Saturday 17 March – Monday 19 March
We left the anchorage in Nevis at 6 and made it to the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean by noon. Just in time to celebrate St. Patrick's day, a national holiday on this island. We meet back up with S/V Ultra who we ran into in St. Martin after meeting them down in Grenada, another Texas boat form the Kemah area. They had made arraignments for a taxi ride up to the village of Salem where the days celebration festival will take place. A quick clean up and lunch and Joanne & Bill pick up Jan & George and us with their dinghy and into the dock to meet Sam our taxi driver. Joanne & Bill had done an island tour with Sam the day before so on our drive up to Salem they are filling us in on some island history they learned the day before. Of all the islands we have visited, Montserrat as one of the more interesting histories, due to a still active volcano Soufriere Hills on the southern end of the island. In 1995 it erupted destroying the capital of Plymouth and surrounding area. Years later several business were starting to rebuild when in 2006 and 2008 the volcano erupted again causing the government to permanently close off the southern end of the island. Montserrat gets it's strong Irish heritage from the Irish Catholics settling here after fleeing problems from the Protestants of near by St. Kitts. Then another wave of Irish came over when England invaded Ireland, leaving their mark before many years later returned to Ireland. So St Patrick's day is a big celebration here, and we thought it would be fun to celebrate with them. We arrive at the fair grounds in Salem and the area is starting to fill up with people, with local vendors set up in booths selling food and a few local crafts. Several parades and just about everyone dressed in green. A fun filled day. Sam drives us back to the dock and Steve & I with Jan & George set a time for 9 Sunday morning for our Island tour. Sunday we know some things will be closed BUT they will also be closed on Monday since it is a holiday so either way we will miss out on a few things. Sometimes timing works for you sometimes not. Unlike many islands where the towns are along the coast line, Montserrat has most people living inland in the lush mountains sheltered from the volcano. We go to Old Road Bay where the river has been filled with mud and ash washed down from the volcano. What once was a golf course with a club house, a hotel and homes is now buried under 30 to 60 feet of black sand, the shore line is now a ¼ mile further out. Next stop is St Georges Hill looking down at the ruins of the former capital of Plymouth. Seeing the homes, and businesses amongst the trees it is hard to believe they are all abandoned. Just past that you see the ruins of the capital hard to tell the difference between the burned out buildings and huge boulder's from the volcano. There is a small area of the Exclusion Zone that you can visit after signing a waiver. Being Sunday this is one of the things that is closed. Joann & Bill told us what a surreal experience it was, walking through a hotel with everything in place covered with ash blown in over the years. The exclusion zone covers ½ of the island where no one is allowed to go, no new construction, no renovations, no one allowed to live an amazing sight. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory, also closed on Sunday, has another great view of the volcano and surrounding exclusion zone. The government is trying to build a new capital over in Little Bay where we are anchored. Trying to convince the < 5000 residents (12,000 pre volcano) that this is a good spot to build. There is very little work on the island, they export the volcanic ash which is very fertile, other then that they are trying to build up the tourism trade. Back down by the bay where we are anchored we go to Ponts' restaurant for lunch. The open-air restaurant is filled with plants and things washed up on the beach below, it's like having lunch in a conservatory. Soft smooth jazz in the background, a beautiful view of the bay and our boats, hummingbirds and lizards to entertain us, and a barbecue lunch before we go back to the boats. Today is Jan's birthday and Joanne & Bill invited us all over to their boat for dinner and Joanne generously offered to make a cake to surprise Jan for her birthday. We have a wonderful dinner followed by a delicious chocolate rum cake. Monday morning we will all depart to head over to Deshaies (Day-ay) Guadeloupe.