Antigua and Montserrat, May 11th-??; Jolly in Jolly Harbour; Pyroplastic lava, Jack says, ‘’ouch’; Emergency Room!
Finally we left Antigua. Our forced delay was finally over when a new EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) arrived from the USA. Ideally we would have left about a week before but we couldn’t sail without this important piece of distress equipment. However we didn’t lie idle in Antigua. Boat jobs continued…..painting the engine supports… a further repair on the wind instruments…replacement reefing line…adjustments to the sailcovers…repair to a short circuit on the 240v circuit (this one took almost 2 days!!). Plus we had a few friends to socialise with, particularly LiLi and Steve from Texas, with whom the boys discussed NASA (Lili used to work there!!) and Space, George discussed surfing, and we all had a good guitar and singsong session.
Plus George and Jack had the thrill of sailing in the Classics Regatta (see their own reports and action pictures)
The ARC Europe yachts left to cross the Atlantic on the 10th May, and the following day Double Waters was released from the dock and we set sail to cover the 30 miles across to the British dependency of Montserrat. Arriving in the afternoon with a 6lb tuna in the bucket we anchored in Rendezvous Bay and feasted on fresh fish. The beautiful clear water soon had the boys exploring by dingy and snorkelling.
Jack seemed to have a bit of an upset stomach the next day and so we postponed exploring the island until the following day.
On Sunday we set out to meet George our guide and transport for the day little knowing that the day would extend far into the night, with Bridget staying up all night, and Jack having a new souvenir in a specimen bottle!
Following the volcanic eruption in 1997 almost 2/3rds of Montserrat was left uninhabitable or considered too risky to return to. Vast amounts of pyroplastic material flooded down the mountainside and into the valleys, destroying the capital town of Plymouth, causing a major evacuation of the island, and resulting in much of the remaining population having to relocate to the North of the island. During our visit, although the crater was considered ‘stable’, on the 1-5 scale the danger level was at 4…not altogether comforting for anyone.
From a distance we could clearly see the continuing release of gases, steam, and streams of ash and sand running down the volcano. Elsewhere, and away from the volcano the island is green and verdant with steep valleys and plenty of bird life.
Despite a stop at a ‘health giving’ ghaut (stream) and a drink of the cool mountain waters Jack continued to feel unwell and was clearly getting worse. The Coiley treatment for this sort of behaviour is usually to be empathetic but basically to ignore the casualty until symptoms go away. These symptoms were stubborn and just wouldn’t be ignored. And so we diverted to the hospital!
Seen immediately by the nurses and a doctor, who we later appreciated was the surgeon, Jack was examined and a diagnosis of acute appendicitis was quickly reached……..Bridget and I had the tricky decision as to whether to stay in Montserrat for the necessary surgery or whether to fly back to Antigua. ?? Better treatment. ?? Safer for Double Waters. Later in the afternoon, we decided to go ahead, we were reassured by the caring attitude of the staff, and by 23.00hrs Jack was wheeled off to theatre with all the theatre staff in attendance, having being summoned from around the island on a Sunday night!!
Bridget and Grum then had a very anxious couple of hours waiting for the op to finish. At last, close to 01.00 Jack emerged, still very groggy, but everything had gone well and he had a new souvenir of a nasty green thing in a specimen pot. Yuk!
And so for the next few days of Jacks’ recovery we set up a visiting routine. Bridget stayed on the island as there was no way of contacting us on Double Waters, a large rocky bluff cut any VHF signal, meanwhile George, Jed and Grum returned to Double Waters each evening. The day after the operation Jack was already up and about but feeling very drained and looking a shadow of the healthy chap we all know. Nothing to eat or drink. And a little tired as things were a little noisy on the ward; elderly men snoring; falling over; and dropping things. Plus a bed bath at 5am! Certainly encourages you to get better.
All the nursing staff were wonderful, and Jack had a steady stream of well-wishers who were anxious to know of his progress. The local community came to know of Jacks’ misfortune partly as a result of a ‘’Thank you’’ message that was broadcast on Montserrat Radio when Grum popped in…….it resulted in an interview, part of which was broadcast on the local news!! Oh that Grum what will he do next?!
Jack continued to improve, with IV fluids discontinued, a large bowl of local soup for lunch, by day 3 he was looking brighter, smiling and joking with the nurses. George and Grum were getting to know all the bus drivers, and without fail anyone we saw stopped to ask how Jack was doing. The care and attention from everyone was brilliant. Montserrat is a very special place when it comes to the friendship of the Montsarrations.
Discharge from hospital was on day 5, and as we left the hospital Jack received an enormous hug from one of the staff. A couple of nights recuperation in a nearby hotel afforded the luxury of TV, big beds, and unlimited showers.
We returned to Montserrat Radio (95.5FM) on Saturday morning and all the Coiley boys were on Roses’ morning chat show talking about sailing, schooling, travel, life back in England, and of course appendectomy.
Time to get back on the ocean……there may be a hurricane approaching…..