December 25, 2020
After we had dropped the anchor and took a minute to breathe, we greeted some new friends that had been in contact with us via satellite email. They had been super supportive and helped us to have confidence in our decision to head west around the island. The cruising community is pretty awesome! Their boat name “Slow Dancing”!
We radioed the marina to find out how to check into the country. We had been advised that we would have a 14 day quarantine due to the COVID restrictions. We were hoping that our 8 days at sea would be counted in this. The marina contacted Immigration, Health and Customs. They would arrive in a few minutes. OK, we wait. After 30 minutes or so, the marina calls and says that the agencies are in their lobby. We are to head in there. What, all of the books say that we are not to get off the boat, they will come to us?! Quick, get the dinghy down! We hoisted “Tiny Dancer” into the water. In an effort to expedite our trip to shore, we opted not to put the engine on. This entails filling it with fuel, lifting it down onto the dinghy and hoping that it starts right away. We gathered our boat papers and jumped into Tiny and Ken rowed us to the marina. There were several “officials” waiting for us. Wow…..talk about sea legs! After 8 days, we felt as if we were in large seas while on dry land!
We filled out all of the paperwork and were checked into Jamaica by Customs and Immigration! Yaay…..now Health. What? A 14 day quarantine with no credit for time at sea. This was to be served aboard Slow Dancer at anchor with the marina to supervise. Wait…..didn’t you call us into the marina, off our boat?? Oh well, we will make the best of it. We do find out that we are the first cruising yacht to enter Jamaican waters “legally” during the pandemic, so really, no one has any idea what to do with us.
Three days into our quarantine, the marina called us and asked if we would like to take a slip. Huh? Thought we were quarantined at anchor? Well, they were supervising….OK! The marina was a “med moor” type of docking. One long dock and the boats take a mooring ball for the bow of the boat and lines onto the dock for the stern. We had never done this, and were not looking forward to it, but we were here and they said that they would help. After waiting for over an hour for them to call us in, we finally got the call. They would be waiting. We prepared all of the lines and with Dale on the bow with a boat hook to catch the mooring ball and Ken driving and ready to throw out the stern lines, on we went. The wind had picked up a bit which always makes docking a challenge. OK, there is the huge white mooring ball. Hook it with the boat hook and thread the line into the eye while backing into the slip. Dale held the boat hook and lunged toward the mooring ball, got it! Now to get it up and thread the line through it. Wow!! This thing is super heavy……whoops, it’s either the boat hook or Dale going into the water….there goes the boat hook! Now we can’t get into the slip without this and right next to us is a million dollar yacht! This all happens in an instant. We have no way to hook the mooring ball, so Ken takes Slow Dancer back out into the mooring field and away from the dock. Help! The marina personnel jump into their skiff and motor toward the mooring ball. Throw us your line. OK, we can do that! They tie it to the huge ball. They didn’t lift it high either…..must be the ball! Can you rescue our boat hook? Yep, done. As we are backing into the slip, near our expensive neighbor, we realize that our longest line isn’t long enough to reach from that blasted ball to Slow Dancer while backing into the slip. Quick, Ken to the bow and Dale driving, he ties another dock line onto the mooring line. Continue backing, still not long enough! Quick, while driving, Dale, get another line from the lazarette and continue backing. Ken jumping around on deck to lengthen the line and Dale throwing lines to the waiting dock hands. Is this an episode of “I Love Lucy”?! Finally, we are secure. Well, sort of! We have a plank to get off the boat. Wow! Maybe being at anchor would have been better!
We meet the marina manager. She tells us that we can use all of the marina facilities and she will call us a cab if we need one…..which we do need to get some local phone cards for internet. Hmmm…..aren’t we quarantined? We ask her if someone will be out to supervise us and she shrugs us off. No, you were at sea 8 days, right? And you have a negative COVID test from Panama, right? No problem, mon! Well, OK! Off we go to town. We try to keep a low profile, but no one seems to care what we do….welcome to Jamaica mon!
We spend the next two weeks in the marina. We tour the “hip strip” which is normally full of tourists. We sadly see that we are the only tourists. Jamaica has been hit hard by the COVID lockdown. We are awed by the friendliness and genuine happiness of the local residents.
We also took an inland tour of the Martha Brae River aboard a bamboo raft. What a beautiful island!