Goodbye Bonaire, Hello Jamaica 18 10 800N 76 27 200W
With weather forecasting one of our daily interests, we have a whole host of websites that we use to plan our passages including synoptic charts. We recently discovered ‘Predict Wind’ and after a trial of their free basic version we signed up to an annual subscription service as it includes virtually all the information in one download. Unfortunately we couldn’t get their offshore app to work straight away on the laptop, discovering that we had 160 x Windows 7 updates to download and install before it would work. I had turned off the automatic downloads when we left home in 2013 to save on our precious and expensive data usage.
It was a good excuse to frequent the Divers Diner bar for their free Wi-Fi for a couple of hours, after which we finally got the app working and now have weather routing & departure planning as well as grib files, satellite images and GMDSS forecasts all in one place. The offshore app allows you to request and receive the data by email file which gives you a large amount of data for very little kb’s of download which is perfect for our offshore Iridium satellite connection. Eager to move on and with no settled weather in sight, the departure planning gave us a window leaving Sunday with the least amount of swell but with a good amount of wind to power Joy and a nice wind angle, so we got our last few dives in and cleaned Joy’s bottom with the left over air. The four banded coral shrimps that had set up a fish-cleaning station around the bow thruster were most put out and it did feel a little mean evicting them from their new home. I had my last wonderful sighting of my all-time favourite, the porcupine fish. They are usually solitary shy creatures, but we witnessed the gracious display of a courting pair, he was chasing her (well, I am assuming it was that way around) and they circled around us playing chase, coming right up to me with the camera rolling.
We slipped our lines at first light on Sunday morning, sailing between Klein and Bonaire up towards the north west point of the island, gliding in a flat sea on the lee of the island but still with 20 knots of wind. Out of the protection of the island the east/southeast swell increased to around 2-3 meters and we set a course for Jamaica, 600 miles to the north west. The fishing line went out soon after, and within an hour the line screamed and the rod bent. Reeling in a good sized Mahi Mahi with a boat speed of 8-9 knots really made Jez’s unused farmers muscles burn and by the time it was landed in the net he had to have a few minutes breather before cutting it into fridge-sized pieces. Normally we would slow the boat down, but it seemed a shame when we were achieving such great speeds.
Next on the line was a chunky skipjack tuna, equally tough to reel in.
The day continued at high speed and high roll, 20-25 knots of wind from the aft with the odd gust up to 30 meant we were sailing above 8 knots for most of the time with a top speed of 10.3. The sea state became a little livelier overnight and managed to launch a few waves into the cockpit. An open companionway hatch always acts as a magnet to sea water and I spent half an hour of my precious 3 hour sleep time mopping up in the saloon and galley. As the sun rose on day two the wind and waves continued to push us along at great speed, we lost a fish along with our squid-like lure on the line and then caught another Mahi Mahi for the freezer. A rogue wave hit the stern quarter causing a sudden lurch and roll, and after picking ourselves up we realised we had caught something else with the fishing line, our wind turbine! Whoops. So now we had a stumbling Laurel and Hardy act as we tried in vain to unwrap the line by reaching out across the solar panels from the back deck, using our heavy teak boat hook to stop the blades from turning. Keeping your balance whilst outstretched with a rod and boat hook on a roller coaster ride really isn’t easy, and eventually we reluctantly cut the line from both sides releasing a large portion of the line along with lure number 2 into the ocean. The wind turbine didn’t seem to mind retaining its meter portion wrapped around the shaft, and happily continued making power. Fishing, for this passage, was over.
Day three brought a more settled sea and lighter winds and so the easier motion made for a more comfortable passage but we still continued to average over 7.5 knots of speed. Jamaica arrived on the horizon sooner than we had originally expected, the Blue Mountain range extending into the building clouds, we were 24 hours ahead of schedule and just 15 miles from Port Antonio when the wind died to 4 knots. Reluctantly we motor sailed the last couple of hours to ensure we arrived during office hours for clearance. Entrance into the harbour is easy and well-marked and as I went forward to get out fenders and ropes ready a pod of dolphins surfaced and escorted us in to the East bay. The officials here require that you dock at the marina for the formalities and then when all checked in and inspected you can move on to a mooring. The bay is very settled and sheltered with a large turning basin in the middle and Navy Island in between the bay and the sea. It’s beautiful, with lush green mangroves, actual grass growing on banks and the green ‘Blue’ mountains in the background, it is a sight for sore eyes after so many months on low-lying dry parched islands.
We hadn’t realised that the time here is GMT-5, so we had actually gained an hour on arrival. Just as well as it took 5 hours for all the officials to come on board and collect their paperwork. First the quarantine officer, checking we have all our fingers and toes and were not foaming at the mouth (this usually only happens if happy hour is delayed!). Once he had checked the meat in our freezer he was happy to approve us, luckily he didn’t notice the last rather sad looking mango lurking in the fruit bowl, and now the remainder of the entourage were ‘safe’ to board. Immigration, Marine Police, Customs and then the Coast Guard. By 7.30pm (well only 6.30pm Jamaican time) we were officially in to Jamaica and in the dark, foaming at the mouth, we fumbled to pick up a mooring. Beer, pan fried tuna and then sleep.