We left Georgetown on the 12th of January, as planned on the outgoing tide. There was a stationary cold front that was supposed to provide us with a decent steady wind starting around 5 pm. At noon we pulled up the anchor and motored out the “traditional deep route” which gave us a whole 3 feet at the shallowest area under Slick’s keel. We motored for 5 hours to the northern tip of Long Key, passing a pod of Right Whales. As we made the turn the wind picked up to about 15 knots and we had a great jib sail into the night, the only hassle being beaming waves making for a rolly ride. Sometime late in the night the wind started building as did the waves, by morning we were in about 22 knots and maybe 8-10 foot waves still beaming. Shortly after sunrise things deteriorated quickly as we came into the straights of Mayaguana. This is a rough stretch of water where four different currents come together and the seas become incredibly confused. The weather on the menu was supposed to be easy, but the special of the day was 25-30 knots with 10-12 foot confused and steep seas with about a 4 second period. A few squalls rolled through and they actually sucked the energy out of the wind and seas giving us a brief break. As the sunset, the waves built further as did the wind with the highest sustained gust being around 35 knots. We ran with a reefed jib and it was pretty hard sailing. The waves broke over the bow regularly and kept us pretty soaked and cold. It was miserable and we got blown off track about 15 miles so we had to turn and beat into it for a few hours to make Grand Inagua Island, Bahamas. Once in the lee of the island we anchored in an easy to approach flat at about 3 am, asses completely kicked. I have never been so happy to anchor in 3 foot swell. But we did make a ~250 mile passage in 39 hours or so, so we averaged more than 6.5 knots, that was a nice victory.

The next morning we wanted to find a place to hide from the oncoming front, but we found out from a passing ship that we sailed through it the night before. Ok, lesson learned. We radioed for the harbor master as we wished to dock in the boat basin. We raised Capt. Fawkes on the radio and he helped us out as there is no real harbor master. So we came into this little basin and tied up to a cement wall with rebar sticking out, right between some Haitian traders and a sail boat on delivery, “Breaking Wind”. Captain Tom and his crazy mate Special Ed off the sail boat had been there several times before so they already had good connections in town. They arranged for a local, Dennis, to take us out to the salt flats and see some flamingos. The entire island is either a salt production facility for Morton’s or a land trust for the birds. On the way through the flats it was amazing how the water changed color with salinity. When we got out to the reserve we saw plenty of flamingos as promised and later ran into the game warden who was taking some execs on a fishing tour. I am sure that’s in his job description and fully fits with the idea of the trust. When we got near the salt plant, it was amazing the total destruction of the environment. I took some pictures but it is indescribable how the landscape and foliage is completely debilitated. Nothing can grow in the briny effluent. I took some samples of the ground as well as the brine run-off. I encourage anyone to look it up on Google Earth, 21.000628, -73.652258, the magnitude of ecology destroyed is depressing, and all this so we can have salt.

After three days the drug inspectors came down to check us out as they heard we were Jamaican bound. We explained to the we were heading to Jamaica not coming from but since they had drinks in their hands we couldn’t take them too seriously anyway. Later that night we had a lobster feast with all the local law enforcement and Captain Fawkes on the pier. Slick and Breaking Wind hosted and we fed lots of guys. We needed a picnic table and the only one we could find was at the Bahamian Defense Forces building opposite us. So I went over and walked in and told the guys on duty dirty jokes in a southern accent till they let me have their table. We must have burned 20-25 pallets that night in a huge bon-fire.

The next day a new Haitian trader came in. That made two docked in front of us. These boats are crab-claw rigs that literally use trees as mast and boom. See the pictures. They come in and pick up trash from the local dump to take back to Haiti to use to make rebar or stoves or whatever, even scrap building materials. The new trader that came in and knocked my rig with their sticky little boom and and I rushed up on deck, no worries though. They had a derrado drying in the rig and when the custom’s guy came, he took one look and didn’t bother to board. We are guessing many of these boats are used in the drug trade. What is tough though is these guys risk their lives to cross some pretty treacherous water for trash. See the video of them getting underway.

Grand Inagua was a pretty nice place with a well equipped store, all funded by the Morton’s Salt Company. Many of the locals we talked with are keen on bringing in tourism and it would be a good place for it. There are great lobster and conch and reefs and I guess some old Spanish galleons wrecked about complete with treasure. The only rough part was being tied to the wall next to a gravel lot with locals driving through every ten minutes to see what was happening. It was annoying and made the boat dirty, but I would surely go back here again, as everyone was pretty friendly and the place seemed real safe. But I think the salt company has a lot to do with that. For example, I was looking for the police station one day as I heard they had free internet. I got some bad directions and ran into one of the execs running and asked him where the cop shop was. He replied “Why, what happened? We can take care of it.”

We left at sunrise on the 19th of January with Tom and Ed. They wanted to race to Port Antonio, Jamaica, which is their second home. The menu had 5-15 knots of wind and 3-6 foot waves. We couldn’t ask for more for the Windward Passage, between Haiti and Cuba. The waters are known to be notoriously rough. The trip started out great and we ran under just the main sail. We horizoned Tom and Ed in their First 35.5. Conditions deteriorated as the passage went on though and the special of the day turned out to be 25-30 knots and waves up to say 12 feet. But Slick T. Rocketship surfed great even though Jefe buried the rail three or four times so Nate and I drove much of the way. The waves were much more organized, so the trip was better than the Mayaguana Straits. See the video. On the way into Port Antonio, we hooked a sword fish and thought we were going to lose the whole fishing rig as we really are not set up for such fish, luckily though he spit out the lure. We pulled into Port Antonio before sundown having made another 250 miles, this time in about 34 hours, nice to average over 7 knots. We pulled into the Errol Flynn marina and cleared customs in the local bar. Tom and Ed came in only about 1.5 hours behind us, which really surprised us. I guess they put the hammer down.

Port Antonio is nice, but a bit of a zoo. There are mountains and a lush green landscape. It rains hard for an hour or so almost every day, which gives Slick much needed baths. The town has some hustlers in it, but for the most part is really friendly and supposed to be the safest in the Caribbean. I really like it so far, although sometimes the hustlers get annoying. One man calls himself the “Rasta Man” he “make d’ CDs for d’ boat, mon” I explained to him I don’t have a CD player and told him “Sorry Boss”. He walked away repeating this phrase. The next day he called Nate captain and asked if he wanted a CD. Nate told him he wasn’t the captain and that he already talked to the captain and he knows we don’t have a CD player, to this the Rasta Man replied “Sorry Boss.” Funny local color. On the other hand we caught up with Tony from Aqhuabi, another boat we’ve met a few places and who is crossing the Pacific soon. He is a lot of fun and it is good to meet people over and over in different places. Plus the district that Port Antonio belongs to is home of jerk food and it is pretty incredible how good it is.

Five of us from the docks hired a car to take us up to the natural hot springs in the mountains. When we got there we were surrounded by 20-30 ganja smoking Rastas. They wanted to be our guides. We weren’t interested and hiked up the hill. They all followed us and gradually only a few were left. When we got to the bathes they where pretty nasty so we hiked further to a pool with a waterfall and swam a bit. That was really nice. Later the few remaining Rastas wanted some tip. It was annoying and we were hoping that by getting a local driver we could have avoided this. No such luck, and when we got back there was a Rasta washing his truck with “mineral water” even he wasn’t immune to the crap. We left and the Rastas told the driver, Andre, to bring back some real tourists next time. On the way home Andre drove us through the mountains and honked at every person he saw. Nate asked if it annoyed people to be honked at. Just then Andre honked at three people who smile and waved back, he replied “No, see they like it, we say hello w’t d’ horn.

The next night one of the dock hands was delivering a boat back to the states with Jonathon the crazy Captain from Mystic, CT. Why he is a crazy captain is really not suitable for the blog as my nieces and nephews might read this… In any case, we went to the going away party on the beach and we were the only non-locals (whites) there. It was a good time for awhile though and again we met many of the local law enforcement. I am not sure how that keeps happening. They served delicious crawdad soup and jerked chicken neck. It was strange though as their were no women, when I asked the first mate why not, he told me to wait and made a phone call. Fifteen minutes later three prostitutes showed up, thanks, but that really wasn’t what I meant. Shortly after that, Nate and I Left.

Yesterday we moved out to the anchorage, where it is a little cheaper and gives us more breeze and a slight change of scenery. Slick misbehaved on anchor and got to close to another boat, so we went to pull up the hook and move and just then the throttle control cable broke. Great, so we tossed out a kedge to keep Slick in-line, she needs two leashes. We pulled out the cable and of course there are none in Port Antonio, so one of the marina guys is going to Kingston and hopefully he can get us one. In the meantime, today we went out to Navy Island, which is Errol Flynn’s old resort. It was overgrown and dilapidated. We hiked through the jungle and the ruins and got threatened by the biggest land crab Nate and I have ever seen. See the See the picture, it was huge.

All in all, I think Jamaica gets a bad reputation as being dangerous, and I think it used to be. So far though, at least in this corner, it is really a great stopover. After we get the throttle fixed, we plan to wait for a bigger moon (about a week) and make a 550 mile jump to San Andreas, and Island off Nicaragua that belongs to Columbia, then another 200 down to Panama. The winds can be unpredictable and big thanks to a weather phenomenon called the Colombian Low. The menu reads 15-25 knots and 10 foot waves, making possibly a fast and rough passage, we can only guess what the special of the day will be.