thanks so much for the messages on the sat phone. Really nice to know you're watching and following our progress. Don't know where I've put you're email but wanted to let you know we got them. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org then I can reply. Hope all is well.
A great sail to Montserrat. Wind on the
beam and even with a couple of reefs in both sails we were storming
along at about 7 knots. It was nice to not be fighting to windward
for once. We arrived and anchored in Little bay, Montserrat, just in
time to be able to check in and clear customs. I was very excited
because the stamp they put in your passport in Montserrat is a
shamrock in reference to their Irish heritage.
Montserrat's first European settlers
were Irish Catholics. They arrived from St Kitts in 1630, fleeing
persecution by the Kittian Protestants. A second wave of Irish
settlers arrived in 1649, after Cromwell conquered Ireland. As a
result of this Irish heritage, Montserrat is known as the 'Emerald
Isle' of the Caribbean. The Irish influence is evident in a number of
ways. They are the only place other than Ireland to have St Patrick's
day as a national holiday. In fact they have St Patrick's week and
they have huge celebrations. They are also commemorating a slave
uprising that took place on St Patrick's day in 1768. The story goes
that the slaves decided the Irish landowners would be drunk and
distracted as it was St Patrick's day which was why they picked it.
Pretty smart thinking I reckon. During the week long celebrations
there are a number of parades in which the “Masqueraders”
perform. These are masked street dancers in traditional costumes,
tall head dresses with whips, who dance to the sound of fife and
drum. They also have live string band performances, a kind of music
that has strong similarities to Irish traditional music. We couldn't
quite pick out any remnants of an Irish accent but looking through
the phone book there are more than a few O'Brians, Ryans, Daleys and
of course Sweeneys.
During check in we met Heinrich, a
German sailor who had just arrived into Montserrat with his wife Lisa
on board their yacht, Salzberg 7. Once all the formalities were done
we went to taste the local brew in a nearby bar and make a plan with
Heinrich to do a tour of the Island the next day. There's not very
much in Montserrat other than customs and immigration but there are a
few small buildings, most of which seemed shut. We went into a small,
wooden, yellow building and ordered a few beers and a rum for Pat. We
made a plan with Heinrich to meet him and his wife Lisa the next
morning to take a Taxi tour of the Island with Avalon, a local taxi
driver/tour guide. Sharing the trip shares the cost.
After Heinrich left we got talking to
the only other person in this little yellow bar, about Montserrat,
it's history and it's future. A very interesting guy, Gerard Gray, or
as everyone else that came through called him, Mr Gray. Apparently
quite high up in local politics. He gave us an insight into local
life before and after the volcano eruption. He also explained the St
Patrick's day celebrations and the music that accompanied them. Nay
the bar owner and “Best Cook” put on a CD of some String band and
Masquerade music and we spent a very enjoyable evening listening to
music and talking about Montserrat, Ireland and drinking Guinness!
Next morning we met Lisa and Heinrich
and Avalon to go on a tour of the Island. The night before Mr. Gray
had told us that some parts of the island were still called the
surname of the main landowner or plantation owner and that there was
actually a region or parish called Sweeneys ….. this had to be our
first stop. We drove up to Sweeneys and took a picture beside the
sign, very exciting! It doesn't stop there though. Just beside the sign was a place called
the previous night Mr. Gray had told us that the man who wrote the
song “Feelin Hot Hot Hot”, was Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell MBE,
a Montserratian who lived in Sweeneys. The significance of this will
be lost on most of you. “Hot Hot Hot” was a bit of a theme tune
for my teenage years. It was played at every “Whistlers” disco we
went to, (the local football teams fundraisers and the place to go
when we were about 14/15), I even put together a routine and lots of
people would dance around the church hall doing my steps. Later when
we had out grown the church hall we used to frequent a Greek
restaurant on a Friday night and the little man in the corner used to
do an interesting slightly greek version of it that would normally be
accompanied by us doing the same dance steps but this time standing
on the bar or on the tables. Finding this song had a connection with
a place called Sweeneys was quite the highlight of my visit.
We moved on from Sweeneys to more
Within the space of 10 years,
Montserrat changed beyond recognition. In September 1989, Hurricane
Hugo hit the island damaging over 90% of it's buildings, heavily
affecting the tourist industry which it was so dependant on. Air
Studios set up on the island by Beatles producer George Martin was
badly damaged and closed. In fact the whole island nearly closed but
they slowly recovered until in July 1995, the Soufrieres Hill volcano
erupted and eventually buried the capital Plymouth in more than 12
metres of ash and mud. At the time Plymouth was the only real town on
the island and as a result everything was based around it. The
seaport, airport and much of the industry and agricultural land was
destroyed. Thousands of islanders lost everything; their homes, their
livelihoods and some, their lives.
With the Southern half of the island
now uninhabitable, more than half the population left the island .
They had no jobs, no means of making money and no homes. The
Americans and Canadians that had retired to the island or bought
properties to spend the winter in, disappeared and all that was left
from the 11,000 population before the eruption, was the 4,500 people
that stayed to try and ensure the future of Montserrat. Most had to
move from their homes in the South to the safer Northern part of the
island and begin to build a new house, home and life.
Our tour took us to the edges of the
unsafe area in the South where we could see clearly how much the
landscape had changed. A two storey house buried to it's roof in ash
A sea of
muddy brown dust looking like a dry river bed but was once a road
sign of the golf course and resort the road once led to apart from a
couple of chalets on the hillside.
bay these chalets overlooked has all but disappeared as the debris
spat out by the volcano and washed down to the shore, extends the
coastline by quite some way.
mooring posts that were used to tie boats to the jetty were now quite
someway inland. From the top of Garibaldi hill on the edge of the
exclusion zone we could see the remains of Plymouth, once the capital
of Montserrat. Not much remains of this once bustling city other than
a few roofs.
The docking facilities, the airport, government buildings, hotels, in
fact the whole city, wiped out.
our tour we went back to the little yellow bar in Little bay to see
our friend Sylvia “Nay” (Best Cook) Johnson, where we tasted some
of her Goat water, a kind of stew, like Irish but with Goat. The Best
Cook label is well deserved. We spent the evening there with Heinrich
and Lisa, Nay and a couple of Montserratians, Martin “Fishy”
Freeman and Melissa “no nickname”! There was much talking,
laughing, singing and even some dancing. Heinrich even got a few tips
on how to whine from me, (whining is a somewhat suggestive dancing
normally to reggae or similar carribbean music) …... whether he
wanted them or not! A thoroughly enjoyable evening and any bad heads
the next day were purely down to Nays “Bush Rum” and not any other alcohol consumed , honest.
thing that stood out to us about Montserrat was the spirit of the
people. Having endured so many events that have shaken their way of
life in so many ways they didn't seem to have time for feeling sorry
for themselves or hard done by. Those that had felt this had left the
island, those that stayed had no bad feeling towards Montserrat or
their situation. Stuff happens and you get on with it. This was their
home and they weren't leaving! Yes it was hard at times but best
rewards are often the hardest to achieve. I know we certainly felt at
home in Montserrat and hope that it's future is brighter than it's
here! I'm sitting in the laundry waiting to add the
conditioner, so naturally my thoughts turned to passage making.
I dont like passage making. Or at least I dont think I do.
a passage? Well, anything over a few of days continuous sailing
tends to qualify itself as a passage in my mind. And why don't
I like it? Well....
there is always a sense of apprehension before leaving - is the
weather right? Will we get caught by that storm at the end or will we
just scrape through? Can we do without X, Y and Z or should I do that
now before we go?
all the usual passage making ports, such as Antigua, St Maarten,
Bermuda, The Canaries, the anchorages and bars are full of people
with the same thoughts. The constant drone of conversation
..."I've heard its good to go on Wednesday", "XYZ got
a real dusting on their way down - they went early too", "Its
a bit late to be heading down there, you should have gone weeks ago",
"It was great last week, you should have gone then", "I'd
think about staying here for the season really". Couple
that with the resident yachties, who love nothing more than to throw
petrol onto the fire..."Two boats sunk doing that this time last
year", "There's no wind, you best wait for a month, its
much better then", "Oh, we've never been that way, everyone
seems to have a bad story to tell of that passage", "That
trip is the only one I've ever been violently seasick on"
the drift? Its easy to wind yourself up and forget its really
just a string of day sails without stopping.
is it? Within a few hours of leaving, the apprehension is
forgotten.... to be replaced by on passage worries. These
consist of: The 'What If Worry' - Graphic reconstructions of
tales told in previously mentioned bars, but without the alcohol;
What if X breaks? (which it usually does); Will I be able to
repair it? (Which I usually can); When will it break? (0300 or 0530 -
in the dark and necessitating me ending my watch late or starting it
early); Will those big squalls hit us? (Yes - see times above); Will
the boat be ok? (Yes... as ever); Will it be raining? (Yes)
Will I have time to put anything other than underpants on? (no) etc.
All this compounded by being tired - it takes a couple of days
to settle into 3 hours on, 3 hours off; feeling slightly woozy due to
new motion of boat - for me this often takes a good few days to
settle down. As Andy often says, I'm quite light on my feet -
although I'm not sure of the context in which he says it - but it is
still quite a drama moving around once the weather gets up.
after three days, things start to change. I start a new book, I
have fixed most of the faults that were waiting until we left port to
show themselves, the stars come out.... Sin cooks a fantastic
meal.... I'm not tired, I'm not hungry, I'm reminded that we will
probably give up in a storm a long time before Foxglove does and I
wonder; what twist of fate made me lucky enough to be sailing a yacht
in the tropics under a starlit sky, having little to do other than
read or listen to music with trails of phosphorescence steaming
in our wake?
So where were we …..... leaving,
Guadeloupe I believe!
We were heading to Montserrat, our
first new place on this trip as we didn't go any further North than
Antigua last time. Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly and in
Pointe-a-Pitre we were at the abdomen. The original plan was to go
down to the bottom of the left wing then up along it to a place near
the top called Deshaies. A long sail and we would still be in
Guadeloupe. After a late start in the marina trying to get deposits
for keys back we decided it was too late to try and get to Deshaies
in the daylight so we switched to plan B. We filled with fuel and
motored a short distance to the anchorage at the beginning of the
Rivierre Salees, a river that cuts through the middle of the two
wings of Guadeloupe. We hadn't planned on taking this route
previously as we were nervous of 2 things, the mossies that are
supposed to hang out in the anchorage and in the river, and also the
depth of the river. It was supposed to get quite close to our 6ft/2m
draft in places but we had spoken to some people who had been through
with similar draft and they had been fine. So we dropped anchor and
chilled out for the afternoon and had an early night.
There are bridges connecting the two
parts of the Island at both ends of the river so we had to wait for
these to open to be able to get through. At 0430 we got up and got
ready to go through the first bridge, in the dark. It was quite odd
but no problems. We followed the channel markers watching the depth
closely whilst trying to bat away the millions of bugs that decided
they wanted to come and say hello. A few small adjustments when we
saw the depth drop a little but no major scares. A little pause in
the river while we waited for the second bridge to open and just as
the sun started to rise, we were through, into the open water at the
top of Guadeloupe and on our way to Monsterrat. Much easier than the
long way round and although the bugs in the river were a little
annoying we managed to escape without being bitten much at all.
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As predicted it was a bit special last night. The night started as they day had been, calm, no wind and as it got dark we had an amazing display of stars as there was no cloud cover. A beautiful evening! We were still motoring as there was still no wind. About 0300 the wind picked up sufficiently to sail so with 2 reefs in the main sail, (the one in the middle of the boat) and 1 reef in the jib, ( the sail at the front of the boat) we were going along nicely about 4.5knts. (To reef is where you make the sail smaller, the stronger the wind the more reefs you have in an effort to maintain control of the boat). Then just as it was getting light about 0500 the wind kicked in with a vengeance! It increased from about 20 to 50 kts in an instant and shifted quite a bit clockwise so we were now sailing into wind. Foxy rounded up and we lost control of the steering. Mean while the wind was howling through, the waves had suddenly grown to double their previous height and it was chucking it down. After a very loud screech of a rude word and a piercing holler for Patrick, he appeared in the cockpit. In his pants and in the pouring rain he helped me put away some sail and regain control, well more I helped him. After de-powering the jib and main, we put the jib away completely, regained control and powered up the main slightly so we had some steering and then sat in our full wet weather gear in the rain to see what else was in store. A quick scan on the radar showed the whole screen filled with yellow. A very pretty colour but not a good sign on the radar. We can use the radar to see weather coming as well as other boats. Normally a squall or shower or storm even, show up as a yellow blob on the screen then the game is to work out which way the blobs are going and if they'll hit us. On this occasion there was no doubt it was going to hit us, it was all around us. It was 12 miles across and we were slap bang in the middle. The strange thing was though that nearly as quickly as it came upon us, it was gone again. Apparently it was a small but punchy cold front passing over our track. I wish they'd give us a bit more warning! After the excitement of the morning it was a strange, changeable day but luckily so far no major excitement although a lot of rain! The seas built a bit and now bear more resemblance to those we remember from the crossing. They shifted direction a bit as did the wind, which also changed in speed quite a bit. Just about to start night watches, we are motoring again and all looks quiet on the squall front, doesn't mean anything though as they sneak up on you! We are currently 76 miles from Bermuda. We hope to arrive around lunchtime tomorrow so in preparation, Gin is in the freezer and the martini glasses are chilling! This time we hope the fridge holds up and we can have our original Atlantic passage arrival drink!