16:48.486N 62:12.371W Montserrat
Sunday 16 December 2007
The weather forecasts were looking good for Monday, so I went ashore and to check out. Met Alhambra who were also leaving in the morning. Tenacious I think is sail training ship and the crew on this leg were leaving by plane, so I was behind about 15 of them.
The superyacht races over for this year and they were going to throw away the flags that had the date and sponsors on, I could not see these go to waste so I have got a few. They are a strange comma shape, but I must be able to do something with the plastic material. I also got a small banner that will do as dodgers or a sun shade. I could have got the really big banner, but they were not taking that down until Monday. In support, I bought a T shirt and a hat.
I said goodbye to Trevor, I had parked my dinghy next to their boat.
Perseverance and I went up to Shirley Heights, the highest point in Antigua, where they have a Pan band and a BBQ on Sundays. It went on until 10, but Cruisers Midnight is 9pm and we were back well before then.
Monday 17 December 2007
Up at 5, ready to leave as soon as it was light. Before 6 I started to take up my anchor, there is a warning on the chart to be careful because there are old anchor chains. I had been very careful and a big chain came up on my anchor. The dinghy was on board and I did not want to leave the boat with no one on it and the anchor up, it took me 20 minutes to get the chain off with the boat hook and some manoeuvring. After that slightly stressful start I set off through the bay, the dockyard and the next two bays to get to the reef entrance. The sea looked rough, but perhaps that was just the influence of the reefs.
I was thinking of turning back, but the weather has been so consistently bad I could be here for a long time. It was only 30 miles to Montserrat. The wind was SE, 25+ knots and the swell was rather large. Montserrat was a little backwards in direction, but I went with the wind and the swell as far as I could. There was no calm water to configure the autopilot, as if I thought that would work. I had to helm and the wind started to go down gradually to 23 and then about 25 to 30 miles later it went down to 20s. So much for the forecast Easterly, 14 to 17 knots in a 2.5 metre swell.
I varied my position to cope with the continual effort. I sat on the front of the seat, with my feet braced against the bottom sides of the cockpit and hung on to the wheel. I sat back in the seat and held on to the arms and steered with my feet. I also sat across the seat with one foot bracing me and steering with one hand. Memories of the Atlantic Crossing. Despite having to helm and motor it was quite fun most of the time. It would not have been if the wind or swell had been against me. I made it to Montserrat in 6 hours. The wind had managed 29.9 knots and my boat had been doing 4.5 knots. Surfing the waves I registered a speed over the ground of 9.9 knots.
When I was half way between Antigua, where my phone was not working, and Montserrat it rang. It was Jim from Trinidad wanting me to check on Armanella, but I saw Roger check on Sunday. I was helming in a strong wind and a big swell and calmly answering the phone, which was rather cool.
I anchored in Little Bay and had a very tough row in against the strong headwind. It is 72 hours check in and out at the same time and so I do not have to go back. I took a taxi for a tour. There were 2 other yachts in the harbour, but they had already done their tour. The island is just getting back to its feet since the crippling volcano eruptions of the late 90s. I went through the new town that was set up in the NW corner of the island, I saw the wonderful rainforest, drank direct from the mineral spring water that flows through the island. I went up to the volcano observatory and watched the film of the major eruptions, with the capital, Plymouth, and the airport being buried under ash. I went down to what used to be the old harbour and was now land from the lava and mud flows.
25 per cent of the people have come back, but there is still a huge amount planned yet to do. The volcano is not expected to cause any more damage and not to the area that the people have moved to since the top blew off. It is a sobering reminder of when nature blows her top then you don’t get in the way. It is a pity that the island seems to have fallen off the tourist map, no ferry, small planes from Antigua, no cruise boats and very few yachts. I think I could live here, perhaps I should buy while property is cheap.
When I got back both boats had gone, I moved to the anchorage round from the harbour and one boat was here. I will try to pick up a forecast to decide what to do tomorrow. I have had a long 12 hours and will go to bed early.
16:48.486N 62:12.371W Montserrat