Montserrat

Turtle playing off the stern of Beatitude before departing Nevis. It's raining.

Turtle playing off the stern of Beatitude before departing Nevis. It’s raining.

On Friday the 13th, around 6:30 a.m., we released our mooring lines just off Pinneys Beach and began our day’s journey from Nevis to the mountainous island of Montserrat. The six hour, thirty-four nautical mile, passage was both uninspiring and uncomfortable. On a gray, overcast morning, we were jostled and pounded by motorsailing into four-foot waves with a short period and fifteen knots of wind. I mistakenly thought that we were through with all of this bashing to windward when we reached the Virgin Islands. I failed to take into account the fact that the trade winds shift to a more southeasterly direction in the spring. Since a journey southward through the leeward islands means southeastward passages, it means that we have still been on a most uncomfortable point of sail. How I dream of downwind sailing! Ah… Someday!

Redonda Island, between Nevis and Montserrat

Redonda Island, between Nevis and Montserrat

Approaching Montserrat

Approaching Montserrat

The only excitement on the passage (other than things falling off shelves and breaking inside) was a fish on the line. Less than half an hour after our departure, a dolphinfish hit the starboard fishing line. But, alas, while reeling him in, he leapt into the air, freeing himself from captivity. When we arrived at Little Bay, the only port of entry in Montserrat, we began to lower our mainsail in preparation for anchoring. The only thing was — it did not budge when released. The halyard had jumped off the sheave in the block and jammed. Much to my consternation, this would require me going up the mast to try to remedy the situation. I usually use the main halyard to be pulled up the mast, but since that was now unavailable, I had to use the topping lift. With my life in her hands, Cindy did a great job hoisting and lowering me up and down the mast. The task was a little difficult, 65 feet in the air, at the top of a mast which was swaying back and forth in a gusty breeze exacerbated by the roll caused by the wakes of passing boats. Eventually, I was able to use the gennaker halyard to take some tension off the main halyard and free the line from its entrapment beside the sheave.

Up the mast to remedy the jammed main halyard.  Frigate bird circling overhead.

Up the mast to remedy the jammed main halyard. Frigate bird circling overhead.

Almost done.

Almost done.

With that little bit of excitement past, we dinghied into the town dock to clear in. We first paid our fees at the port authority. Then, we completed the paper work and received clearance at customs (which was in the same building). Lastly, we had to walk next door to clear with port security. The whole process was pretty easy. We then walked a few hundred feet more to sit down at the Time Out Bar and Grill for a light lunch and wifi.

Montserrat is known as the Emerald Island of the Caribbean due to its resemblance to Ireland and also to the Irish Ancestry of its inhabitants.  In the early 1600's, the Irish were the first to colonize the island.  They left St. Kitts due to persecution from the Protestants.  Still, the majority of Montserratians are of Irish ancestry, including our tour guide, Joe.  His grandmother is Irish.

Montserrat is known as the Emerald Island of the Caribbean due to its resemblance to Ireland and also to the Irish Ancestry of its inhabitants. In the early 1600’s, the Irish were the first to colonize the island. They left St. Kitts due to persecution from the Protestants. Still, the majority of Montserratians are of Irish ancestry, including our tour guide, Joe. His grandmother is Irish.

Beatitude  at anchor in Little Bay.

Beatitude at anchor in Little Bay.

The day of our arrival in Montserrat

The day of our arrival in Montserrat

Dinghying back to Beatitude after checking out the snorkeling along the cliff  wall.

Dinghying back to Beatitude after checking out the snorkeling along the cliff wall.

Sunset on night one in Montserrat.

Sunset on night one in Montserrat.

A Little Bay Sunset Spectacular.

A Little Bay Sunset Spectacular.

On Saturday morning, we donned our swimsuits and took Dalí over to the north side of the anchorage which is bordered by a cliff and fallen rocks. We dropped anchor and I hopped into the warm, clear water for a morning snorkel. It was a wonderful spot. There was no current or waves. Beneath me were numerous large boulders which had fallen from the cliff face. Swimming in and around these were a variety of reef fish and a cute turtle. Cindy sunned on our dinghy while I snorkeled. She wasn’t quite ready to try to get back into Dalí with her recently replaced knee. In the afternoon, we had arranged for an island tour with Joe Phillips, a taxi driver/tour guide recommended in the cruisers guide book. For four hours, we were driven around the island viewing the sights. The primary tourist attraction on the island for the past few years is the active volcano that wiped out most of the island a few years ago.

Snorkeling in Little Bay.

Snorkeling in Little Bay.

Cindy wants to know if you see the face in the rock above me? :)

Cindy wants to know if you see the face in the rock above me? 🙂

Cindy in Dalí while I snorkel.

Cindy in Dalí while I snorkel.

Snorkeling in Little Bay, Montserrat.

Snorkeling in Little Bay, Montserrat.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

Turtle!

Turtle!

Same Turtle.

Same Turtle.

I dove to 30' beneath the boat to retrieve our winch handle which I dropped the night before while winching up the dinghy.

I dove to 30′ beneath the boat to retrieve our winch handle which I dropped the night before while winching up the dinghy.

Cindy enjoying the refreshing waters of Montserrat.

Cindy enjoying the refreshing waters of Montserrat.

The Soufriere Hills Volcano had lain dormant for over 100 years before erupting again in 1995. Since then there have been several eruptions sending pyroclastic flows (a mixture of hot gasses and rock) and mudflows down its slopes and into nearby towns. The capital, Plymouth, was buried beneath several meters of ash and rock. More than half the island has been rendered uninhabitable and two-thirds of the population has left the island since 1995. Joe, our guide, took us into abandoned towns, including his own hometown, Cork Hill, to see how once thriving areas are now overgrown by forest. We could not go into Plymouth or some of the other places in the area which were completely destroyed by the volcano. The last major explosion of the volcano occurred in 2010. At this point, the mountain is a smoking, steaming monster awaiting its next opportunity to wreak havoc on the nice people of Montserrat.

A view of  Beatitude at anchor in Little Bay.

A view of Beatitude at anchor in Little Bay.

A look up into the Central Mountains of Montserrat.

A look up into the Central Mountains of Montserrat.

AIR Studios, Montserrat (now abandoned).  Beatles producer, George Martin, built this studio in the mid-70s.  Jimmy Buffett , Dire Straits ,Paul McCartney, Rush, The Police, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath,  Little River Band, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton, and Luther Vandross all recorded Albums here.  Elton John recorded three.  The studio was destroyed by Category 4 Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

AIR Studios, Montserrat (now abandoned). Beatles producer, George Martin, built this studio in the mid-70s. Jimmy Buffett , Dire Straits ,Paul McCartney, Rush, The Police, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Little River Band, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton, and Luther Vandross all recorded Albums here. Elton John recorded three. The studio was destroyed by Category 4 Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Old Bay, now extending two football fields further out into the sea thanks to the Soufriere Hlils Volcano.

Old Bay, now extending two football fields further out into the sea thanks to the Soufriere Hlils Volcano.

At the Volcano Observatory with the Volcano Behind.

At the Volcano Observatory with the Volcano Behind.

In 1997, people were told to pack bags for the weekend and leave their homes because of the volcano.  They were not allowed to return for almost 20 years.  This is a home we were able to enter that had been abandoned in 1997 and not touched since.

In 1997, people were told to pack bags for the weekend and leave their homes because of the volcano. They were not allowed to return for almost 20 years. This is a home we were able to enter that had been abandoned in 1997 and not touched since.

Clothes still in the bedroom closet.

Clothes still in the bedroom closet.

Dishes in the sink.

Dishes in the sink.

This doll was left behind.

This doll was left behind.

A view of the edge of the volcano and the Plymouth pyroclastic flow.

A view of the edge of the volcano and the Plymouth pyroclastic flow.

A look at partially buried homes from what was once the capital of Montserrat.  Plymouth has been called the Pompeii of the Caribbean.  It was pyroclastic flows which also buried Pompeii 2000 years ago.

A look at partially buried homes from what was once the capital of Montserrat. Plymouth has been called the Pompeii of the Caribbean. It was pyroclastic flows which also buried Pompeii 2000 years ago.

Volcanic Ash from Richmond Hill.

Volcanic Ash from Richmond Hill.

This is the third story of a 3-story house.  The bottom two stories are buried from pyroclastic flows and mud flows.

This is the third story of a 3-story house. The bottom two stories are buried from pyroclastic flows and mud flows.

This is the home from which Jimmy Buffett wrote the song, Volcano, about the then dormant Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1982.  He was inspired by the view of the volcano from this house.

This is the home from which Jimmy Buffett wrote the song, Volcano, about the then dormant Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1982. He was inspired by the view of the volcano from this house.

Me and Joe, Our Tour Guide in Montserrat

Me and Joe, Our Tour Guide in Montserrat

After our tour, we had dinner on the waterfront while being treated to a brilliantly gorgeous sunset out over Little Bay. Our visit to Montserrat was short but memorable. On Sunday, we would be moving on.

Beautiful sunset on Day 2 in Montserrat.

Beautiful sunset on Day 2 in Montserrat.

Good night, Montserrat.

Good night, Montserrat.

7 thoughts on “Montserrat

  1. I feel so sad for those people!!! Is the ash in your hand what those homes were buried in???? Move to the next stop!!! All that devastation and the water is so clear!! I see the face, Cindy!

  2. I love reading of your adventures and seeing the lovely pictures. However the picture of you 65 ft in the sea with 4ft waves crashing about you is terrifying to me personally. Prayers of safety and good health from Winter Haven FL!

    • Thanks, Michele! Fortunately, when I had to go up the mast, we were in our anchorage. Still some wind and rolly, but, thankfully, not 4 foot waves!

  3. That is something that people live so close to the volcano after it erupted not too long ago! Kind of scary! The sunsets are beautiful ! Especially that last one! It’s nice you were able to get such a nice & informative tour guide! Love you guys !

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