Despite many sailors avoiding Montserrat due to the anchorages being pretty rolley at times, we ventured in to the lagoon of the main anchor area of Little Bay. This is gradually developing as a town, as a result of many Montserratians de-camping from other areas of the island such as the main town of Plymouth which is now a danger zone and abandoned as a result of the volcano digging the town deep down in thick lava ash. It is quite a site to see how the island has been affected and we took a day trip with a knowledgeable local taxi driver who told us all about how it had affected the island. The main golf course in what is known as ‘Zone 2’ can no longer be seen and this zone prohibits entry at night. It is clear that many people have lost or abandoned their beautiful homes and the island is lush with nature and tranquil as a result of the lack of residents. It is a double edged sword where the suffering of the locals has been to the benefit of nature as it thrives in its untouched playground. Along the coast line, we picked up natural pumice stones and ventured to see what is left of some of the houses in the area previously known as the Beverly Hills of Montserrat. We were greeted by a roof and a top window which was quite something to see as the lower floors were deep underground. It is very weird peering through the windows of what has been left behind. To give a scale of the impact, before the volcano 25,000 people have now been reduced to 5,000 with little indication of when the volcano will tire itself out – many have been given sanctuary by the British government, and other have fled to Antigua. The prediction of a flow for 5 years is now some 15 years on with regular sporadic volcanic explosions – the last one being in January 2010 which was one of the worst. This has lead to groups of academic geologists camping on the island to discuss their perplexed thoughts on how long the volcano will continue for. As a result, there is an observatory which we visited and gives great views of the volcano and island. We also went on a walk up long and winding hills to see over the other half of the island (including Portsmouth) which is in the ‘no go’ zone. To say it was quite an experience is an understatement!
Aside of volcanoes, the island is also famous for the legendary Beatles Manager, George Martin who opened up his famous Ace studios at the end of the 1970’s which has seen some of our best artists of modern times record legendary hits. Names include Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Michael Jackson to name a few. After Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, the recording studio started to diminish as it was clear that lack of electricity was a real problem to some of the expensive equipment which could not weather the elements of island life. The studio itself is now pretty much a shell overlooking the Beverley Hills – itself untouched by the ash, but overlooking its not so lucky neighbours. George Martin still has a house which he allows some of the locals to run as a guest house which is well known on the island. He apparently visits every January and this was one of the reasons we were not unfortunately able to go and explore his deserted studio. This said, the local beach bar next to our mooring was actually from the recording studio and given to the owner by George Martin. It has plaques of the famous stars to make you familiar as you sip your rum and coke, which legend had also acquainted it! Along from the beach bar, is the main Diving / bar area where a lot of the locals – from geologists to naturists exploring the local lizards come to chill. It also bears a British Navy ensign signed by non other than Prince William who visited last year with his crew from HMS Iron Duke and sunk a few rums. We chatted to a local barrister who had left the chambers of Chancery Lane to come and experience the Caribbean way and told us a bit about how different life and law is out here! On the morning of our third day, we said ‘adios’ to Montserrat and its loud funnel winds and swept out towards Guadeloupe. As we passed the uninhabited side of Montserrat – in particular Plymouth, we were hit by the most almighty weather out of nowhere! The clouds were brown and we can only imagine that our crazy downpour was the partially the result of heavy clouds hitting the top of the volcano! After another fairly rough ride, we finally made it to Guadeloupe and dropped our anchor in the sleepy town of Deshaies in the North of the island – with its typically French architecture and ways – but most importantly, decent food!!