Montserrat, a story about how mankind will survive

“On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat’s Georgian era capital city of Plymouth. Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee, primarily to the United Kingdom, leaving fewer than 1,200 people on the island as of 1997 (rising to nearly 5,000 by 2016).[5][6] The volcanic activity continues, mostly affecting the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and the eastern side of the island around the former W. H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.

An exclusion zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but a view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.[7][8]

A new town and port are being developed at Little Bay, which is on the northwest coast of the island. While this construction proceeds, the centre of government and businesses is at Brades.”

This is a quote from Wikipedia, which sums up the recent history of Montserrat very well. I especially like the “relatively quiet” which got a completely new meaning, when we visited the island. Here we spoke to the local people, who actually spoke about small eruptions and disturbances, as late as 2015.

But we arrived into Little Bay in mid March of 2018, probably a day or two too early. The weather had still not calmed down and the bay was rocking roll, but we endured the first 24 hour on board. Then the weather allowed us to safely leave North Star, while we explored the island with a tour guide, who has been there for more than 30 years.

Joe Phillip, Avalon’s Tours, Phone/WhatsApp: +1-664-492-1565,

Pictures from Little bay

Restaurant owner and cook on the beach. He opened only for us and we had a fantastic evening

This is an island divided into a northern and southern part. The northern part has since 1995 been dedicated to show the human will to survival, in spite of any hardship. The southern part testifying that nature is stronger than man and it can retake anything at anytime, whatever man has created.

The northern part of the island is where some 5000 people today, has created their new home. The southern part is where the volcano has erupted and left Portsmouth, the former capital and several small villages and the airport total destructed. Today it is a no go zone and it is closely watched, in order to be able to forecast and warn for a next time.

Map of the zoning on Montserrat

It is a very beautiful island with wonderful hikes spread out around Salem the town in the North, with traditional colourful houses. The population is clearly looking to the future and trying to create more turisme and more jobs – in spite of everything and we saw the resilience. They have done a remarkable job in a very short time and they will keep fighting.

The volcano in Soufrière Hills
Portsmouth in March 2018

Hiding on St. Kitts and St. Nevis

It was a wonderful sail and very hard to imagine that we were running away from bad weather and seeking shelter – but we were. The swells were finally coming towards us from the North west, and making the normally protected westerly coast of the Caribbean islands insecure!

The next island towards the South from Saba is St. Kitts and we found a tight spot in the marina in Basseterre, the main town on the island and center of the cruise ship tourisme.

North Star in Basseterre marina

It had been awhile since we last spent time in a marina where water and electricity were available and we had to do some maintenance, so the timing was fine. The Basseterre marina is managed by a very friendly and customer oriented harbour master, Tim. But for other yachties, it is foremost a fishing harbour and hiding place as the facilities are not great. Our fifty feet managed to get in, but there is not a lot of room.

Our friends sailed down on the South side of the island, and as it turned out the shelter in the bays down there were fine. Later we spend some time on the South coast and it is probably the better option.

We had a nice stay on the island and especially enjoyed the North west coast which is pretty with the old english fort overlooking the bay and a botanic garden.

Picture of fort and botanical gardens

Basseterre mainstreet

Basseterre is a very typical small town and somewhat run down. But we met nice people, as we do everywhere. We had a long conversation with a gallery owner, whom arrived to the island 35 years ago and got married. She is still here and her daughter is taking over from her. The daughter has been back to London for education and work, but still comes back to the island! She has now started a few small business of her own and just feels that quality of life is better here.

National Museum Basseterre
Everybody shares the internet where we can find it

It is not a wealthy island, but probably as they mostly come around here. In Basseterre it seems that the generel opinion of the newly build Cruise ship terminal is negative. The small local business’ has been forced out, and now all the turist shops around the terminal are owned by big business’, from far away. So instead of creating local growth and jobs, the opposite seems to be happening.

Whether this is true I do not know, but the town have been disintegrating over the last few years and unemployment is going up. In generel we have experienced that it seems to be difficult to grow the economy on many of the islands. Of course tourisme plays a major role on all of the islands, but in order for the tourist to find an island attractive, there is a need for offering other attractions, beyond the beautiful beaches and that is the challenge. On most islands the tourism is not enough to keep every local citizen in a job, so high unemployment and related difficulties are common. The two major storms in 2017, does not improve on that situation of course, but many of the island are fighting the fight with an impressive stamina and I am sure they will succeed over time.

But as our gallery owner points out, with her personal choices. There is maybe something here, which is very valuable and difficult for us from the high speed societies to experience?

Botanical Garden
From a gallery where they make these beauties themselves

After a few days the worst of the swell had passed and we tried to visit St. Kitts, the next island over, but unfortunately it was impossible to anchor safely and the dinghy access to the island was dangerous in the roaring condition of the sea. Even our tough Australian friends, whom are used to must tougher condition, found it impossible, so we saved St. Kitts for the next time.

Instead we enjoyed the southerly bays and saw a new superyacht marina, they have build on St. Nevis, which also for the time being receive smaller size boats. 

Finally we forecasted that the swell situation had improved so much, that we could approach the rather exposed anchorage of Little Bay at Montserrat.

We wanted to see Montserrat, as this is a seldom visited island and one which have endured nature as well as Dominica. We wanted to meet the people, whom had decided to face a currently active volcano and had lived through an eruption in 1995. Many of these were of Irish origin or descendant from former slaves – so I guess they are as though as they get.