Da mon on da big tourist boat, he talk too dam quick to understand. Da reggae music blast too dam loud for ya to talk, and da smell of da jerk chicken wafts across da bay make ya hungry. Yes this is da Jamaica, home of Bob Marley, dreadlocks and beach partying till the wee small hours of the morning. Lively to say the least.
The Island was first populated by the Arawak Indians. Christopher Columbus discovered the Island in 1494. The Spanish arrived in 1510 and introduced sugarcane using the Arawak as slaves. By the end of the century the Arawak Indians had been entirely wiped out from ill-treatment and European diseases. New slaves are now brought in from Africa. In 1654 the English arrive on the scene, and take control of the Island. Autonomy from Britain was granted in 1947, and full independence in 1963.
This is a tropical Island – lush and green - with a total area of 11,434 sq. km., 232km. long and 97km. wide. It is the third largest Island in the Caribbean, and part of the Greater Antilles. The capital is Kingston on the south eastern coast. We will not be going there, but staying on the northern coast. Our first stop to check into the country is Montego Bay.
We have been joined on this leg by three swallows. They really make themselves at home flying in and out of the cabin, chirping loudly all the time, and eating anything we give them. We just hope they leave once land comes into view. Then there was yet another little incident with the water maker. The hose Alec thought he had fixed, blew again when under pressure. Yes we will be now watching our water consumption very carefully.
As we approach from the west we are greeted by a low mountain range covered in lush tropical jungle. The mountains gradually rise towards the east forming a spine along the middle of the island till they reach Blue Mountain Peak at 2256mt. at the eastern end. Famous for the Jamaican coffee. Ribbon settlement is along the northern coastal highway. We are surprised by the lack of seabird life and the absence of local fishing boats. Maybe it has been fished out?, as we have had a line out since leaving Grand Cayman – to no avail !!!! That includes crossing the Cayman Trench where depths of over 7,000mts are found, and, one book tells us that these waters are a pelagic playpen for schools of marlin, dolphin fish, wahoo, tuna etc. Well they have left for other waters as we crossed here. We just catch tons of that horrid Sargasso weed which we have had ever since entering the Atlantic, forming huge golden carpets – a fisherman’s nightmare.
We arrive into Montego Bay at midday and drop anchor just outside the Montego Bay Yacht Club. A trip of just over 200nm which we motored sailed the whole way !!!! After calling on ch.16 for over an hour to find out the procedure for checking in, the guy on the yacht next door eventually tells us to go into the Yacht Club where it will all happen. The Club was established in 1936 along the British lines. The club house is open to the harbour side onto a court yard which has tables and chairs set up under the shade of a lovely big Almond tree. You walk through an open dining area into the reception foyer. Large glass cabinets line the walls with highly polished fishing and sailing trophies. Ceiling fans swirl the warm air (34.5 deg.c.) around the room. The office girl directs us to what were once luxurious couches covered in a Wedgewood blue brocade, and now smell of stale cologne and body odour !!! There is a set of modern plastic cane chairs on the other side of the room. She then hands us a mountain of forms to fill in with sheets of carbon paper between.
Once formalities are completed, we are free to go. We spend the weekend at this anchorage. Montego Bay does not have many sites to visit apart from its lovely white sandy beaches, which now all have large hotels built on them. There is also “Rose Hall Great House”. An old plantation house – the supposed site of a book by H.G. DeLisser, called “The White Witch of Rose Hall”, which tells the story of a female plantation owner who is alleged to have murdered several husbands – fascinating, but we have several pressing issues to deal with – first our leaking forward hatch. With rain forecast for the next two afternoons we really need to attend to it. We do succeed with this, very heavy rains come and all is dry inside. Saturday afternoon we head out for a walk. The Yacht Club is built out on a sandy spit, along with some of the more affluent homes and hotels. Everything is gated with security guards, so it is nearly impossible to get to the beach. We do find a Hard Rock Café and are able to go in and have a drink while watching another perfect sun set - white sandy beach front with coconut palms.
Monday morning we are back at the Club House to check out. In Jamaica we will need to report in and out of each port we stay at. Next stop is Falmouth. As Jamaica was not initially on our Cruising list, we did not get a cruising guide for this area. We did find a very old book on cruising Jamaica in the RAM Marina cruisers lounge, in Guatemala which we picked up. Trouble is it was printed in 1995 and much has changed since then, but it is better than nothing. The maps of the harbours with the rocks and reefs is fine as they don’t move, but now we have huge Cruise Liner terminals with their dolphins built out from them. This will be daylight navigation only!!!
Falmouth, use to be a sugar loading port with very shallow water. Today it is a Cruise Liner port with a nice deep entrance through the reef which is well marked with buoys. With no liners in Port, we anchor off the main wharf and proceed in the tender to check in. The place looks totally dead. Everything is closed, but no, someone has seen us arrive, and we are met by the local harbour master and his off-sider in a golf cart. We explain where we have come from etc. They have already called the water police who arrive and duly check our papers. All is in order, but we are asked to move SHAMAL as a liner is coming in first thing in the morning. We are told to move to Glistening Waters Marina where the depths are about 1mt. I don’t think so with our draft being 1.2mts. We need a little water under the keel !!!! The lagoon and marina have been named as the glow of tiny microorganisms produce a photochemical reaction when disturbed giving off green lights. We move to the other side of the terminal building. There is nowhere where we can take the tender ashore. We are sort of stuck on board in the middle of this bay. Well it does not look like we will get to see the historic little town which was laid out in the 1770’s with its Georgian architecture. Can’t be helped.
Next stop, 30 odd miles along the coast is Ocho Rios. On the way I do catch a nice little mahi mahi. I hook another bigger one, which I loose!! Ocho Rios has a Cruise Liner in Port. We motor into a beautiful sandy bay which has another large hotel sprawling along the water front. It is lovely and sheltered behind the reef. Ocho Rios is the third largest town in Jamaica. The waters in the bay are clean and clear. We have a lovely backdrop of homes scattered on the hillsides among the lush tropical vegetation. One of them belongs to Rod Steward we have been told.
The Cruise Liner port village has been set out nicely with shops, restaurants and other activities one can indulge in, along part of the water front. When we visited it there were no ships in, so there was not the mad mayhem one gets when you have a few thousand people wandering around. We took ourselves on a walking tour of the town only to be railroaded into a tour by one of the locals – Henry – who wanted to make a buck or two and would not take NO for an answer when we tried to walk off without him. He lead us up this hill pointing out every tree and plant along the way, picking samples of everything. Next he leads us down into a stream which we crossed and into a beautiful hotel garden set in the tropical rainforest. Yes we were entering through the “back” door. We were shown the gardens, streams and a lovely waterfall, then exited below the front gate. He then told us it would be a $20 fee each for that visit, and he would return later and pay the hotel. Yeah Right Henry!!! Forget that one. The hotel was now closed!! By the time we reached the town at the bottom of the hill, Alec did not want to see another cinnamon tree, fish swimming about in another pond, or hike through the back neighbourhoods on a short cut to see anything at all. Then Henry tried to squeeze an exhortative amount of money from us, which of course he didn’t get.
|Another New Friend|
We are out of bed for a 0400 start the following morning as more weather is coming in early afternoon. We would like to reach Port Antonio, our last stop on the north coast, before it arrives. Arriving off Galina Point along the coast, we see a small fleet of local fishing boats, the first we have come across this season. We wondered if the place had been fished out with the lack of boats, and sea birds. In this area we also pass the homes of Noel Coward, the actor come play writer (died 1973), Ian Fleming, who wrote most of the James Bond novels, and Sir Henry Morgan (1635-88), the famous pirate who reformed, and then later became Governor of Jamaica.
We arrive into the sheltered harbour of Port Antonio late morning, and well before the weather arrives, and drop anchor outside the Errol Flynn Marina. This was the main port from which bananas were shipped to England from, and the old sheds still stand. It is an interesting town set on a peninsular between the East and West Harbours. The movie star Errol Flynn once owned Navy Island which sits on the northern side of the harbour totally sheltering it. There are a number of boats here, some who have come the same way as us, and others making the run West. We have extremely heavy rain here which gives SHAMAL a good fresh water wash, plus we are able to collect rain water, as the water tank needs to be repaired – a job to do in St Maarten, if we ever get there. The winds are easterly all the time, on the nose and that is the direction we are heading.
|Shamal Port Antonio|
We spend three days here visiting the town, while waiting for the next weather window. We wander into town and try the local pork Jerk, Jamaica’s most well-known dish. It is a cooking method where meat is smothered in a mixture of local spices then cooked/smoked in a closed 44gal drum over a wood fire. Quite delicious.
Day four arrives and we have a window to move on. We will head north for the Windward Passage which will take us between Cuba and Haiti. Our next stop will be on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
So we will sign out for now.
The Admiral and The Commander