April 25, 2019
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.
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.
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.
Life is good.