Quit jerking around!
Jamaica is famous for its jerk sauce, a spicy dark brown sauce in which chicken, beef or pork is marinated. The meat is typically cooked on a Jamaican barbecue, which is an oil drum cut length wise, fitted with hinges, and mounted on a stand or wheels. This results in a blackened outer skin covering deliciously soft meat.
The origin of the jerking process is brought back to the Coromantee African slaves, who escaped into the mountains when the British took over the island from Spain. The ex-slaves fled into the wilds and mixed in with the local Taínos. From there on, they were called maroons. This is related to the Spanish word Cimarron, a runaway, something that flees into the wild (used for domestic animals as well as people). They made strong hidden settlements in the Jamaicans mountains, which they fiercely defended and from where they launched raids on farms when they were in need of stuff nature couldn’t provide. They found themselves some allspice wood (native to Jamaica and one of the most important ingredients) and started experimenting with the available spices such as Scotch bonnet pepper and allspice.
Over the years recipes were refined and different cultures added different touches. The Maroons met some marooners (this being another word for pirates and buccaneers, who derived their name from leaving unwanted personnel or enemies behind on a deserted island, also called marooning) and exchanged recipes. Proof for this lies in that French Caribbean’s poulet boucané (‘smoked chicken’) is quite similar to traditional Jamaican jerk chicken.
Did you know that Jamaica had the first bobsled team to come out of a tropical country and nearly won the winter Olympics in Canada? A quick ride in the local minibuses and taxis will teach you why the Jamaican quartet even considered going slipping and sliding jampacked in a superfast sled, racing downhill at high speed and nearly flying out of all the bends… Taking a local minibus gives you that very same experience! You can hear the wheelbearings screeching and smell the breaks wearing away while they accelerate and break, accelerate and break. Hopping from town to town seems to be an eternal race, skating through bends on two wheels. The roads in the mountainous country are not in the best state and snake their way up and down mountains, valleys, plateaus, crevices. The need for speed, the taste for reckless driving, the fearless heavy footedness, and the inability to assess risk seem to be part of their make-up.
The name of the first bobsled team was ‘cool runnings’, meaning ‘peace be with you’… And surely, eternal peace will be with you if you are eager to risk your life with the local transport!
From Port Antonio, we moved to Port Maria, where we only stayed one night. Although the anchorage was pretty, with a huge overgrown rock protruding above the waves in the middle of the bay, the village looked quite run down with a few unsavory characters hanging around that surely would not resist the temptation to pay Exodus a visit.
We set sails towards Oracabessa. As the harbor was too shallow we anchored in front of James Bond beach. This is a low key, somewhat deserted beach resort, with a nice beach and a restaurant serving local food. The only other visitors seemed to be Jamaican pensioners on a day outing.
In case you wonder about the name and which possible link Jamaica has with 007: the author of the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, lived in Jamaica. He repeatedly used the island as a setting in his novels, such as Live and Let Die, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy and The Living Daylights. The movies Live and Let Die and Doctor No were shot in Jamaica. The Jamaicans were grateful for the international exposure and named one of their airports after the famous author, the Ian Fleming Airport.
The best about this anchorage was the close by reef, peaking out just underneath the surf. The whole area is part of a conservation project, no fishing allowed, making the fish plenty and curious. Apart from the normal tropical reef fish, an octopus, and some squid, we saw some huge king mackerel and barracuda.
Swimming from Exodus to the reef we noticed a lot of trees on the sea bottom. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and because of this, the island scan suffer significant storm damage. They were hit by hurricane Charlie (1951), Gilbert (1988), and hurricanes Ivan, Dean, and Gustav brought severe weather to the island.
Shops for basic provisioning were available on a short uphill stroll through the rainforest to the small village.
After a few relaxing days in front of James Bond Beach we headed for Saint Anne’s bay. Weather did not allow us to anchor there, so Exodus sailed on to Discovery Bay.
Discovery Bay is a large place which you enter through a channel that caters for bulk carriers as well as sailing yachts. On starboard we could discern some strange structures, which turned out to be the biggest bauxite mine on Jamaica. Bauxite is a sedimentary rock with a relatively high aluminium content. It is the world’s main source of aluminium. Jamaica is the fifth largest exporter of bauxite in the world, after Australia, China, Brazil and Guinea.
We kayaked to Puerto Seco, a beach bar/ restaurant with prim beach and colourful plastic playground in the water, named after the place where Columbus first put foot on land and claimed the island for the Spanish crown.
As Jamaican maritime law requires we had to report to the port authorities and present our documents. Puerto Seco immediately wanted to charge us 1000 Jamaican Dollars or 10 US per person for the use of their exclusive beach. As we are not in the habit of paying to sit on the beach, we kayaked to the local beach after reporting to the maritime guys.
This turned out to be the best decision ever, and we hung out a few days with the locals. We met baracca owner Michael and his 6 year old son Dee-André, his friend Jay (who is in ‘public transportation’) and his 7 year old son Jason, a lawyer who comes to the beach to let his hair hang loose by performing backflips in the water and surfing with a plastic kayak. Gitane had a great time playing with the kids.
The best was a horse whispering rasta, with 2 horses that had past their prime but looked well kept. His business was one of offering nature-loving and kindness horse back rides to beach goers. But the more he smoked the less the horses were interested in him.
From D’Bay we moved on to Montego Bay. Michael warned us several times about Mo’Bay as they have lots of strikes, riots and crime there. Not a place to let your guard down.
We approached the channel with an airplane soaring over Exodus’s mast and anchored in front of the yacht club. The Montego Bay Yacht Club did not have any births available where we could fit in easily, but for a 10USD fee per day you can anchor in the bay and use their facilities. They also organize the departure of sailing craft out of the country.
Being in the anchorage was definitely not boring. In the early morning, it was not uncommon to feel a soft vibration over the water, caused by one of those huge cruise liners mooring opposite!
The Yacht Club is located in the high end tourist area, with luxurious hotels and beach resorts such as the fancy Hard Rock Café Beach Complex, Sandals Beach Resort, and so many more. To get to a supermarket, you were quite far removed from everything, and had to take a taxi.
We spent a few days restocking and preparing for our jump to Providencia Island, therewith ending our 4 week stay in Jamaica.