Volcanic destruction on Montserrat

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Sat 12 Feb 2011 01:36
16:48.509N 62:12.427W Rendezous Bay, Montserrat, Friday night

Today was a proper long day on the water. We set off at 0900, said goodbye to Tod on the Nordhavn and set off South past the tip of St Kitts and then along the West side of Nevis. We were sheltered from the swells until we poked our noses out beyond the southern tip of Nevis and then things got rolly. From then on, we were hard on the wind all day. We had the full main and the jib up all day so we were making good speed but it's about 30 miles of open water over to the northern tip of Montserrat and we couldn't quite lay the ideal course.

I was on the helm all day as Kali wasn't feeling too well. I felt really good so I was pleased with that as it was the kind of conditions that often make me feel queasy. It was a lovely sunny day, as ever, and we had Redonda to look at for much of the way across. It's a tiny island (or a large rock) that's been claimed by Antigua despite lying between Nevis and Montserrat. There are other similar islands around in the area but they don't quite make it above the water and, as we were passing over one of these, we saw a whale swimming nearby. They love steep underwater inclines so he must have been feeding there. I'm not sure which species as we couldn't see his body in the swell and his blow was getting swept away by the wind but I think it was another Sperm Whale.

>From that point on, we started to close with the land of Montserrat. We needed to clear in at Little Bay on the northern tip but I couldn't lay that course so we sailed on towards the southern part of the island with the swell decreasing all the time as we got some shelter from the land. The South of Montserrat is an exclusion zone, both on land and at sea as a result of the volcanic destruction wrought there in 1997. As we got closer, we could see that the North of the island was all lush and forested whereas the South was covered in grey ash. Closer in still and we could see the town of Plymouth buried beneath the ash with just the tops of the buildings sticking out. It was a chilling sight, even at a distance of 3 miles.

We tacked as we reached the exclusion zone and headed back North to get anchored up and cleared in. It's a tiny port and, as we approached, I could see half a dozen yacht masts along with some local fishing boats, a barge and a tug anchored. Alongside the docks was a small coaster and there is a channel marked on the chart to give the coasters room to come and go. We anchored up near the other yachts in a good spot and were just about relaxing when a guy came rushing over in a rib and told us to move as the coaster was about to leave. He could easily have got out with us there but you don't like to argue with the locals.

We hauled up the anchor again and went to look around for another spot and then noticed the tugboat skipper waving furiously at us so we went over to see what he wanted. He thought we were about to hit submerged rocks and I'm sure there are rocks around there but I was being very careful with the forward-looking sonar so we weren't going to hit any. Still, it put us off that anchorage and the only even slightly acceptable spot had been taken by a catamaran in the meantime. We tried anchoring again but I wasn't happy with it atall so we picked up yet again and had a think. I was really starting to run out of enthusiasm but thought I'd have a look at the chart again. Just as well as the next bay North was also marked as an anchorage.

We headed up there - only half a mile or so - and it's beautiful. There are rocky cliffs to one side and scrub-covered hills to the other with a single house in the middle. The house must be reached only by a path as there's no room for a road through the steep hillsides. The beach is golden sand and the whole place looks a lot more attractive than the scruffy port, even if it's not so well protected so we're getting rolled around a bit. By the time we were anchored snugly, I was totally knackered having been on watch for 8 hours straight in big seas. I collapsed in the cockpit with a cup-a-soup while Andrea made some lovely pasta and sauce. Now we've eaten, chatted and watched Battlestar so it's almost time for bed, even though it's not yet 9pm.


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