We've covered some miles in the last few days sailing from Antigua to Montserrat and then on to Nevis. The sail to Montserrat was pleasant but hampered by the "very light airs" (the technical term for next to no wind!) and so we ended up motor-sailing the last couple of hours. It seems rather ironic that after all the high winds we have had to contend with so far that we were then in a position of not enough. Fear not, just over 24 hours later we're back into 25mph winds as we sit moored up to a buoy in Nevis.
Before we left Antigua we went along to a dockside party hosted by the crew of one of the super-yachts in honour of St Patrick's Day (the captain is of Irish descent). The beer and rum punch were flowing, the chefs had cooked up a storm and music was blaring out as we chatted the night away with friends, old and new. It's a very international and cosmopolitan community, the yachting one, where we find ourselves just as likely to be talking to Scandanvians, North Americans or fellow Western Europeans. The beauty of it all is that everyone has something in common and so are not at a loss for conversation.
We arrived in Montserrat and anchored in the only real bay that is outside the exclusion zone: Since the massive volcanic eruption in 1997, over two-thirds of the island is a no-go area and the population has more than halved. The following morning we hired a taxi driver to take us to see something of the island, including views of the devastation of the former capital, Plymouth, now with only roof-tops of the taller bulidings still visible. The tour included a private entry into the volcano observation centre where they monitor the seismic distrubance caused by Soufriere as it continuously grows by spewing 8 tons of ash per second out of the top of the vent. That equates to 691,200 tons per day every day (or so Paul tells me!), building up a magma dome which will collapse when it outgrows itself, and has done several times since 1997. It was a fascinating yet very sobering experience and made me wonder how the remaining inhabitants cope with knowing that any time the volcano could blow again and wipe out yet more of this beautiful and dramatic island.
PS: gave Paul a haircut using the longest cut setting on his beard trimmers yesterday .... as for the outcome, he says he's going to wear a hat for the next 4 days, the difference between a good haircut and a bad one apparently!