Very sorry that the photos didn't go through last
night. I tried and tried, but the sat phone didn't want to take
them. When I find a reliable wi-fi station ashore, I will send
Thursday 14th April We had
a disturbed night with winds howling down off the mountains surrounding the bay
that we were anchored in in NW Guadeloupe. I was up on deck at 2 am
lashing down the dinghy that had flipped up from it's stowed position on deck,
and checking our anchor and position, to make sure that we were not dragging -
and more worrying, that other boats were not dragging into us. No boats
seemed to drag, so turned in again, and eventually the winds dropped at
Most yachties can count the number of really good sails
that they have experienced on two hands. The forecast for today
was for light winds from E'ly direction, so it sounded like quite
an unexciting sail (probably motoring all the way) to come
for our 39 mile trip north to Montserrat. So what a wonderful surprise
when , against all expectations, the forecast was wrong! It remained
cloudy (but the drizzle and rain had finally stopped after two days), so
the temp was still pleasant. After a brief row ashore for breakfast we
weighed anchor at 9.30 am and we soon realised that the
next boat in the anchorage were frantically waving at us - it was our
immediate neighbours from Las Palmas - at the start of the ARC in November
- a Dutch couple who we had only briefly seen after the ARC finished in
December. So we circled their boat for a chat and then set off NNW for the
'Emerald Isle of the Caribbean'. We hoisted sail and soon the wind
freshened until we had a perfect broad reach sail all the way with 15 - 20 knots
of wind on the beam in calm seas. 'Catou' was doing 7 - 8 knots
nearly all the way.
Montserrat is known as 'The Emerald isle of the
Caribbean' - I used to travel here regularly prior to a series of
dreadful natural disasters. On entering the island, your passport was (and
still is) stamped with a green shamrock! A strong Irish connection - which
is still fostered today. 300 years ago the Irish Catholics in St. Kitts
didn't get on with the British Protestants, and ended up in this charming gem of
an island. It developed Irish connections which are still here
today. I used to have a customer called Mr. Dublin, and a buyer at another
company was called Mr. Irish - and there is a Cork Hill and
a Kinsale district and so on.......
In the 1980's the island had a famous recording studio
where the big names in the pop world would come and record their albums.
The studio was owned by Sir George Martin - of Beatles fame, and apparently in
those days is was quite possible to walk round any corner in the island's
capital of Plymouth and bump into Paul MCartney or Mick Jagger or some such pop
idol of the time. Sadly, all those days are long gone now.
Montserrat was hit by one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit any Caribbean
island in the early 1990's (Hurricane Hugo). Winds touched 200 MPH and the
hurricane stopped over the island for nearly 12 hours and blew everything
apart. The next day not a blade of grass - or a leaf on a tree was
left. I remember the owner of the hotel I used to stay in telling me that
the vertical wooden timber pillars holding the hotel bar roof on had been
painted every year for the 16 years that they had been at the hotel, and they
were stripped to bare wood after Hugo had struck!
As with all Caribbean people, the
Montserratians are a very resilient bunch, and they soon started to
re-build their lives and homes. But then an even bigger disaster
struck. In 1995 the dormant volcano in the southern 'Soufriere hills'
began to grumble and soon huge eruptions followed. The lovely capital,
Plymouth was quickly abandoned as the town was filled with ash. Lava
and ash flows spread down from the Soufriere hills and across the southern part
of the island. The whole southern end of the island was abandoned and a
huge exclusion zone was enforced. The population dropped from about 11,000
people in !995 to just over 4,000. Many went to England (Montserrat is one
of the few British colonies left in this region). Eventually in 2003 the
huge volcanic dome collapsed and the volcano showed every sign of going to
sleep. As clear-ups started and some house rebuilding got going, new
eruptions in 2006 and 2008 put paid to further activities - and that's how it
remains today. A new town in the north has developed, and we hope to visit
it tomorrow and meet some old customers while we are here.
As we closed the south coast this afternoon we came up
past the old capital of Plymouth, downwind of the volcano. The scale
of the ash flows and the devastation is amazing to
see. Plymouth has disappeared - just the tops of the
taller modern buildings still show. It's an abandoned ghost town
clinging to the hillside. We have some photos that we will try and
put on the blog very soon. The smell of sulphur, even 1 1/2 miles off the
coast was quite distinct. The whole southern area is like a black/white
moonscape picture amongst the green surrounding hills.
In the early 1990's Sylvie was out here with me in
Montserrat and we went on an expedition right into the Soufriere crater - I
might not have been so enthusiastic if I'd known it was about to blow up
within 3 or 4 years!
Arrived in the anchorage - only one other yacht - and it
was a Malo like ours - so they were most surprised to see us!
So we asked them on board for a drink and then back to their
boat for supper. It is a Malo 42 called 'Dreamcatcher of
Must go to bed!