Jamaica is nutmeg and chili pepper mixed with loud rhythms pounded from monstrous sound systems. It is the markets in downtown Kingston bursting with color, people, and more pounding dance music. Jamaica is 350 miles of coastline. Between Port Antonio and Montego Bay on the North Coast every cove and beach is stolen by $800 a night luxury bungalows or high-rise hotels. The cities are hijacked by traffic; busses, route cars, taxis, trucks and cars, gushing relentlessly, making walking a deadly endeavor.
Patois or Jamaican Creole wakes us at the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Words hard and fast volley back and forth like pellets. A group of fishermen are getting their fishing boats ready for the day, and boat workers jive about lasts nights escapades.
The Yacht club is a classy local establishment hosting a mix of cruisers, fishing vessels, and glass bottom boats. There is a dining room, a bar, a swimming pool and a scent of English colonialism. Two towering Cruise ships are docked a stone throw away, dwarfing everything around them and airplanes zoom overhead carrying sun hungry northerners.
Montego Bay is the main tourist destination in Jamaica. We are not impressed by its urban sprawl, shopping malls and traffic, but the refuge of the Yacht Club makes our stay pleasant.
The poverty is always close in Jamaica. Young men walk between cars wanting to clean windshield, and everybody wants to make a dollar showing you the way. In the larger cities, Port Antonio, Ochos Rivers, Montego Bay and Kingston the desperation for survival is palpable. Everybody is hustling offering his services and wares. I buy spices and clothing I don’t need, overpay taxis and give to street hawkers in a hopeless attempt to contribute to the local economy.
Jamaica has a reputation for crime and violence and we are cautious, but never feel at risk. We take local transportation, route cars, throughout the country and anchor in numerous coves along the North coast. We make sure to lock up the boat when we go ashore for the first time since we left the US and there is always someone willing to watch our dingy for a couple of hundred Jamaican dollars.
The best part of the four weeks we spend in Jamaica are our visitors. Marie and Sven from Sweden spend 10 days with us in Port Antonio and Oracabessa, and Greg and Kathy form Charlottesville join us in Montego Bay for a two week stay.
We take the bus to Kingston and ascend to the Blue Mountains where we have a wonderful stay at the Blue Ridge Cottages at 3500 feet. This is when I fall in love with Jamaica. The views are breathtaking, the flowering trees spectacular, and the people relaxed. Coffee plants clamber to the hillsides, covered with white, small flowers and green and red fruits. Coffee is big business and enjoying the local brew enhances our experience further.
For our last stop in Jamaica we sail to Negril, on the west coast. 7-mile beach is beautiful but packed with tourists. We are the only cruising boat anchored in Long Bay, and as a matter of fact, we have only seen two cruising boat along the North and West Coast these past three weeks. The local fishermen and boat workers all notice our arrival and want to stow away on Miraj. “Respect” they say and give us a fist bump.
As of April 2, after a 36-hour sail from Negril, we arrived at our new destination; Isla de Providencia, a small Colombian island outside Nicaragua, on our way to Panama.
Our next post will tell the tales from this beautiful, magical spot.