Here Comes the Rain

Friday May 3, 2013

5.1.13

Where we’re sitting in the West Bay of Port Antionio, it’s a pretty protected little area with Navy Island blocking us from most of the Caribbean sea and just a little sliver of open water in front of us covered with shoals.  It’s very calm and as soon as we dropped anchor here on Monday the first thing that crept into our minds was ‘Finally.  A still spot in the water.’.  Things became so much easier once we weren’t violently or even slightly constantly rocking back and forth.  Dinners could be made without me getting seasick (Yes, it can happen even at anchor), boat projects ensued, and we were quite content in our little spot.  We figured this was the best little protected bay that anyone had ever stumbled upon.  Then came today’s storm….

In an almost somewhat lazy day on the boat, we had allowed ourselves to sleep in and then make a nice breakfast of eggs and very thick sliced bacon and coffee.  We tooled around on the internet that was sometimes coming into range and just generally relaxed.  Then it was time to head over to Tamarisk since Jason had found out that Matt is a whiz on little internet set-ups and doo-dads, and needed his bullet set up as well so he could pick up wifi from his boat instead of heading to shore.  Piers was once again on a hunt for boat parts in Kingston which meant that Jason and Jimmy were stranded there without the use of a dinghy.  Jason was fine to sit there, obviously, with the promise of internet in his future, but Jimmy and I decided to ditch the scene and grab some lunch in town.  We went to a cafe serving pizza and sandwiches that was run by a non Jamaican that we spent almost our entire lunch trying to place his origins based on his accent.  Even though I’ve never been there and have no idea what the people sound like, my money was on Morrocan while Jimmy was going with Spanish.

Due to a miscommunication with the server as we were trying to leave, apparently they thought that “I’d like a Coke and the rest of my sandwich to go please” meant “Please make another sandwich and make sure I get charged for it.”  Luckily it didn’t go to waste and was given to Jason when we got back to the boat, who had only eaten a can of beans so far that day…straight from the can.  Matt was just figuring out finishing up the last touches as we got back and soon Tamarisk was set up with internet on their boat.  We were promised many free beers that night to be paid back for Matt’s hard work.  I love when I can reap the spoils of my husband’s skills.  We were all sitting around enjoying the air conditioning and now high speed internet when it started getting really gusty outside.  We checked outside the hatch but everything was still looking normal so we went back to messing around.  As the wind kept up it strong gusts and dark clouds began to roll in we figured it would be best to head back to Serendipity and close all the hatches before a storm blew in.  We got back just in time.

Soon the glass calm anchorage that we had been spending five days in had little white caps rolling through as the wind shot in from the one unprotected area on the West Bay.  All of the boat owners that had been lounging by the marina scrambled back to their boats to make sure everything was secure.  We turned on the instruments and watched the wind speed climb into the mid 30’s and stay there.  Even stronger gusts came through and we watched it top out at 42 a number of times.  A few of the boats around us began dragging back towards the marina and we watched as the owners would up anchor and begin circling the bay, looking for a more secure place to drop.  We knew our Rocna would hold us in place but we were only worried that the half dozen boats in front of us would not.  Looking off to our port side we could see Tamarisk begin moving back towards shore as well.  It was a good thing the guys had been on their boat because it took some quick action to get their anchor up before they ended up on the rocks.  There were a few failed attempts to re-anchor in the same area next to us, but ultimately they had to give up and find a new spot.

In total we saw four boats that had to re-anchor due to the storm.  As is the case for most strong storms, it was over in 30 minutes, but no one wanted to leave their boats for awhile just in case another one was on it’s tail.  It was also a nice excuse to finally be back on the boat, doing a little cleaning, finishing a few small indoor projects, and just relaxing after being on the go for multiple days now.  We relaxed into the evening until getting a call from Tamarisk asking if we could please either bring them some food or shuttle them into town since there was nothing to eat on the boat.  I guess when you’ve eaten a can of beans for lunch it’s a little repetitive to have it for dinner as well.  Picking the guys up we also placed a call out to Rode Trip and all met up once more at Ambiance to hang out.  Matt and I enjoyed free Red Stripes while we all listened to Rhianna and Taylor Swift pump through the speakers, this time without any threats from me to burn someone’s boat down.

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Fancy Cocktail Hour

Thursday May 2, 2013

Matt & Jessica, fancy cocktail hour

Isn’t he just the cutest little thing ever?

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

 

I’ve mentioned that I like to be girly, right?  I think this sprouts from the days back in my youth when I was a tomboy with braces and frizzy hair and only wearing hand-me-down clothes from my older brother, which eventually let to me being the outcast in junior high and the realization that the girly girls were being treated much better than I.  It took years of training and practice, but I eventually morphed into one of those girly girls myself. Don’t worry, I still kept the tomboy attitude.  And although I realize that being a girly girl isn’t important on the high seas, it’s not going to make sure the main sail gets reefed during a storm or give you the extra muscles to haul in lines (wait….I’m still missing those…), it is unfortunately a part of my life that I could not completely leave behind on land.  Yes, I still crave dresses and my hair dryer, and, oh how I miss them, high heels.  The Bahamas held lots of athletic gear: sports bras; lycra tops; quick dry shorts;..but my inner girl was clawing to get out.  Introduce….Fancy Cocktail Hour.  An excuse for all of us girls to put on our best dresses, straighten our hair, and wear eyeliner.  Stephanie and Ashley were just as excited about the prospect as me and we basically just told all the men what was happening since we were not even going to give them the option to say no.  They were encouraged to dress up as well but it wasn’t required as long as they showed up.  There may have been a little more enticing them with the promise of Dominoes, but I think that was more for me as well.

The earlier part of the day was a hot sweaty mess.  Matt and I finally dragged our laundry to shore since it hadn’t been done since we were in Black Point, Exumas which was five weeks ago!  While it was running we tried to find some relief from the sun under a shady tree which also happened to be just in front of the office and it’s internet connection.  Joining us as we chilled were Ashley and Jimmy and we all sat around talking.  Jimmy told us about their visit to Cuba and how it was full of ‘all time lows’ according to him and the guys.  Something he’s glad he’s done once but he would never go back.  Both Matt and I have been just a little more than excited to go there (it’s our next stop after Jamaica), so we were just a tad disappointed to hear that it might be a total let down for us when we get there.  Way to kill my dreams Jimmy, way to kill my dreams….  In picking up the mood though, Ashley told us about a great roti place just up the road here in Port Antonio and after doing the best she could to give us directions (there’s so many unmarked buildings all over the place here, it’s a wonder anyone finds anything), Matt and Jimmy and I decided to head there once laundry was finished.

Getting out of the shade and into the street the sun was merciless and beat down on us without a whiff of breeze in the air.  We went through the normal routine of turning down ten taxi rides out on the main drag, something I’m starting to become accustomed to now, and hooked a right on the street Ashley had told us to go down.  She said it would be a big yellow building with the restaurant on the second floor and we shouldn’t be able to miss it.  Having started in the middle we walked west until the street came to an end and saw a kind of yellowish-orange building that we weren’t sure was it.  Normally I’m not the one to randomly walk into a building hoping it would be a restaurant but thinking it could also be someone’s private residence, but I was frantic to get out of the heat for even just a moment and was willing to take that chance.  The guys followed me up and while we did find that it was a restaurant we also learned that they did not sell rotis.  Back on to the hot street it was.  We wandered up and down aimlessly until the sweat was pouring down our heads and blinding our eyes.  The simple thing would have been to ask for directions, but even that can be tricky in a place like this.  Depending on who you ask they may give you a straight answer or they may send you down the street to their cousin’s chicken shack telling you it will be the best roti you’ve ever had, although it obviously won’t exist there.  We did try to ask a few business people roaming the streets, a secretary out to lunch with her friend, the security guard at the local bank, but unfortunately none of them knew what a roti was or where we could find it.  Ultimately we ended up back at the restaurant we had originally entered by mistake, eating fried chicken and rice and just happy to have a cold Ting in our hands.

Before I knew it the clock was ticking after three, and if I was going to make this sweaty mess into something pretty by 5:30 I had to get back to the marina because there was a lot of work to do.  Getting ready for the evening I showered, shaved, plucked, lotioned, and pulled out my wet-to-dry flat iron that is terrible for my hair, and luckily only gets used about once or twice a month.  My make-up was applied, dress was ironed, and the closest thing I had to heels were pulled out.  Since I might just have the best husband in the world, Matt spruced himself up for fancy cocktail hour even though I told him (honestly) he was free to go in board shorts if he felt like it.  But knowing that a fancy date would mean a lot to me, he ironed his khakis and a button down shirt and even threw on a palm tree tie that we had brought on the trip just for fun. Gathering once again at EZ since Lance definitely has the best cockpit of all of us (although he’s out of town at the moment), we had a pre-beer there before claiming our spot once more by the pool.  It turns out that if it’s not happy hour Monday, the rum punches are actually cheaper to order than Red Stripe and the little frill of a pineapple slice on the side of my drink fit perfectly into the theme of the night.  I pulled out my easy-to-use color coded set of dominoes and since a surprisingly few number of people knew how to play, started with a few demonstration rounds for everyone to get the hang of it.  We also ended up throwing a little twist in, kind of treating it like Uno, and each time a person was down to their last domino they had to cry out “Jamaica, Jamaica, I love you….!”.

We had only been about one drink and two rounds into dominoes when we all realized that while prepping for fancy cocktail hour, no one had bothered to make dinner.  Looking as good as we all did, we didn’t want to shuffle back to our boats and cook in the stuffy galleys so it was time to take this party on the road.  Gathering our things up we walked across the street from the marina to a three story concrete building that is supposed to be some kind of mall, housing a nice restaurant on it’s top floor.  Taking an initial few wrong turns on the stairs we stumbled into Ambiance and found it to be a much better place that we ever expected.  There were wide leather couches positioned against the windows, modern tables placed in the center, and tv screens pumping out top hits from back in the States.  As we’re getting so good at doing now, we pushed a few tables together and looked through the multi-option menu that had a multitude of mouthwatering items.  While waiting for our food we started back up our dominoes game but this time with Ashley’s set.  Which is not color coded.  And as much as I teased people at first, I also succumbed to not being able to tell the difference between nine and twelve dots and placing down the wrong piece of porcelain only to quickly have to snatch it back up.  Then there was Brian who’s turn was just before mine and even though he was brand new to the game, had the expertise to play each open train I had my eye on just before I was given the chance.  I may have gotten frustrated and yelled out “I am going to burn down your boat!”, but fear not, Rode Trip is safe.  I just needed a little Red Stripe and sweet and sour chicken to calm my nerves.

With Ren and Ashley departing the next morning for an eventual arrival to the Bay Islands of Honduras, they excused themselves a bit earlier than the rest of us and I attacked them with hugs in case I didn’t get to see them off in the morning.  Brian and Stephanie were shortly behind them but the rest of us were not quite ready to go.  Jason, Jimmy, Matt, and myself stayed until close to midnight while we waited for Piers to come back from his trip to Kingston, a pilgrimage to find necessary parts for Tamarisk.  Eventually he walked in with his friend Kewah the Messiah, a local rasta from the area that has made traveling around Jamaica so much easier for them, and we stayed a little longer as they ate before figuring out the rest of our tab and heading back to the marina.  But do you know what I got that morning?  Sleep.  So I was not ready to go to bed yet.  Playing sort of bumper boats in our dinghies, we followed Jason back to Tamarisk where the six of us climbed on board and raided what was left of the almost empty fridge.  Pulling out a bottle of chilled Havana Club rum we also mixed some fruit flavored Tang and tried to get as close to the rum punches we were drinking by the pool as we could.  Making our way back out to the cushy cockpit we set up some mood lights and Piers brought out his guitar again.  Matt and Jason busied themselves with boat bits and electrical issues below, but the rest of us hung out in the cool breeze under stars and listened to the strumming of the guitar.  When Matt and I finally pulled ourselves away to go back to Serendipity we were surprised to find out our clock was reading after 2:30 am.  Not only were we way past cruiser’s midnight, we were only a few hours away from cruisers rise time.  Did I not say these guys were trouble?

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Recipe for the perfect evening: rum punch and dominoes.

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Ren and Ashley, the cutest little couple (and soon to be family!).

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Brian and Stephanie looking all dapper.

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Can anyone tell me why I always look so damn surprised in these photos?

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NF, Jimmy, and Nick, opting out of ‘fancy’.

Jessica, fancy cocktail hour

Ahhh, a normal face.  That’s better.

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

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Dominoes Biotchhh!

Jamaica, Jamaica, I love You…

Wednesday May 1, 2013

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Ok, back to the rest of the story after we spent all day chasing waterfalls.  Bet you thought the night held something really crazy like all of us going out in search a strip club. Ha, joke’s on you! We found out (too late) that that’s exactly what Crystal’s is. Which now makes it even funnier that there was no one there dancing last night. No, our night may not have entailed anything like that (again), but it doesn’t mean we didn’t have just as much fun. What we had waiting for us when we got back from the falls was a jam session out by the pool.

Although there are four guitars in our buddy boat armada, only two people on all of those boats actually know how to play theirs. Stephanie and I…..well, we’ll get to our guitars just as soon as we finish learning Spanish. (I promise I’ll be ready for our duet in January, Ron) Luckily Piers and Ren keep up on their playing and decided to treat us all to some by the bar that evening. After we all hit the showers to rinse off the fresh water we had just been swimming in (Seriously don’t know why though, after all the salt water we’ve been in lately, I felt perfectly clean.) we gathered back on the docks near EZ and Nila Girl to round everyone up. While standing there we began to chat up a crew member that was on a big sport fishing boat on the other side of the dock. He got a whiff that something fun might actually be happening in his life, I think he might have been at sea for too long, and was looking to join in on it. Ren wasn’t quite ready to go yet, but he sent us off with his guitar and our new friend to meet up with the guys on Tamarisk who were already sitting at a table by the pool. Sliding up some chairs as we pushed a few tables together I was quick to hand over Ren’s guitar to the new guy we met since he had already asked to play back when he first heard what we were up to, and before we could even shout out any request he was busy starting a song on it. It was something random and obscure and we all nodded our heads to the beat and gave him a loud round of applause as he finished, expecting Piers to be able to take the next round. But oh no, this guy wasn’t finished. Diving right in to another obscure song, he strummed away getting lost in his own little world of music, probably oblivious to the fact the rest of us were even there. We really thought that after the second song Piers would get a chance to play his guitar as well, but sadly he did not.

Remember how I complained that when Matt and I went out to eat the other night some random guy we saw at the marina came and started chatting us up, trying to sell us on anything he could offer? Taxis, tours,….drugs. We found out, to our dismay, that the marina has an open door policy to their bar/pool area and anyone off the streets is welcome to come in and use it. This means that some of the smarter and better dressed hustlers will sometimes make their way in to prey on unsuspecting cruisers like us. And sometimes just random old crazies make their way in. This is what happened tonight. The group of about six of us at the moment were sitting there, trying to have a good time despite the fact that our jam session was being hijacked by someone we just met, when some local Jamaican wearing a fishnet tank over a wife beater came up clapping his hands to the beat of the guitar. What our new friend was playing was a song referencing Jamaica and the crazy guy off the street was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, singing along and smiling wildly and showing off a few missing teeth. When the song ended, crazy man, or CM for short, pulled the guitar out of new friend’s hands, or NF for short, and only then asked if he could play something. It was Ren’s guitar, he wasn’t there, everyone was looking at me, and I was actually a little too frightened to say no. I still had fears of chances of being stabbed the previous night in my head. Just praying that he didn’t break anything I told him to play on, hoping he’d get one song out and go before Ren came by and found out I was passing around his guitar to any aimless stranger that walked by. It turns out that CM LOVES to sing about Jamaica, and when Ren finally did come by (with Ashley, Brian and Stephanie in tow) they smiled and clapped along, oblivious to the randomness of the night that had been happening before their arrival. CM and NF played a song together, but there was no shutting CM up. After his fourth song he just began strumming chance chords and crying out “Jamaica, Jamaica, I love you…”. It was funny..for a moment..but we were ready for some real music. Ren politely stole his guitar back and we were able to begin the original jam session we had started out for.

The night was rescued and we finally had topics other than Jamaica to hear about (sorry Piers, I know you love this country). First Ren treated us with a few songs from his repertoire and then Piers carried us through the rest of the night. We all sang along to a bit of Niel Young, some Tom Petty, and even a little Inner Circle. There was one more random moment when between all these classic songs we were enjoying, NF stood up and in a very agitated manner started cussing “What’s up with all this commercial bulls*%t?! Play something effing (used full word) original man!”. The table became very awkward and silent as we all kind of stared at him with mouths agape, and as soon as he realized we did not find him ‘edgy’ or entertaining, tried to play it off as a joke. We found out that the best remedy was to basically ignore him for the rest of the night and he stayed in his time out until he was ready to play with others again. We didn’t let it spoil our mood and we continued jamming on until the effects of cramming ten different activities into one day got the better of us. I’m not even sure what time it was when I crawled into bed, but I can tell you one thing. I am effing sleeping in tomorrow.

 

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NF and CM, playing to their heart’s content.

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‘And why are we out here??…..’

Something’s going Down Like a Waterfall

Wednesday May 1, 2013

5.1.13

I was finally able to get close to consecutive eight hours of sleep, but yet again we had plans and sleeping in was not one of them. Having talked about it since we first guided Ren and Ashley toward Jamaica instead of Cuba on their way through the Caribbean, the six of us planned on using the time there together to go see the Blue Mountains and some waterfalls. While taking our long walk yesterday we were approached by dozens of people trying to sell us on trips but unfortunately we never knew how legitimate any of them were. Brian and Ren were sent on a mission that morning to find us the best deal and when we met up for coffee around 10:30 they said they found a guy that could take the 7 of us on a packaged deal up through the mountains, to Reach Falls to do some swimming, and stopping at Boston Beach on the way back for food and relaxing. The total cost was $170 or just under $25 per person, plus additional cost to get into the falls. When I realized the bus sat 10 and there were only 7 of us I was quick to suggest that we invite the guys from Tamarisk to join us, thinking we could bring the general price down for everyone. I wasn’t inviting them just so we could save money, I genuinely like hanging out with them, but I also really like saving money. We found Jason on the stairwell once more trying to connect to the internet and invited him along. He was finishing up some business, but since the bus wasn’t coming to get us until just after noon it was still enough time for him to finish his work and round up the other boys. With everyone rushing back to their boats to get ready, we were soon meeting back up in front of the marina with a cooler full of ice that was desperately seeking beer.

Piling all of us into the van we made a stop at a convenience store to stock up on Red Strip, Dragon Stout, and Ting for the expectant Ashley. Continuing on, the buildings of Port Antonio fell away and we were cruising down a two lane road with grassy farms on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. The sights were beautiful and it was really relaxing to watch them pass by in a motored vehicle instead of on foot. There was one stop along the way before we reached the falls and it was the Blue Lagoon. I had originally thought this was the place where the movie of the same name was filmed, but a little check on IMDB later showed that was actually filmed in Fiji. This one we were visiting did still have it’s claim to fame though, by Jacques Cousteau’s 170 foot dive in it. While most of us were just happy to stare at the pretty colors of the water from a distance, Piers, Nick, and Matt quickly had their shirts off and were swimming in what they said was surprisingly cool water. It was a short stop, so they were only in a few minutes before returning to shore to dry off. While waiting for them, us girls browsed the stalls of jewelry and other knick-knacks for sale. Knowing there is no extra space on the boat for frivolous items, coupled with the fact that I don’t know if I’d ever get any use out of these said items, I politely turned down every seller that held something up to me with a hopeful smile. There was still plenty of business for them to be had though, as Ashley spiced up her outfit with a red coffee bean necklace, and Piers now had a new Jamaican flag to decorate his cabin with.

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I love how these boats seem to be floating on air.

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Matt & Piers taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon.

 

It didn’t take too long to get to the falls from there, or maybe we were all just having so much fun while talking about our sailing lives with cold roadies in our hands that time seemed to speed up a little. It was time to suit up and head down to the falls. Our driver told us to follow the well marked path down which would lead us straight to the falls. At the bottom there would be a guide that could walk us up the falls if we wanted, for a tip, or we could try doing it ourselves although it is not as much recommended. Finding the cement staircase with guardrails on the side (what is this, America?) we walked down to see a wide beautiful waterfall in front of us. It wasn’t too high, maybe 20-25 feet, but all it’s rushing water let to a delicate pool below that looked like the perfect place to swim while admiring the falls. We were all a little tentative to get in the water, only because it was much colder than the warm bath waters of the sea we’re used to, but Jimmy took the first plunge and we were all soon behind. There was a spot off to the side for jumping in the pool, and since it was only about 15 feet up and half the height of our jump at Dean’s Blue Hole, most of us were off it without a second thought. Stephanie took a little coaxing, but she too enjoyed the thrill of momentary zero-g.

There was a cave under the fall that most of the guys pushed their way past the barreling water and inside right after they made their initial jump in the water. Then it was time to have the guide bring us up the stream. Climbing the mossy side, most of us had opted out of wearing shoes since we figured they’d just get in the way, although with the amount of times I almost lost balance and face planted into rocks, I think they may have been worth the inconvenience. I brought up the rear, quite far behind actually, and didn’t get to enjoy the sights so much on the way up since I was constantly looking at the placement of my feet and where they would go next. I finally caught up to everyone though, due to obstacles like climbing over downed trees and squeezing through rock crevices, and then it was time to go back down….through the water. Our guide had deposited us at an area of the stream where the water ran down through a cave/tunnel before coming back out…and we were about to go through it. He gave instructions to the guys on how to get through and helped us girls down since it was about an eight foot drop. I was let down first and sat inside while I waited for Ashley to follow behind me. There were still spots for the light to shine through and it was actually quite wide. Getting tired of waiting I waded over to where I thought the exit was, and just when I was about to make the plunge to get out, Jimmy popped up in the cave, having come through it backwards. He showed me the way out and how to get down the next few obstacles where I was able to impress him with a belly flop into the next standing pool of water.

The rest of the way back down was much easier, floating through the open pools and walking over stones in some shallower areas. When we got back to the fall Matt was talked into jumping off the top of it, and although I was not worried about him and the distance to the bottom, the slippery wet moss at the top did make me worry that he might have a less than graceful fall. This guy is impervious to danger though and was back to swimming in the pool at the bottom just a few seconds later. I once again made the shorter jump off the side and made my way across the pool to finally check out the cave for myself. There was quite a current pushing you away as you tried to get in, but basically hanging on the back of Ashley as she went in before me, I was able to pull myself in as well. This cave was much bigger but also much darker than the first one we had been in. Matt lead us through a path in the cave that led us out the side of the cave where there was barely a trickle of water coming down over us. I was a little disappointed at this since I expected to burst back through the powerful opening we came in, but maybe it’s better because that route would most likely have led to a black eye , which I’m pretty good at getting. Back at the landing everyone was enjoying their drinks we brought down from the van and we watched the sun begin to lower and shoot brilliant yellow colors over the falls. Before we left, Jason set up his fancy camera equipment and took a great group shot of all of us.

hiking trails Reach Falls (4)

guide talking, Reach Falls (5)

(Above two photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

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Go for it Jimmy!

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Me & Piers floating downstream.

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(Above two photos courtesy of Jason Windebank)

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Getting ourselves back into the van we made our way to Boston Beach for some eats and relaxing.  It wasn’t quite what I expected when we got there.  I was thinking that something named beach would be a little more…beachy.  This was just a patch of grass with a path leading down to a rocky waterfront.  It was fine though since there were no plans to lay out on sandy beaches or get in the water, and it was still  a good place for watching a sublime sunset reflect off the rocks in the distance.  Stopping first at the food stands on the road we ordered items like jerk chicken and pork for dinner with sides of festival, a sweet slightly fried kind of breadstick, and brought our food to a grassy patch to enjoy it.  Around us were locals trying to sell jewelry and trinkets, and I finally broke down and bought a bracelet made of sea root, after trying on every one he had to find one that could fit my tiny wrist.  We were all tired and happy and when the food was gone we climbed back into the van for the ride home while watching the sky turn pink and orange out of our windows. But you know us…our night was not over yet..

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We’re Up all Night for Good Fun

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.

4.30.13

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.

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Waiting for ice cream to be served.

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The East Bay where we came in from the Caribbean Sea.

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Digging into delicious albeit stringy mangoes.

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The West Bay, where all our boats are sitting.

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Cheers to all meeting up again in Jamaica!