The North Face

Date:  18 April 2018

Location: Anchored Montego Bay, Jamaica   LAT 18° 27.717  LON 077° 56.507

Weather: Sunny, Upper 80’s, Wind E 10-15 Knots

 Departed Port Antonio heading west with the Wind and Waves off the stern just ahead of some clouds that promised a sprinkle later in the day. Not too long before the wind disappeared as the air got sucked up in the building storm so the motor came alive as we wanted to keep making progress and stay ahead of any bad weather.  After a few hours of noise, the idler pulley on my engine decided it wanted lunch so it chose to eat the drive belt and spit out a bearing and a bunch of rubber dust. One of those deals where it’s a one belt system that drives the raw water pump and the alternator.  The alternator I can do without (back up gen set, solar panels and wind turbine for power) but cool water for me to drink is a definite “got to have” item.  Before I got heat stroke, the Captain shut off the engine and we did what sailboats are supposed to do – we sailed.  Maybe not as fast as The Admiral wanted as she looked astern, but fast enough that the rain chasing us died out before reaching me. We continued on arriving at our first stop along The North Face – the small Bay of Oracabessa just as the Sun was getting settled in for the evening.  The Oracabessa region’s claim to fame is that it’s the home of Ian Fleming and the setting for several of his “James Bond” series. Anchored just off James Bond Beach and the main Resort (5 Star with rooms priced accordingly) called “GoldenEye” named in tribute to Fleming and is one of the most famous 007 films.  My crew enjoyed lobster (purchased from a local fisherman – the crew still has not caught any) for supper on the boat and turned in early.

 Next morning was first things first, The Admiral got her hands dirty and jumped right in to help get the pulley and belt replaced. Soon the crew had my engine doing what all good engines are supposed to do – drink diesel fuel and spit out fumes (pretty disgusting if you ask me – wind power is so much more civilized).  Quick shower and they were off to explore the town. Strolled thru a hardware and general merchandise store (The Admiral has been in search of some hairbands since the Bahamas to tame that flowing hair of hers), passed by a schoolyard full of kids at recess all in their blue and white uniforms, grabbed some fresh veggies and then over to The GoldenEye for a late lunch.  Enjoyed the signature GoldenEye Rum drink, cool and refreshing.

Ocho Rios – “Eight Rivers” for those who slept thru Spanish class, was the next stop along the coast. Dropping my hook near the cruise ship dock and The Moon Palace named for the Bond film Moonraker. We had a nice breeze and well protected spot.  Local Marine Police dropped by to welcome us and check out our paperwork. The Crew took Sea Tigger in and tied up in front of the Police Station to wander thru the market area – fortunately without the Cruise ship hordes as there was no ship in port at the time. They walked downtown, mingled with some locals and had lunch at “Mom’s”, a small hole in the wall place, serving home cooked Jamaican dishes.  The crew spent the evening on the boat sipping on The Admiral’s “PRP” (Pawsitive Rum Punch) and watching the Sailing Cats returning to the beach resorts surrounding the Bay. Each vessel was “packed” with sunburned, dancing vacationers who were enjoying copious amounts of their own concoction of Rum drinks and seeing who could sing the loudest.

Following day the crew completed a few boat chores and then off to the Dunn’s River Falls.  A short taxi ride to the park that included several zip line courses thru the canopy, gardens and the Falls. The Park was built for the Cruise Ship crowd but since there was no ship in port they pretty much had the place to themselves. They scaled the Falls that cascaded about 300 feet down through a series of pools.  Best of all they managed it without falling or breaking any bones. Enjoyed the cool mountain water and a stroll thru the Gardens. The Captain was all up for the Zip Line but that pesky weight limit got in the way again.  After enjoying the better part of the day there, they came back to the boat to check in with the Uniforms for clearance to our next port. On the dinghy ride from the Customs office, my crew stopped to say hello to a boat they had met in Port Antonio and hailed from the Netherlands. They had come into the anchorage to rest for the night and were making way for Panama.

Discovery Bay was the next port and we enjoyed a lively sail along the way.  The morning breeze started lightly but steadily picked up during the afternoon. Turning into the Bay after clearing the reef filled my sails enough to dip the rail in the water a time or two as we rounded into the wind. A little splash over the bow made for a nice ending to the days sail. There is a large commercial shipping terminal for a Bauxite (used in Aluminum) mining operation located in the Bay that looks evil enough that it was chosen to serve as the lair for Dr. No – the villain in first of the Bond films. The intent of stopping in Discovery Bay was to visit the Birthplace and Mausoleum of Bob Marley up in the mountains above the Bay in the village of Nine Mile (nobody could tell the Captain the origin of the name) and also to check out the Green Grotto. There was not a real good place to land Sea Tigger near the town so the crew tied up at the Coast Guard Station docks.  They had to deal with a little swell washing into the Bay and Sea Tigger later told me she was very happy that she had the Chaps to protect her from rubbing against the pilings and rocks. The Captain went into the village to check logistics for the things they wanted to see and found out that the sites closed at 1600 and Bob’s place was much more than “Nine Miles” away so he decided they would be better off renting a car when we raised Montego Bay and tour the area on their own (more on that later).  On the way back to the Station, they made their normal stop at one of the local vegetable stands to gather something to go with supper. The Admiral has really enjoyed the availability of fresh vegetables and the opportunity to chat with the local ladies.

Not to miss the local scene on the beach, they dropped off the bounty back on the boat and took Sea Tigger over to the far side of the Bay (too shallow for me to get close) where a collection of about 8 to 10 beach bars are grouped together. They tied Sea Tigger up to a mooring buoy along with a small local fishing boat about 50 feet off the shoreline. Then they waded onto shore and enjoyed the next few hours at the “Caribbean Bar and Grille”. Pretty much a bunch of beach shacks made out of bamboo, plywood, corrugated metal sheets and whatever else the locals could scavenge up. The place was definitely the local hangout – jerk chicken and pork on the grills, music coming from 4 different directions, guys playing domino’s, lots of Red Stripe and a thick cloud of Ganja smoke in the air.  They met John from New York that lives down here about 6 months out of the year and is a local driver for the Marine Research Center located here in the Bay (i.e. – Discovery Bay). Turns out the Center is associated with Coastal Carolina, which is where daughter Ashley is a Graduate. Donna was the “drink specialist” at the Caribbean and also gave The Admiral instructions on how to cook up the local Yam.  Looks like sections of a thick root or tree trunk that have to be peeled like a carrot and is similar to a potato with a firm yellow texture. The crew had a sample it was pretty good or maybe it was the Rum that made it seem that way.  The crew was able to make it home just after the Sun crashed into the mountains. The music went on pretty much all night and really carried over the water as the breeze dropped to -0-.  My crew ended up sleeping on deck as the temperatures stayed in the mid 80’s even after dark. Luckily we were far enough from shore that the flying teeth didn’t find us.

We were up early on Sunday morning for a motor sail to Falmouth Bay.  Most of the Bay is surrounded by mangroves and is very shallow with grass flats. During the day the winds increased to the 20 knot range so we tucked in behind the reef and put the chain down in about 15 feet of water. The location was about 200 yards from the cruise ship docks just outside the turning basin that was dredged out.  Even so, the wind and waves still had a little spirit to them so the crew stayed put to wait for the winds to dissipate in the late afternoon. While the crew was enjoying lunch, the Jamaica Marine Police stopped by to check us out and verify our paperwork. They added their official stamp to the cruising permit and off they went. Guess there isn’t much for them to do on a Sunday afternoon.

At about 1800 hours Sea Tigger ferried the crew to Glistening Waters Resort and Marina on the far end of the Bay for a nice seafood dinner. The wind still had not let up completely so the ride in was a little choppy. The Captain angled her for the mangroves along the shoreline to stay out of the breeze as much as possible. They reported passing by several sunken boats washed up into the mangroves. Very sad way for my brethren to end up. They enjoyed a nice meal, listened to a little music and then when the wind died out for the evening and it got dark it was time to explore the green glow….

One of only “Four Places In The World” – so say the marketing folks – where the waters light up with a fluorescent green glow when disturbed. The technical explanation is that there is a high concentration of microorganisms that produce photochemical reactions creating a bioluminescent glow in the water.   The mangroves, turtle grass and mud bottom make the water about a foot below the surface just a little murky which causes the light to refract and spread the glow. The clear fresh water coming out of a nearby river “floats” on top of the salt water to make the top layer sparkly with points of light.   I couldn’t see it from where I was anchored but the crew reported it is definitely something to see. Slowly moving thru the water in Sea Tigger, the prop wash and wake had a bright and almost eerie looking trail behind her for 10 feet or so. The crew could see well defined streaks of bio-luminescent created by the fish that would dart all about in the water.   The real fun would have been getting out of the boat and into the water to splash around a bit but The Admiral would have none of that – she mumbled something about a pitch black sky and crocodiles.  She only got close enough to take an oar and splash the surface from the safety of Sea Tigger.

The next morning we sailed to our last stop along The North Face, Montego Bay and its Resort Row.  The city is fairly big (second only to Kingston) and is a bustling, active town. We anchored directly in front of the Yacht Club at the back of the Bay, near the Cruise Line docks. The Club has a nice mooring field but is mostly full of local commercial boats; Party Cats, a “Floating” Glass Bottom Submarine, Snorkel boats and a few Parasailing boats, that are tied in with the Resorts and Cruise Ship excursions. The docks were full of local sport fishing boats mostly belong to Jamaican residents.  The Yacht Club was First Rate. People were friendly and helpful, and the pricing for services and food were reasonable.

Upon our arrival it was time to once again dinghy in to take care of the Customs paperwork (these folks really like their forms and stamp pads) and to have some lunch.  My crew spent most of the first afternoon at the Club using their Wi-Fi and internet services to catch up on emails, bills and correspondence. One thing the Crew has found is cell service (and internet connections via cell service) are very spotty and slow in most places we visited.  It was nice to finally have fast, reliable service.   The Captain checked with the Club Staff about a rental car for the following day and they set him up with one of the Immigration Officers who had an extra car she rents out. It was perfect for my crew. She made sure the Captain understood that he had to drive on the left side of the road (she must have had an issue in the past because she repeated it about 6 times).

Monday morning the Crew was up with the rising sun to head off and visit the places they wanted to see around the Discovery Bay area and some spots around Montego Bay.  They headed towards Nine Mile to see what’s up with the National Legend – a.k.a. Bob Marley. First part of the trip was along the coast on a decent highway but that changed when they turned north to head up the mountain. After a few blind curves, a few more pot holes and 1 ½ hour drive, they arrived to a small village overlooking a vast valley. The site itself was actually a gated compound with restricted access to tour buses and taxi’s bringing in Resort and Cruise ship folks. I guess my crew had that “look” so they let them in with the rental car. The report I got back was actually mediocre – a little too over commercialized for my crews taste.  There were a lot of people, a tour guide in his best Rastafari outfit and hair providing some basic “history”, a small band playing his songs, a snack bar, a roped off small house, a meditation hut, cooking pit and the mausoleum where Bob was encased 6 feet above ground. No photos were allow of the tomb.  One of those places that you have a grand vision in your mind but in reality it just doesn’t match up with it.

After, they headed down hill to visit the Green Grottos located in St Ann’s Parish. Now this was more like it. The tour “group” consisted of a group of five; the guide, The Captain, The Admiral and one other couple from a nearby resort. No crowds or commercialism to mess up the natural beauty and authenticity of the place. “Green” comes from a little bit of algae that grows on some of the walls, the Grotto is a very extensive system of underground caves, passages and dead end tunnels covering some 25 acres with some areas still to be mapped and explored. Once inhabited by the Taino Indians it was also used as hideouts by the Spanish (when England was after the Island), runaway slaves (when the English were after the slaves) and Pirates and Rum Runners (when everyone was after them). There were loads of Bats nesting in holes in the ceiling and a few dead ones scattered around. It seems the bats feast on a large amount of overripe (ok – guide said fermented but really meant rotten) fruit and become drunk. They fly around in the dark and smack into the walls  – “Blind as a Bat” so to speak.   According to the crew, the rock formations with stalactites and stalagmites were incredible. They wore hard hats to protect their noggins from the sharp rocks as well as the Bat Guano falling from the ceiling.  There were areas where the roots of Banyan trees had worked their way thru the rock crevices and hung down 25 feet in search of water.  In one chamber, the crew descended almost 100 feet down to find a crystal clear, fresh water, spring fed underground lake. Of course the guide did the normal “opps – we lost power” demonstration to show just how difficult it would be to navigate and find the way in the caves.

In more recent times (60’s and 70’s), the area just inside the front entrance to the Grotto was used for a private night club complete with a bar cut into the rock wall, a grill area and shallow pool which once contained lobsters and fish for the grill. Apparently it got shut down after several people got hurt hitting their heads on the ceiling or would wander off and get lost in the caves.  The Government purchased the land and turned it into a National Park and Historic Site. This place was much more to the Captains liking and The Admiral was even impressed.

After the tour finished up my crew started working their way back towards Montego Bay. They stopped off at an Appleton Rum (Jamaica’s National Rum) tasting store with a small museum but it was closed for the day. Its hours mainly revolve around the Cruise Ship schedules.  Also, they stopped by the Marine Research Center in hopes of taking a tour. Found out that it’s basically a school and generally not open to the public except on special occasions.

Arriving back into the Montego Bay area the crew found a local restaurant – The Pelican Grill – where the Captain decided to try some Goat for supper.  He found out that not all local delicacies are worth trying. Fortunately for him, The Admiral ordered Jerk Chicken and was willing to share.  They washed it down with an awesome Strawberry milkshake then back to the Yacht Club for a drink and dinghy ride to the boat.

Wednesday was a down day set aside for washing rags, venturing into town for a few groceries, some boat chores and clearing customs.  The excitement for the day was a front row seat while watching a Cruise Ship depart for the docks in the evening while sipping on some “PRP”. The Captain seemed a little envious that he doesn’t have Bow and Stern Thrusters like that.

Tomorrow we round the corner to head for Negril and then an up hill trip on the South Side!

Joyce and Brian Clark

S/V Pawsitive Latitude

 +1 239 898 7646

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