Last Days in Port Antonio

Wednesday May 8, 2013

  5.8.13

Things are winding down for us here in Port Antonio and we’re planning our escape to Cuba.  Since we still rely mostly on Brian and Stephanie for our weather reports (and why wouldn’t we?, they’ve got it down pat), they found a window with winds mostly working in our favor that will help push us up the 300 miles NE towards Cienfuegos.  These winds should give us a good push when we start, but then putter out and die before coming back strong in directly the direction we need to be heading.  We figured we’d take the light winds with chances of motoring over certain motoring into headwinds.  After Serendipity has shown us what she can do throughout the Bahamas and the windward passage, we’d normally think this passage could be done in about 2.5 days, but we’re actually going to give ourselves another full day due to the light winds.  Plans are being made to leave tomorrow evening with arrival in the Bahia de Cienfuegos first thing Monday morning.

The past few days have been pretty open for us with no real plans until we tend to flock toward the pool area in the evening for a drink and internet use.  I’ve spent the past two days ready to swear off sewing again as I make more adjustments to the connecting piece between our dodger and bimini, and also measure and fit covers for our hatches.  With Serendip no longer being in storage or covered for seven months out of the year, the sun is really taking a toll on the acrylic and we need to shield them before they begin cracking.  I have come to a realization in the past few days that my battle isn’t even necessarily with my sewing machine itself.  We’re at odds with each other a fair amount of the time, sure, but we’re figuring out our issues and learning to work together (without even seeing a counselor!).  No.  My issue is with measuring.  It seems like no matter what I do I can’t from measuring to pinning to sewing without it going horribly wrong somewhere in the middle.  I blame it on working with mostly abstract areas which is not even a case for these covers but it must fit into the mix somewhere because the last one keeps coming out wrong.  There’s a very ill fitting one sitting on the hatch over our salon at the moment, and although to me it’s good enough for who it’s for, I already lament the day it’s going to have to be removed and fixed.

In other preparations we took one last trip to the market today since we never fully stocked up after going through a good portion of our stored food in the Bahamas (can you believe we spend less that $100 on provisions in the six weeks we were there?).  Again, we are absolutely terrible at deciding what we need to stock the boat but that’s probably also why we’re always the ones eating Ramen noodles while our friends enjoy afternoon snacks of goat cheese spread on crackers and topped with sun dried tomatoes.  Although I now realize six weeks of Ramen noodles probably will give you a $100 provisioning budget.  Anywhoo, today we were up to the task of filling the cupboards once more.  We’re trying to get ourselves more into fresh produce and I’ve been picking up little things from our friends on meals to make so we walked through the market and stocked up on carrots, potatoes (which, I don’t know how they grow them, but Jamaica seriously has the best potatoes ever), onions and the like.  Then going to a wholesale store we purchased three five lb bags of flour, 5 lbs of sugar, and a case of beer.  To which everyone on the street thought they were entitled to grab one from us on our way back and we had to shoo them away before they were able to pull one out of the case.

For our last night in town here we were on the hunt for one last good meal.   It should have been jerk chicken once more, I don’t know why we’ve now gone over a week without eating it, but we decided on pizzas at The Italian Job instead.  Over food we discussed our future plans which do now include Rode Trip heading to the Mediterranean and us debating between Guatemala and Panama since we apparently can not get insured in Colombia.  We’re excited to have one last new place with Brian and Stephanie although we’ll miss them terribly once they start heading north and east while we make our way south and west.  But after already being separated from each other once I have a feeling that we’ll find each other again, somewhere, somehow.  Jason joined us later and although Brian and Stephanie made their way back to their boat after eating, the remaining three of us went to the pool on more time.  I popped a cork on a bottle of Trader Joe’s Sauvignon Blanc after enjoying Red Stripe on Jason, more payment for something or else Matt helped him with and I joined in on reaping the benefits.  I also reaped the benefits of Matt’s hard work by turning Jason into my personal assistant on the website for the night since there were things that were driving me crazy and not only do I not know how to read html, but Matt is so fed up with trying to figure out the code for this website that he’s just given up.  So we did a little tweaking, downloaded some new versions, and voila, you have the new version that’s sitting in front of you today (as of April ’13).  I’m not sure if I’m 100% happy with the way it looks and I’m sure there will still be future tweaks, but at least it’s a start.

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Old Navy (Island)

Monday May 6, 2013

  5.6.13

Since we had been putting this off basically a week since we’ve been here now, we finally made plans today with Brian and Stephanie to do a little exploring over at Navy Island next door.  This a small little island, about 64 acres, spans in front of both the East and West Bay, and blocks both harbors from the sea.  It was once owned by Errol Flynn, and housed many wild Hollywood parties.  Still standing on the island is the Navy Island Marina and Resort although it hasn’t been occupied in years and is beginning to fall into disrepair.  Inviting Skebenga with us, the six of us traveled over in our dinghies to the dock that still sits in front of the old resort.  Walking up to the resort it was like stepping into the land that time had forgotten.  The derelict resort sat with vines growing over it, adding just a hint of mystery to the place.  We walked up the winding cement stairs to the second floor and were amazed by the interior.  You could tell that at one time it was a magical place.  I could almost put myself back in time to when there were lavish parties where you’d be sitting with a champagne glass in your hand, looking out at the rolling hills of Port Antonio in front of you and listening to the trickle of water streaming down a stone wall into a basin behind you.  Now though, the paint is chipping off the walls and the trees and vines from the outside are trying to make their way in.  We searched the rooms and discovered not only a white owl nesting in the rafters but also the world’s largest moth constantly zipping across our heads like a bat.  It was an interesting place and I wish I could have seen what it was like when it was up and running.

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After the initial tour of the resort, we took to the grounds.  There was a path that led out about 1/4 mile from the resort, but just after passing an old cement swimming pool, that trail ended and we started making our own.  As we got further into the brush we began seeing all different kinds of tropical plants and flowers.  The kinds that brochures use to entice you to come to a place, giving you the assumption that you’ll be surrounded by them in a tropical garden while sipping on a Mai Tai.  But cruisers brochures rarely include viewing flowers from well maintained gardens, or even sipping fruity rum drinks while doing so.  We usually find ours the hard way, and that’s blazing a trail through thigh high grass to get to them.  It didn’t make them any less beautiful though.  Eventually we found our way out to water again, on the little channel that runs out between the West Bay and the sea.  Admiring the Royal Palms planted by Errol Flynn and surrounding the coast, Brian even went on a mission to scale any coconut palms he could to get fronds for new hats.  With big bushels of fronds in tow we made our way back to the marina area where a mango tree was found and all three guys spent the next twenty minutes finding the best way to knock the fruit off its branch until we once again had more mangoes than we could eat or carry.

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When our backpacks were once more full of mangoes we got back in our dinghies and went to see what the Port Antonio area had to offer for snorkeling.  The water in the bay we’re in isn’t fantastic, but on the other side of Navy Island where the channel leads in from the Caribbean Sea the water clears up a bit and we found a place to tie our dinghies off to a few poles that were sticking out of the water.  Before I could even open my mesh bag to start grabbing my things out all three guys and Elmarie were already in the water.  Stephanie was staying behind in the dink to just soak up a little sun, but soon I was in the water with everyone else and trying to catch up.  Out near the channel everything was just sand and there was nothing to see on the bottom but as soon as you closed in on the island a small coral shelf popped out and fish began darting around.  The water here was much shallower than we were used to snorkeling in, only 3-5 feet, and I made sure to keep a careful eye on all the sea urchins that poked up just below me.  We swam through lots of warm and cold patches in the water which caused a weird salination effect where the water would become blurry in front of our faces.  There was a pretty good current rolling through the bay at the time we were out which made swimming sometimes difficult and we were only out about 30 minutes before pumping our way back to the dinghies to catch our breath and head back.

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We spent a few hours back at our boats relaxing before we got cleaned up to meet back up on Skebenga for a few drinks and a tour of their boat.  It was something Lukie had built himself about 20 years ago (it took him 10 years to complete) and it is absolutely gorgeous.  We were busy arguing with Brian and Stephanie on which one of us would be the ones to take it off their hands when they stop cruising in the next year or two.  We all poured over cruising books for the Med and it’s pretty apparent that Brian and Stephanie will be making their way there now this year.  It hasn’t been shouted out as a definite yes, but it’s only a matter of time.  If they go it will be sad to break up our buddy boat armada, but also a little nice that they’ll be able to scout out everything for us before we get there ourselves next summer.  They’re still on for Cuba though which is great because it’s a place we were all looking very forward to seeing together.  And now we found out that Skebenga is also going to be heading to Cienfuegos Cuba at the same time we are.  Between the six of us, I think we should have enough Spanglish to get by.

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Tonight was Jimmy’s last night in his multi-week sailing adventure this year before he heads back to the States.  I would say back to resuming a normal life but he’s moving to Barcelona next week to experience something new, and that’s just not normal for most people.  In any case, I wanted to do a little going away celebration for him at the bar.  A big send off party.  Hell, I would have even been up for going back to Crystal’s if that’s what they had wanted to do.  These guys are crazy.  I expected something crazy to happen, like jumping into the bay in the middle of the night.  Which is why I even made it a point to wear underwear I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in just in case that happened.  But once we finally met up after dinner we sat at our table by the pool for an hour and then called it a night.  I have to tell you Jimmy, I’m just a little disappointed.  That goes for you too Jason and Piers.  I guess you’re not the off the wall guys I fell in love with.  Ah, who am I kidding.  I do still love you.

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Usual Suspects

Sunday May 5, 2013

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This weekend we’re down a few people in our group.  They boys on Tamarisk have a rental car during their stay here, and after spending four straight days with us they decided it was more than enough and needed to get as far away as possible.  I’m just joking.  What they did do is extend their Jamaican stay past just the town of Port Antionio and are now in Negril on the other side of the country.  They did even invite us along with them but we turned them down so that we could watch their boat in case there were any more mishaps like the other day’s storm.*  Plus, you know, we’re too poor to just off and run away to a resort town for a weekend.  So we’ve been staying at our usual hang out of the marina with our usual group of friends, minus the boys.  But since they’ve been gone we’ve been able to replace them with a couple from South Africa on their boat Skebenga (which means ‘honest thief’, and if you learn the story of how they got their boat, is utterly hilarious).  We had actually met Lukie and Elmarie the same morning we met Tamarisk, they were anchored next to us and popped by to introduce themselves that morning while we were making breakfast.  We had a feeling that our next few days may be a little busy, but they were very nice people and we told them we’d make a point to get together for a beer sometime while all of us were still there.

Yesterday evening they were in the pool area the same time we were so we all sat down to talk and Brian and Stephanie joined as well.  We learned they have been out cruising for 7 years, first going from South Africa to Thailand, and then back down to South Africa and up to the Mediterranean for a few seasons before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean where they were currently sitting with us.  With all four of us being very interested in making it over to the Med someday, we quizzed them on what it was like there and approximately how much the cost was since the one thing that might possibly keep us from going is just that.  When we found out that they were able to live comfortable on 900 euros a month, we all about fell out of our chairs.  That’s cheap!  That’s cheaper than just about anywhere else we’ve traveled so far.  (Although we did have a $500 month in April due to being away from civilization for so long in the Raggeds and Jumentos, whoot whoot!)  Lukie and Elmarie explained that if you do your shopping in the little markets and stay away from big tourist attractions it can actually be pretty inexpensive.  This is good news and now the two of us might be able to make it over there next year instead of spending this entire trip in the Caribbean.  Brian and Stephanie though, their not even sure they want to wait that long.  There was some excited squeals from Stephanie of “Let’s go now!, Let’s go now!”.  We’ll see how that pans out as it’s a pretty big last minute decision to make.  Matt and I are were looking to go to the Rio Dulce but now have our eye on Cartagena Colombia for hurricane season.  I guess plans really can change that quick.

Tonight we gathered back at the pool for a little Cinco de Mayo Celebration.  Yes.  Even though we are no longer in America, I fell it fully necessary to celebrate this Mexican holiday.  Joining us once more were Lukie and Elmarie, and we even had Lance join us for a couple of drinks since he was now back in town.  We started out the evening a little early, pouring over charts and books about the Med that Skebenga brought in with them.  We looked at nice little coves and anchorages, found out that not every place requires to you do a Mediterranean mooring (a whole nother problem for us in itself) and that once you make the initial four week cross, everything is just a day sail away.  This made Stephanie even more excited and she kept poking Brian, making in very apparent that they should make the trip over this year.  Once all the charts were reviewed we retired to the other side of the pool away from the in demand electrical outlets for laptops to enjoy a few drinks and general boat and travel chatter.  Stephanie and I were quick to order margaritas while everyone else stuck with beer.  It was a nice relaxing evening and we had even tuckered ourselves out enough that we were ready for bed just past cruisers midnight.  Geez.  Take my boys away and I turn into a sixty year old again.

 

*After the storm they moved their boat to the far part of they bay, just inside the channel buoys.  Keeping our radio on at anchor while we travel with friends, I heard a call go out from the marina addressing Tamarisk, so I answered it.  The marina thought they were too close to the channel and might get hit by incoming traffic that didn’t see them and asked if the boat could be moved.  I replied, “Sure”.  Matt, who was standing next to me gasped.  “Why would you tell them that?!  We’re not going to move their boat, we don’t have the keys!  And even if we did, I’m not going to re-anchor someone else’s boat!  You need to tell them we can’t move it.”  Wait….isn’t the whole reason we were watching their boat is so we could move it if necessary?  If another storm came through and they began dragging anchor again, was I just supposed to message Jason on Facebook with, ‘Btw, your boat is running lose in the anchorage, it might be in shambles by the time you get back.  Hope you’re having fun in Negril!  😉  ‘.  And I’m pretty sure I was told a secret location of where the keys were housed.  Grudgingly I called the marina back and after switching to a talk channel, let them know that we were in fact only boat sitting and could not ‘move it out of the way of all the incoming traffic that would have to come barreling in at 20 knots to not be able to make out the boat before hitting it’.  When I was finished explaining this and ended the call, Matt turned to me and berated “Now everyone on the radio knows they’re away from the boat and that it’s open for robbing.  Our one job was to keep that from happening.  Way to go.”.  Oh.  So that’s how we were watching their boat….

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The usual group with the addition of Lance, Lukie, and Elmarie.

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If you can’t make it out, that’s a metal sailboat in the background.

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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!

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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??…..’

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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!

Jessica & Piers - waterfall (7a)

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!

 

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Downwind through the Windward Passage

Monday April 29, 2013

4.29.13

Leaving Great Inagua just after 8 pm on Saturday we set out to cross through the Windward Passage and finally towards a new country. Once again, I was starting my sleep shift just after leaving and quite weary about the prospect of navigating the narrow area between Cuba and Hati alone when I was to wake up a few hours later for my night watch. Matt must have felt the same way about putting me up there alone at that time, or was just dying to try out a new sleep schedule, because when I was finally stirred for my shift we had already gone through it. I don’t know what superhuman strength he had in him to give me almost a full night’s sleep while stayed awake, but that’s what happened. I woke up shortly before the sun was to rise, and while we ran comfortably near downwind between 6 and 7 knots I watched it come up and slowly illuminate the mountains of Cuba off in the distance. For everything I’d heard about this passage, the high winds and steep waves that tend to build up where these giant bodies of water were funneled through a much smaller area, I felt like we were actually having a pretty good sail. Winds were holding steady at 20-25 knots and the 1-2 meter seas did nothing more than push from behind us and carry us along as we flew toward our destination.

There was only one nerve wrecking moment in the day and it was while Matt was down below sleeping. I was on watch in the mid-morning, keeping an eye on the tankers that passed by and praying that the wind didn’t shift enough for a dramatic sail change. I kept steady watches 360 degrees around the boat until at one glance when I noticed breaking waves ahead of me. I looked around to the side and to the back but no other areas had the same frothy white tops. A quick panic set in as I realized the only reason the waves ahead of me would be doing this is if they were building up due to shallow water. Zooming in on the chart I didn’t see any noted reefs, just depths listed at over ten thousand feet. Searching the horizon in front of me for any way around it I could see that these whitecaps spread as far as I could gaze and my only two options were to either turn around or go through them.

I wasn’t sure yet if I should wake Matt and make him aware of the situation when I noticed one of the tankers I had been keeping an eye on was passing me a couple miles off my port. They were headed into the same breakers I was and with a draft 20 feet deeper. If they were ready to charge through these things, then surely I could make it. Keeping my eyes lasered at the depth sounder as we came up to the breakers I watched it jump from unreadable to 16 feet. Oh shit. But before I could even move a muscle it ascended to 24 and then 42. I had just passed over something, I have no idea what, but I seemed to be in the clear. In under a minute the depths went back to unreadable even though the breakers stayed for a bit longer. My heart slowly slid back to a normal rate and the rest of the day luckily passed by uneventfully. The winds even died out in the afternoon, calming the seas and giving me a chance to bake cookies, but their sweetness did not make up for the fact that if we continued at this half speed we were now on, arrival in Port Antonio wouldn’t happen until Tuesday. Fatefully the winds did fill back in throughout the night due to us being on the edge of a passing storm, during Matt’s shift thankfully, we even made up the miles we had lost earlier in the day. It looked as if we may still coast into Jamaica the next day before sunset after all.

I’d like to take a quick moment here to talk about nautical superstitions. If you’ve ever owned a sailboat, if you’ve ever even set foot on one, you may have realize that it comes with a hefty amount of superstitions dating back hundreds of years. Superstitions such as whistle if you want wind. Don’t rename your boat, it’s back luck. Don’t ever leave for a passage on a Friday, it’s bad luck. Don’t ever bring bananas on board, they’re bad luck. (What is up with all this bad luck on the high seas?) Don’t bring a woman on board it’s back luck. However, you can counteract this last one if the woman is nude. That in fact, is supposed to be good luck. But I would like to dispel this superstition. We were having a great sail toward Jamaica on our second day. The sun was shining and we were surrounded by happy, puffy white clouds. The winds started to decrease a little, and ever determined to make it in to port that day, we decided to put up the spinnaker. There was a little extra work getting it on deck since the dinghy was covering the hatch to the v-berth where it gets stored under my bunk, so instead of easily raising it through the hatch we had to bring it up the companionway and then around to the foredeck before it could be tied and lifted. All lines to the spinny were soon secured on and it raised without issue. It was the first time we’ve used it since Lake Michigan, some 2,500 miles ago, and it was enough to bump our speed up to a swift 6.5 knots, now ensuring we’d make port with plenty of time to clear in that afternoon.

Since, I hate to admit it, we hadn’t bathed since our second day in Great Inagua, we thought a nice bucket bath was in order before customs and immigration decided to deny us entry just based on our stench alone. Getting all soaped and sudded up we ended with a fresh water rise and sat back in the cockpit to dry off. The funny thing is, as I sat there looking at the perfect afternoon and watching the water evaporate off my bare skin I actually thought to myself ‘Ha, a bit of good luck for this trip! I should do more passages without any clothes on.’. But I was..oh..so wrong. I hadn’t even had time to fully dry off when those puffy white clouds began turning black. Yes, I knew from the first time I saw them that they were cumulonimbus, I was just hoping they would pass behind us. Pointing it out to Matt since the last thing you want to happen with your spinnaker up is have a sudden storm blow past, we turned on the radar to check for rain. The whole screen was pink. We were about to get hit, and get hit hard. With fluid movements and great communication, the spinnaker was down within moments and reefs were put into the mainsail. We unfurled the headsail about half way just to keep speed and waited for the storm to come.

The sky all around us had turned a dark gray and you could see the haze of a downpour ricocheting off the water long before it ever reached us. Along with the storm came a wind shift, almost on our nose of course, so we conceded and went to turn the engine on. Seconds later Matt was shouting up to me to turn it off, there was an issue with the belt again. I quickly ran below to assist him while he once again began to take apart the engine and piece it back together. With thirty knot winds and rain now pelting us from above I listened to the autopilot beeping at me, advising that it could no longer keep it’s course into the wind and was turning itself onto standby. Now drifting into whatever direction the wind felt like pushing us I just hoped the winds didn’t gust any higher and give us a possible knockdown while we sorted out the belt issue. Luckily for us Matt is a master with the engine and not even five minutes later I was given the ok to start the engine back up. It roared to life and I let out a sigh as I punched up the throttle and pointed us back to Port Antonio. From a perfect and calm afternoon to a blinding and high wind storm in all under a half hour. If that is what comes of having a nude woman on board, I think I will make all future passages wearing every article of clothing I own.

It wasn’t until we were almost right on top of shore that the Blue Mountains came into view, and although I had originally been thinking that I could get a great shot of these mountains with our spinnaker flying high and possibly even a rainbow in the background (a girl can dream, right?), we were still just as elated to see them through the haze. 247 miles completed in 42 hours, we were finally there. Hailing Nila Girl on the radio, they gave us instructions on where to come in at the marina and let us know they’d be fetching customs and immigration so we’d get checked in as soon as possible. Clearing in was much easier this time when everyone came to you although I did get a few surprise glances, mostly from the women in Quarantine, that I was in fact the captain and not Matt. Before we even had clearance to get off the boat we were greeted by Ren and Ashley with big hugs and from Lance with a cold Red Stripe. Once everything was in order we moved the boat from the dock out to anchor in the bay, still paying a daily fee to be affiliated with the marina and use their facilities including the dinghy dock, laundry, and, oh yes, hot showers.

Though we were going on very little sleep we were way to excited to rest and were quickly back on shore to do a little exploring. Having made Matt promise we’d actually go out to eat our first night there instead of me fixing something on the boat, we were given ten different recommendation of places to try but couldn’t turn our backs on having jerk chicken our first night in Jamaica, and were directed to a little shack down the main street called Piggy’s. After the 1.5x American prices we had been paying in the Bahamas, our mouths watered as we saw they had whole meals for only 300 J, or $3 US. With hot jerked chicken in one hand and an iced cold Pepsi in another we sat on a bench overlooking the East Bay, watching the navigational buoys shine in the dark and relieved we were back on solid ground instead of out at sea. Arriving back at the marina we found that Ren had reserved the large projector kept in the outdoor pool/bar area and was setting it up to have a movie play. In the best outdoor theater I’ve ever been in, we watched The Big Year while sipping on Red Stripes and listening to tropical birds call out from hills and mountains in the distance. Let me be clear that we thoroughly enjoyed the Bahamas, but I think Matt summed it up best when he turned to me and said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for”.

4.29.13 (1)

4.29.13 (2)

Jamaica

 

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