pr Maveni Kaufononga and his wife to Western Province, the boat was also used to transport Pr Maveni and his delegation from Nusatupe to Gizo.
It also transported students from JAC and Kukudu from Gizo their schools mid this year this year.
Early this month, the boat was chartered to bring YAPA members from Buri, Ranoggah to Kukudu for the recent YAPA program.
“The boat is still useful and continue to serve the church and this province,” Mr Vavozo said.
He said, revenue generated from the charter services and other trips ordered by the Solomon Islands Mission (SIM) helped to sustain the boat’s operation.
Mr Vavozo attributed ongoing refitting, maintenance and repair works which had resulted in the survival of the mission boat to this very day.
Having a church owned slipway Meresu also helped to ensure maintenance are done to the boat when required.
The boat can travel at around ten knots and can carry about 50 passengers or so.
It had two captains, one crew and an engineer.
By MOFFAT MAMU