We arrived at Port Antonio’s Ocean Crest Guesthouse on Queen’s Street a little over a week ago. (The guesthouse, nestled atop Titchfield Hill, views Navy Island, East Bay, the Blue Mountains and the lower neighborhoods.) Our room was simple…comfortable. The guesthouse offered a communal kitchen. We’d everything we needed (short-term) to survive while getting our 200 pounds of stuff from Portland, OR back onto Cetacean and problem solving–maybe all–the things to be done before getting back to living on board.
Ocean Crest Guesthouse is a steep mile walk downhill to Errol Flynn Marina’s dry dock. Cetacean had been waiting for us there since last July.
It’s also a steep mile uphill on the return. Scenic though.
We expect to be in Port Antonio for a while. Lots of things to check and fix. That’s always the way it is returning to a (dry or wet) docked cruising boat. Last year’s cruising season was especially taxing for our 33-year-old sailboat. Her rear-stay chainplate loosened during our June 2016 Cartegena-to-Kingston Caribbean crossing. Cetacean’s keel took it on the chin–actually, keels don’t have chins–in Kingston Bay. Ah, the cruising life and its exotic repairs.
We arrived under enormous, dark-grey clouds. The air dripped. Squalls coming. We’re told the 2016 hurricane season has chosen to delay its departure from this part of the world. Could be rough ’til December.
Looking from our balcony over Titchfield Hill, we can see the rain, heat, humidity, sun, and wind working hard to reclaim this island. All the buildings, some quite elegant, are in an ongoing state of decay. And yet, the decay is oddly complementary.
I say to someone we encounter, “I thought this was the beginning of the dry season.”
“Yeah mon, but it’s raining all the time.”
Yeah mon, but I really thought…
Some Port Antonio moments…After checking in at Ocean Crest, we shop at Kamal’s Market in downtown. A little girl in line behind me strokes my arm. She is so astounded and pleased, I can’t help enjoying this moment with her too, for it is precious.
A ganja-stoned man outside Kamal’s compares his arm’s skin color to mine and announces to me and the bemused breadfruit and banana vendors sitting nearby, “You’re white!”
Port Antonians are curious about us. Drivers pull over and ask where we’re from. And when we answer, they ask more questions…about our here and now. It almost feels as though they are concerned about, or perhaps sorry for, us, like we USofA folks are tragic.
A woman ahead of me in the Kamal’s checkout line insists that I go ahead of her–for she has two carts piled with groceries. I walk the central park sidewalk to Errol Flynn marina, and a young man seated on a bench by the water motions for me to come over. He says, “I have to ask: What is your name? What are you doing here? Do you come from Florida? Do you love it here?” The questions are honest, genuine, and startling.
At home, we might view questions like these as odd or perhaps intrusive, wouldn’t we? Somehow though, I am charmed and we share a good conversation.
Time to get back in the water, good old boat…On Sunday, November 13, we were headed for the dry dock and Cetacean with plans to organize our (at this point on-board) 200 pounds of stuff. On the way, we walked by the town center and found ourselves immersed in Jamaica’s Veteran’s Day observance. It was a solemn affair except for the elementary school girls gaily skipping behind the various other uniformed groups (boy scouts, high school age military training groups, adult military servicemen/women and a drum-and-bugle corps band).
Eventually, we reached the dry dock, put away the 200 pounds of stuff and prepared the boat for her return to the water. George, the yard manager, motored the Errol Flynn marina lift over to Cetacean, fastened the straps around her and commented, “It’s a bit squally today.”
The exact moment our boat was lowered into the water, the sky opened up and torrential rain–like we’ve never experienced, even in Portland OR; biblical proportions we’re talking about here–drenched us for over four hours.
I realized that everything I believed about squalls was a fantasy. A squall may last longer than 20 minutes and then, it may not magically go away (like some cruiser wrote and I believed). This squall, really this continuous line of squalls, was gonna do what it was gonna do, however long it took.
Well folks, we finally got Cetacean into her marina slip that day after some anxiety over the depths and that the storm might reboot, which it did. The normally clear blue-green water hosting the marina was brown with silt. But we made it. And we celebrated with an absolutely super seafood dinner that night at AnnaBananas on the other side of East Bay.
Everything is going to “be…all..right.”