The big appeal to sailing Montserrat was to check out the abandoned (or should I say demolished?) city of Plymouth. Why was it demolished? Montserrat’s volcano became active and blew it’s top. And the activity started in 1995 and has been going since then. (Scroll down of you want to skip right to the video)
The volcano is still smoking.
Two years prior we sailed from Guadeloupe to Antigua bypassing Montserrat. The weather wasn’t right for us to get in there. In fact, Montserrat isn’t known for having a calm anchorage. You have to choose your weather window wisely. Or, you can put the boat on another island and take a ferry over.
But this year Simon, Sienna, and I were determined to get to Montserrat!
We had a six-hour sail from St Kitts & Nevis down to Montserrat. The ride was wet and bumpy but it was a quick voyage. After arrival, Simon joined one of our boat buddies to check us in at Customs and Immigration. We anchored in Rendezvous Bay (starred on the map) and just a short dinghy ride south was the government buildings to check-in. The check-in procedure was standard – Simon brought our boat papers, paid a small fee and we were good to go.
Our first night we went into the harbor to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
Erin from sailing vessel, Vela, enjoyed a small celebration of cake and drinks (Check out Vela Boat’s YouTube channel). Several boaters had arrived in Montserrat days before us and had done the Volcano tour. All in all, there were around nine cruiser boats anchored nearby. We spent the night talking about what to expect on the tour in addition to discussing the weather and our next port of call.
The following day, four boatloads of people with seven adults, three kids, and one dog headed to shore eagerly anticipating a tour of the island including the volcano observation lookout, exclusion zone, and other areas affected by eruptions and lava flow.
Our first stop was the Volcano Observation building.
Once in the building, we sat down in a nicely cooled room to watch a documentary on the volcano. This was actually my favorite part of the tour. The documentary outlined the history of the volcano, it’s effects on the people, and the results of the eruptions. Being a liveaboard boatie we don’t get to watch TV often nor can we do in a cool environment. It often seems like we’re always on the go so I really enjoyed vegging out.
What was amazing was the fact that we watched a documentary about a volcano while having the volcano right in front of us!
We then headed out of the observation tower first visiting the town where our tour guide driver Joe was evacuated from. The volcano never destroyed Joe’s town but due to mandatory evacuations it’s residence temporary displacement turned into a permanent one. Joe’s town is no longer in the no-go zone however the town is gone. Nature has taken it back – everything is overgrown, abandoned, and empty.
The next stop was the evacuation zone.
Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee. The volcanic activity continues, mostly affecting the vicinity of where Plymouth used to be.
An exclusion zone was and still is imposed due to the potential for pyroclastic activity. They say that visitors are not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but tours can be arranged. I think they only allow one tour in the zone at a time. The country is desperate for any kind of income possible so perhaps that’s why they allow it?
I got the feeling that the authorities didn’t really want us there but I can’t put my finger on why.
The time came to head back out of the exclusion zone. The police made sure that we left by following us until we were out. Our tour guide continued to show us pictures and videos of what the landscape used to look like. We slowly made our way to what used to be a golf course.
I thought the tour could have been shortened by several hours.
We left at 9 am and returned to the dinghy dock around 2 pm. I was disappointed that we couldn’t walk around whereas our friends that took a tour from another provider got to walk through the city. Overall, however, I found it to be extremely educational. The kids learned loads and we enjoyed a lovely day out with other boaties.
Sailing Montserrat & Touring the Exclusion Zone Video
As mentioned in the video
- Watch our St Kitts & Nevis Video here.
- Find out about our Britican Club here.
- Check out our Checklists for Sailors guide here.
You Might Also Be Interested In These Other Articles/Videos
- Sailing the Spanish Virgin Islands
- 5 Places To Visit Sailing St John Virgin Islands
- Top 16 reasons why sailing the British Virgin Islands is bittersweet
- 8 Best Anchorages in the British Virgin Islands
- Sailing to Saba
- Sailing Antigua
If you’d like an overview of all the places we’ve visited in the Caribbean please read our destination overview: Caribbean
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