Hi friends and family hope all is well with you at home. I have some pics of a quaint little group of French islands called Les Saints, we felt like we were really in a little French village with white and yellow, pink, blue, green, orange (well all colours really) houses and shops lining the roads, chickens everywhere, beach front cafes, tonnes of electric scooters rather than cars. It was a funky little place and felt very safe. Also two forts which we hiked up to, Fort Napoleon was pretty impressive. Jakes writing about it. It was the French base for the famous Battle of the Saints in 1782.
We brought Neverland (previously Strauss) from Guadeloupe, we hadn’t seen much of the island but we weren’t that keen to explore. Stu didn’t want to accidentally bump into the original owners (a charter company) of Neverland, as loads was not done as per the agreement of sale. We just spent one night near pigeon island so we could snorkle the Jacque Coustou established national park. It certainly was beautiful, loads of colourful soft coral tubes. It was pretty but I must say Gnaraloo’s Ningaloo reef is still a very beautiful spot and probably better than any snorkelling we have seen so far.
That night Keltia invited us for dinner, very kind of them. We loved hanging with this interesting and fun family, we have certainly seen Keltia the most out of any kid boat family. They gave us a little concert, Hanna on the violin, Nate on the guitar and Owen on percussion -a musically talented family.
We stayed at the Saints for about a week, it was a restful little place and beautiful little anchorage. There was a strong northerly wind blowing for days so we ended up staying a little linger than anticipated – but all good. Keltia spent a few days anchored near us too, great to see them again. We are realising that when there is a kid boat close by, you make all efforts to see them and introduce your self (if required) and make a play date or what ever works. We never know when we will see other kids again, and its great for us all when the kids get to socialise with other kids.
Monserrat was a real challenge to get to. We left Guadeloupe and I was very confident I would be fine and not feel sea sick, I dished out the sea sick pills (Jake refused as it tastes yuck….. bad mistake). Stu never takes antiemetics and he is fine, on a few occasions he has said his tummy has turned, but he doesn’t get sick – thank God. We knew it was a day sail, so off we set in the am. We said goodbye to Keltia with a Conch shell blow and lots of waving. It started off lovely and flat in the lee of the island, then the swell gradually increased. I said to Stu this doesn’t look like 2m swell, he agreed. I spoke too soon, an hour later we were in 2-2.5 m seas and we were all starting to turn green. Sienna and Alex were asleep (first sign of sea sickness but the best way to be), Jake was spitting into a bucket not looking happy, I was sitting on the helm. I was looking over at the kids when I was suddenly absolutely drenched, not just a splash but a dunking, I was very glad I was sitting and not moving off the wheel as there was a fair bit of force in the water. It was such a shock and surprise that I just started laughing, then I had to go down to our cabin to get changed (not a good thing to have to do when your feeling sick). Jake was sitting with his bucket on the flip out seat, when a massive smash of water surrounded him, he was sitting behind the wall of water so he didn’t really get wet but the look of surprise was priceless! It certainly was unexpected from us all. We all moved to the other side of the boat. The waves were beam on (sideways) as we were on a reach (90 degrees to the wind) and the swell was too, makes for a rocky sideways motion of the boat which is very uncomfortable.
We arrived in Monserrat and the anchorage was really really rolly, and after half a day of vommitting and feeling awful I was very happy to be anchored but there were some downsides. At anchor it was like sailing as it was so rolly. The anchorage was really tight with only 4 other boats so we had to anchor near a submerged ship wreck on a reef, we re-anchored as the first time we dragged (may have been on weed). We usually check our anchor by diving on it, but if we drag straight away (after letting it settle for 5) we generally re anchor. The second time we went out further away from other boats but we were close to a wreck according to the chart. Its always stressful anchoring, but this was a little more so than others due to the submerged wreck, reef and proximity of other boats. We kept a close eye on the wind as we didn’t want it to turn north (not likely, but can never say never) or we may be on the reef too. I certainly felt drained and exhausted after this sail. Stu was a super star, looking after us all and sailing the boat pretty much single handed, I got up when needed but was pretty wiped out. Since then I haven’t been sick and I am hoping I have found the medication that works for me (Sturgeron). A friend put us onto it – Dave. He’s from Sydney and we met him on top of fort Rodney in St Lucia. He at the time was working on a super yatch and is a wealth of knowledge and stories. We certainly learnt a lot about life on a superyatch! Such a different world and career choice. He met his love on a super yacht and was just about to leave his job to look for a boat of his own and meet up with his French girlfriend (Lou) to start cruising together – how exciting for them. Dave told me about Sturgeon as that is the drug of choice on superyachts – thanks Dave.
We almost left to head for the next island, as this place seemed too hard. We didn’t and the next morning (after lots of night time checks on the angle of the wind and dragging anchor checks) we set off to check in and try to find out how to see the volcano. The port was a commercial official port with customs on it, so we didn’t have the usual harassment of locals asking us if we wanted to see the volcano, or wanting money off us for some service they are offering us. No one is allowed on it the port so we were ushered off as soon as we finished checking in. We were delighted with the customs offical as he helped us organise a tour of the island by phoning a tour guide on the pamphlet we found, these people are generally not that helpful so we were stoked he helped us. Customer service is not a strong point of the local Caribbean people, though some of the French islands are great.
About the Volcano:
On the 25 th of June 1997 Chances Peak Volcano erupted after lots of rumbling and warning signs. Before that the people were evacuated from their houses given only 6 hours to leave and gather their goods. They were told to pack an overnight bag in case the volcano erupted and to leave their homes and head north to the school. Our taxi driver told us this as he lived through it and didn’t leave like 2/3 of the island did. There were 12,000 people, the British government gave people a choice to either be relocated to Britain or stay, so only 3,000 people stayed. The population has now grown a little to 5,000 people. The taxi driver explained how it was for them. They only had an overnight bag each, moved to the school in a class room with communal facilities. They were told it would be a weekend away but of course the volcano blew and they are still not allowed to move back or to go back to their homes. It was fenced off , locked and guarded. Our taxi driver told us he snuck back and retrieved some household items, he seemed bitter that they would not let the people in to get their belongings (understandable). There was lots of theft and robbery during these times.
Volcanic bombs were hurled e.g. in Bethel rocks of 5m in size landed. Ash covered 2/3 of the island. The dome collapsed resulting in 5million cubic metres of ash and dust (Pyroclastic flows) enveloping the surrounding area. The main town (Plymouth) is in the exclusion zone covered in ash and mud. 60% of all housing was destroyed. 75% of agricultural land was destroyed. The sea and airport were covered in ash causing them to shut down, and that airport is still not in use today. Water supplies were infiltrated, leaving a high demand for water. Many people suffered from severe burns from standing on ash deposits of only 1-2 cm. A large majority of the wildlife was destroyed marine life was destroyed by the sea being poisoned by the ash. 19 people lost their lives primarily people in small villages right at the base of the volcano. 100-150 houses were completely destroyed, with many others being largely damaged. 8,000 refugees left the island and didn’t return. The tourism industry was drastically hit causing unemployment to rise from 7% to 80%. The population fell from 12,000 to 5,000. Loss of income from industries resulted in a lower standard of living conditions and quality of life. With everyone flocking to the north, shelters became overcrowded and there was little infrastructure in the south to help provide for people.
The Taxi driver was very passionate (understandably) about his job. Showing us before photos of how the church looked as we tried to spot it through the dense jungle. He showed us houses and maps of the town he used to live in and his house, it is transformed. Houses that were wide open to the road are now being reclaimed by the bush and can barely be seen only with the help of the taxi driver . Two foot of ash had fallen and covered absolutely everything!!!! The jungle is reclaiming the area with plants, vines and ferns growing on roofs and everywhere. It was actually quite sad to see, though fascinating as well. It must be hard for the guide to do, to relive this day after day.
He took us to the observatory, close to the volcano with great views of the smoking peak. We saw a video which was amazing and I wish we could have had a copy. Amazing footage of the pyroclastic flows over the town and bright orange colour at night of what looked like smoke coming from the volcano. The Observatory continually monitors the volcano which is dormant but still smoking, no signs of further explosions for the time being.
By this time the kids were starving so we had lunch. After lunch our tour guide seemed to be a bit agitated. He gave the kids a hard time about touching things in the car, and especially Jake with the window. Jake was saying he was hot so the guide was getting a little fixated on how he was to open the little window next to him. It got so bad I said they are only kids and it has been a long time in the car (3.5 hours by this stage). We had also been looking at houses through the foliage and it was little too long for us adults, let alone the kids. The guide did get a little too annoyed at Jake and Stu spoke up too, more forceful then I telling the guide to calm down and relax……..so it was a bit tense for a while. We realised why he was a little ansty when he said he was going over his normal allotted time by an hour so we could have lunch. He also said he will honour his price and its ok, he just wants to do his job right. It was a great tour, and the guide certainly was very passionate that we understand the detail. Just a little uncomfortable towards the end.
Was Monserrat worth the sea sickness, rolly anchorage, stressful anchorage site, little bit of stress with the guide – MOST DEFINATLEY. Monserrratt volcano was and is a must see, so interesting and memorable in many ways!!!! We are learning that cruising has very high highs and low lows, its all part of the adventure. I remember an experienced cruiser telling us, “when we first started cruising I thought it was about seeing places and exploring, now I think its about conquering the challenges and learning from them”. This isn’t word for word and I can’t remember who said it, but thats the gist of what he said. It has stuck with me and I wonder if that is how I will feel one day.
Thanks for reading.
Nat from Neverlandxxxxx