Jamaica Into the Wild

Date: 8 April 2018

Location: Anchored in East Harbour, Port Antonio, Jamaica LAT 18° 10.843 LON 076° 26.643

Weather: Drizzle, Mid 80’s, Light Wind E 5 Knots

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Bahamas and the folks we met but it was time to say Good Bye to the “Islands In The Stream” and sail away. Anchor went up just before noon as we set out on the 280 +/- NM sail via the Windward Passage headed for Jamaica! “Yeah Mon”. A fair amount of Commercial Traffic rounding the East side of Cuba had us sailing wide but we were soon able to pick up a line for our destination. The Full Moon ducked in and out of the scattered clouds and followed us on the final leg making for a fantastic light show. The last 10 miles we used my engine as the winds eased off but the 8 foot swell remained causing me to roll a little in a following sea. We made decent
time on the trip averaging just over 7 knots for the 38 hour passage arriving in East Harbour, Port Antonio at 0420 Easter Morning. Anchor went down and off to the berths my crew went for a few hours sleep.

We woke to Gospel Music from the Sunrise Service being held along the shore in the Harbour. We learned one thing pretty quick – the locals ain’t afraid to Sing Out. The Admiral wanted to join in but decided it was best to stay on board until the check-in formalities were complete so she listened from the deck and drank her coffee. Later in the morning we radioed Errol Flynn Marina, motored over to West Harbour and tied up to the dock to clear Health, Customs and Immigration. Captain Brian eased me into the slip (this time with no drama) and the crew and staff secured the lines then connected me up to water and power. We got the stack of forms (to be filled out in triplicate) and the Admiral got busy. It wasn’t until almost 1600 hours before we saw the first Official (it was Easter after all – and something about a church picnic after the service). A few questions later, some stamps on the paperwork (triplicate as well) then down came the Yellow Quarantine Flag and up went the Jamaican Courtesy Flag. Soon after, the other uniforms showed up and completed the check-in. The Admiral smoothed the way by serving up some of her “Now Famous Pawsitive Rum Punch” – a.k.a. NFPRP – which the Immigration Officer seemed to enjoy quite well. With the formalities complete, Captain Brian got me checked in with the Marina Staff and my crew was now free to roam.

First “local” we met on the dock was Coco, First Mate on the Sportfishing Yacht in the slip next to me. He offered to play tour guide and my crew headed into town with him to walk a little but more importantly to find some ice cream. It didn’t take long. The Admiral about fainted when the girl behind the counter told them it would be $750. The Captain explained to the Admiral that would be JA$ and the rate is about JA $125 to US $1. They ate up, wandered around a little more and then back to the marina for some rest. Sleep was a little difficult as the sweet Gospel Music we enjoyed that morning now morphed into the local Reggae music that was loud (or maybe I’m just old). This went on until about 0300.

The following day the crew decided to venture out and take a rafting trip down the Rio Grande River. The rafts were – let’s just say – “traditional”. Bamboo stalks cut in roughly 15 feet lengths and 3” to 4” in diameter, lashed together with vines. A Bamboo seat, a cushion stuffed with straw and even Bamboo Cup Holders that were put to good use with the cups, ice and the “NFPRP”  that The Admiral was smart enough to take with them. When my crew arrived at the river, the guides took one look at Captain Brian and decided he deserved his own raft – he thought he was really something special until he heard them say something about a weight limit. But float they did and off they went. Ironically, Captain Brian rode high and dry, it was Captain Robert and The Admirals raft that floated down the river about 4” beneath the surface. Seems that Bamboo eventually becomes water logged and tends to lose its buoyancy. The river averaged about 2 foot deep (although there were some holes as deep as 10 feet) and had a 2 to 3 knot current. The bottom consisted of smooth round stones and loose sand. The guides poled the rafts down the current thru the valley. A few small rapids and lots of twisting turns made for a fun trip. The steep mountain sides were covered in lush tropical foliage, greenery and colorful flowers.

About halfway down the River they rounded a bend and there on a sandbank, was Belinda and Lunch. Belinda has to be the twin sister of the Aunt Jemima Syrup Lady. She was dressed in native colorful clothes and a headdress, cooking under a tarp (supported by Bamboo poles of course), with cast iron pots over wood burning fire. Turns out she hikes down the mountain side every day to prepare a truly Jamaican meal – Fresh Goat, (had tomorrows lunch staked out about 50 yards away), Jerked Chicken (which were running around the sandbank), Crawfish the size of small Lobsters (caught right there in the river by a local 15 year old kid with a short pole spear and mask), Peas and Rice, Baked bread, Bok Choy and Plantains to round out the meal. The Admiral was ready to take Belinda back to the boat with them but Captain Brian was concerned about sharing his berth with the Goat.

The adventure ended where the river meets the ocean and the crew watched as Captain Robert and The Admirals raft was ceremoniously retired and cast adrift into the sea. Appears this was destined to be her final journey down the river. She is now free to wander the Seven Seas on her own.

Captain Robert walked the plank on Wednesday and flew back to the US to visit family, continue his search for his own boat and pursue other opportunities that might come up. We really appreciated all he did with and for us during our cruise thru the Bahamas and with our arrival to Jamaica. His advice, experience, help and comradery will be missed. We expect and look forward to the time when he will rejoin us downstream.

The next morning the crew loosened the dock lines and we returned to East Harbor to be back on the hook to swing in the breeze. We anchored near some new friends we met in the marina, Alison and Andy Nelson on “S/V Venture Lady”. Capt Andy is English but says he is no relation to the famed Captain Horatio Nelson of the British Royal Navy. The 4 of them rented a car and took off to explore the Blue Mountains and the fabled Coffee Plantations. After a lunch stop in Bluff Bay where they filled their bellies with Jerk Chicken and Rice and Peas, they turned South and up into the yonder mountains. No Road Maps to be found in Jamaica so they relied primarily on Google Maps and GPS to navigate their way. They stopped off at several waterfalls and some other places that looked interesting on the way up. Soon the road decayed into dirt, gravel and potholes as it became more winding and narrow but inward and upward they went. Finally they made it to Blue Mountain National Park where they walked some of the Park trails to take in the awesome views out over the hills, one that overlooked Kingston far down to the south. The hope was to get a cabin there at the Park for the night but it was not to be  because they were all rented out. One of the Park Rangers called a friend who had a small cabin nearby and was in the process of “fixing the place up” to put on Airbnb. So down the hill they walked and when they arrived, Admiral Joyce quickly made the decision that more “fixing the place up” was needed before she would consider sleeping there.

The adventure continued onward until they came across “The Old Tavern Plantation”, home of David and Julie who own and operate the coffee plantation. They really enjoyed visiting and were thoroughly entertained by their 4 year old daughter Ava (quite the young Hostess). The home place overlooked their fields covering the mountain side. The garden around the house was incredible with an array of flowers, gardens, hummingbirds, and stone walkways. Right out of a Better Homes and Garden magazine. They drank the fresh brewed coffee and learned a lot about what goes into growing the Blue Mountain Brand of Coffee Bean. One notable requirement is that the plants have to be located above 3,500 feet to qualify. Apparently the clean air and temperature has an effect on the quality of the bean.

When Julie learned of our search for a place to stay the night she called her friend Robert, proprietor of Prince Valley Lodge, to make arrangements. They drove down the mountain about 3 miles (more winding and twisting) until reaching the landmark they were looking for. A hairpin turn at “Bubbles Bar” where they stopped to take a picture to send to their friend Jeanette “Bubbles” Cook and to have a drink. The final mile to the lodge was on a side “road” (better described as a washed out dry river bed) and was a trip all by itself. Fit for an amusement park with all of the turns, gulleys, steam crossings, hills and ruts. That said, it was a side adventure well worth the effort. Rustic but clean and neat – most importantly though it got The Admiral’s Seal Of Approval.

The Tree House Cabin was just that – literally built in a tree and with the 4 foot diameter trunk coming up thru the middle of the cabin. The bed was a little small for the Captain and Admiral so they deferred to Allison and Andy and let them sleep amongst the branches and leaves. The Admiral picked out another Cabin that was built in the side of the hill and had a door that was only 4 ½ foot high at the entrance. Reminded the Captain of a Hobbit House but he was able to use his yoga skills to get thru the door. Dinner that evening was under the Stars complete with Candlelight (don’t ever say the Captain isn’t a romantic). Fish, Salad and yes- rice and peas were served. Andy broke out a bottle of Cuban Rum he brought with him for cocktails. All and all they said it was a wonderful day.

They awoke Friday morning to a beautiful Sunrise and Coffee with Breakfast on the patio overlooking the Valley. They explored the gardens around the Lodge and it was then time to move on. They toured the Blue Mountain Coffee Plant where the beans are processed and packed for distribution. Basically they are sorted, washed, dried, shelled and then washed, dried and sorted. Not very high tech. Finally, they are packaged and shipped. The 1st sorting is by machine, the 2nd sorting is by hand by a row of ladies seated next to a slow moving conveyor belt. my crew learned that it takes 60 pounds of “raw” coffee beans (like bright red cherries when picked) to produce 11 pounds of finished product ready for market. The finished product runs about $40/lb (that might seem a little high until you realize that includes a nice little burlap sack and a pretty label) and actually ships to Japan.

The road my crew chose (better described as a one lane dirt and rock path) to come down from the mountain took them on the South side of the range and to the East side of Kingston. The road did not get any better on the way down. Forged several shallow rivers and bumped along the rock strewn road until they finally reached the coast. Definitely not something to be attempted after dark. Wonder if some of the people that live up in those mountains ever come down to the city. Once they reached the coast the road improved somewhat. The group stopped in Boston, the birthplace Jerk seasoning, to enjoy some pork sausage that they ate while sitting out on the beach people watching. It was a nice little cove with clear calm water. They traveled on a little further along the coast and decided to stay the night at Casa Lagoon. The hotel was located on an enclosed Mangrove bay so the water as a little murky. The owner/operator was very pleasant and accommodating and also doubled as the cook. In the morning they made the final leg around the east side of the island and arrived back at the marina in time for Happy Hour on the pool deck. They met Susan Taylor and Brian Bartlett on “S/V Uhuru” enjoying the pool as well. Susan joined Brian as Crew thru a website called, appropriately enough http://www.findacrew.com. One of many sailing websites that match people looking to travel and for adventure with boats that need crew both long and short term.

Sunday morning The Admiral and Captain Brian returned the rental car, stopped by a local vegetable stand for a few items, and returned to the boat to relax and enjoy the breeze. I think they missed me. Monday Captain Brian found the Customs Office to secure the Departure paperwork (yes – in triplicate) and took Sea Tigger to the Marina for the Immigration paperwork while The Admiral prepped me for departure. That evening, they joined the folks on Venture Lady and Uhuru one last time for drinks at Anna Banana’s, supper at Youst Café and topped it off with a stroll to the ice cream shop. Tomorrow is Westward Ho! along the north shore.

Joyce and Brian Clark
S/V Pawsitive Latitude

+1 239 898 7646
Facebook – The Saga of S/V Pawsitive Latitude

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