Located in the centre of the Caribbean,
Jamaica is a natural port of call for boats heading to Panama from just about anywhere.
The relentless northeast trades deliver a favorable breeze, and the numerous bays, harbours,
and hurricane holes provide convenient shelter for relaxed daysailing on both the north and south coasts of the island.
With a fascinating history, a rich culture, and a vibrant music scene, Jamaica was “not-tobe” missed on our Caribbean itinerary.
It was early December when we left Panama, bound for Jamaica onboard s/v Distant Drummer, a Liberty 458 cutterrigged sloop.
Cruising friends recommended that we cross the Caribbean Sea before midDecember when the northeast trades, known as the Christmas winds, increase in strength — often reaching gale force at night.
So, we were beating right into the teeth of those relentless northeast trades.
With 15 to 20 knots of wind and a low choppy swell, it was slow going.
We motorsailed most of the way, only turning the engine off and enjoying a couple of good sailing days when the wind veered to the east.
Our original destination was Port Antonio, but the wind around the east end of Jamaica was picking up, so we decided to make landfall in Kingston.
Most visitors bypass Kingston as it has a reputation for squalid shantytowns with gangs and violence controlling the streets.
This is no doubt true in most of West Kingston, and parts of downtown at night,
but during the day, the city is crowded and vibrant — street markets clogging the pavements, restaurants
Cruising Around and shops throbbing with music, and the smell of ganja wafting through the air.
We anchored outside the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club, on the inside of the sand spit, which defines Kingston Harbour.
It was a short trip by bus to Port Royal, the old pirate stronghold at the end of the spit.
During the 1600s, the English crown rewarded raids against Spanish ships, so pirates and buccaneers were drawn to Port Royal like flies to a honey pot.
Cruising Around The town developed a flamboyant reputation for wickedness and debauchery until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692.
I was hoping to be able to dive on the ruins of the town, which still lie under the water, but permits are only given to marine archaeological researchers and the like.
Instead, we visited Fort Charles, which was the base of the English Navy in the Caribbean for 200 years, and also home to Horatio Nelson.
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