“I can’t really live outside Jamaica. I can be away, but only for a while.”

Usain Bolt

 
 
– by rono

 

Jamaica  doesn’t have the allure of the east Caribbean. The British Virgins, Antigua, St. Kitts,  among others  come with bragging rights that Jamaica and the west portion of the  Caribbean don’t have.  Jamaica was a pleasant  four day sail from Colombia – carried by the Trade Winds that carried Columbus and  others and has been part of history for a long time. So carried by history – Jamaica: here we come.

Jamaica was something of an unknown.  We’d done some homework ; like where we could keep the boat and some of the sights tourists might see. But we were unprepared for the rich and complicated and sometimes difficult culture we have come to know.

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We knew when we left the boat back in July  there were repairs to do, some of them major. The Tayana 37 sailboats are great boats but they are known for a few systemic problems like  chainplates and their mountings. The chainplates are the anchor points for the guy wires (stays or also called shrouds) that hold up the mast, so the chainplates are important and a must fix if they break or weaken.  On Cetacean we found one chainplate mounting had weakened to the point that it  needed to be completely rebuilt.  Unfortunately replacing the mounting is like, on a house where plumbing is embedded in concrete;   a lot of destruction has to happen before the construction phase can go forward.

 For a more complete description of the chainplate rebuild – please see the article under “projects” under projects on the website  or click this link.

Besides the chainplate there were sail repairs to make. Since there is no sail loft in Port Antonio there is only one person to do the job:

Judy’s Sail Loft Repair Service

All the tasks were supposed  to take 3-4 weeks. But nothing goes  according to plan  on a boat or with love or…. So we were/are  in Jamaica a lot longer than anticipated.

Errol Flynn Marina
View from the dock looking north toward Cuba

 

                                      View from Naylor Hill – looking north.Port Antonio’s downtown is off picture right

Errol Flynn marina is pleasant enough;  facilities/bathrooms  are clean and close by the boats, security is good, and there is a wonderful view toward the bay.  WiFi is so-so, or sometimes I call it  so-slow. There is a work yard if the boat needs to be hauled or stored.

Unfortunately, marine supplies cannot be found anywhere nearby. Limited marine supplies are available in Kingston, a three hour drive or bus ride.

On a more positive note, boats arrive (and depart)  the marina every few days and from all over the world: places like France, Germany, Holland, England, Israel, Mexico, East Caribbean, Canada and the USA, so there are always interesting people, lots of stories and camaraderie among sailors, and lots of different languages.  It’s not boring. There is room in the marina for about 20 “small” sailboats and a long pier that will accommodate boats of about  200 feet. A few 100 footers have arrived but usually leave after a week or two. 

Like other marinas on this trip, too often marina help  think their job is to please their boss, not the customer. The marina has been ok but not great.  There have been a handful of great marinas, but it’s not the norm. George, the guy that runs the yard does whatever is great and deserves a separate mention.  Highly recommend George. Also deserving a mention, John (hulk) and Rudy – are available for hire to watch your boat or clean or do whatever is needed and are very good and reasonable. I would recommend them too. 

Port Antonio  

There is a beautiful city park adjacent to the marina. It’s a wonderful stroll.

The marina was named after the actor Errol Flynn because he lived in Port Antonio  but there was no marina at the time.  He  had a yacht anchored that he kept off a nearby island in the bay. The story goes he won the island in a poker game.  Today it stands uninhabited and overgrown. This beautiful island with a long history of owners and attempted business is just one of the many curious and mysterious aspects of Jamaica. 

Errol’s Island in the distance. Marina in foreground

Although the boat has us working our tails off, we are here in Port Antonio long enough to need to go grocery shopping, get to know the checkers, go to the hardware store,  listen to local music and gather for town celebrations. We’ve also gotten  to know a few locals and some of the culture.   Port Antonio is a small town, there are no traffic lights in the entire town but the place  seems constantly in motion with lots of cars and  frenetic activity.

Yet there are quiet spaces to be found among the twisty back streets. One local was telling me his neighborhood used to be doctors and other middle class individuals that have since moved elsewhere but still left a nice quiet place.

quiet in the Naylor Hill neighborhood

 

There is even one American type fast food place in town: a KFC, that is packed every day, all day. The food at KFC (yes we did go there two times) is not  great (is any fast food great?) and seems expensive, so I don’t recommend it, but it’s popular with some locals.

Piggies

 Local fast food takes the form of shacks seemingly randomly located around  town like Piggies for example.  

Piggies  sells “jerk” chicken for $4 and is pretty good if you don’t mind the bone fragments. None of this between the joints stuff. Go up to the window order your chicken with festival (a fried bread) or save $0.50 and order without the bread. A good cheap meal if you don’t want to cook, and the jerk is not too hot or spicy.

Higher end restaurants are very few.  There is an Italian restaurant that is good and another  place called Soldiers Camp, run by a Jamaican and ex-US Army soldier, also very good.

Musgrave Market

We buy our fresh local foods at Musgrave open air market. In season the Mangos and papaya are excellent, oranges are good,  as is a verity of sweet potatoes .  Some local  foods are totally unfamiliar like ackee, sweet sop, sour sop,  white and yellow yam. They  look nothing like anything I buy at Whole foods or Safeway.  The ackee is poisonous unless prepared properly, and tastes to me a little like scrambled eggs. The sweet sop is like a custard pudding after peeling the skin; the sour sop tastes  like a kiwi with big ugly seeds.

But  everything is not perfect in Port Antonio. About 99.9% of the people here are black. So occasional we hear “hey white lady” or morning “pretty boy” or some other racist remark. We kind of stick out in a crowd. But we are literally walking among hundreds of people on the streets and to find one racist every few days is probably to be expected anywhere. One the other hand , even one is too many and puts a damper on my attitude here.  The smell of marijuana (ganja) is everywhere.

But we’ve met some wonderful people, hardworking , really good people and a few turds. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of people in this world.  The cabinet makers and other craft people have been super , well, except for the welder.

 

We met a goat herder that works as a drywall “mudder” as a 2nd job that looked after us (like he looks after his goats)  as we got lost wondering around the “naylor hill” neighborhood.

Dry wall worker and his goats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days before Christmas, the town elders held a large party for the children. The party was in the park near us, so we wondered over. Every child lined up to receive a gift. A very warm feeling was the buzz and the children had a great time, even if it was tough on the people giving the party.

 

 

At the Christmas Party

 

It’s mostly the homeless and hustlers that get old quickly. Most, if not all are harmless but annoying. The hustlers are all similar in their approach. Engage us in a conversation: “football” or “where are you from?” or some other random conversation. They take the lead and just start talking. As soon as we appear not interested anymore they ask for money. We never give them money.  A few of the street people just ask for money and a few, like the guy with one leg, we donate to.  But the guy in the wheel chair we don’t.  One local person, an ex US Army soldier and restaurant owner warned us he has three girlfriends and is well off, so we don’t give him money.

It’s not real cheap to live here. The taxes are very high.  Both food and merchandise come with high tariffs. I’m sure the  idea is to have  the people  buy local  but we and many Jamaicans have grown to like some things from off the island so the the high tariff  hurts (the people) more than helps.

The culture is rich in music and the people seem happy . But I can’t help the feeling that the government , even with all of it’s programs for the poor, isn’t helping the country or the people with the high taxes and tariffs. This a country really looking for a way out of it’s economic doldrums but not finding one.

Someones front yard- Port Antonio – maybe there is hope

I’ve created a picture galley of images different than the images shown in the blog, a bit more “arty”. They can be found here.

Port Antonio like a few other places, helps make us think about what is important and the relative degree of importance. Thoughts like those keep us from just going with the current of life and just letting the current steer. It’s better to be the one to steer. To determine what is really important and what can be discarded. Especially these days, with the many distractions that technologies like social media provide it’s important to be the steering for ourselves.

Places like Jamaica help us  perceive were to spend our time and where not to. 

-Ron O.