Business View Caribbean interviews Christine Downer, Marina Manager of the Errol Flynn Marina & Boat Yard as part of our focus on Jamaican businesses.
Australian-born movie star Errol Flynn was mostly known for his romantic and swashbuckling roles in such screen gems as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood. In his off-screen life, he was an avid sailor and yachtsman, who once owned Navy Island, a 64-acre plot off Jamaica’s northeast coast, due north of Port Antonio, where he used to moor what he called his “dream ship” – the fabled Zaca, an 118 foot, two-masted schooner with a 23-foot beam that had already sailed around the world before Flynn bought her in 1945 and steered her down Jamaica way.
“Errol Flynn has a long history with Port Antonio,” says Christine Downer, Marina Manager of the Errol Flynn Marina & Boat Yard, named after the Hollywood icon who once described the lush and verdant area of Portland Parish as more “beautiful than any woman” he had ever seen. “Across the harbor is Navy Island, and up to three or four years ago, his third wife, Patrice Wymore Flynn lived about twenty-five or thirty minutes’ drive from the Marina,” Downer continues. “And now, his grandson, Luke Flynn, lives at the estate, there.”ustralian-born movie star Errol Flynn was mostly known for his romantic and swashbuckling roles in such screen gems as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood. In his off-screen life, he was an avid sailor and yachtsman, who once owned Navy Island, a 64-acre plot off Jamaica’s northeast coast, due north of Port Antonio, where he used to moor what he called his “dream ship” – the fabled Zaca, an 118 foot, two-masted schooner with a 23-foot beam that had already sailed around the world before Flynn bought her in 1945 and steered her down Jamaica way.
In fact, Flynn and his wife spent many happy times in and around Port Antonio, before his untimely death in 1959 at age 50. Being a movie star of international fame, Flynn appreciated the area’s privacy and simplicity as much as he did fishing the azure waters of the Caribbean and rafting down the Rio Grande River that runs from the Blue Mountains of Portland Parish north to the sea.
The Errol Flynn Marina & Boat Yard began as The Marina at Port Antonio in 2002, after its owner, the Port Authority of Jamaica, decided there was a need for a mega-yacht facility on the island. The Boat Yard opened in 2004, and the Errol Flynn moniker was first employed in 2006. Today, the Errol Flynn Marina offers 32 fixed- dockage berths (European), 25 Mooring Balls, and excellent facilities in one of the world’s most beautiful and protected harbors. Unlike other yacht clubs in Jamaica, it caters mostly to the transient market; local boat owners and Jamaican-registered vessels are able dock elsewhere.
“We cater to the largest mega-yachts in the world,” states Downer. “And we have an adjoining cruise ship dock which we can use to berth them. So, there’s no limit as it relates to what we can accommodate.” In fact, the Errol Flynn Marina is the only one of its kind in the entire Caribbean, with a face dock that can accommodate vessels to 350’ and 17’ draft, and the “giga-yacht” dock that can accommodate a vessel up to 660’ and 26’ draft alongside.
The Marina’s full-service boat yard has haul out, repair, and yacht storage facilities. It offers all standard repair and maintenance services, including high pressure cleaning, scraping, barrier coating, gel coating, fiber glass repair and replacement, shaft straightening, and propeller repair. The yard’s 100 metric ton Marine Travelift handles yachts to nearly 100 feet and weighing up to 220,000 pounds. Immediately adjacent to the Travelift slip is a 100-foot, state-of-the-art fueling jetty, which features both high speed and conventional dispensing pumps of gasoline and ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel.
The ultra modern Errol Flynn Marina is fully equipped with electrical, water, sewage pump out, and internet connections. Security is a priority with electronic accessible dock gate, cameras and 24/7 patrol by a contracted security team. Other amenities include shore storage, shower and laundry facilities, and a swimming pool. It’s handicapped accessible and, oh yes, the Marina also has a helicopter landing area with parking for two helicopters.
For the wealthy owners of mega-yachts, some of whom, today, are, no doubt, as famous as Flynn was in his day, the combination of first-class boating facilities in a safe and secure harbor, coupled with northeast Jamaica’s abundant natural beauty and relative seclusion, combine to make Port Antonio and its western harbor a perfect yachting destination. “If you want to relax and don’t want the publicity generally associated with big cities, then Errol Flynn Marina is the place to be,” says Downer. “It’s safe and there are lots of natural amenities surrounding Port Antonio and in Portland where you can have fun and feel safe that your visit will be private.”
Was naming Jamaica’s premier mega-yacht marina after Errol Flynn a good idea? “Well, the older yachting crowd knows about Errol Flynn and his exploits in his movies, and Australians are very much in tune with his name,” says Downer. But, she does admit that many contemporary visitors to the eponymously named Marina are not familiar with Flynn’s relationship with Jamaica or his history with the Port Antonio region.
Even so, Errol Flynn’s love of the sea, as well as his desire to make the town a more permanent home before his premature passing, are reasons enough to memorialize the famous movie star whose handsome looks and swashbuckling style once lit up the silver screen.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Errol Flynn Marina & Boat Yard
WHAT: A mega-yacht facility for transient vessels
WHERE: Port Antonio, Jamaica