Jamaica - Profile
- Jamaica is a beautiful island with hundreds of miles of coastline (approx. 350 miles) and an abundance of natural harbours. The marina in Port Antonio, the Montego Bay Yacht Club and the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club in Kingston are popular places with cruisers. All three facilities have very good security.
- Repair facilities are few and far between. All three docking facilities mentioned have repair men from a variety of trades available, and the boatyards at Port Antonio and the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club have haul out facilities.
- For most of the year, the easterly trades blow 20 knots. The southeast corner (Kingston to Portland Bight) has an average 5 knots higher. At night cool mountain air slides down the mountains to create an offshore breeze (Katabatic winds).
- Tidal variation in Jamaica is about one foot.
- Anchoring in Jamaica is normally fairly easy as the bottom is usually sand and turtle grass.
- There are a great number of fish traps set off the coast of Jamaica. They normally extend out to the 100 feet mark and thus along the coast, one should keep a watchful eye. Keep about one mile off shore as you move around the island.
Unfortunately Jamaica's (outdated) reputation for crime, muggings and theft keeps many yachtsmen away. However the majority of crime takes place in the ghettos of Kingston and tourists are rarely targeted. With a reasonable level of prudence, cruising Jamaica can be an interesting and exciting experience.
It is recommended for security reasons to anchor only in well known tourist harbours, or anchorages where there is an absence of inner-city poor communities. Based on reports to Noonsite from cruisers, petty theft from yachts is on the rise in the Caribbean in general. Cruisers should take basic safety precautions and use common sense when leaving the boat or going ashore at night. Dinghy thieves operate throughout the Caribbean and best advice is to place your dinghy on deck and chain it overnight.
The Caribbean Safety and Security Net (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behaviour and precautions wherever they decide to go. Should you have suffered a boarding, robbery or attack on your yacht or have information about a yachting-related security incident, go to the CSSN homepage and click on the "Report an Incident" icon. The associated form is quick and simple to complete and ensures that all the necessary details are reported. The CSSN is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors. Remember, it is every cruiser's responsibility to ensure that incidents are reported. Also cruisers can subscribe to e-mail alerts, follow on facebook and twitter and listen to the SSB Voice Service.
The Caribbean Security Index (CSI) is a a tool to assist cruisers in assessing the probability of crime at ports and anchorages throughout the Caribbean. The CSI provides a means of assessing risk in a given area.
Also be sure to check the Noonsite Piracy & Safety Pages
Last updated February 2016.
The climate is tropical and humid, and Jamaica lies in the hurricane zone. The hurricane season lasts from June to November.
The winds of Jamaica normally blow from the East and are called the Trade Winds. However, there are many variations. Early in the trade wind season, from December through April, Jamaica gets wind from “Northers” that come down from Canada and the United States. These northerlies usually blow for 1 to 3 days and can vary in intensity from mild to quite strong. When a northerly is blowing, the north coast of Jamaica becomes restless and one must work to find a secure anchorage. Aside from Port Antonio in the SE corner and Montego Bay towards the SW corner of the island, there are very few harbors in between that are suitable for a hard northerly blow on the north coast, with the exception of Bogue Lagoon which is a true hurricane hole.
The Trade Winds blow mostly from due east, but on the north coast veer to the north and the winds tend NE on that side. On the south side the winds veer to the south and the wind is generally south of east on that side. Late in the trade wind season as you approach summer, the trade winds become SE, and the north shore becomes more protected as it is more in the lee at that time of the year.
The south coast is more secure than the north coast when northerlies blow; but less secure when the rare, but possible, westerly blows through.
Below is a list of harbours on the north coast that can provide refuge when the weather is not good.
- Port Antonio - Excellent
- Montego Bay - Fair
- Bogue Lagoon - Excellent
- Ocho Rios - Fair
- St. Ann’s Bay- Good behind reef
- Discovery Bay- Good/East side of bay
- Oracabessa - Fair
- Falmouth - Uncertain
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page