Tuesday April 30, 2013
*Disclaimer: I was not lying on our Facebook page when I said we were out all day and night every night in Jamaica. Get ready for some novels over the next few days because there is a lot of ground to cover.
Having just completed a two day passage only to be swept into a semi-late night fiesta with our friends as we entered a new country, you’d think that I would have been so exhausted that I would have slept like the dead well into the next day, possibly needing a cattle prod to wake me out of my slumber. Not so. My body, for some reason, decided to get up with the sun. And do you know what time the sun rises in Jamaica? Frickin’ 5:30 am!! I tried to tell my brain that it was delirious after it’s long journey and force it back into sleep, but all I was able to do was lay in bed for an extra hour, peering at the clock every 15 minutes while falling no closer into unconsciousness. Finally I dragged myself out of the v-berth, determined not to waste any of the day as long as I was awake, threw on a tee, and made my way up on deck to give myself a pedicure. The sun was already high in the sky and burning on my bare skin. I had just been finishing up when I heard a call on the radio belonging to Rode Trip announcing their arrival to the marina. I don’t know if it was my excited pounce up on deck or the voices on the radio that woke Matt up, but soon he was peering out of the hatch watching Brian and Stephanie come in, probably just as curious as I was to see if they’d actually dock under sail. It looks like that’s something they’ll still turn their engine on for though, and we watched them tie up behind another new sailboat that had just made it’s way in that morning as well. I was excited just to see that Brian and Stephanie had made it in, but I think Matt was more excited about the other new boat at dock, a Sundeer 56, designed by one of his boating idols, Dashew.
Grabbing our shower essentials we dinghied into shore so we’d have a chance to see how the rest of Rode Trip’s trip went before washing off all the sweat that had already accumulated in the three hours since the sun had come up. Unfortunately we got to the dock the same time that customs and immigration did, so we had to hold off on swapping stories for a little longer. Withdrawing to the showers, we were halfway down the dock when Matt noticed someone sitting in the cockpit of the Sundeer and stopped to give him praise on his boat choice, letting him know that they had chosen his dream boat and then went on prattling off information about the design that he had picked up on Yacht World and various other websites. It turns out the person he was giving all the praise to was not the boat owner but actually a friend, and mostly a non-sailor at that, who was only along for the ride for a few weeks. The guy that he was rattling all these random boat facts to, Jimmy, just kept nodding and smiling until there was a pause in the conversation where he was able to explain that he actually knew nothing about what Matt was talking about, and passed him on to one of the actual owners, Piers. From there we found out that the boat, Tamarisk, was owned by Piers and his brother Jason and they were completing a circumnavigation. Having started in the Med last summer, they were on their way to Panama to cross through the canal but had an autopilot failure after leaving Cuba a few days before and would now be stuck in Port Antonio until a replacement could be sent to them. While Matt and Jason went into depth on the boat design and mechanics, Piers and Jimmy and I talked about traveling in general and life on a sailboat.
After Rode Trip had officially cleared in we set about to do some exploring of the town with them and Nila Girl. Ren wanted to take us up one of the hills to overlook the town and the bays. Turning down about fifteen taxi rides on the main road we finally turned onto a side street and began making our way up the hill. Even though the sky was now covered with clouds it was hot and muggy, so as soon as we saw a sign for $0.50 ice cream, we were all about taking a break to enjoy some. Too soon the cones were melting in our hands and we didn’t get a chance to savor them but instead had to get them out of our hands and quickly as possible. Back to hiking the hill we watched breathtaking landscapes open in front of us. Nearing the top of the hill we walked into a grassy area to get betters views of the East Bay below. Sitting right to the side of us were trees filled with mangoes, something Matt and I probably would have missed completely on our own, but our foodie friends were keen to hone in on it. Covering the ground were piled of mangoes that were quickly washed off and turned into snacks for all of us. They were still a little stringy and not quite ripe yet, but we still stood around each eating a few before packing masses of the others into our backpacks to take to our boats.
Seeing all that hill had to offer, we walked back down and started taking side roads until we were lost on streets filled with little shacks and kids running around in their underwear. Many of the locals were sitting outside and gave us a big smile and wave as we passed. Getting many more miles under our feet than I thought we would that day, we came out of the hills and started wandering the main streets of town. Mostly at this point we were looking for a cold beer and a bite to eat. Matt and I joked that we should go to Crystal’s Night Club who’s bright pink exterior we passed on our walk, but no one else felt the same way. Finally we ended up at a restaurant called Shadows where the two main specials for the day were pork and chicken. Ashley was adventurous and ordered chicken foot soup with her meal (which actually came with a chicken foot in it), but once it was passed around we all decided it was not too bad. We also found out that Port Antonio’s mayor was sitting just across the bar from us and he came over to welcome us to the town and kept pushing his newspaper at us so we could read up on current events. We stayed until it was beginning to get dark out, but I was quickly losing any energy I had that morning and was ready to go back to the boat and stay there for the rest of the night.
The lack of sleep had finally entrapped my body and I was fighting to keep my eyes open past eight o’clock. Matt had to practically drag my limp body to the dinghy so we could get one more set of showers in, for him to wash off the day and for me to hopefully wake up enough to still get a little writing in that night. On the way to the showers we passed a set of stairs that seems to house the one stable internet connection in the place and found Jason and Jimmy determined to connect with that signal. Stopping to talk once more we found they were throwing in the towel on getting any work done on their tablets and phones and were about to head out in search of food. Addicted after one night, we suggested Piggy’s but could not relay understandable instructions on how to get there. ‘You go down the road towards the water and there’s this building. If it says Piggy’s, you’ve found the right place’. Deprived of sound mind or terrible navigation skills, I don’t know, so we decided it best to take them there ourselves instead. Piers was brought in from their boat, also now at anchor, and we walked down the dark streets in search of jerk chicken. Standing in front of the little shack with only 75 J in our pockets I cursed us for not bringing more money even though we were originally only going to the shower. Although we just met I broke down and asked Jason for a little $ to which he happily obliged because, what is $1 to most people anyway?
Taking our food and drinks we all walked over to the same table Matt and I had been at the night before. Still talking about boats and passages we were all having a good time before being interrupted by some random guy wandering the street. It seems to be a daily occurrence because the two of us make the mistake the previous night of talking to a guy for quite awhile because we thought he was staff at the marina. It turns out he was only passing through the marina but recognized us while out to eat that night, sat himself down at our table, and kept trying to sell us drugs or trips in his taxi out to waterfalls. We realized way too late what was happening and when he wouldn’t stop talking even though we had been giving very clear signals we wanted the conversation to end, we excused ourselves early to go back to the marina. Tonight’s guy was actually worse. He most likely should have been on a medication that he was not taking and starting rambling off nonsense to us. Unfortunately Jimmy got the brunt of it since this crazy guy had no sense of personal space and was right on top of him through the whole conversation, spewing out centuries old views on politics while constantly eyeing me up and down. Piers did try and deflect it a bit by lightening the mood and starting up some crazy of his own in a British accent, thinking it might deter the guy from messing with a group of Americans. It wasn’t long before two more locals from the street came to join in on the conversation, one of them trying to get the first crazy away which we thought was helpful, but then tried to butt in to our personal conversation himself. Two nights in a row we had to pack it in from that place early because we couldn’t have a quiet meal to ourselves.
Ready to call the evening quits, we were already back at the marina when one of the guys joked that we should go to the club that Matt and I passed earlier on our walk. Another seconded the notion and pretty soon the five of us were back on the streets of Port Antonio. By this time they were deserted of all tourist and even most locals. Trying to find our way backwards to this club in a town that we’d only been in for a day, we stopped at another club along the way to ask for directions. There was someone who looked like a bouncer outside although we can’t be sure he was legit because when we asked him how to get to Crystal’s he told us that it was upstairs and yelled at us to give him five dollars to let us in. Finding no help there and a little frightened we might get shanked by this angry ‘bouncer’, we continued down the road thinking we had to stumble across it at some point. It wasn’t until we were further down the road and there was no one else around besides a few people literally creeping around in the shadows that I thought ‘Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea’. There was even an instance where a car was coming toward us on the street and as soon as they saw us a few hundred meters away they pulled over and stopped. Then when we were only 100 ft away they tore away from the curb. I have no idea what that was all about. We were told it’s a safe town, but while wandering the streets close to midnight in a completely unfamiliar place, even those words don’t really put you at ease.
It was right when I started seriously scouting the bushes for places to hide should shit go down that we heard the music and saw the entrance to Crystal’s. Phew, we made it there alive. Climbing a set of stairs we walked passed a couple of guys playing pool and walked into the club….to find it empty. There was a DJ behind a glass booth and a bartender that was occasionally at the bar, but that was it. No one dancing, no one out to have a good time, just strobe lights hitting an empty dance floor. Since we had made the long trek there we waited for the bartender to realize he had customers, and ordered a round of Red Stripes. We tried to sit at the bar and have a conversation, but the music that was playing to nobody was blasting so loud that you had to be within six inches of the person talking just to hear them. It was clear that we were not having any luck that night trying to find a good spot to hang out. Once the beers were finished we were back on the street and headed toward the marina. Conveniently for me, the one beer in my empty stomach was plenty to give me enough of a buzz that I wasn’t as worried about being mortally stabbed on the way back. We were at the marina again before I knew it and safely shuttling ourselves back to our boats. It wasn’t the night I originally had planned, especially considering I had been ready for bed five hours earlier, but sometimes you have to give in to the unpredictable and just go with it. I think our new friends might be trouble, but in the best kind of way.
Waiting for ice cream to be served.
The East Bay where we came in from the Caribbean Sea.
Digging into delicious albeit stringy mangoes.
The West Bay, where all our boats are sitting.
Cheers to all meeting up again in Jamaica!