The Stowaway

The wind was ready for us and we said, “good riddens, Jamaica!” We felt safe in Port Antonio; we enjoyed the scenic mountain backdrop and fresh, exotic fruits and vegetables to sample. It was the people (sorry Jamaica) of Port Antonio that made us uncomfortable; when we weren’t speed-walking through the city to find an off the beaten path, we were hunkering in the marina hoping not to be approached while we minded our own business. The people (except our friends; Rochelle and Damon, a lovely lady we met in the hills behind the hospital, and Norma at the market) all wanted something, namely cash. When they weren’t outright asking for it, they were following behind us offering taxis and overpriced excursions. Constant! And forget about asking a local for directions because anyone who seemed kind enough to show us around always asked for us to literally repay their kindness with a tip. Jamaica was good practice for Brian and I to say “NO!” which we are terrible at doing and will undoubtedly need to do to survive world travel.

And so, we were happy to be on the Rode again and among friends. Skebenga took the lead and Serendipity followed behind (certain to pass us in no time). We departed in the evening and set a northwest course with what would become very variable east winds. We were fully stocked with green bananas among our other Jamaican treats; cabbage, potatoes, mangos, ginger beer, and rum. Even though we’d rinsed them I wouldn’t allow the bananas inside for fear we’d get some bug infestation. Brian reluctantly secured them in the cockpit and told me they’d be yellow and rotted in a day out in the sun, but I was willing to chance it.


The entire second day we bobbled around with just the jib in 0-5 knots of wind. The main came down because we could not keep it full and the flogging back and forth made a miserable sound. Brian had made some adjustments to the Cape Horn windvane prior to our leaving Jamaica. Remember it was on the fritz en route from the Bahamas and so he consulted Yves, the Cape Horn mastermind via email. Brian completed step one of troubleshooting per the very helpful and prompt directions received from Yves. Unfortunately step one wasn’t quite the fix our problem needed and the windvane continued to get stuck, although not quite as often. This left us babysitting the steering and keeping 3-hour watch schedules through the night.

The second evening the wind kicked up to a roaring 10-15 knots. Yippee! With the main back up we made some tracks until the wind died again the next morning. We were not used to such a calm trip! I was able to do all my usual boat chores, Brian cooked breakfasts and suppers, and all the while we’d read like we’d never read before!

On our third day out we finally got some excitement. No, not the weather, it stayed remarkably dull. At 4:00pm just as I knelt to settle into my afternoon reading position between the mast and the solar panel frame, I was startled by two frightened eyes and a very sharp beak! A cattle egret had landed for a rest on the lifeline.


What an excellent zoom lens opportunity! Brian scooted below to get the camera before the egret took off. We needn’t have worried though, in the next half hour he’d moved onto the dinghy and was adjusting his balance to the motion of the boat.



I named the stowaway Greg and proceeded to document his movements in our log. I also tried to think of what Greg might like to eat, he looked exhausted and famished! Brian suggested bananas, as we were now eating them as main entrees and snacks. I thought a flying fish would entice Greg (we had a total of 5 flying fish land on deck during this trip).


I managed to set out a bowl of water near Greg atop the dinghy. I willed him to take a drink, but he paid no mind to the water. At 6:06pm, despite the flogging of our main as we attempted to heave to in the incredibly light wind, Greg laid down for a snooze.


While hove to Brian and I enjoyed dinner together. At 8:35pm we took down the main, prompting a startled Greg to flutter onto the bowsprit. During the very early morning hours of our fourth day out, we were happy to have had only the jib flying when the wind actually presented itself. I took my shift at 5:00am. The rigging was whistling, that’s 20-25 knots of wind on Rode Trips carefully calibrated ananometer, and Brian informed me that he hadn’t seen Greg for several hours. The light of dawn was just peeking through the clouds at 5:19am when I stood out of the hatch to take a good look around for Greg. I startled him from wherever he was. He took flight and flew a lap around the boat, but returned just in time to assist me with sail trim.


Greg stayed in the cockpit during my morning shift while I came out twice to adjust the windvane. At 8:00am when Brian awoke, Greg took a turn at the tiller before finally flying away.


We had another full day of sailing before reaching our destination on day five. We’d arrived last, as usual, our friends aboard Skebenga and Serendipity were docked when we hailed the marina indicating our arrival. We entered the channel leading into the Bahia de Cienfuegos and were breath taken by the sheer beauty that we found. Beautiful mountains, sprawling green fields, a massive bay alive with sea birds, fishermen, and ferry boats.






We followed the channel markers toward our marina.



A new place to explore! And friends to share banana bread…loaves all around!




Excursion to Reach Falls

It didn’t take long for a group of 30-something cruisers to get together and organize an excursion. What better way to see Jamaica than by splitting the cost!? We did minimal research; chatted with locals and the marina to determine the most cost effective way to obtain transportation to/from the falls. When the time came to get on with the show, while sitting leisurely aboard Nila Girl until mid-morning, we hired Harry who conveniently showed up at the docks and told us he’d be back around 12:30pm to take us. We loaded ten people; Matt & Jessica (sv/Serendipity), Ren, Ashley, & Nick (sv/Nila Girl), and Piers, Jason, & Jimmy (sv/Tamarisk) into Harry’s van along with a cooler filled to the brim with ice and beer.


We can always count on Ashley to bring snacks!


First viewpoint, Trident Castle.


The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful blue hole that obtained its fame during a 170-foot dive made by Jacques Cousteau. The lagoon was also the location for filming the movie “The Blue Lagoon” starring a young Brooke Shields.



Ren and Ashley look right at home at the Blue Lagoon. Don’t let their tourist clothes fool you, these all-star free divers would be at the bottom of that hole in a jiffy


Matt and Jessica strike a pose after Matt’s taken a refreshing dip in the lagoon.


Piers shows us how to explore with style while Jason and Jimmy chat with the group.



We never miss a photo opportunity.


After our visit to the Blue Lagoon, another 20-minutes in the van brought us to Reach Falls.



We followed a paved road to a well maintained set of stairs leading us to the base of the falls.


I’ll admit that I was not impressed with the 30-ish foot waterfall and lack of hiking. We did have a fun time scampering up and down the riverbed, though. We were led by a guide (for a tip) upstream about one mile. The stream had deep pools for swimming and the highlight was a cave that we could drop down into under the stream and swim out farther downstream. Brian ended the trial with a jump from the waterfall.


Thanks to Jason for taking and sharing this fabulous group photo; what a good looking bunch of cruisers!


We ended our excursion with a stop at Boston Beach where we sampled the “famous” jerk pork and jerk chicken served there. The meat was delish and very spicy! It was served with a side of festival bread; sort of bland, yet a tad sweet, fried bread sticks. Brian and I were also suckered into our first souvenir at Boston Beach, hand-made necklaces made from red coffee beans. Stylish!


Welcome to Jamaica, Mon!

We sailed into the West Harbor of Port Antonio, Jamaica with a new day’s sunshine lighting our way. The entrance channel was well marked and easy to navigate, although we did throw in an extra tack to avoid colliding with a fisherman on his skiff. We hailed the Errol Flynn Marina, where we’d planned to stay during our visit, and received docking directions. Errol Flynn Marina is a Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) cruising station. Just as we rounded the corner, we fired up the Perkins to bring us smoothly into the dock.



We were tired, but very excited to see our friends when we arrived. Serendipity had arrived the previous night and had already enjoyed a restful night in the calm harbor to refresh from the passage. Nila Girl and EZ were at the docks and as soon as Rode Trip was secure Ren and Ashley stopped over to say hello. We received a very warm welcome from Paul, the General Manager of Errol Flynn Marina. Our quarantine flag was flying along with the Jamaican flag. Now all we had to do was wait for Quarantine, Customs & Immigration, and Coast Guard to give the go-ahead to explore their country.


Check-in was a simple process; all of the officials were very professional and pleasant. In between their boarding our boat, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Ren, Ashley, and Nick. Ahhh it was wonderful to have some fresh food! Ashley cooked up a feast of scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, lobster, potato, and topped with sprouts, in addition to cheesy grits, and a dazzling plate of watermelon. Brian and I shared a loaf of bread we’d baked that morning while en route; boy was it delicious once spread with butter and jam! Nick cooked a hearty plate of bacon that disappeared shortly after being placed in front of the hungry crowd.

We were first visited by Quarantine. The woman looked a bit perplexed when she asked whether we had any meat aboard and we replied, “canned meat, we have no refrigeration.” We also explained our composting toilet to her as there is a strict no dumping policy in the harbor. We were asked to not bring any canned meat ashore and to use the facilities. No problem! Customs and Immigration squeezed five people onto Rode Trip. “You don’t use the air conditioner?” one of the gentlemen asked after taking a seat on the couch around our little cabin’s table. They shuffled papers around and requested copies of our documents. We were prepared with copies of our passports, boat documentation, and crew list. There is no cost to enter Jamaica. I would say this was no sweat…but you can imagine with a full boat of people sitting at a sunny, breezeless dock there was actually quite a bit of sweating going on! Finally, the Coast Guard boarded the boat. We provided them a copy of a crew list and a copy of the boat documentation. Free and clear!


While docked, we filled our water tanks which were much more empty than we’d anticipated. Water is $ .12/gallon at the marina. Then we invited some Finnish tourists aboard for a tour and had a good conversation about traveling. We anchored Rode Trip in the harbor; use of the marina facilities at anchor runs $12/day.

After business time it didn’t take us long to hit the streets with our friends. We walked out of town to get away from the hustle (LOTS of HUSTLE) and bustle and just start to admire the scenery.


We had a bit of refreshment while walking up a very steep hillside. Ice cream for only $50 Jamaican dollars – what a bargain! ($ .50 USD)



Not only did we take in a magnificent view of the harbor from the top of the hill…


…but we also came away with a backpack full of fresh mangoes!