Montserrat

It was a hard and lumpy beat cum motorsail from Nevis to Montserrat, it took all day to do the 30 miles or so. We anchored off the town at the Port of Entry, Little Bay along with catamaran Glorious Daze (USA) who had stopped due to gear failure. Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory; the island was first discovered by Columbus in1493. The first European settlers were Irish, including political prisoners after the defeat by Cromwell and the Irish influence is reflected in place names and surnames of current inhabitants. It is referred to as the Emerald Isle, partly due to the vegetation. It is now most famous for the Soufriere Hills volcano which after being quiescent for 400 years erupted in spectacular fashion on 1995, and continued to do do on and off until 2011. We had arranged by email to do a “Volcano Tour” with guide/driver Joe Phillips, who came highly recommended in the Doyle and also by friends Wendy and Dave of Mischief. Joe brings the whole thing alive and imparts a wealth of information with his enthusiasm and his collection of photos from before the eruption. We persuaded the two crew of Glorious Daze to join us on the tour, thereby making new good friends in Anne and Norman. We visited the Volcano observatory and the exclusivo zone at the south end of the island including the old capital, Plymouth. The people were moved out of the south part in 1996. They were told this was just a precaution, just for the weekend. They were never allowed to go back. Damage was caused in some places by Pyroclastic flow which incinerates everything in its path, in others by mud and sand swept down by the volcano and volcanic dust literally burying the land. 3 storey buildings now only have one showing, the golf course is buried 6 m deep, the coast at Old Road Bay has moved 200m to seaward, the airport was destroyed. Other damage has been caused just by the jungle taking over again after the houses were abandoned. There is only a third of the original population now living at the north end of the island (many left for U.K. or other Caribbean islands) there is a new airport and a new main port (Little Bay) where we are anchored. A new industry has arisen from the destruction – they are selling sand and gravel collected from where it come down the mountain, huge machines and trucks go about at the empty end of the island and fill ships at the outer end of the old pier. Some people are going back to,restore their homes. As we sailed away down the Leeward side of the island viewing the sights from the water the wind off the land brought a strong smell of sulphur.

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