~ Witnessing La Soufrière’s outbreak on a sailboat ~

14.04.2021 10pm Emergency state in St.Vincent after Volcano outbreak

Dear friends, I write to you from Canouan Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines. As you might have already heard in the news, last Friday on April 9th St. Vincent’s active volcano La Soufrière erupted in the morning hours.

Already during my arrival on the island back in February 26th of this year 1178 meter tall La Soufrière was being monitored closely and advised against visiting due to estimated eruptions.
When the outburst took place I was on anchor in the lava-save „green“ zone in the Blue Lagoon marina on the South coast aboard the Pamina with captain Sönke and his family Rebecca, Lea and Charly.
48 hours prior to that an emergency state had been called out and all people were urged to evacuate and retreat to the marked save zones along the Southern coast.
24 hours before the air had been filled with a deadly silence, calm prior to chaos. The animal world sensed what was ahead, new friendly stray dogs showed up on the beach to seek shelter and strange cloud formations with smoke from the volcano were visible.

Ship dog Charly walked around with the saddest look on his face all day long. Pamina crew had been considering wheter or not to leave to one of the neighbour islands. It had then been decided to wait until Saturday because Sönke was attempting to catch a scheduled flight to Germany for important family matters which should leave the next day.
We didn’t hear nor see anything of the eruption physically until two hours after when we saw a giant cloud rise into the sky from behind the marina in an otherwise blue sunny sky.

Even though now while writing about it, it seems obvious, that day we didn’t know the exact consequences. In hindsight I am sure we had all inhaled a good amount of carbon monoxide, because we suffered lack of clear thought, headache and drousyness later that evening. Thinking straight didn’t work and we didn’t connect the dots until the next morning, Saturday. The marina scenery had turned completely into a dim grey.
Pamina was covered in a thick layer of ash. The beautiful sunny weather we had grown accustomed to was exchanged by deep fog, the neighbor islands which can usually be seen with plain eyes now were hidden under impenetrable dust of polluted air. It was hard to breathe, the body reacted with further headache and drousyness.
Under struggles we intended to clean the ship and get ready for departure while ash came raining down quicker than it could be removed. During an emergency shopping tour of food supplies for the upcoming days we found the supermarket emptied by a frightened crowd. As soon as was possible we set sail to the neighbor island Mystique. It was a trip like in a ghost movie. I expected the Black Pearl to pop up any moment.

After another provisional cleaning session on anchor in Mystique we called it an early night and continued sailing over to Canouan which has a proper marina, Sandy Lane Yacht Club. Here a proper cleaning session with water supplied by the marina could be done. It took a whole day to clean the ship inside out, inside because the ash dust also had come in through the open windows.

Since last Friday’s outbreak La Soufrière has erupted again two more times and keeps on releasing streams of lava as well as clouds of ash and toxic gas.

The situation is disastrous, especially on the main island.

St. Vincent’s around 100.000 inhabitans are suffering from repeated power outages and lack of drinking water as well as other essential goods.

Like most of the caribbean islands St. Vincent makes its own drinking water by turning sea water into sweet water. That is now impossible because the sea water is polluted. Many people lost their houses. Locals living in the „red zones“ have been rescued and taken to shelters set up by the government or off the island by cruise ships from the region that lended their help. There are still a few people stuck in the danger zones who didn’t leave in time. Distribution of the available goods among the affected population is difficult. Covid regulations also exist here, now there is double chaos.

Many tourist attractions on St. Vincent such as Wallilabou where parts of Hollywood movie Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, are covered by lava and falling rocks.

I have seen this place only two weeks ago! It is hard to believe the eyes looking at recent photos.

Wallilabou before and after

Local friends and fellow sailors keep sharing horrible pictures of the caused damage.
This time is said to be as severe as St.Vincent’s so far worst outbreak in 1902. The worst outbreak is said to be yet awaited.

While the neighboring islands are fighting with ash rains and damage as well thankfully we are save here in Canouan, only a mild dust came down so far, yet ash rains are expected here as well in the upcoming days. The wind brought the ash as far as Barbados island located east of St. Vincent. People there were advised to stay inside their houses for shelter during the rain.

My time here is slowly coming to an end. Travel destination plans keep changing on a daily basis aboard Pamina because of latest developments and changes in travel restrictions. For now we decided to set sails to Panama starting tomorrow and are all set and ready. The tour might take us around one week.

It will be my first time seing Charly’s sailordog skills in action during a several-day trip on the water and I am excited. We expect quite strong winds by the end of this week and are looking forward to explore the beautiful islands of San Blas which lay four hours outside of Panama City.
I leave this place with rich memories and gratitude to the manifold faces of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which I was able to witness and enjoy together with my adorable crew.

For those who wish to help the people of St. Vincent with a donation, please find below the information of the organization UK-SVG Friendship Trust based in London which is collecting donations from people who wish to help from overseas. 


Every donation counts. Thank you very much. You’ll read from me soon.