A fresh boatload of imbibers nears the Pelican Bar

A fresh boatload of imbibers nears the Pelican Bar

Jamaica: A tree-house bar in the middle of the sea

  • Feb. 9, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Peter Neville-Hadley

Meridian Writers’ Group

Treasure Beach, Jamaica – Treasure Beach, on Jamaica’s southwest coast, has a row of small, quiet hotels rimming a bay shared with local fishermen. At the shoreline they sell their catch from cool boxes, and fork-tailed frigate birds with narrow wings and long, pointed beaks hang almost stationary above them on the breeze. But the fishermen also do business offering a taxi service out to an extraordinary watering hole perched on stilts over a submerged sandbar.

It’s a 30-minute ride out to the Pelican Bar in an outboard-driven fishing boat at speed over a half-kilometre of sea seemingly more potholed than the country’s roads, and the trip is a thrill in itself. While holding on tightly as the prow slams into yet another wave there’s the always prospect of a calming drink at the end of the ride.

The Pelican Bar itself is an idealized tree house, a hut assembled mostly from mangrove wood, with sides a grid work of woven sticks, and a complex jumble of branches to hold up a shaggy grass roof. It looks at once sturdy and fragile. The original was put up in 2001 and lasted until it was blown down by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. By then it had become an established attraction and was quickly rebuilt.

A rickety stepladder of branches leads up to the uneven plank floor supported by a small forest of spindly poles driven into the sandbar below. Despite a small wind turbine on the roof to provide power for the beer fridge behind the small screened-in bar in the corner, the structure is the last word in rustic, also sporting furniture of rough-hewn wood.

Where other pubs have a cat or a dog, the Pelican Bar has pet rays, prowling in the bar’s shadow waters, close enough to touch. The occasional prettily mottled crab scuttles sideways across the floor.

Owner Floyd Forbes, the fisherman who built the Pelican after having dreamt of it one night, can be found lounging at one end of a small jetty, too relaxed to say very much. If he’s not here when you arrive, his phone number is on a wooden sign over the bar. Call him and he’ll show up, or just as likely he’ll tell you where the key to the bar is, so you can help yourself. But usually a cold Red Stripe beer or rum punch is quickly produced by a barman.

Surprisingly, the bar is busiest in the morning, with a mixture of pre-lunch, post-fishing drinkers, and people bathing from the steps or jetty. But a trip out at sunset is recommended for the drama of the changing light and a chance to sit, cold beer in hand, and watch pelicans repeatedly lumbering ponderously into the air like over-laden cargo aircraft, only to plummet steeply, with wings swept back, and beak first to skewer fish.

And after a few beers or glasses of Jamaican rum, the ride back under moonlight and past a shoreline now twinkling with lights merely seems to add to the reasons to return the next evening.

Explore More:

For information on travel in Jamaica visit the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website at www.visitjamaica.com.

Just Posted

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. (ADOBE STOCK IMAGE)
Shining a light on brain injury in Canada

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read