Despite staying in the MoBay area, after reading about the Pelican Bar it was at the top of my list of places to visit. We weren't disappointed.
June 28, 2005, 14 of us left the Hanover House villa near Round Hill for the trip over the spine of the island and down to Black River. The plan was to go on the Black River crocodile viewing trip and then head out to the Pelican Bar. After an hour + in our bar on wheels (our van had a frig on board), we dropped out of the hills and met the coast near Bluefields. Our driver told us that the best fish and bammy was ahead, and we were ready for a bite to eat. We pulled up at a series of stands on the coast road, and a throng of vendors offered up fried fish, bammy, and corn. US$20 got us a plate of fish, a sack of bammy, and three ears of corn - enough to knock the edge off for everyone on the bus.
We got into Black River, crossed the bridge, and pulled into the Black River safari HQ. That's where I made my first error. I asked the cashier if she knew about the bar out in the ocean, and she said, "Pelican Bar, of course." I allowed her to make the arrangements for a boat to take us out there after the Black River safari, instead of waiting to make them myself. Remember, in Jamaica, just about everything is negotiable, and I should have negotiated for the Pelican Bar boat myself. We ended up paying about $12/person for the trip.
After returning from our trip upriver, the I AM BLESSED, pulled up to the dock and we piled in. This was boating Jamaican style. The canoe style boat with outboard, probably shouldn't have carried more than 9, and with our driver and the captain, we were 16. The captain offered life vests, but said there was no need to put them on. I put mine on immediately.
As we motored under the bridge and out into the bay, there was no sign of our destination on the horizon. As we headed farther out with no sign of our destination, tension was evident on the faces of most everyone in the boat. I sat upfront, enjoying myself immensely, and my Uncle swore he was gonna kill me if we made it back alive. I kept my video camera trained over the bow, looking for any sign of our destination. This trip was certainly turning out to be an adventure!
Several miles out several specks appeared on the horizon. We appeared headed straight for them. I looked through my zoom, and saw what appeared to be two huts in the ocean. Pelican Bar, Ho!
Soon, we were pulling up to a charmingly rustic, rickety looking hut in the ocean. Waves were breaking over the edge of the sandbar 30 yards away, pelicans were in the water, it was a beautiful blue day, and I was stoked. This was looking great - but the amusement was just beginning.
Despite the water being no more than 2 feet deep, the passengers on our boat disembarked as if they were over the abyss. It was a crack-up to watch everyone struggle off the boat, and onto the "steps" as if their lives depended on it.
The interior of the bar is as spartan as they come. Bar, icechest, radio, and hibachi. In honor of the crew's bravery, drinks were on me. 16 drinks = $40. I asked about food, but the bartender told me food would have to be brought from shore. Since we were headed to the Appleton estate, we didn't have time.
That's when I noticed the funniest thing, a bunch of my folks still had their life vests on! The rickety looking nature of the establishment did not inspire confidence on their part. After downing our drinks, taking a few pictures, and writing our names above the bar, the time to leave came all too soon.
After gingerly reboarding our boat with all the seriousness with which we had disembarked, we watched a boat from Treasure Beach pull up. Instead of pulling all the way up to the bar, the 2 young ladies (UK & Aussie) jumped off with no hesitation and waded up to the bar. Their nonchalance in stark counterpoint to the seriousness of our group.
We passed several fisherman on the 7 mile journey back to the Black River harbor, and the captain hit several waves that splashed some of the crew. I must admit to a little worry as we approached the harbor, as each wave caused the boat to twist in a different direction. In hindsight, it was foolhardy to go out in such an overloaded boat - a direct result of my failure to directly negotiate our carriage.
Once ashore, everyone admitted that it was a great adventure and the highlight of the trip. It was certainly a unique experience. (Little did they know the wild ride that awaited us as our driver, Greg, rushed to get us to the Appleton estate before closing.)
I'm looking forward to my next trip to Pelican Bar - this time by moonlight.
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