Before getting to Montserrat, we sailed from St Barthelemy to St Kitt’s (Saint Christopher), where we “Q Flagged” it. This means we dropped anchor, raised the quarantine flag, and then left in the morning without going ashore or checking into the country. We’ve done this three times at St Kitt’s now without going ashore once. And now we may not be back. Anyway, on the sail over to St Kitt’s, we had a bit of excitement. We hold an ongoing fishing tournament between buddy boats. Whoever catches the fish hosts the others for dinner (or appetizers, depending on the size of the fish). We caught a barracuda, which we posted a picture of on Facebook. When Dave released it off the hook, it stayed on the sugar scoop. So I grabbed the fishing pole and leaned out to push it over the edge. As I did this, a wave rocked us and my foot slipped off the top of the sugar scoop. I flew forward and had visions of landing on my head on the sugar scoop, being knocked unconscious, and falling overboard.
Fortunately, the lifelines caught me. I know people can flip right over the lifelines and go overboard, but I didn’t. I was hung upside down with my feet in the air. Dave grabbed the back of my shorts and said, “I got you!” As I was still dangling over the sugar scoop, I squeaked out that I can’t get back up and I needed Dave to pull me back upright. My lower leg was gouged by the lower line and my thigh took my full weight on the top line. My poor leg is covered in cuts and bruises, but I stayed onboard! If we had the lifelines open, I’d have gone overboard for sure — no life vest, no harness. We are lulled into complacency on relatively calm sails. It doesn’t take much to throw you off balance. We’ve been getting better about wearing safety gear, but obviously not good enough.
Slow Dancing is a beautiful boat, an Island Packet with the hull painted blue. She looks glorious in full sails. They caught and released two barracuda (and managed to stay on the boat), which still doesn’t count in the tourney.
Mile High Dream also caught a barracuda. Guess that is all there is in this area. Here, Mile High Dream is rounding the northern side of St Kitt’s. The island looks beautiful, but it also looks volcanic. I don’t know if there is an active volcano on St Kitt’s but, as we are heading to Montserrat, volcanism is top of mind.
Then you look closer and see a whole community built up on what looks like an old lava flow. That looks worrisome to me, but I love when the mountain (volcano) top disappears into the clouds.
Passing by cruise ships always makes me nervous. They seem to pull out just as we are coming up on them or passing by. Fortunately, Carnival Dream remained anchored and there was no drama. Son on to Montserrat…
The time that life stopped:
Montserrat’s run of bad luck started with Hurricane Hugo on September 16, 1989. Sustained winds of 145 mph with gusts of 180 mph devastated the island with a direct hit; the eye of the hurricane passed over Montserrat. Over 2,500 islanders were left homeless, 10 people were killed, and numerous people suffered injuries.
Soufriere Hills Volcano was dormant for four hundred years before it came to life in 1995! Four hundred years! In August Plymouth and the surrounding areas were covered in ash, but life continued. In 1996 a pyroclastic flow entered the Tar River Valley, causing the people of Montserrat to evacuate Plymouth. No one would ever live in Plymouth, the capital city, again (to date).
Eruptions continued in 1996 and 1997 (nearly 100 eruptions) and pyroclastic flows buried much of the island. 1997 was a devastating year and 19 bodies were found with 10 still missing. People on the lower 2/3 of the island were given one hour to pack a bag and leave and were never able to return home. Sounds cruel, but if they hadn’t evicted people from their houses many more would have died. Life stopped on the south end of the island in 1997. Eruptions continued through 2010, leaving 2/3 of the island uninhabitable; two of the three parishes made into wasteland. It is the largest ghost town you ever saw! It is eerie to see all the vacant houses covered in ash, some covered to the third story by mudflows. Many more lost and covered completely.
There is an exclusion zone that no one can enter without government permission. These islanders still own their homes and their property, but are highly unlikely to ever be able to live in them again. An entire valley was buried by the mudflows and now it is mined for the sand and sold to other islands. Montserrat is one of the few places in the world with more sand than they can possibly use. The island is fertile and nature is reclaiming the abandoned areas quickly. Neighborhoods are unrecognizable by all the trees and plants that have obscured them from view. It really is amazing and spooky to see. You can’t help but to return your gaze repeatedly to the volcano that caused all this destruction and is still emitting clouds of sulphuric gas.
Because of this sulphur cloud, shown in the picture at the top of the page, my pictures are not clear. The haze was thick and smelly and we were not allowed to get any closer. There are quite a few photos, so I put them in a slideshow. Enjoy!