Talking with some locals in a bar the eve before I left Cayman Brac they told me they had heard that bad weather, a NW’erly was due tomorrow night. They were a bit incredulous saying that they just don’t get that sort of weather this time of year. I decided to clear out anyway since there are no protected anchorages here and I should be well away from the island by the time it arrived. First light next morning I got my clearance from immigration as arranged and left. I got a good start but by late morning the skies were looking increasing ominous and I confess I was a little worried. We soon had torrential rain and thunder. Still I had plenty of searoom, about a 100 miles away lay Jamaica so could afford to heave to and ride anything out if necessary. Later in the afternoon we were hit by a big squall, I had furled the yankee and had 2 reefs in the main but boy did it blow 35 – 40 knots and such torrential rain as I have never seen. It was awesome, still Sea Bear ploughed on on course whilst I sheltered on the companionway steps, raingear on just in case. It did pass and the wind drop but the skies were still dark and full of rain so I held on to not much sail, reluctant to increase it in the circumstances. A migrating swallow joined me seeking shelter from the storm and settled down to roost in the lee of the rolled up dinghy on the foredeck. Later after dark the wind shifted through 180 degrees as the front passed, the skies started to clear a little and the odd star appeared, the worst seemed to be over. Just after dawn the swallow left but returned later for a while .
A tanker bound for Houston passed, rare to see another boat in these waters. So the day gradually passed and I was joined by another little bird on passage who rested awhile perched on the pushpit. Another night and now I could see the loom of the lights of Jamaica still about 47 miles away. By dawn the coast was revealed and late morning saw me anchored opposite Montego Bay Yacht club.
I spent a few days here, visiting the “Hip Strip” a tourist haunt and the town . Its a town of two parts, inclusive hotels, tourist shops and gated residential developments and the town, all noise, smells, bustle, crowds, street stalls. Only about 50 miles down the coast was Ocho Rios but against the wind and current it took more than 24 hours and lots of tacking to get there. Another place that is very tourist orientated with big hotels and private beaches but the local part of town was interesting but I didn’t stay long clearing out the morning a big cruise ship arrived in the bay.
Another hard journey against wind and current eastwards to Port Antonio. At one point after tacking way from the coast and then back in I found myself closer to where I had left from than my destination. All night tacking back and forth and I seemed to be going backwards. I resolved this by motoring, much as I dislike to. Soon I was passing the Blue Mountains, very beautiful and well named and eventually turned in to the twin bays of Port Antonio and picked up a mooring off the Errol Flynn Marina.
This place was much more to my liking, virtually no tourists, no big hotels, no cruise ships. A very beautiful place nestled up to the foot of the blue Mountains, a well sheltered bay and a nice little town, just local Jamaican life, lots to see and do.
One day I took a bus to Kingston, the road going through the mountains, steep wooded hillsides, gorge like valleys. Got of in downtown Kingston by mistake it was even a bit much for this intrepid traveler. I have never seen a fight before by “bus loaders ” over poaching customers – real gangster stuff. Went to the Bob Marley museum in his old house, a little bit of a pilgrimage really.
Another day a bus along the coast to Boston Bay, repudtly the place for the best jerk pork in Jamaica. A lovely cove of a bay, sandy beach so had a lovely swim followed by jerk pork and a beer and some rum and later another swim a great day.
I Port Antonio I became quite friendly with the owner of a little beer and rum shack on the corner entrance to what the local call “back central”, the entrance to the market. Opposite was like smokers corner with a wonderful array of characters and the sweet smell of ganga in the air all quite open. Had some good conversations over the time I was there with the owner about Jamaica and its “problems” and he looked after me, warning me of the dodgy characters and sending away the worst of the hustlers, yes there are plenty of hustlers in Jamaica. One eve they set up a sound system nearby which was great until the police turned up in flak jacket and automatic rifles – they didn’t have a permit apparently.
Labour day is a big holiday and they had a big named sound system set up at Bikini Beach, just near where the boat was moored. I went along in the eve, quite an experience, sound blaring out and the girls “shaking their booty” and rum flowing.
It is however rainy month in Jamaica so we are having our fair share of rain, generally soon over but just had a day and night of rain with plenty of thunder and lightening in the night. It is perhaps a reminder that the season is getting on. I will have to leave Jamaica shortly and head south out of the hurricane zone before the start of the hurricane season.