Port Antonio, Jamaica
Mar 3, 2009
|Most of the time, bad directions will waste your time and leave you frustrated. In Jamaica, bad directions may leave you high-centered on a rock on top of a mudslide in a rattletrap of a rented car next to a 300-foot gulley and surrounded by possible ganja farmers with machetes.
Silverheels II traveled the length of Jamaica’s Northern coast, making a two-day stop in Ocho Rios where we anchored behind a gigantic cruise ship dock. Here the noise from rented jet skis and the music and sounds of drunken conga lines and booze cruise catamarans continued nonstop from dawn to dusk. Then, precisely at dusk, the catamarans would pull into their slips and the beach would empty leaving a huge row of idle jet skis. Then, the lights of Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Café would wink off, the lights of the cruise ships would snap on stateroom by stateroom and the huge ships would depart their berths for sea and leave the town all but deserted.
The next port of call was far more enjoyable. Port Antonio is a true Jamaican town where the only tourists were from the six or so transient yachts at the marina and the coasties on leave from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter moored in the harbor. There is a lively marketplace with a constant pulse of reggae beats and the smell of ganja smoke and spices. It is there that one can buy a tinfoil package full of sliced meat from the disembodied face of a pig smoking on a 50-gallon oil drum or a bowl of bean soup garnished with a wrinkled pink chicken foot (the pig face was actually pretty good, but I’m not a big chicken foot eater).
Unfortunately, I was only able to spend a couple of days in this colorful town, as I had to fly out of Kingston and back to Florida for a week to complete my U.S. citizenship naturalization process.
The drive to Kingston would be relatively easy, according to the rental car agent, if we followed her very specific directions. Several hours later, my dad, Captain Rick and I found ourselves winding our way up a slippery, rutted, one lane mountain road which mudslides had made almost impassible. The situation was not improved by the fact that we were in a beater of a Toyota Corolla with far too many miles, bad shocks and four bald tires. Eventually, the road simply ended, the remnants of the former section sitting in the gulley several hundred feet below.
Trying to back down would have been stupid and dangerous (as opposed to driving a P.O.S. sedan up a mountain mule path, which isn’t stupid or dangerous at all). I attempted a fifteen-point turn that only left the Corolla high-centered on a rock. As Rick and I tried to dislodge the car by rocking it, it became clear that we were being watched by three Rastas with machetes dangling in their hands at their sides. Having been previously warned of the danger of inadvertently stumbling onto a ganja patch in the countryside, I decided that the situation was probably going to end in one of two ways. Luckily, these farmers were of the helpful variety. They told us that that road had been washed out for some time and after few minutes of all of us pushing against the mud-covered Toyota, we were on our way back down the mountain.
Nearly back to the main highway, we were forced to pull over and flag down a grinning, lanky and very helpful Jamaican named Douglas for a ride to town because our Corolla now had four flat tires.
I left my dad and Rick with their new friend Douglas to deal with the tire situation and hopped in a cab for the remaining 2-hour drive to Kingston, barely making the plane, but soon on my way back to Fort Lauderdale. A week later, paperwork done, naturalization ceremony complete and brand new U.S. passport in hand, I was on my way back to Kingston.
Upon arriving back at the marina in Port Antonio, I was shocked to see one of the world’s largest private yachts, the 310-foot Mayan Queen, docked directly behind Silverheels II. This massive ship with a crew of over thirty people reportedly belongs to a mysterious Mexican billionaire and is the largest yacht ever to visit Jamaica. It was the equivalent of returning home from a week long trip, only to discover that some reclusive Mexican billionaire has laid a 30 story building on its side 10 feet away from your back porch.
This enormous yacht, as impressive as she was, had the unfortunate effect of completely blocking the view of Port Antonio’s scenic harbor. This bothered me only a little, though, because the following morning Silverheels II was underway again, this time headed for the Dominican Republic.