Saturday, January 16, 2021

Montserrat

Montserrat volcano erupting over town of Plymouth.  PHOTOS BY Francis Diebler

Montserrat volcano erupting over town of Plymouth. PHOTOS BY Francis Diebler

CRUISING LIFE

Frances Diebler

hfdiebler@gmail.com

We stayed one day too long on Nevis. The Trade winds began to build up and we would have to plow to windward to go on to the next island which was Montserrat. We decided to stay one more and moved GRENDEL to Pinney Beach anchorage. This too was a roadstead, but at least there was a beach lined with coconut palms at the water’s edge and a huge volcanic peak soaring skyward in the center of it all. We thought we could beach the dingy and walk ashore. No! We couldn’t do that either as the surge was rather strong and the drop was too deep to walk the dingy ashore.

Since the high pressure system was fully entrenched with no sign of letting up, we said, “Forget about waiting for weather. Let’s get out of here!” And so we did! Montserrat was not that far away.

Montserrat harbor is known to be the “rollingest” anchorage in the Caribbean and we were not to be disappointed. We had a wet and bumpy ride from Nevis to Old Road Bay, Montserrat . Old Road Bay is north of Plymouth, the capital city. Finally at anchor, we hoped for the best that the swell coming in would subside. We couldn’t even launch the dinghy, so we stayed aboard. During the night, the wind just shrieked down off the mountain at night making a loud rumbling noise that sounded like a freight train. We had to close all the hatches just to dampen the sound. This kind of wind is called “katabatic” which are winds that slide down the mountains at night when there is a strong pressure gradient as there was this time. On top of all this, Montserrat had an active volcano eruption a year or so ago and it was still spewing out black smoke which hung over the island peaks. Morning

Opposite side of Plymouth, on the far side of Montserrat more than a year later showing smoke and the lava trail to the sea.

Opposite side of Plymouth, on the far side of Montserrat more than a year later showing smoke and the lava trail to the sea.

could not come soon enough so we could leave this “anchorage from HELL” and be on our way to either Antigua or Guadeloupe depending on wind direction. When we woke the next morning our deck was covered in ash from the volcano. Yes, it was time to move on.

Monserrat is a small island only 39 square miles. The local people are said to be very welcoming to visiting sailors. Their livelihood depends on agriculture and tourism. The island was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo. At that time much of the island’s income was from tourists. We learned from other cruisers that the island is moving toward recovery.

The island of Montserrat was settled by Irish settlers who arrived from St. Kitts in the early 1630’s. As the years went by, sugar became the main crop.

Plymouth was the only port of entry at the time we were there. Since we did not go ashore, I am not writing about the town as we did not experience it firsthand. However, as we sailed by we could see it was an attractive Caribbean city. Unfortunately, less than a year after this time, the volcano had a massive eruption which buried the town in 15 feet of lava. Included in my photos is one that we took many months later on the far side of the island, opposite the town of Plymouth. As you might be able to see, the lava created a long flowing scar on the opposite side of the mountain as it did to the town of Plymouth.

For more and current information on Montserrat, go online and check it out. I am not writing, “How To” or “Where To”. I am only writing the stories and experiences we had when we were there.

Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.

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