Welcome to Jamaica, welcome to paradise. This was the greeting we received as we made our way to the harbour of Port Antonio, Jamaica.
After breaking the golden rule, we entered Port Antonio in the dark, but only because the entrance is wide, very well marked, and it was a calm night with a full moon. The entrance is very straight forward with all buoys being lit and the Folly Point lighthouse being visible for miles.
We woke up our first morning in Jamaica with the Blue Mountains (famous for their coffee) making a beautiful backdrop to the Errol Flynn marina and the town of Port Antonio. Because we arrived on the weekend, quarantine, customs and immigration made their visits sporadically throughout Saturday, but an arrival during normal working hours brings no problems and they arrive one after the other. And…there is no charge.
We chose to take our Cheoy Lee B30, Meggie, to the dock to carry out the customs procedures and were met with a warm welcome from the marina manager, Dale Westin. Dale was very informative and helpful, supplying us with a folder from Errol Flynn marina including information needed for our stay.
Once we were cleared by all officials (who were very friendly), we chose to take a mooring ball, which for $10 US/night, gives you access to all the facilities at the marina including: HOT showers, a pool, WiFi internet, laundry facilities ($3.50 US each for wash/dry) and gated complex, making security a non-issue.
The harbour is very well protected, due to a reef and Navy Island (which is rich in history). We experienced stiff winds from the northwest through to the southeast and only had a slight chop in the harbour, however the actual dock area was calm as could be.
The marina is very well maintained, safe and has a great staff. Everyone keeps busy, but makes time for all visitors and all are very informative and helpful. The marina is very lucky to have such an excellent dockmaster, George Munro, who will help you in any way he can. Errol Flynn also has a haul-out facility and although we did not use this, we only received good reports.
Outside the marina complex is the bustling little town of Port Antonio. We found the people most friendly who greet you with a smile and a “hello.” When met by hustlers, a “no thanks” usually is sufficient.
If tours are your thing there is plenty to choose from. Rafting the Rio Grande, a car tour into the Blue Mountains visiting the coffee plantations or hiking and numerous trips to different waterfalls. A short local bus ride east will take you to Frenchman’s Cove, the famous Blue Lagoon and numerous beautiful beaches, some of which are the nicest we’ve seen in the Caribbean.
A trip to Kingston is roughly a three-hour ride each way, as the road is under construction but once finished should be quicker. There are numerous restaurants to choose from, although our favourite was Piggy’s, a local jerk stand. We asked locals and were assured that Piggy’s made the best jerk chicken in town, and we can concur that it is pretty damn good.
From Port Antonio it’s quick sailing along the north coast to Montego Bay at the northwest tip of Jamaica, which lays about 95 nautical miles west. We used “A guide to the Northwest Caribbean” by Stephen Pavlidis, which is the only recent guide for the north coast of Jamaica, and found it very good with accurate information.
However, we didn’t have the opportunity to stop along the north coast as a large northeast sea was running, making most (if not all) anchorages untenable, but we did meet a sailing couple who had circumnavigated Jamaica stopping at all the anchorages, and they assured us each one was beautiful and they experienced no security issues. As always, use your own discretion and common sense when exploring this island, as there have been reports of boardings in the past.
If you’re looking for a non-touristy, quaint island setting, then Port Antonio is a fantastic stop. Jamaica has plenty to offer not only in Port Antonio but other areas as well. Montego Bay makes a great spot to provision and the yacht club is a lovely place to have lunch, a swim, trade your books at the swap or a chance to get in on the race scene on the weekends. It’s also a great place to stage to go to the Caymans, Cuba or Honduras.
A little off the beaten track, but well worth the sail. We chose to sail from Curacao to Jamaica in our little 30 footer, sailing with wind, current and waves. The passage only took us 4.5 days and we experienced perfect sailing conditions. Like the advertisements say….”Come to Jamaica, mahn”.
Kylie Deacon and Mike Shaw have been living for two years aboard Meggie, a Cheoy Lee Bermuda 30 built of teak wood that they have rebuilt. They have sailed their boat from the Great Lakes in Canada and are currently enjoying the Caribbean.