April, 1977

Holy Week in Cartagena with The Fantasy tied up at the exclusive Club de Pesca. Massive ramparts, colonial architecture and colourful markets. And all expenses paid!

April / May 1977. Sailed from Cartagena to Port Antonio, Jamaica for repairs. Rough passage up the Yucatan Channel, all the way to Key West. Arrived 12 May, almost exactly seven months from when I set out.

Sailed back to Key West from Cartagena, took about a month. Extended stay in Port Antonio for repairs. Arrived in time for Sunset at Mallory Square in Key West, 12 May, 1977

Complete Narratives for April 1977 to be uploaded in April 2023. Sample below. Also in April watch for the latest ‘High Road: Jamaican Ganja’ and The Scene: “Holy Week at Club de Pesca, Cartagena” with further adventures.

15 April, 1977                         Port Antonio, Jamaica

After two weeks of steady work we were making progress with the Fantasy. I asked Jim if I could have a couple of days off to hitch-hike over to Montego Bay.

I’d been spending a bit of time in the brand new public library at Port Antonio. I could read the local newspapers, check out the notice boards and catch up on world news from a large assortment of international magazines. The neo-socialist government under Dr Michael Manley was pumping money into education and reform across the country and this library was proof in point.

Most everyone I met idolised Dr Manley. Optimism was rife, people were hopeful for the future. So when I saw a poster announcing a rally in Montego Bay where he would be speaking in a few days I knew I had to try to see him.

Jim was most supportive, even gave me a few extra dollars. We’d been working hard (unpaid, I might add, a bone of contention with Anne). I figured I could hitch over there in one day and camp out. The rally was at 11am so I could see him speak and make it home before dark.

Packed up my tarp and sleeping bag, took a few sandwiches and stuck out my thumb around noon. Made steady progress, walked a bit, relaxed, chatted with the people I met, got some nice rides.

On the outskirts of Montego Bay a couple of young guys in a late-model car picked me up. They were just out cruising around, checking out the scene. One guy’s dad owned a local saw mill and the other one worked as a fireman. They kept me well-toasted, showed me the sights, bought beers and a great meal from a roadside stall. I kept them entertained with my adventures. They loved hearing about Roatan.

Finally they dropped me off at the saw mill. Junior said I could sleep in the shed. Perfect. Even better when it started to rain.

The next day I walked over to the stadium. Already the crowds were gathering. Giant banners, posters, T-shirts. All supporting Dr Manley and his reforms. The gates opened and everyone rushed in. I got a decent view of the stage.

After a few preliminaries Dr Manley took the stage. He was tall, handsome, dignified and personified the modern switched-on politician. The crowd went wild. Cheers, chants, waving. It was contagious, the energy was overwhelming.

I tried to catch what he was saying, but couldn’t really hear above the roar. Didn’t make any difference. Just listening to his cadence and the people’s reaction told me that his message resonated. He fired up the crowd for about an hour then waded into the masses for the personal touch. It was a frenzy, surging people everywhere. He was a rock star.

Soon the music kicked in, Dr Manley was escorted out in a late model sedan and the crowd broke up. An amazing performance. The people loved him.

Oddly enough, the latest issue of Time Magazine (from the local library) ran a cover story on the’ unrest and violence’ in Jamaica and the ‘failed policies’ of the socialist Prime Minister. My experience on the ground, amongst the people, was somewhat different.

Very slow going back to Port Antonio. In fact, it was dark by the time I got to Ocho Rios and there was zero traffic. So I camped out beside a stream, just the basic tarp and bag. Ate my last sandwich.

Totally poured that night. The stream flooded into my camp site and I had to scramble up the bank in the pitch dark. Wasn’t so bad as I found a level place further up but I was totally soaked. Luckily it was a warm night.

Hitch-hiked back to the Fantasy in the AM. Jim had finally cleared up all the paperwork and repairs. We would be sailing off in a few days, first to the Cayman Islands and then up the Yucatan Channel to Key West.

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