Jamaica gets a bad rap.  High murder rate in the cities, people try to scam you, places are “sketchy”.  These are all things we heard about Jamaica.  This did not deter us – and with a little street smarts we should be fine.  And all these things could be equally said about USA.  Darold has wanted to visit the homeland of reggae since he was young – he began listening to reggae when he was 8 years old.  Me?  I wanted to try jerk chicken and Red Stripe beer.  

Our first introduction to Jamaica was its smell – we smelled the moist soil many miles offshore as we approached late in the evening.   After being at sea for 7 days (coming from Panama), the scent of Jamaica’s verdant earth was so strong we could almost taste it. Our first introduction to the Jamaican people was waving to a local fisherman.  I waved the requisite “hello we are both on a boat” wave to him as we passed, and instead of returning my placid wave, he stood up in his small fishing boat and moved his arms side to side and up and down – his boat gently rocking with the motion.  It was more dance than wave.  Dante returned the wild gesticulations and said, “I think I’m going to like it here.”


Welcome to Jamaica, mon!

After a few days of boat repairs in the Montego Bay Yacht Club, we rented a car to see other parts of Jamaica.  Darold drove since Jamaica, being a former part of the British Empire, drives on the wrong side of the road.  They say, “Da left side is da right side and da right side is suicide, mon”

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DSC_0050 (2)We first drove to Negril, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Casual” in order to attend a reggae concert for Bob Marley’s Birthday.  When we arrived in Negril, we stopped for lunch and got into a conversation with some locals.  We used a little of the local slang/dialect called Patois with them.  For example:

“Wa de gwan, mon” = “What’s going on, dude?”

“Me day-uh” = “I’m cool”

“Likkle mo time, mon” = “I need a little more time” (used when someone is trying to sell you something you don’t want)

“Chatty chatty” = that person is a “chatterbox”

The locals in a restaurant gave Dante his own patois name: “Likkle Hulk.”  Because he ate so much food, they were sure he would grow big like the Hulk.  Dante was pleased.

The reggae concert was actually a week-long event;  we were there on the Rastafarian drumming night.  There was a big bonfire in the middle of the concert lawn, vendors were selling woodcrafts and jewelry, and the people milling about were a mix of Rastafarians, locals and hippies who looked like they found Jamaica in the 60s – and its ganja- and never left.  A cloud of smoke hovered over the entire crowd.  Dante promptly fell asleep on a blanket I laid out on the lawn (if he said he was really hungry I would have been worried.)  As he fell asleep he was singing along to Marley’s “War.”  Darold and I got into a few conversations with Rastafarians.  One dreadlocked Rasta named “Lion Claw” asked Darold if he thought the power plants in the U.S. were causing the weather to change.

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The next day we drove to the Black River for a tour to see crocodiles.  They were so tame, they would come swimming up to the boat as we passed by, anticipating the raw chicken that would get thrown to them.  We drove quickly up to “YS Falls” so that we could get there before they closed.  YS Falls is a series of 7 pools, one cascading down into the next, all surrounded by lush Jamaican jungle.  Darold and Dante jumped into one of the pools from a rope swing about 20 feet above the water (I opted out of that activity in order to keep my bikini where it belonged.)


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Then it was time to head back to Montego Bay.  We decided to take the roads over the mountain instead of along the coast.  Along the coast the road was an “A1” road, and we would have to take other roads to reach MoBay.  The A1 roads had quite a few pot holes; some parts of the roads were so bad you had to slow down to a crawl to avoid or go slowly over the holes.  We started going up the mountain, and reading the map it looked like the shortest route would be on the road that was a black line.  Our little rental car was not pleased.  The road looked like a walking trail in Yosemite.  Single lane.  Unpaved.  We realized that we were on a “C” road and we should have taken the “B” road instead.  Darold backed down the road 1 mile since there was no place to turn around and we proceeded on the B road.  It had rained a little bit so the pot holes were filled with water and there was no telling how deep they were.  An inch?  A foot?  Three feet?  Yes, yes and yes!  Darold said it was like driving in a video game.

Outside of the tourist cities and destinations, we now got to see some real parts of Jamaica.  Jamaica has a lot of poverty (if the roads weren’t our first indication.)  But they people are friendly and would wave and smile to us as we passed by.  We passed tiny towns with families sitting outside chatting.  Once in a while we’d see a man walking along the road with a machete in his hand. We passed herds of school kids toting backpacks, walking home, waving and giggling at us.

We’d heard of other cruisers who picked up hitchhikers as they drove around Jamaica so we weren’t surprised when 3 young women, one of them with a newborn baby, hailed us down frantically and asked us to drive them down the road.  They squeezed into the backseat with the baby, a bunch of pineapples and their bags, enveloping Dante.  We dropped them off and 30 minutes later were hailed by a very young couple, who got into the backseat saying, “white people help da black people; black people don help da black people” and then proceeded to admonish us for picking up hitchhikers lest we be scammed.  We drove them all the way to Montego Bay and they left us with their phone numbers in case we needed anything.






We arrived back to the yacht club and the first thing we did was walk around the car to make sure we didn’t sustain damage from the monster pot holes.  Fortunately, the car was fine.  The next day, before we returned the car, we went to an old plantation house near Montego Bay.  When Jamaica was part of the British Empire, initially they allowed slaves and there were hundreds of plantations around the island, but there are very few left as many of them were burned down in an uprising.  It was an interesting history lesson for Dante, and for us.

The following day we did some provisioning in the local market before shoving off for Port Antonio.

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We sailed to Port Antonio, stopping along the way at little anchorages (Rio Bueno and Port Maria) to get a full night’s sleep.  Port Antonio is beautiful, being at the foothill of the famous Blue Mountains.  In Port Antonio, we had to check in with customs and then the marine police boarded Benevento and did a thorough search.  Nothing like someone rifling through your underwear to make you feel a little uncomfortable…  Later we enjoyed a few drinks at the Errol Flynn Marina.


We decided that we’d take a road trip to Kingston instead of sailing there, so on our second day in Port Antonio we braved another car rental to take on the Jamaican highways. There were fewer pot holes than the west side of the island, but it still took us 3 hours to get to Kingston and 2.5 hours to return. That left us only enough time to have lunch and a brief walk in Port Royal (which used to be the Pirate capital of the world) and a tour of the Bob Marley museum.

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The museum is inside Bob Marley’s former house in Kingston and includes a tour of where he lived including his recording studio.  As Dante said, the museum was “epic, mon” and worth the drive to Kingston to see it.

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I was dreading the drive back to Port Antonio since most of it would be at night, but it turns out the roads were nearly pot hole-free.  The challenge this time is that Jamaicans drive amazingly fast.  Ridiculously fast, which is fast because my husband drives somewhat fast and he thought it was too fast.  This is rather interesting considering that outside of their cars they take their sweet time for everything else.  While driving fast they are even reluctant to stop.  For example, instead of slowing down around a blind curve or a narrowed part of the road, they simply lean on the horn instructing you to get out of the way … I’m coming through.  There are billboards everywhere listing the stats for traffic deaths in years past.  Under 2013 there is a big question mark so maybe they are still counting….

We got to Port Antonio just in time to take a walk down to a locally famous ice cream shop near the marina.  Unfortunately, it had just closed!  And we were REALLY in the mood for some ice cream.  A policeman walked past, we got into a conversation with him and he convinced the shop keeper to open up just for us.  Success!  We bought him an ice cream cone too and saw him continue his beat – a little happier, eating his ice cream cone. Ah Jamaica … in the chaos there is kindness!

You can see all the Jamaica photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/easethemain/sets/72157640619355403/