Monthly Archives: May 2015

Montserrat, active volcano

St. Kitts, Montserrat and Deshaies, Guadeloupe – by Randy

Our first leg south of Statia took us along the west coast of St.Kitts, providing us with spectacular views of yet another island created by massive, now dormant volcanoes. We elected to spend the night anchored in Majors Bay on the southwest tip of St. Kitts. We had the entire bay to ourselves where we enjoyed spectacular views across the Narrows (the passage that separates St. Kitts from her southern neighbor, Nevis).

 

At first light we were underway for what would be one of our longer passages in the past several months (85 nautical miles). We ran southeast, passing just to the west of Montserrat. Montserrat is an island with a still active volcano that has devastated this small island nation. From the late 1990’s until present day the volcano on Montserrat has repeatedly errupted, completely destroying the capital city of Plymouth.

 

Montserrat active volcano, Plymouth rooftops on the bottom left

Montserrat ACTIVE volcano, Plymouth rooftops on the bottom left

As a result, the island population has been reduced by over 50% as the people have found it increasingly difficult to live quite literally in the shadow of an active volcano. The day that we passed offshore, the volcano was in an active state which resulted in a marine exclusion zone being established. The net result for us was we had to remain at least 2 miles offshore as we passed by. That said, our view was still unbelievable. We could see the rooftops of the now abandoned town of Plymouth sticking up out of the lava and ash flows that buried the entire town. The volcano was spewing ash and smoke and when we went outside to take a few photos, we came back in covered in ash. It was a first hand look at the awesome and sometimes devastating power of mother nature.

Montserrat active volcano ash & lava flow

Montserrat ACTIVE  volcano ash & lava flow

As we put Montserrat astern we still had about 40 miles of open ocean to run to get to our next stop, Deshaies, Guadeloupe. The seas were a managable 4-5 ft as we continued on our journey down island. Since we are approaching the beginning of hurricane season, the routes that we are choosing are heavily travelled by fellow cruisers, all making their way towards Grenada. On this day, we passed no fewer than 10 sailboats heading the same way as us. Once in a while we will see a fellow power boater, usually a trawler but the vast majority of boats this far south are sailboats.

Ronan hoisting the courtesy flag, Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Ronan hoisting the courtesy flag, Deshaies, Guadeloupe

After a long day (about 10 hrs underway) we arrived in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. What a quaint, pleasant surprise we have found this French fishing village to be. It has one of the most sheltered harbors that we have stayed in to date. The town itself has a very French small town feel to it. It is difficult to find anyone who speaks English and unfortunately, it seems that the two years of French that Theresa took in college have completely abandoned her so we have had to revert to sign language and the amused patience of the locals as we try to communicate our needs to them. There are many restaurants and open air markets lining the main street.

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

The harbor is full of cruising boats from many different countries (This morning, I counted 42 boats, mostly flying the French flag, a couple from Great Britain and Spain. We are the only American boat in the harbor). We have enjoyed Deshaies so much that we have elected to spend an extra day here before continuing our journey south. When we depart here we will make a short trip to the southern tip of Guadeloupe where we will refuel, then head south for our next island country, Martinique.

Statia courtesy flag

St. Bart, Statia and now the push for Grenada – by Randy

Anse de Columbier Bay, St. Bart

Anse de Columbier Bay, St. Bart

After enjoying our visit to St. Martin, we have moved along to explore some of the other Leeward Islands. Our first stop was beautiful St. Barthelemy (a.k.a. St. Bart). Long known as an exotic island playground for the rich and famous, we found it to also have a unique and welcoming small island feel. Our first night, we anchored in the harbor in front of Gustavia, St. Bart’s main town. Clearing immigration was a snap, done entirely online. Once cleared in, we explored the town and found a charming, sparkling clean town with dozens of restaurants and a row of high end designer stores that rival those found in Manhatten.  Although the town is charming,  we found the harbor in front of it to be very rolly with large swells coming in off the Caribbean Sea.  As a result, we elected to move the Pilots’ Discretion a few miles to the north to Anse de Colombier. Anse de Columbier is a sheltered bay

Anse de Columbier, St. Bart

Anse de Columbier, St. Bart

that at one time was owned by the Rockefeller family. The Rockefeller’s former home still sits atop the hill overlooking the bay. Although the Rockefeller home has in recent years fallen into a state of disrepair, they were kind enough to leave behind a beautiful stone dock that Patton found more than adequate for his nightly dinghy trips ashore.

After several days in St. Bart, we pressed on to St. Eustatius (a.k.a. Statia), a small volcanic island with a significant historical past. Long an important shipping port for the Dutch Caribbean, Statia is also famous for being the first foreign government to officially recognize the legitimacy of the fledgling democracy of the United States in 1776.

Quill volcano, St Eustatius

Quill volcano, St Eustatius

In addition to it’s historical significance, Statia is a beautiful island made up of five, now dormant volcanoes, the largest of which is the Quill volcano. It is truly incredible that the boys  were literally reading about the origins of volcanoes in their homeschool curriculum one day and hiking up the Quill to take a photos of the volcano’s crater the next.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in historic Statia but the weather window clock is ticking and necessarily we must begin our final push towards Greanada tomorrow morning. We will be transitting waters offshore of St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat enroute to Guadeloupe. From Guadeloupe we will proceed to the French island of Martinique and finally the Grenadines before arriving at our hurricane season home marina in Grenada.