Ocho Rios

Very tourist-oriented, but lovely. A nice feel to the town, once past all the souvenir shops.

We dinghied into the small marina, which is where the officials (Marine Police) are located. They got hold of customs for us, in order to show them the clearance we’d obtained from Montego Bay – as the country was officially closed to sea traffic, this was important. The bay is dominated by the enormous cruise ship terminal, and if it hadn’t been for COVID, Ocho would have been a very different place.

Mr Wilson, the dockmaster here, was particularly helpful with everything we needed.

We visited a hotel for a week as Nana B managed to visit for the first time since COVID. We left the boat just as a tropical storm was forecast (which at one point was forecast to be a hurricane!), which wasn’t ideal. But the boat was as secure as it could be in the area – tied to two concrete-filled oil drums in relatively shallow water, with anchors set in the two directions heavier wind was likely from, and lots of chain, two bridles, etc. etc. Plus we spent a considerable amount of time removing sails and such from the decks. Not as difficult as the job had by the people running the local dolphin attraction, who were tasked with removing the dolphins from their enclosure to a more secure place in case we did get a hurricane! Very interesting to watch, even if we don’t particularly agree with keeping dolphins in captivity. An alternative option would have been sailing back to Montego Bay in order to leave the boat, but the yacht club moorings didn’t seem any more secure than we could achieve in Ocho, and we got the impression that, even if we could fit into the marina, we would be more likely to sustain damage from other boats, debris, etc.

In the end there was just a lot of rain – Mr. Wilson was looking after the dinghy for us (we’d left it in the marina) and emptied it a couple of times. Which was nice, and earned him a tip.

Finally managed to get hold of a new battery for our electric outboard, which we had first ordered six months earlier, but was delayed, then stuck in the US as it could not be shipped to the Dominican Republic in time for us to leave, then couldn’t be shipped to T&C at all due to dangerous goods regulations. Great to have a bit more flexibility with range and speed, especially for fishing further afield- fishing is prohibited in the bay itself.

There were a few places within walking distance that attracted us to Ocho Rios- Shaw Park Gardens and Waterfalls, Turtle River Falls and Gardens, and Turtle River Park. Unfortunately, both Shaw Park and Turtle River Falls were both closed, one due it being sold and the other due to a probate issue, which was disappointing because we were looking forward to some walking and exploring.

Luckily, Turtle River Park was beautiful, with a lovely pond where we spent time watching for turtles and catching tadpoles, many trees from which to pick mangoes, and lots of open space. The grass was technically off limits, and the slightly run-down playground closed, but it was good to have the space. Especially as the public beach didn’t open until a few days before we left, and there was a charge to use this. Dave found out from a taxi driver that much of the land in Jamaica is privately owned, which would explain why it was so difficult to find free/cheaper days out in nature. Many places were sold as very expensive tourist experiences and not especially affordable.

We dinghied out of the main bay and found some lovely areas to snorkel and dive, and we tried out some fishing here as it is prohibited in the bay. We even followed some dolphins in the dinghy- they had decided to go right into the bay, and were at one point hanging out around the enclosure with the captive dolphins.

Overall, we enjoyed our time here. There are plenty of hotels if family want to visit, the supermarkets are good- if you visit, go for General Foods located in the town (avoid the big supermarket on the main road), where they have a great selection of vegan foods, various flours, grains, nuts and dried fruits. Really good place to stock up, and promotes locally grown fruit/veg over imported. If the cruise ships had been in, we probably wouldn’t have thought it so nice- it was quiet in town and the bay was clean and relatively free of tourist boats (the boys loved dancing to their music!)- but it is clear how the area relies on cruise ship passengers so I guess it will be good for local economy when COVID regulations relax.

Oh, and look out for Neville, who knits traditional hats to order and has an interesting and positive outlook on life. He sits at the side of the road between the marina/cruise ship dock most days. Arthur chose style of hat he liked, and I ordered one for my brother which I will one day get round to sending to him!