North Channel Presentation

I’m pleased to share a presentation on the North Channel created by Craig and Day Olney.  Presentation topics include:

  • The North Channel
  • Getting There
  • What about a boat?
  • Customs
  • Do we have to anchor out every night?
  • What to take
  • Five things to do before you leave
  • Two sample cruise itineraries

If you have questions about boating in the North Channel, would like to purchase a boat to explore the North Channel or would like Craig and me to present to your group about the North Channel, please contact me.

Get connected the North Channel Cruisers net facebook site, LCYC Cruisers’ Net.

THE NORTH CHANNEL Cover Captain Father John Simons


A Change of Plans

On Tuesday night, while tied to the mooring ball at the Montego Bay Yacht Club and Marina, the generator alarm went off. The batteries are fully charged but the smart system in the generator figured out it would not be able to start. In the morning Gabe and I read and reread the Yanmar trouble shooting guide. I found a burnt fuse and Gabe found a disconnected wire. We fixed them but the generator was still not getting any power. We searched for more fuses and circuit breakers to no avail. Gabe decided to leave Pilar at the Montego Bay Marina until April 7 and not move her to Port Antonio. He contacted a mechanic to repair the generator. The MBYC agreed to let Pilar stay at the dock while Gabe is away. We used a Mediterranean style mooring technique. We have a long line off the bow to the mooring ball, an anchor off our port bow and lots of spring lines tying the stern to the dock.

The little white dot is our mooring ball.


We now get on and off the boat using a plank.  Aye, we must walk the plank matey.


Tiesday was our farewell day for Angela. She flew out of Montego Bay to go back to Chicago. Gabe needed a lot of help getting Pilar tied to the dock so Priscilla and I were glad we were still here to help. The winds are honking out of the east so it would have been a spirited ride to windward to go to Ocho Rios and then on to Port Antonio. Some things just work out.

Priscilla and I went for a tour of Montego Bay with our driver Leroy Simpson. He took us from the penthouse to the outhouse of neighborhoods. He was willing to drive through the ghettos during the day but not at night. There are many lovely homes on the hills with great ocean views.

Leroy Simpson and CFJ


The tech arrived around 3:00 pm to work on the generator. He worked tirelessly for four hours trying to trace the source of the problem. At last he had that eureka moment when he grabbed the main power cable to the starter and the fitting crumbled in his hand. Corrosion is insidious. Rust never sleeps. He will bring a new fitting tomorrow and we shall see if that is the solution.

John and Priscilla had dinner at Margaritaville in Montego Bay. There is another Margaritaville in Negril. The cruise ships were departing so the restaurant was 99% empty. The staff was 100% high on fresh air and ganja. The odor of marijuana wafted ever so stronger as the waitstaff eventually approached. We had a spectacular view of the cruise ships as they departed Montego Bay for their next port of call. Perhaps they are cruising to the Cayman Islands or the Yucatan.


Farewell cruise ship.  Safe journey.


On Wednesday we has the option to take a 3 hour round trip taxi ride to Ocho Rios or chill. We chose chill. There is a Hard Rock Cafe beach club less than a 10 minute walk from the marina. Priscilla and I spent a lovely afternoon at the Hard Rock. We had lunch, swam in the pool and swam in the sea. We rented two lounge chairs and an umbrella for $12.00.


Priscilla’s view at lunch


Kuhmar, the generator tech returned with the cable fitting. He installed the fitting and the generator sprang to life. Upon closer examination the water pump was leaking water all over the generator which may have contributed to the rapid corrosion on the power cable fitting. Gabe retrieved a new water pump from his vast inventory of spare parts. With the new water pump installed he let the generator run for two hours while we all had dinner at the marina. The meals were excellent as was the service. The wait staff at the marina are older and not accompanied by the whiff of a spliff when they approach the table.

Our final night onboard Pilar was a quiet one. We packed our bags in preparation for our flight from Montego Bay airport to Miami on Thursday. Leroy will pick us up at 11:30 am for our 2:12 pm flight on American Airlines. It is nice that the taxi ride to the airport will be five miles and not the 100 miles from Port Antonio. We will have a 2 hour flight. Upon arrival in Miami we will require transportation to the Grove Isle Marina to retrieve our car. Perhaps Uber or Lyft will work or there may be a train or bus to get us closer. Hopefully our car was not towed away in the three weeks we have been gone. The marina has very limited parking so the Dockmaster Jorge recommended parking in the main lot for the condominium complex.

On Thursday morning Leroy picked us up at the marina and drove us to the to the Montego Bay airport.  Our flight arrived in Miami on time.  I contacted Lyft for a ride to the Grove Isle marina.  Our car had not been towed.  We drove the 104 miles from Miami and Stuart arrived home at 8:30 pm.

Priscilla and I are glad we could accompany Gabe and Angela on the first two legs of their four year circumnavigation.  Bon voyage.

“it is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Rock’n and Rolln’ in Jamaica

On Saturday morning it was a heartfelt farewell to our Cuban friends at the Marlin Marina in Cayo Largo, Cuba. The marina managers Peri and Gabino wished us well on our 320 mile cruise to Jamaica. Gabino gave us each a CD of Cuban music. We do not have a CD player on the boat so we will have to wait until we get back Miami and get our car to listen to them. We paid the Marina fee of $104 for two days with no service charge or mandatory propina (tip) that we had to pay in Marina Hemingway.

Farewell amigo Pire


Farewell amigo Gabino


The immigration and customs team said they would arrive at 10:20 am. They showed up at 10:45 am and dispensed with the paperwork efficiently. One federale looked for stowaways below. They returned our passports and we were cleared to depart Cuba. Now that we had our passports we could go to the bank and exchange the last of our Cuban pesos CUC’s for Yankee dollars. This process took at least 20 minutes to convert 71 CUC into USD $68.00.

Farewell to our favorite tiki bar in Cuba


We finally shoved off at 11:15 am for our 40 plus hour cruise to Jamaica.  It is a pretty simple course as long as you don’t hit the Cayman Islands along the way.


The wind and waves were already higher and larger than forecasted. In this part of the Caribbean Sea the winds pick up 10 kts at night instead of dropping when the sun goes down. It must have something to do with the north winds flowing over the mountain ranges in Cuba. Once again we hurdled through the pitch blackness with 4-6 footers and occasional 8 footers on the beam. The breeze was again 20 – 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Pillar handles these conditions well. The Raymarine auto pilot sways through 20* as the waves push around. Every once in a while a rogue 10 footer hits us on our front quarter and sends a wall of water over the top of the hard dodger enclosure. Since it is pitch black it is always a surprise. The moon came up around 1:00 am. and we had some visibility. Finally we could see the monstrous waves just before they roll us.

As on any sailboat the front berth on Pilar is uninhabitable in those conditions. Attempting to sleep forward would be like trying to sleep on a carnival ride that moves in 6 directions at once then launches you in the air. Since levitation is not relaxing for us, Priscilla and I moved to the quarter berths in the middle of the boat. Priscilla settled in on the leeward bunk (low side as the boat tips 20*). I was in the weather berth (high side) with a lee cloth so I would not roll out onto the floor. The lee cloth is a piece of canvas that is attached under the mattress and to the ceiling. We are only in these bunks for 4 hours at a time before we relieve Gabe and Angela for our duty shift on the helm.

By 3:00 pm on Sunday the wind and waves abated enough to flatten the boat out. Flat enough to brush our teeth because now you only needed one hand to keep from falling every time we got rolled. Pilar is a well designed boat because she has adequate handholds throughout the cabin to get from front to back without a gap. Several times as I was holding onto the ceiling rail, Pilar rolled so far that my feet came off the floor.


As we sailed past the Cayman Islands on our way to Jamaica Captain Gabe suggested we change course from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Montego Bay is where Angela will fly out on March 21 and Priscilla and I will fly out on March 23. This saves us 40 miles which is almost 6 hours by not going to Ocho Rios.  This is a good plan if we can find a reliable marina in Montego Bay for Gabe to leave Pilar for two weeks. On the chart we see there is a Montego Bay Yacht Club and Marina. We will call them in the morning when we arrive.

We dropped the anchor in Montego Bay, Jamaica at 4:00 am. That was 320 miles and 41 hours after departing Cuba. The section of the harbor where we dropped anchor is rather rolly poly. There was one other sailboat and a 175′ powerboat anchored near us. We could see the spreaders on the other sailboat’s mast almost touch the water on each side as the waves rolled him. We were rolling at anchor like we were still in the Gulf Stream. At 7:30 am I called the Montego Bay Yacht Club. They said come on over and take a mooring ball. We tied up to the mooring ball and took the dingy to shore to meet with the customs and immigration officials. This took over 2 hours. The MBYC has a very nice building. We had coffee while we waited for the final government official to arrive.


We saw one of the crew from a boat that was at the Marina Hemingway. She gave us an update on Darcy the Polish girl that had lost her passport. Darcy went back to her hotel in Havana too use the WIFI. While she was there the desk clerk said they found her passport, credit cards and money. Darcy hitchhiked to Cienfuegos on the south side of Cuba and got on a boat headed to Mexico.

The MBYC is not the most secure location to leave Pilar unattended for two weeks. The plan is to drop Angela off at the marina on Tuesday morning for her flight to Chicago. Gabe, John and Priscilla will sail Pilar 55 miles to Ocho Rios, spend the night then sail 45 miles to the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio where Gabe will leave Pilar. Because nothing is simple there is a fishing tournament and Gabe will need to move his boat to a mooring for three days. That will be challenging since he will be in Chicago. John and Priscilla will have a 100 mile taxi ride to the Montego Bay airport on Thursday.

We are currently the red triangle on the left side of Jamaica in Montego Bay.  Ocho Rios is the blue pin in the middle and Port Antinio is the blue pin on the right side. Pilar will stay at the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio.


We hired a car and driver to take us from Montego Bay to Negril for diner.  Our driver Leroy is in his mid-fifties and has 10 children ranging in age from 12 – 36 years old with 8 different mothers. Leroy has never been married. He drove for one hour and we spotted a water view bar just before before sunset. We stopped for a cocktail at the Firewater Love Nest.


There was also ganja (marijuana) already rolled and free to bar patrons. The north side of Jamaica has a long history of marijuana production and smuggling. After the Vietnam war several US pilots started making regular flights from Jamaica to Florida. Eventually they made so much money they had to open legitimate businesses to launder the money. Rick’s Cafe was opened in 1974 by one such entrepreneur.