Trip Start Oct 15, 2010
16Trip End Ongoing
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The boat is moving well. Except for one reef, she's under full sail in about fifteen knots of breeze, and now that the wind has shifted to the east she's really hitting her stride
"You're early," I say.
"Couldn't sleep. Too hot."
Trying to move in sync with the waves that put our hull in a constant, uneven rocking motion, he flicks on the solenoid and lights up the gas burning stove under the tea kettle. Aside from being solid crew, John is a living reminder of what it was like having a coffee addiction back on land. He is also the instigator of our most commonly discussed topic: What Kind Of Cheeseburgers We're Going To Have Once We Finally Freaking Get There.
I slip below deck to plot a fix on the chart before handing over the watch. Meanwhile John splashes some water on his face, fixes his coffee, and makes his way outside
"So," I say before retreating to my own berth for the night. "You still going with Roquefort cheese?"
He grins. "You bet your ass I am."
The sail from San Blas, Panama to Grand Cayman took just over five full days and nights - by far our longest passage yet. Besides a frustrating first day of getting virtually nowhere (in an effort to outsmart the headwinds, we spent most of the day actually moving away from our destination in an "easting" strategy upon which we all stupidly (and enthusiastically!) agreed), and a resulting bout of depression on Day 2 ("Only five more days to go!"), the voyage went extremely well
Arriving ashore was a dual celebration, for it was also Stu's big 30th. After much, much needed showers, we celebrated with the most gluttonous American evening we could come up with: overpriced tropical drinks, grotesquely gigantic cheeseburgers, fries, fried mushrooms, fried jalapenos, ice cream cones, and a trip to the movies. Like zombies we shuffled back to the boat, and slept an uninterrupted night in glorious stillness
When one takes away the tax haven banking hub, cruise ship port, and rampant over-development, there's really not much left of Grand Cayman to talk about. In our four day stay, however, we did enjoy some splendid beach time, and also had the sheer enjoyment of watching John try to maneuver our British style rental car on the left side of the road. Without fail, after three days with the car, he would still switch on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker every time he went to turn. This would inevitably be followed by a curse word or two from John (and much laughter from the rest of us), and then me (and later, Stu's mom) reaching over to turn the wipers off while he tried to engage the real blinker and execute the turn. Not the most efficient system, but besides one minor fender bender in a parking lot, we made it out of there damage free.
Stu's mom, Stephanie, joined us in Grand Cayman, and after bidding farewell to John we cast our lines and set our course for the island of famous farewells: Jamaica. Once again we were overjoyed to have the extra hand for the night sailing (as well as the extra provisions... gotta love a mom in a grocery store!). We knew from the get-go that the sail would be mostly into the wind and waves, and sure enough it was a pretty lumpy trip
Jamaica is heavenly. The countryside builds up from the coast to lush, sweeping hills dotted with small villages, houses, and the occasional hotel. The water is a hundred brilliant shades of turquoise, and it contrasts with the white sand and bright green foliage in a way that makes your jaw drop. But the best part of this country are its people. They are more than friendly and gracious; they approach you in the street like you're a long lost brother or sister, shake your hand, speak passionately of unity and love in their musical Patois dialect, and smile like there is no tomorrow. One of our guidebooks says that the universal language in Jamaica is the smile, and I'm convinced it's true. They're also incredible salesmen and women, which we learned the hard way at an open air market in Montego. Oh well... the more mementos I take away from this place, the better.
After a couple days of seeing the sights, eating jerk chicken, curried conch and conch fritters, and topping it all off with a few rounds of margaritas at good ol' Margaritaville (after round two, Steph and I eagerly stripped down to our swim suits and shot down the two story water slide into the crystal clear ocean below... to the great many cheers of an incoming party barge), we said sad farewells and sent Steph on her way to the airport. We all agreed, it went by way too fast!
Stu and I spent that afternoon drinking Red Stripes with the local fishermen on the dock, trying as hard as we could to keep up with their thick island accents and soaking up the sun. We took off that same evening for Oracabessa, a small town about 65 miles east of Montego bay on Jamaica's northern coast. The following morning we anchored in a small, protected, exquisite lagoon, convinced we had arrived in paradise. The water is shockingly turquoise, the town is almost completely free of tourists, and we almost immediately made a new friend! Hubert, a short, wiry fisherman with a perpetual grin, rowed up to our boat on his way out to do some fishing our first day here. He fervently welcomed us, praised the Lord, blessed us, and went on his way. Later he walked us into town, pushing his bike and praising Jesus, and directing us towards the market. This morning on his way out to his fishing spot, he rowed over bearing gifts of fresh coconuts and mangoes, along with his usual blessings. What a heavenly place indeed.
We're incredibly bummed to be leaving Jamaica so soon, but alas, we've got places to go and visitors to meet. Tonight we take off for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but you can bet we'll be watching Jamaica disappear from the horizon with heavy hearts; hearts that have truly been touched by this rich, beautiful land of One Love.