Mainly used as a commercial and cruise port, Ocho Rios is also an official port of entry to yachters who have decided to sail in from international waters. Although in the past Jamaica has not been known as a top destination for pleasure sailors, the lift of certain restrictions in recent years has changed all that for the better.
There are plenty of ways to get out on local waters even if you don't want to be in charge of sailing yourself. Jamaica is especially known for a phenomenon called "Party Boats" where you sail out for the express purpose of drinking, dancing, and having fun. Local companies such as Heave-Ho Fun Cruises specialize in this service, as well as offering trips for the express purpose of snorkeling, cruising, and more.
Ocho Rios is a protected harbor that is known to be easy to sail into. Although the port is busy, many international sailors choose to clear in here because of the calm conditions. As you approach the coast, you'll sail your yellow "Q" flag. Upon arrival, you'll meet with a member of the Quarantine Department who will ask you a few questions and provide you with several forms to fill out. Next, someone from Immigrations will ask to see the passport of every member aboard the boat, then Customs will review your passport as well, have you fill out a few forms regarding what you're carrying aboard the boat, and make sure you've declared everything that needs to be. If everything is in order, you'll be granted clearance. There is no charge to clear in Jamaica, but do come prepared to fly a Jamaican courtesy flag as you sail about the island.
There are two anchorages in the harbor at Ocho Rios. One is the marina basin to the starboard side of the harbor, but it is known for its close quarters and lack of slip space. Your best bet is to anchor behind the reef just outside the harbor. Both options are free.
Contemplating visiting Ocho Rios using a vessel you own, or a vessel you charter elsewhere? This next table provides a quick summary of area marinas.
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It is getting easier and more popular to plan a sailing trip to Jamaica, and although Ocho Rios may be a bit on the busy side for some, it is still an important port on the island to consider.
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