Cetacean was supposed to stay at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club (Kingston, Jamaica) for the 2016 hurricane season. But, upon our arrival at the Royal Jamaican Yacht Club there, we were told no longterm berth or land storage were available for our boat. While we were disappointed, we didn’t have much time to stress about this unexpected state of affairs. The RJYC manager Pat suggested we go to Port Antonio–located east of Kingston–and stay at the Errol Flynn (yes THAT Errol Flynn) marina there. Pat generously made arrangements for us with the Errol Flynn dock master: a slip for while we prep’d Cetacean and then dry dockage for the hurricane season.
Port Antonio is a little over 80 nautical miles from Kingston. Someone mentioned we’d be going around Morant Point, and the foul currents there could be “interesting.” But hey! We’d just survived those 400 miles crossing from Cartagena to Kingston just a few days before.
This transit would be a piece of cake.
So, it’s June 17th, about 6 a.m. We pull carefully out of RJYC into Kingston Bay. No more boat-driven existential crises for us! But, the weather, our equipment and our choices have been challenging us every watery step of the way this season. And this trip wasn’t going to be any different. So, here we go: We’re out of the bay and the engine, which had been making unusual noises since we’d moved outside Kingston Bay, appeared to be overheating. And, Otto (our powered autohelm), despite a brand new linear drive installation to fix it after it broke during our Kingston transit a week earlier, wasn’t steering Cetacean properly. The wind was blowing like stink on Cetacean’s nose. The seas were huge.
We were getting the whole Enchilada…no…the total Jerk Chicken.
Hand steering all night under sail while making less than a knot per hour (which was our current speed over water) would not be very productive. We headed back to Kingston Bay, anchored at Port Royal and waited until evening to decide whether to try again.
On the way back, the engine decided to fix itself. The temperature guide said all was good.
Our weather forecaster, Chris Parker, insisted (over email) that the wind speeds would moderate as evening came on; the GRIBs chimed in. Excuse me everyone, the winds were howling and showed no signs of ‘moderating’. We waited. Took naps. Ron adjusted Otto and steering was no longer going to require an exhausting vigil.
At 7 p.m. we ventured out of the Port Royal anchorage and headed again for Port Antonio. Conditions outside were still tough, but in spite of the head-on winds, we were making 5 knots using a bit of headsail to help the engine.
Please note: Cetacean does not like to sail close to the wind. She just doesn’t, so the engine had to do most of the work.
Things slowed down over time unfortunately. We were getting from one to three knots. Lots of howling and big seas again. But, we soldiered on.
That second transit attempt did get us away from Kingston, but we didn’t make it all the way to Port Antonio. Morant Point, with its special current and winds lay ahead of us. It was 7 a.m., June 18th. Time for a break. We pulled into Bowden Bay and anchored at Port Morant.
The Bowden anchorage was lovely, restful. I sincerely wish we could have stayed longer. We spent our time there sleeping and regrouping. The plan was to leave Bowden at first light for Port Antonio.
Upon arrival, we had a visit from the Port Morant Coast Guard. The two young men checking on us were friendly and curious about our plans. They wished us good luck, suggesting that leaving early in the morning was the best way to deal with Point Morant.
Chris Parker’s email reported conditions were calmer after midnight, so we pulled up anchor around 3 a.m. and turned left for Port Antonio. Mr. Parker also said the winds would be behind us (broad reach!) some of the way. We just had to get around that point.
The trip around Point Morant was not as bad as expected, just semi-tough. We arrived at Port Antonio in the afternoon and within an hour of arrival we were checked in by Customs and the marina dock captain Paul.
Bright yellow butterflies, red flowered bushes and multi-genre music accented our walk to town. Moving through and along the crowded streets after getting settled, was fascinating. Port Antonio is a busy place filled with shoppers, cars, bicycles, vendors, worn storefronts, crumbling sidewalks, gangs of school-uniformed children, couples holding hands, women chasing wild, giggling toddlers.
There are also the aggressive hustlers, the dreadlocked wanderers and the continuous redolence of ganja. Like I said, it’s fascinating.
On our second or third day in the Errol Flynn marina, Clive, aka ‘Banana Man’ paddled over aboard his handmade bamboo raft to introduce himself and ask if we wanted bananas. I said, “No, thank you. I’m not very fond of bananas.”
He said, “Well, I have mangos. I’m Mango Man!”
He went on to talk about his life and his family. Some of what he said was hard to believe but he had our attention. Good storyteller.
Jamaica can be a disorienting place where one is challenged to communicate even though everyone speaks English. There is a special cultural environment here. But it’s complicated. There’s lots to learn, but not enough time right now, because we have already left Cetacean and Port Antonio.
It is 11 p.m. on Monday, June 27. We are now in the city of Montego Bay after a long day that began at 5 a.m. We motored to the dry dock lift dock, Errol Flynn’s lift operator pulled her out of the water and put her on dry dock. When all the last things were checked and put away or turned off, we boarded a bus for a 6-hour bus ride to “MoBay.”
We fly for Portland tomorrow morning.
Cetacean’s in good hands with the Errol Flynn team. See you soon Mon.