It is a tiny, uninhabited island that no one ever talks about, much less ever visits….WHICH of course has made me dream of visiting for the last six years.
In order to get from the Virgin Islands to the rest of the Caribbean you have to do a 65 mile passage from the North Sound of Virgin Gorda to Anguilla. Sombrero Island sits roughly 20 miles north of the rhumb line.
As Melek and I started our six week cruise of the Leeward Islands we had three days of unbelievably calm weather. This meant we had to motor all the way to St Barts, but it also meant we had an opportunity to visit a place on my wish list.
On Tuesday I will give you more technical information on getting there, anchoring, getting ashore and so on, but today I want to tell you about my short time ashore.
Sombrero is about a mile long and less than half a mile wide. It is 40 feet tall and very flat. Couple this with the fact that a dozen or so building sit towards the center, I now understand why it has been described as an aircraft carrier.
Once ashore you will find the current lighthouse along with the remains of two formal lighthouses. The first lighthouse was erected in 1868 and destroyed by Hurricane Donna in 1960, giving it an impressive 92 year run. The replacement lighthouse was built two years later in 1962 and lasted until the current solar powered automated lighthouse went online in 2001. At this time, the island was deserted, but you can still see two different building used to house the lighthouse keepers. All that remains of one of these building is a chimney and partial wall.
There are several other buildings used for storage, latrine, cooking, and phosphate mining. Phosphate mining? That is right. It seems this island is a bird’s haven and guano was everywhere. The island was claimed by Britain in 1714, but Americans snuck onto the island in 1856 and mined 100 thousand tons of guano, before the British kicked them off the island and continued the mining until it was exhausted in 1890.
Some other items I saw on the island were a helicopter pad and the old crane used to lift supplies up the 40 foot cliff and lower the guano down. Oh and of co
urse birds….lots and lots of birds. When I visited, the boobie chicks were large, but not able to fly yet. They were white, fluffy, awkward bundles that honked at me to not come too close.
All in all this island is not meant for everyone to want to visit, but if there are any of you like me then you will want to come back on Tuesday and read how I got there and was able to get ashore.