Thursday, 9 March 2017

Jamaica


Jamaica's been quite an experience. It's been wonderful to meet up with and spend time with the family. I've been able to post a few photos from our time together below.


Vincent, Mick, Stephen and Innes on board Arctic Smoke for Cocktails

Sharon and Stephen reunited with Yammy whom Stephen befriended when in Jamaica on his Medical placement in 2015
Ursula, Me and Sharon at 'Chillout'

Celebrating my 60th Birthday at "Chillout", left to right, Charles, Vincent, Megan, Caleb, Innes, Ursula & Maliyah, Me and Sharon



The Three Stooges, Stephen, Maliyah and Charles
Nanny and Granddaughter

Meeting Sharon's family way up in the hills

The two emotional highlights were meeting Sharon's family again and probably for the last time and meeting Stephen's friend, Yammy. Sharon and I were last out here for our honeymoon in 1987. Since then various Uncles and Aunts have died and others are now very frail. Sharon's family are hill farmers who work the land for to maintain a life style that most of us would regard as subsistence.

The second was meeting Stephen's friend Yammy. Stephen spent a couple of months out here in 2015 as part of his medical training and was in digs just down the road from Yammy's road side hot food stall outside Priory. Stephen bought his dinner from Yammy every evening and they became good friends. Sharon visited Stephen for a couple of weeks whilst he was there and met Yammy and promised to bring me out to meet him one day. It was quite something to be able to deliver on that promise.

We were all staying at Sharon's old friend Neville's place about 4 miles to the East of Montego Bay town. A 'chartered' taxi ride out there cost between 30-40 US $. A chartered taxi is the equivalent of a normal European or American taxi. However the most popular type of taxi in Jamaica is a 'red plate' that plows a specified route and can be hailed by anyone en route. They can get very crowded but are very cheap. The same ride would cost less than $1USD. The problem for us though was that 11 people just will not fit one taxi. We therefore spent an exorbitant amount on chartering taxis and on some occasions we clashed with drivers intent on charging really high rates.

That unfortunately seems to be a feature of life in Jamaica - tourists are regarded as fair game to be ripped off and every opportunity to milk them is taken. The Yacht Club is run by a very helpful team but one has to pay for everything, i.e.: dockage at $1.25 US per foot (about $40 US per night) AND use of the club facilities (meaning the showers and just being in the building and using the wifi) at $10 US per person per day! Whilst there we experienced some very strong NE winds and the boat was at risk of being smashed on to the dock. We therefore looked for an alternative berth. A local boater offered us use of his mooring - for $20 US per night!

Changing the subject - beware mosquitoes if one is sensitive to their bites. After the second night, Vincent by youngest was covered in bites and was beside himself with the discomfort of it. If he could have found an early flight home he would have taken it. Thankfully he head recovered within a couple of days and we improved our defences against the horrible little beasts.

Tourist highlights included visiting the Blue Hole river falls outside Ochi Rios, where the kids had a great time. Unfortunately that was on a day when the winds were at their highest. Mick had agreed to stay on the boat which at that stage was still moored on the dock her bow secured to a buoy about 30 metres away and her stern to the hammerhead dock with two lines - one from each quarter. The gusting near gale force winds were blowing off her port bow. I was in regular txt contact with him and at about 1500 he suggested I should get back asap before the winds peaked that evening. Being two hours away from the boat I had to round the kids up prematurely and as a consequence rather spoilt their fun.

Another highlight was visiting Jamaica's famous Negril beach - 7 miles of golden sand facing west and therefore sheltered from the strong north easterly winds that were still blowing. We saw the sun go down at Rick's Café listening to live (albeit not the best) Reggae.

Mick flew home yesterday (Wednesday) and Sharon and the kids fly home tomorrow evening. Sharon and Charles visited her folks once again yesterday/today and so Neville took me in search of somewhere to refill my gas cylinders and to re-provision the boat. To my great relief after a number of failures we finally found somewhere that was able to re-fill my campingaz cylinders with gas. For the benefit of any other boaters visiting Montego Bay, the place to go is Massey Gas Products in Freeport, just 5 minutes drive from the Yacht Club.

I would think twice before visiting Montego Bay however. The Yacht Club is rather isolated and it's an expensive taxi ride into town. There is very little room to anchor and the dockage and yacht club fees are the most expensive I have encountered either side of the Atlantic. I didn't visit other ports or anchorages but suspect that Port Antonio is probably a much better place to stay.

Immigration and Customs charge overtime rates at the weekends and my current plan is therefore to undertake a number of jobs on the boat over the weekend and to depart on Monday for Cuba where I am hoping to meet up with another friend. Cienfuegos on Cuba's south coast is about 250 miles to the north west and so it should take 2-3 days to get there. I will try and update the blog with more specific departure plans nearer the time.