Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 20, Sunday in Port Antonio

Sunday in Pt. Antonio

A perfectly sun shining day. After clearing a fuel tank of sediment, Dave and I take off for a Sunday stroll. There is a point in the distance in the next bay that Dave has been eyeing and a restaurant called Anna Bananas about 20 minutes out in the same direction. On our walked we are honked at by the taxis all wanting our business, some stop, and we say, “Our legs are too fat, we need the walk, may be after the 5 miles we will need your help.” Some of the sites were too great to pass up as you will see in our pictures. We were walking by funeral homes, ice cream shops, goats tied to a stake, rum bars, food booths, small shelters with chickens clucking, candy stores, big speakers blaring music—many times country western from the states, reggae, and island rap tunes.
We were early for Anna Bananas meal time so we practiced Limin’ and sat sipping cold Red Stripe beer and coconut water. I took many pictures of the bay, the buildings from town, the hills and houses, and the herd of goats that wandered by on their way home for the day.
After lunch we walked out to the point. There was a park built by the local Rotary and many families were enjoying the day. Some were swimming, some were playing soccer, and there was even a cricket game in play. We walked and greeted everyone along the way and they in turn answered us and asked how we were enjoying their town. At the point we were able for the first time to see the Blue Mountain range, world famous for Blue Mountain coffee beans. Around the corner from the point were the ruins of the Folly Mansion. Made from beach sand concrete it stood for 32 years before collapsing. It was featured in music videos by Shabba Banks and Lauryn Hill. Here we turned around and walked back through the town and to the boat. On the dock we touched base with some cruisers we had met, some we were meeting for the first time, and exchanged the names of good places to eat. Cruising life has its own partyline of information and it is freely exchanged and taken.
February 18, Jamaica

It’s been rainy and overcast since our arrival on Thursday, so our first pictures lack the sunshine but are rich in foliage and color. Yesterday, Clive, the local fisherman (and dweller of the mangroves) stopped by on his hand tied bamboo raft and sold us bananas. Dave gave him some new fishing lines. Today is market day in town and we are salivating for fresh fruit and Jamaican jerk. With bags in hand we go foraging for food—a five hour adventure. We have learned to first browse and watch where the locals stop and shop, so we walk up and down various streets checking out the shoppers, shops and stands.
A man yells,“150 for 12 juicy juicy, here mon get you from me.” Then when we get closer to his wheelbarrow of oranges he says, “100 Jamaican dollars for you, mon.” The books say the “hagglers” will banter and barter with you and you should counter offer 20-30 percent less and settle in the middle. When we say “no” we need to do so politely, and here that means thrown in some humor with the “Need more time, mon.” So we reply, “Too much for these weak arms to carry for now, need more time.”
Across the street from the clock tower and taxi parking lot is the open air market. Here we enter and are immediately assaulted by a sensory overload. Music is blaring from a wall of 4 foot by 8 foot stacks of speakers, the aisles (?) are ragged paths through the excess stock, children, people sitting on the floor, and you gingerly cut your way through. Goods are hanging down from the rafters so Dave ducks below 5 1/2 feet as the vendors yell, “Look here, buy here, you need what, maybe coffee, t-shirt, we have what you need, come see,” as they take your arm and guide you to their 4 by 8 booth of wares. I see some hand carved wooden spoons and the Rastafarian artist shows me his collection of handmade items, there is a smile and eye contact that is friendly and accepting on his face. We talk and I admire his handiwork. Then I tell him that we have no Jamaican dollars yet and we will see him on Monday. An elderly smiling man walks Dave through the t-shirts and Dave indicates he sees one he likes so the man gets it down and it is his size. But we are browsing first, so we say, “We have no money, just got here, we need the bank, we’ll be back after the bank.” Of course he tells us the way to the bank and then adds, “You remember me, mon, best t-shirts in whole market”. We then cut our way through this maze, music still blaring, smells mingling together—fresh fruits, coffee, spices and spicy cooked food wavering through the air. Out of the corner of our eye we see the hindquarters of various animals hanging behind a chicken wire fenced-in area. We follow that glimpse only to meet a wall—no door—so we turn and try to follow the wall by zig zagging through the smiling vendors and again hit a wall but no door. On our third attempt there is the door. Inside this cage are more than 12 smiling butchers, each with their own cutting block of a tree trunk, displaying their meat. The choice was beef, pork, and goat—some had only one kind. We found what we wanted and decided we would come back later now that we knew where the elusive entrance was to be found. More smiling vendors offered us their wares and ended each encounter with a smile, solid eye contact and the words, “Remember me”. Many of the vendors are elderly, some are sitting and humming to the tunes, but all are ready to give you their full attention and talk you out of your money. Eventually we see an exit and are now in the outside market where the fruits and vegetable stands line a narrow alley and are shoulder to shoulder. Most are 3-4 feet, some are 8 feet long. Everyone grows the same things and green beans are in season. Ackee is new to us and is one of the traditional foods used with saltfish. We are then stopped by a “hustler” who tells a story of woe and then asks for a dollar. We say we haven’t been to a bank yet and he points to where money can be exchange. We leave with the words, “We’ll be back, later” and walk off. As we pass the money exchange office, he loudly yells, “There, stop there and get the money, mon”. But we have nothing to exchange…
Our walking takes us pass school children out for lunch break, locals out looking for parts and things, and we just mingle into the mix of things as well as two pale while people can. As we pass we greet everyone with a simple greeting and are answered with a smile, eye contact, and an inquiry on how we like Pt. Antonio. Our wandering takes us pass many more open stalls, shops with glass windows and door, and chicken wire enclosure of their stock if it is a hardware store, or parts store. As we cross a bridge the air is smelled with delicious spicy food…but its source is unclear. We walk further and see a bar with many cars parked in front. There we see people eating, people carrying away boxes and bags of food. So we follow the new smells and find a chalkboard with checks by the items being cooked today. Dave tries the curry goat and I get the jerk chicken. It’s is full of flavor and you can’t beat the hole in the wall ambiance. There is one table and it has dominoes on it. We sit there and are joined by one of the locals that offers to tour the island with us using his car—we turn down the unlicensed taxi man with dilated eyes and just enjoy his company and insights on the island. He buys his own drink and continues to talk to us as we eat. Little do we realize we are preventing some afternoon games of dominoes—a serious pastime on the islands.
Now well fed we head back to the market, get the fresh cut meat—you buy the 5 cent plastic bag from a bag vendor after it is cut, pick out some new to us fruits and veggies, buy a loaf of fresh bread, and head back to the boat. So far we haven’t entered a rum bar. We’ll save that for another day, another adventure.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15, 2011

Montego Bay to Pt. Antonio, Jamaica

Our arrival to Jamaica was as exciting as most of our passages over the past year.
We arrived at night with a finish line in our path--the Pinapple Cup, a race from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Montego Bay, Jamaica was in the middle of receiving its entries in the harbor. Using our limited night vision abilities we avoided crossing their finish line and confusing the officials. Next to the finish line we dropped our anchor and slept soundly for the first time in 4 nights.

The next morning the sun rose and I had turned 60 years old. What a place to celebrate. In this country I became a "senior" with rights to go to the senior lines in the banks. Checking into customs, immigration, health, and the marina took about 2 1/2 hours and NO MONEY exchanged hands. One of the officials called a cab driver for us and we were whisked off to see the area of Montego and to lunch at a beach front restaurant called Memorbillia. The chef described his specialities and we had three different dishes--all yummy, spicy and Jamaican. We returned to the Montego Bay Yacht Club and had a toast to the sunset and returned to the boat for another restful night sleep. Saturday night was the awards dinner for the Pinapple Cup and we bought ticket to attend the event. There were free rum drinks, awards handed out, a buffet of local dishes and desserts, and dancing to steel drum music--a great time and fun to see the yachters' side of life in the fast lane. Local music on shore floats out to us as does the cruise ship's disco music. Almost every day a ship or two are here letting their passengers taste the Jamaican town and tourist spots.

Jamaica is a friendly place with beautiful people of all blends. You never pass by someone without a hello and a comment on the day. The temperatures are warm but not hot with a breeze all day long. Being further north than our past places, there are different flora and fauna to admire. Many we can't identify but they are in bloom or sporting fruits and pods in abundant quanities.

We went to the Megamart grocery store, a five mile round trip walk, to find Jamaican spices and rubs. What a rich supply they have here of spices and herbs! We bought many differrent kinds to try out later. Before heading back we tried a drive-in/walk-in local chain for jerk--it was Ok but it couln't compete with the meal at Memorbillia.

Yesterday we went to the local farmers' market and enjoyed seeing the small outdoor operations of selling what they must grow in their yards spread out on towels, paper, table cloths, carboard, or in carts, back of vans, etc. Both sides of a busy street were filled shoulder to shoulder with vendors and it extended to vacant buildings and alley ways. In the market there are some new to us fruits that we are enjoying. One is shaped like a small dried up promogrante and when you open it up there are black seeds surrounded by a custard like substance--so sweet and good. There are also mangos and papaya right now. We also noticed cute minature 6-8 inch tall pinapples.

The weather has turned again so we will skip the trip to Negril and head out later today for Pt. Antonio, Errol Flynn's old stomping grounds. A strong storm is due next Monday down here and following that we will be looking to cross to the east towards Dominican Republic and on to Puerto Rico--our longest trip to date.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eastward Bound, February 6, 2011

February 6, 2011
Woke up, packed away the eggs and stuff, cleared the lines of obstructions, and we were ready to lift the anchor to head out to sea from Providencia, Columbia. Dave turned on the engine and...#%%%!!### No forward, no reverse, and no speed...the throttle cable block had broken--again. Dave quickly assessed the problem, dug out tools, we found a piece of 3/8 inch thick metal bar, and he went to work fabricating a new and improved replacement block. We are now out pass the channel and on the open sea. The edge of a squall just passed and Dave shorten sails just in case--good thing as we had 100% up and the gusts clocked in at over 35. Our target is to get to Jamaica by the 9th. Seas are fairly gently and the boat is at an angle I can deal with. All the meals are pre cooked, a Key lime pie is chilling, and we will enjoy it with our anchor watch drink upon our arrival to Jamaica in three days. Life is good and we can hardly wait to be in the EASTERN CARIBBEAN.

Three hours later...
A school (or do you call it a pod) of dolphins found us and darted in, out, below and around our sailboat for over an hour. We were the new amusement ride for them. Quite a few were youngsters and they frolicked as youth usually do--showing off and attempting daring feats for their peers.

Two mornings later (February 8th)... Well we more than half way to Jamaica and the conditions are light. We had about half a day of really nasty waves and wind. The boat did well even though the bow was buried a few times during one of those wave crashing events we lost the kayak. The waves actually ripped it off its mounting brackets and bent the lifeline stanchions flush with the deck. No idea when it happened. We were reading and the and the combined noise of the wind and bashing waves was so loud we didn't hear a thing. Oh well, it would not have been a normal trip if all went totally as planned. We were able to have a good sail most of the day but now the wind and seas have died. We will send another post when we get there or we have another note worthy event.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2, 2011 Providencia, Columbia

We haven't had internet since we left Panama in January but we are able to post a blog entry from our sailmail site. A rather smooth and uneventful two day and two night passage brought us to this island, off the coast of Nicaragua, that belongs to Columbia. There are two islands and we are on Providencia--the non commerical, laid back, and casual island. It has the flavor, the rhythm, the taste, the colors, and the sounds of a Eastern Caribbean island. When we first arrived we were able to rent motor scooters and tour the island--it takes all of 12 minutes if you do not stop and enjoy the views. There is only one road so no one gets lost here. Families of 4 and 5 ride on one scooter carrying groceries, propane tanks, etc. It is quite the sight to see a 10 month old baby first behind the handle bars and 4 more faces crunched behind on a two seater bike...
The beaches are smooth and sandy, the fishermen pull up to the beach, and you buy your dinner fresh off the boat (but the fish are scarce this year). Fresh vegetables and other items arrive by boat from mainland Columbia once or twice a week. There are trails to hike, peaks to climb, and paths to walk. Captain Morgan had a hide out here and some of the geographic forms bear his name--Morgan's Head and Morgan's Crack. We will send photos later when we have internet. Everyone is friendly, they speak English with Creole/Caribbean inflections. Our second week here they had a night of music and dancing provided by the Minister of Culture for the cruising community. It was along side the main road and an ice cream shop so the musicians could plug in their two electric instruments, The man playing the cow jaw, the man playing the steel blocks, and the man playing the inverted wash tub sting instrument didn't require anything fancy. Thirty cruisers enjoyed the glimpse of island culture and danced with the locals as the bugs enjoyed a meal on us. Since then we have been reading, swimming and sunning, and reading and sunning...today we MAY attempt to do something constructive like rust removal from a few areas unless we decide to read a book and work on our tans. The temperatures are in the 70's and 80's, the water is clear and in the low 80's, perfect for us.

Our plan is to head for Jamaica at the first opportunity. We have been told that might be as soon as March or April...not quite what we had hoped, however. All we need is 3 days and nights of less wind, flatter seas, longer periods between waves, and a change of wind direction. Last week had a weather window of one day, the end of this week HAD a weather window that has disappeared, and next week there may be hope. Kelsey is trying to meet us in Jamaica in March but we cannot set a date till we make the crossing from here to there.

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