A couple of trips ashore to the bar at Pier One, wandering around town, checking out some souvenir shops, more consumption of jerk pork… after five days at Montego Bay, we were ready to move on.
Sunset and selfie two-for one
Following a convenient clearing out with Customs and Immigration at one of the marinas which allowed for one more free shower, we were good to go.
We had undeniably had a fabulous time at Port Antonio, but it seemed to have been the highlight of Jamaica. We purposely avoided Kingston; and, the fact that Port Antonio was off the main tourist path contributed to its appeal. However, the cruise ship ports farther West seemed to make for an environment we grew tired of rather quickly. Jet skis, dolphin pens, drunk boats… errrrr.
A cat full of drunks…
…of course one is never enough
The question of where to go…?
Stubborn and consistent Southeast Tradewinds which had set in meant heading farther East into the Caribbean would be a bleak prospect.
However, the Cayman Islands were only about a hundred miles to the West of us.
One of our old Scuba Junkie family, “Island Nic”, had been living on Grand Cayman for years. We decided that, in and of itself, the opportunity to see Nic again made a stop at the Caymans well worth it.
Furthermore, this would still keep us on a trajectory towards Guatemala and the Rio Dulce which, at this point, seemed like the most likely candidate as a target to reach before the onset of the Caribbean hurricane season, lasting from roughly July to November.
The Cayman Islands’ reputation as a world renowned dive destination (one of Jacques Cousteau’s top choices) certainly didn’t help to dissuade us.
So… decision made.
Departing Montego Bay on the morning of April 24, we had the double edged sword of an absolutely stunning day.Temperature in the eighties, not a cloud in the bright blue sky, near glass-like conditions on the water… and less than five knots of wind.
We knew the forecast (as hit and miss as they had been) called for even less wind in the following days.
We hoped that, between Jamaica and Cayman Brac, we would find ourselves in the patches of wind measuring over ten knots more consistently than those measuring under ten knots.That would obviously be a roll of the dice.
Over the course of twenty eight hours and one hundred forty nautical miles, we struggled to sail without having to fire up the engine.But it was largely a battle of futility.
It seemed we were running within thirty degrees of dead downwind nearly the entire time.Even when we changed course, it still seemed we ended up with the wind, what there was of it, directly or nearly directly behind us.Combine that with wind speeds largely in the single digits, as well as two different swells ranging from three to eight feet on our beam, and you have… what’s the proper nautical term? Oh ya… shitty sailing.
Despite our best efforts, which included adding an additional forty miles of distance to the “as a crow flies” hundred miles trying various angles and strategies, we ended up traveling solely under power of our sails for only about half of the twenty eight hours we were underway.
It was like our passage between the Bahamas and Jamaica where we had to motor for the first half before being able to sail the second half. Only his time, our situation reversed. After sailing for twelve hours, we had to fire up the engine for all but two of the remaining hours… poop.
With one exception, the only boat traffic we saw the entire time was on the edge of the horizon. The exception was a seven hundred foot cargo ship that, for some statistically near-impossible reason, opted to occupy the exact same space on earth we were occupying at the same time… two boats coming from different directions hundreds of miles apart at different speeds converging at a point.
Not being stupid enough to try to alter course to squeak in front of the ship, nor arrogant enough to wonder why they weren’t changing course to avoid us, we politely let them pass in front of us and carried on our merry way.
As a rule, alcohol stays in the bottle while we are underway. Ya… maybe not as fun… but much more fun than being dead.
However, we broke that rule during this passage… huh?
As we sailed over the Cayman Trench 17,000 feet below us, we hoisted our modest glasses of Kraken rum in a toast celebrating the 7,000 nautical miles traveled marker we had just reached aboard Exit.
As we were getting settled in after anchoring at Montego Bay, Jamaica, Kris heard a splashing in the water next to us.
Unexpectedly, we found a bird thrashing about, obviously in distress and struggling to stay afloat right next to our boat. Drifting helplessly in the current, it was desperately trying to get ahold of anything it could.
Kris grabbed a plastic bucket while I hopped in the the dinghy, which was tied to the transom, and carefully fished the bird out of the water as it floated by.
The fact that the poor little guy didn’t offer the slightest bit of resistance to being held was more than enough proof that it was not in a very good way. And, though the bedraggled bird appeared to be thoroughly exhausted and in shock, we couldn’t see any obvious injuries.
Carefully, we set him down in the bucket in a little swaddle of towels and offered some fresh water. But, aside from an occasional twitch of the head or a shiver of its body, our new friend seemed content to simply sit on the dry towel, obviously much preferring his current location over the one he occupied only moments earlier.
Each time we checked during the remainder of the day, the bird’s status remained largely unchanged. Aside from shifting around a couple of times and even standing up for a while, it mostly just sat quietly, resting or sleeping on the towel in the bucket.
Our hope was that after the chance to dry off and a good night’s rest, he might recover fully and be happily on its way.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other intentions. When Kris checked in the morning, it became evident that the poor little guy had passed away during the night.
Kris placed him gently in the water, which was now smooth as glass, and ever so slowly our little friend floated quietly away.
Though we certainly wish we could have done more to help, there was at least solace in the knowledge that we had hopefully provided a comfortable and dry resting place for our friend’s final night.
One of the rather convoluted, confusing, conflicting, contradictory and oftentimes seemingly fluid challenges to navigate through in every new country we visit, are the policies and procedures of Customs and Immigration.
Fortunately, cruising guides specific to certain areas, websites (like noonsite.com), online forums, and even people at anchor around you are all great sources of information to make things simpler, or at least more digestible.
Clearing into a country with all the proper documentation in hand, forms filled out, questions answered, and procedures followed is the first process.
Moving around within the country sometimes can have some confusing procedures as well.
Such is the case with Jamaica.
Upon arrival, we have to clear into Jamaica at a Port of Call – Port Antonio in our case.
However, at that time we also have to declare the port that we are going to be clearing out of Jamaica from.Montego Bay, also a Port of Call on the northwest side of the island, is the typical place cruisers use.
To make it even more complicated, before departing Port Antonio, we are required to obtain written authorization to clear out of Port Antonio (just the town, not Jamaica itself).When we reach Montego Bay, we have to clear into Montego Bay (local clearance, because we’ve already cleared into Jamaica).Then, prior to departing Montego Bay, we have to clear out once again (this time to leave Jamaica).
If, for some reason, we turned around and returned to Montego Bay, we’d have to go through the whole process again.
Between the Port of Entry and Port of Exit it becomes even more convoluted.Our cruising permit is technically from Port Antonio to Montego Bay.We were instructed that if we wanted to anchor somewhere along the way (which seems only natural since our cruising permit is for three months), to simply inform the local port authorities that we were too tired to continue.
We interpreted this to mean that, while local authorities did not have Customs and Immigration officials to clear you in or out of the country, they still wanted to be informed of your arrival and departure in that area.
Confused?We were getting quite so.
In practice, aside from clearing both in and out of Port Antonio and Montego Bay, no one seemed to either notice or care.
The fact is that, in the hundred mile stretch between Porti and Mobay (as they are locally referred to), there are only a handful of potential anchorages, and some of those are tenable in fair weather only.
A lack of any protected bay, thirty foot or more depths nearly right up to the shoreline, rocks, coral, weeds, moorings or fish trap markers on the surface occupying space… any of a number of things can make an area unsuitable to anchor in.
An area with at least a patch of sand for a good anchor hold, room to swing, and depths between five and twenty feet can still be unsuitable if a mean swell can get to you or, even worse, another boat has already found it before you… damn!
Largely, it was hard to tell whether an anchorage was going to work for us until we got there.
The one thing we did know for sure was that, at twenty eight bucks a day to anchor in Port Antonio’s West Bay, the time to move on was quickly approaching.
And so, after getting clearance from Immigration, we picked up anchor and departed Port Antonio, managing to sail nearly seventy five percent of the time as we slowly worked our way along the northern coast of Jamaica.
Departing Port Antonio, Jamaica
Oracabessa Our first anchorage, approximately thirty five nautical miles west of Port Antonio, was Oracabessa. Unfortunately, the tiny bay designated as an anchorage was already chock full of boats by the time we arrived.
Tentatively, we nosed in. However, twenty knot winds on our beam threatened to push us sideways in a very tight space, including the narrow entrance to the bay itself. We quickly realized that, though we might be able to squeeze in, it was better to abort and get the hell out to find more space… possibly flashbacks to our dragging fiasco in Back Creek, Maryland.
We settled for the wide open bay just outside. Not identified as an anchorage on our charts. Rolly as hell, too. But lots of space… and that was the important thing.
This was where we first encountered a friendly group of boats that had loosely hooked up together and were all heading in the same general direction as us. Two cruising boats with kids aboard, S/V Andromede and S/V Piper, as well as S/V Barefoot Two and S/V Grace. As we worked our was along the northern coast of Jamaica, oftentimes we would find ourselves in the same anchorages as these guys.
Continuing onward from Oracabessa, we were a bit uncertain as to where we would be best off dropping the hook next.
Mid-afternoon, the first and only time it happened while we were traveling along the coast of Jamaica, we were approached by the Jamaican Coast Guard while under sail. Conditions were quite boisterous so a boarding seemed unlikely. Instead, they hailed us on the radio to ask our last port of departure and our destination, came within about a thousand feet of us, and then wished us a nice afternoon.
Ocho Rios was our first attempt. Threading our way around the massive cruise ship dock in near twenty knot winds put us in a bay that seemed to have very limited space left for anchoring between other boats and mooring balls.
We thought we’d found a viable spot and had even backed down on the anchor. However, as the wind swung us around, our anchor, which was obviously not set as well as we thought, broke free and we started drifting perilously close to the giant cement pilings next to the cruise ship dock. When the anchor came up with a big clump of sea grass embedded in the tip, we knew why we had not properly set (though our Rocna anchor generally does a stellar job of grabbing the bottom, grassy bottoms can prevent it from digging in deep enough, and a clinging clump of grass keeps the tip from reseting should it drag).
With the very limited space and winds, we instantly said, “Screw this.” Best to keep moving.
The wind had picked up from twenty knots and was now hovering around twenty five. Saint Ann was the next option, but conditions were simply too rough to even go in.
Which put us to Discovery Bay, realistically our last option before sunset.
As we approached the anchorage area, we were hailed by S/V Barefoot Two on the VHF (they had left Oracabessa a day earlier than us) and warned to be cautious about our anchor set as there was lots of grass on the bottom everywhere and only small patches of sand; boats had dragged the night before… great.
Inside the bay, the wind had thankfully settled slightly.
Nevertheless, we managed to set yet another record for anchoring attempts required to get a proper set.
After seventy frustrating minutes and an excruciating seven attempts in various locations, we finally managed to get the anchor properly dug in… I believe we doubled down on our anchor beers that afternoon.
By comparison, Discovery Bay seemed the antithesis of Port Antonio. Though we stayed there for five nights, it was not what we would describe as a prime location.
The far side of the bay was occupied by a massive bauxite plant owned by Kaiser, which provides the U.S. with over two million tons of bauxite every year.
And, although The Cruising Guide to The Northwest Caribbean indicates that Kaiser “does a lot for the local community”, we found the three most notable impacts to be:
1 – An all encompassing red dust from the bauxite that permanently covers the foliage around the bauxite loading area (thankfully, we were generally upwind from the dock)
2 – An undetermined amount of damage from a bauxite hauling tanker we watched run aground on the reef alongside the channel that had to be pulled free by a tugboat.
3 – A Kaiser owned and operated “fun park” which imprisons dolphins, sharks, and stingrays (as well as a donkey and camel, of all things). Visitors who pay enough money are provided with a photo of their encounter… visitors who pay even more are allowed to touch the prisoners… those who cough up enough money are apparently allowed to ride the dolphins…
… not sure how this “fun park” is a necessity for the mining and transport of bauxite.
… not sure how this “fun park” contributes to the betterment of the local community.
… pretty sure this “fun park” makes a shit-ton of money for Kaiser.
… absolutely positive that this pathetic money grubbing endeavor (or “fun park”) exploits and harms marine life purely for the sake of profit.
Apparently, this is the kind of thing that cruise ship guests want… which is why I would never be caught dead on a cruise ship.
I apologize to all cruise ship guests who have formally contacted the activities directors and/or dolphin encounter facilities and informed them they would not do business with anyone who promoted and supported such exploitative practices…
I’m pretty sure both of those cruise ship guests will forgive me…
Anyway… Discovery Bay… not our favorite place.
And, while disheartening to learn of Jamaica’s tolerance of captive dolphin and marine animal industries, it was even more disheartening to learn that these exploitations are quite normal business practices throughout the Caribbean.
Both as divers and sailors, we are dependents of the oceans… we are stewards of the oceans… by necessity, we must be guardians of the oceans… apparently someone has to. Come to think of it, don’t we all?
Montego Bay It became apparent that Port Antonio was our Jamaican highlight which we would be hard-pressed to surpass, or even match.
We decided it was time to head for Montego Bay.
Once again, we were grateful for the direction we were traveling. The minimum twenty to twenty five knot winds consistently over the six and a half hours we sailed would have been brutal going the other way. In fact, the gusts of thirty three knots we experienced near the end were the highest we have ever seen off anchor.
Haulin’ ass in 30+ knots of winds
We entered the bay with only a tiny scrap of sail out, still making over seven knots of speed. Fortunately, on this day our anchor set perfectly on the first try after reaching Montego Bay.
We both concurred that the anchor beers were, once again, well earned.
Wagwan – A Jamaican term short for “what’s going on?”
A typical response could be ‘nagwan’ or ‘nuttin nah gwaan’(nothin’s going on)
After clearing into Jamaica with Customs and Immigration officials, we were free to anchor in West Bay, just off the Errol Flynn Marina.
As an anchorage, it was about as good as you could ask for. The only thing it was lacking in was infinite space. Good depth and soft mud to set the anchor well. Beautiful surroundings. Excellent protection from weather conditions (West Bay’s only open ocean exposure is completely buffered by shallows which prevent any wave from entering). The bay generally has lake-like conditions, with minimal tides or currents to deal with.
Perfect in just about every way. Except…
You got to pay to stay… twenty eight bucks a day. You provide the anchor and ground tackle.
That may be the only reason West Bay is not full of sailboats that anchor and never leave.
In all honesty, it was substantially less than any marina would cost to stay at. And it provided a dinghy dock, access to showers, and a certain degree of security.
We wanted to do some land excursions, which would take time to sort out and would cost money as well. So, we decided to limit ourselves to not more than a week in Port Antonio at anchor in West Bay.
The following day we received a visit from the Marine Police. Not necessarily a problem… but certainly a moment of, oh shit… do we have a problem?
The two officers, George and his partner, tied up alongside us, boarded Exit, politely checked our paperwork, and proceeded to kindly offer a plethora of information.
George was so helpful we eventually took him up on an offer to utilize his services as a local guide during his time off.
George – Marine Police / Guide
A trip into the Blue Mountains.
Incredibly lush and densely forested peaks that rise three thousand feet into central Jamaica before dropping back to the southern coast. Low clouds drift between the peaks creating an constantly shifting view of the surroundings. Tight winding roads criss-cross through the mountains, connecting tiny communities, family farms, colorful buildings and run down shacks.
Kingston can be seen in the distance during one of our stops. That was close enough for us.
George informed us that he was a police officer in Kingston before moving to Port Antonio. He said policing here is like a holiday compared to there; places in Kingston resemble a war zone. He even played a recording that had just been sent to him by a friend in which you can hear endless gunfire in the streets.
Quite the opposite of what we were experiencing…
Blue Mountains – Jamaica
Visiting the Blue Mountain Coffee farm… maybe not as popular as Starbucks, but world-class coffee.
James Dennis – Rasta Barista
Blue Mountain Coffee with a spot of over-proof Jamaican rum… ooo-wee…yum!
We had been warned not to rent a car due to the horrible state of Jamaica’s roads. At one point during the day I made the mistake of mentioning that the roads seemed to be in better condition than I had expected. Apparently that was enough to hex us…
Later that afternoon we were rewarded for my brazen comment with a flat tire.
After a day of stunning scenery and great company, we decided to arrange to go rafting on the Rio Grande…
These unique rafts have apparently been utilized for generations on the rivers by Jamaicans for transporting goods. However, it was actor Errol Flynn who first recruited their use as props to woo women he was romancing. Ever since, rafting the Rio Grande has become Jamaica’s version of a romantic gondola ride trough the Venice canals.
Our raft captain Trevor
George had arranged for us a capable and friendly captain with over thirty years experience on the Rio Grande named Trevor, who was a man of extraordinary multi-tasking capability.
Navigating while on the cell phone…
Navigating while drinking a beer…
Navigating while smoking a joint…
Approaching the floating raft-bar
Approaching the rapids…
A quick pit stop swim
The day was an amazing blend of beautiful scenery and relaxation, as well as one of the first times we’ve taken a ride on the water in a craft that we didn’t have to pilot since moving aboard Exit... brilliant.
It would have been great to do some additional land explorations. However, we also had to stay mindful of expenditures, as always.
Every place we visit provides endless opportunities for activities which, inevitably and understandably, cost money to undertake.
To travel indefinitely, we find that keeping self-induced restrictions on that spending is an absolute necessity.
Nevertheless, occasionally indulging ourselves allows us to not merely visit a location, but rather, to actually experience it.
To say the weather forecasts for the areas we have been in over the past four months have been inconsistent in their accuracy would be a gross understatement.
Wind directions ninety or even a hundred eighty degrees off from the forecasts. Five knots winds when twenty-five were anticipated; or, much worse, twenty-five knot winds when five was expected.One weather model spot on last week completely misses this week or visa versa…
The best bet is that the wind is coming from the direction we are trying to go.The best predictor of rain is Kris putting laundry on the lifelines. Laundry on the lifelines… rain coming for sure.
Wind double tasking – Clothes drier and hair drier simultaneously
We had heard that the Windward Passage, the body of water separating Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, could be notoriously like the Gulf Stream in its ability to quickly stack up nasty or even dangerous conditions when building wind directions oppose continually shifting currents.
Our strategy was similar to what we had used in crossing the Gulf Stream at Hatteras / Cape Fear… respect the stories you hear and shoot for a window that risks excessively calm conditions that may force motor-sailing over excessively breezy conditions that cause you to shit your pants.
Jamaica was just under four hundred nautical miles away, slightly more than three days sail.
Our departure Wednesday morning was greeted with very calm seas.Unfortunately, the wind was only seven to nine knots, and it slowed down from there.
By mid-afternoon, the wind indicator hovered at two knots, and our Perkins engine was the only thing carrying us over perfectly flat waters.
We would have been more than willing to sit; the surface conditions were certainly conducive.However, in the end we concluded that getting down to what we saw as potentially the diciest section of the Windward Passage, the area directly between Cuba and Haiti, while the wind was minimal was ultimately in our favor, even if we had to sacrifice a bit of diesel to achieve that.
We managed to shut off the engine for a spell, content to wring three to four knots of boat speed out of four to six knots of wind speed.
As we passed clear of Columbus Bank, and the floor of the ocean fell dramatically away from a depth of forty feet towards eight thousand feet, we could clearly see the shadow of Exit cast on the ocean floor more than one hundred feet below! A short time later, we crossed over the edge of an immense drop off. And then suddenly there was nothing below us but amazing shades of blue… split by beams of reflected sunlight trying to pierce into the depths.
And, once again, the ocean’s surface all around us was a magical shade of indigo.
Though we wrestled to keep the sails filled, in the end, to our dismay it was largely diesel power that propelled us until the following morning. The display on our weather chart indicated we were right in the middle of the only area for hundreds of miles that currently had breezes of less than five knots (just our luck).
By 3 a.m., the engine had been running for nearly ten of the past twelve hours. We were ready to concede that our plan was not viable as things stood. With no wind, there was no way we were going to motor four hundred miles to Jamaica. A slight detour farther to the east would put us at Great Inagua, where we could get provisions and wait until the winds returned. Or we could head slightly farther north and make for a tiny dot on the chart called Hogsty Reef.
Hogsty Reef is a minute atoll barely breaking the ocean surface in the middle of the open Atlantic. The coral walls that comprise its outer ring plummet down thousands of feet while inside the depth is only about twenty feet. Because of its exposed nature and zero protection, the location is tenable as an anchorage in only the calmest of conditions… like now.
We decided to roll the dice. If we had to motor, it would take seven extra hours both ways, which would suck. But it would also provide the perfect conditions for anchoring overnight. For now, we could raise the sail and kill the engine, content to move along at a slow pace.
Its difficult to describe exactly how it sounds after being underway all night long offshore under engine power, to finally shut the engine off and, under only sail power, think wow… what a difference.Only to realize that the propeller still spinning beneath the hull is creating its own noise… so you momentarily put the transmission in reverse creating near absolute silence and immediately think WOW… WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
A six a.m. sunrise and a new day…
After the previous night, even seven to nine knots of wind seemed like a gift.
By nine a.m., we had definitively altered our course to Hogsty Reef (prior to that we had been experiencing more of a non-committal steering in the general direction of Hogsty Reef). A choice had been made. No increase in wind in the forecast for the next couple of days… new plan.
However, less than two hours later, that new plan disintegrated.
NNW winds picked up out of nowhere to the tune of fifteen to seventeen knots… holy shit! And, just like that… wham! We’re doing better than eight knots speed over ground. Only, the seas are starting to kick up quite quickly.
It didn’t take long to realize the Hogsty Reef option had just been taken off the table… bummer. On the up side, the engine was off and we were flying along with only the genoa out.
The upside of downwind sailing is undoubtably comfort level. Fifteen knots of wind from behind feels more like ten, and sliding atop three to six foot following seas is preferable any day to pounding through four foot waves while getting hit with fifteen knots of wind on the nose!
We altered course away from Hogsty Reef. The current surface conditions would never allow for anchoring and would take a while to settle back down again even if the wind dropped off. For now, we could return back to a course towards Jamaica and reassess the conditions as we passed Great Inagua. If the wind died again, we could stop there.
Yet, when we unfurled the genoa and shut down the engine just after eight a.m., we had unknowingly set the stage for the rest of the passage to Jamaica.For the next fifty four hours, we ran mostly within forty degrees of dead downwind under power of sails only. Our engine didn’t get used again until we were about to enter the bay at Port Antonio, Jamaica.
What a difference twenty-four hours can make in our log entries…
9:00 – Winds appear to be dying over next couple of days; making for Hogsty Reef
10:30 – Making for Matthew Town on Great Inagua. Squalls making sea conditions untenable for Hogsty
13:00 – GPS track looks more like someone learning controls on an Etch-A-Sketch than a sailboat but back on course for Jamaica mon!
17:50 – Brilliant sailing for past six hours; what a change from this morning. In 10,000ft. of water. Approaching Windward Passage.
1:45 – 13nm off the coast of Cuba (1nm outside Cuba’s territorial waters)
10:00 – Now in the Caribbean Sea – may be first time Exit has been in this part of the world.
Off watch reading under wing and wing
By 1:30 that afternoon we had rounded the southeastern tip of Cuba and passed within thirty five nautical miles of Guantanamo Bay, plenty close enough for us.
We’d been seeing fifteen to twenty knots of wind for over twenty four hours and it would remain like that for the next twenty four hours. Exit sped along comfortably atop the three to six foot following seas, which looked uglier than they felt.
As we approached to within nearly ten miles of Jamaica, an ominous stretch of very dark clouds lined up across the horizon, directly in our path. Almost as though a final gauntlet was being thrown down before we would be allowed to reach our destination.
But our radar revealed that we were actually looking at a very deceptively narrow band of storm clouds.
Radar display approaching Jamaica
Slowly, in the distance… through the hostile looking, though largely benign, cloud cover… a dark mass began to appear low on the horizon. As it began to take form, the color slowly shifted from gray to green. The cry “land ho” went out.
First sighting of land
As we approached Port Antonio, we were immediately struck with the stark contrast the lush, green, mountainous terrain before us provided against the low lying, often inhospitably rugged and desolate Bahamas we had just come from.
Once inside the East Bay, conditions completely calmed down. As Kris circled around while I dropped the mainsail, she had to dodge a large number of coconuts, branches, and rubbish that was floating about in the bay. Initially, this seemed a bit shocking to us, until we realized it was the result of river runoff from the nearby mountains.
Our Bahamas courtesy flag, flying under the starboard spreader (which was now little more than a patch of torn cloth) had already been replaced with the yellow quarantine flag, which we had to fly until we cleared Customs.
In the Bahamas, we were able to anchor, then have one person dinghy ashore to visit the Customs office and Immigration office, where all the paperwork was dealt with.
In Jamaica, the Customs and Immigration officers come to your boat… slightly intimidating the first time, to say the least.
We had to tie up at the dock of the Errol Flynn Marina, run by the incredibly helpful and hard working Dockmaster George.
West Bay anchorage looking at Errol Flynn Marina
Clearing in turned out to be a rather painless process. About ten pages of forms and paperwork to be filled out. A visit from the Customs officer. A visit from the Immigration officers. No searches. No hassles. A lot of questions.
Then, after clearing in with the officials, a visit from a Jamaican named Presley who can help with whatever you need… Work on the boat? No problem mon. Go on a tour? No problem mon. Jamaican courtesy flag? US$10. Enough ganja to fill a mason jar? US$50… a weed magnet.
Wandering around Port Antonio… a somewhat edgy but very friendly town that reminded us a lot of Semporna in Malaysia.
Not a cruise ship destination at all, Port Antonio felt more isolated from the typical tourist hustle… more laid back and certainly more authentic.
It just so happened our arrival coincided with the final days leading up to the local election. A much more festive and involved affair than anything we would ever see in the States, we got to experience music booming across the water of the bay until dawn for our first four nights.
A bit annoying? Possibly… but certainly better than the gunshots we heard people in Kingston got to listen to.
Port Antonio sunset
West Bay anchorage looking at Errol Flynn Marina
“The cutest lizard ever” according to Kris
Exit from the marina
Local beach patrol
Walking the goats, Jamaica
Local recommendations proved worth their weight in gold when it came to choosing the best jerk shacks to visit. Oddly enough, it was a little shack called Piggy’s Jerk Center for incredible jerk chicken. But Honest John, fifty-four years young cooking jerk pork for thirty-two years, proved the master. And not just jerk pork… jerk wild boar. My tongue was on fire while my stomach was in Heaven.
FWIW looks like a white crowned pigeon