Exploring Jamaica, trip to Grand Cayman

Exploring Jamaica, trip to Grand Cayman


Montego Bay


From Lucea it was a short 20 or so mile sail to Montego Bay, but with the wind against us we made it in two tacks. Initially we headed in for the Montego Bay Yacht Club as there appeared to be a small anchorage area in front, between the Yacht Club and the cruise ship terminal. Small is an understatement, most of the area was taken up by vessels, many commercial, on moorings. We attempted to anchor but found we could not hold so relocated to the other, Eastern, end of the Bay right adjacent the “down town” area and close to Pier One.



After anchoring in 2.5 metres of somewhat dirty water, we went ashore and met up with Miguel who turned out to be the owner of the small marine store at the Pier. He and his wife Joan were very helpful.



Our, less than one year old, AGM house batteries had been losing capacity for some time and we had tried various things, suggested by the original supplier to overcome the problem, however things had continued to deteriorate and now the supplier, in Miami, was no longer responding to our emails or phone calls. We had no option gut to replace the batteries.




Joan, in particular, went to a lot of trouble to assist us in sourcing and picking up replacement replacements, although we could not locate AGMs so ended up with normal lead acid batteries.


Montego Bay is quite open to the ocean, not a great deal in the way of barrier reef to stop ocean swells rolling into the Eastern end of the bay, particularly from the North. We had not been good sailors, we had not checked the weather forecast and, sure enough, in the early hours of the morning, up came the swell from the North. At first we were just uncomfortable with Ednbal rolling side on to the swell but very soon, as the swell rose, it began lifting and breaking far to close to us for any sort of comfort. Only one option, at 2am we had to up anchor and move, either out to deeper water or some other more protected part of the bay. We can assure you it is very nerve wracking to relocate in the middle of the night, especially in an area almost totally unfamiliar. Fortunately we had “tracking on” on our chart plotter so could retrace our path from the Yacht Club and adjacent ships docks. So, somewhat gingerly we made our way back to the Montego Bay Yacht Club area. Further decision, try again to anchor, in a very tight area where we had already found problems or to try and tie up to the wharf somewhere. We went into the wharf but found that the roll from the swell was still too much to attempt to tie up to a wharf designed to accommodate cargo and cruise ships. No option now but to try and re anchor. We managed to find a spot that would give us enough swing room and Sasha dropped the anchor. I put Ednbal in reverse and pulled against the anchor (or normal procedure when anchoring) and it held but we were very close to a navigation marker, other moored vessels and not that far, less than 100 metres, from the cruise ship wharf. Worry, worry, worry, but by about 4.30, finally back to sleep. By the time we woke there were two ships tied up to the wharf, one right where we had considered tying up, now that could have been embarrassing!!


Over the next couple of days, while getting the batteries sorted out, we visited the major, very, very, touristy attractions of Montego Bay.



We were not impressed and decided that once we had our batteries replaced we would head back to Negril for Christmas. And, so it was, that on 23 December we headed, this time with the wind behind us, back to Negril. For over 30 miles we had the spinnaker up and thoroughly enjoyed the sail, arriving to anchor just on sun set. One attraction we had heard of in Negril, from the Aussies, Sara and Gavin, was the cliff jumpers at Rick’s Café. Next day we sailed “around the corner” to the South West side and Rick’s Café. On the way we got a closer look at the cliff hotels, most extravagant places build on and into the cliffs with steps cut out of the rock leading to the clear blue water. Many also had swimming pools that looked like they too were dug out of the rock. Certainly some money spent here!





We didn’t anchor at Rick’s as it was a rock bottom but just drifted in the lee to the island out of the light breeze that was blowing. There were many levels for cliff jumpers ranging from rock platforms a few metres to around 20 metres at the café itself. In addition there was a higher “platform”, more like just wooden poles to climb up on, another 15 metres higher. We saw only one person dive/jump from the upper platform into the rock pool below. As interesting afternoon spent amongst a number of other vessels loaded with tourists also watching the spectacle.



We headed back to our beach anchorage as the sun was beginning to set, arriving just in time to enjoy a GnT sundowner, and what a sun downer it was. We had heard of the tropical “green flash” from Lulu and Gigi, apparently sometimes in the tropics, as the last little bit of the sun sinks below the horizon you may see a green flash of light. We had been watching out for the green flash on cloudless evenings but had not seen it and I for one was beginning to think it was just another one of Lulu’s humour stories. But, on Christmas eve 2007 we saw a distinctive green flash and, we were both reasonably sober! Footnote: Later in one of the Cayman guides it was explained - "Legend has it that those who see the flash will never be fooled in the matters of the heart!"




Although there was just the two of us for Christmas we cooked the full traditional Christmas dinner – roast chicken, veggies and gravy followed by potent Jamaican rum cake and finished off with beautiful fresh tropical fruits, all washed down with the appropriate beverages. By now we were ready to move. It is amazing how, after spending time in one place, you get the urge to be back out on the ocean and off to the next spot or country, this time to Grand Cayman Island 180nm about West of Jamaica.


Trip to Grand Cayman


By 06:30 on 29 December we had the anchor up and were on our way to Grand Cayman. Just 3 way points on the route, the first just over 170 miles to the South Western tip of Grand Cayman where we hoped to be by early afternoon the next day. The wind was very kind to us for no sooner that we had motored out of Long Bay, Negril, it sprung up to 15kns from the North East so we had perfect sailing conditions making close to 6kn with the wind off the aft starboard quarter. And, that is pretty much how it remained for the trip other than it strengthened to over 25kn later in the afternoon and overnight. By mid morning 30 December we were in sight of Cayman. As usual we had our trawling, skirted  lure over the back and, to that time had hooked two Mahi Mahi but lost them both, one Sasha reeled in right to the transom. I had been keeping the last lure made, from polyethylene, by a wood turning friend, Graeme Tritton, in the Cocos Keeling Islands when I was there in 1998, for a special occasion. We had not caught any decent size fish trawling, since the trip from Turks and Caicos to Puerto Rico 6 months ago and, having lost two on the trip so far, decided to use the home made pink skirted lure. While crossing, what was marked on the chart as the “Cayman Trench” about 5000m deep, the Pen reel began to scream. Sasha started to head the boat into the wind while I grabbed the rod, set the drag and began to wind in. After the initial run the line went slack and I thought we had lost the fish until it leapt out of the water not 50m behind us, a big blue Marlin, about the size of a person. It came clear out of the water, did a full summersault and was gone, along with the special lure. After suitable and requisite cursing, I wound in the line, would not have eaten the dam fish anyway!!!!