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Cruising Jamaica

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Jamaica is nutmeg and chili pepper mixed with loud rhythms pounded from monstrous sound systems. It is the markets in downtown Kingston bursting with color, people, and more pounding dance music. Jamaica is 350 miles of coastline. Between Port Antonio and Montego Bay on the North Coast every cove and beach is stolen by$800 a night luxury bungalows or high-rise hotels. The cities are hijacked by traffic; busses, route cars, taxis, trucks and cars, gushing relentlessly, making walking a deadly endeavor.
Patois or Jamaican Creole wakes us at the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Words hard and fast volley back and forth like pellets. A group of fishermen are getting their fishing boats ready for the day, and boat workers jive about lasts nights escapades.
The Yacht club is a classy local establishment hosting a mix of cruisers, fishing vessels, and glass bottom boats. There is a dining room, a bar, a swimming pool and a scent of English colonialism. Two towering Cruise ships are docked a stone …

The Windward Passage and Jamaica

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One year ago when we were in the planning stages of our two-year sailing trip I read about the Windward Passage for the first time. I sat on our leather couch in our rose colored living room with a view of the RivannaRiver and Goggled: “The best way to get from the Southern Bahamas to Panama”. I pulled a blanket around my feet and read a few blogs from sailors who had gone that route.

The Windward Passage is a strait of wild and wily water situated between the west tip of Haiti and the east coast of Cuba. Not unlike the dreaded cuts in the Bahamas (see past blog post) the prevailing easterly winds funnel masses of water from the North Atlantic to the Caribbean Sea resulting in high, chaotic waves and a 5-10 knot increase in the prevailing wind speeds.
One of the blog posts I read reported their boat being approached by Haitian fishing vessels. They never stopped to find out what they wanted, but it sounded potentially worrisome. The Windward Passage made me nervous even back there in…
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Island hopping and spear fishing
January turned out to be the month with highest winds and most rain in 15 years in the Bahamas. Finally February brought calmer conditions to Elizabeth Harbor in Georgetown, a small consolation after Mika, Eric and Axelia’s departure. We took advantage of it, pulled our hook out of the sand and went sailing.
There are a number of out islands a day’s sail south east of the Exumas. Their names sound like exotic drinks:Long island, the Jumentos, Cat Island, Conception, Rum Cay and San Salvador, each one bursting with its own flavor and character. After studying the chart and the wind direction for the coming week we picked Long Island and Cat Island.
Long Island is truly a long thin island, stretching 80 miles in a southeasterly direction. It turned out to be an easy 7-hour sail, and we anchored at Salt Pond, named after Morton’s salt business in the area.
It was a beautiful anchorage, a big open bay, with easy access to facilities and we stayed for a coupl…

January, cuts, cold fronts and our arrival in George Town

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Three weeks of sunshine and low winds ended with the New Year and 2018 brought unstable weather to the Exumas. The tail of the low that battered the US East coast with freezing temperatures brought us higher winds and rain.
We started the Exuma shuffle, waiting for a weather window to go to Georgetown on Great Exuma. The shuffle meant sidestepping waves and wind to find a protective anchorage and occasionally returning to Staniel Cay to provision. The 30 mile sail south in the open ocean required a dayor two of calmer weather that would lay the seas down and allow us to enter from the banksinto the ocean.
Each area of the world has its own particular sailing challenges, which is one reason why cruising can be both‘hair-raising’ and exciting at the same time.For the Bahamian Exuma Islands, this challenge is navigating the ‘cuts’.The Exumas lie in a line between thousands of square miles of shallow banks and the deep ocean of the Exuma sound. Cuts are the narrow openings between these…