Like the entire year of 2012, the last month here in Montego Bay, Jamaica has positively flown by. We have been loving it here. The people are friendly, the food is excellent, and the beaches are gorgeous.
An Improptu Visit
Elan’s folks hopped on a last minute flight and arrived on Christmas Day. We were so excited to have a family Christmas, albeit an unusual one. Reed and Mary left 30 inches of snow in E Washington to sit with us on a white sandy beach on Christmas Day instead.
We touristed around Montego Bay vistiting Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, checking out the local craft market, and trying the local delicacies like curried goat and stewed oxtail.
We had some big wind days during their visit but we did manage to squeeze one day of sailing in before they left. We passed our lazy days painting, swimming and shell hunting on the beach. I think I’ve met my match- Mary had an even longer attention span for shell hunts than I did!
Elan’s Dad is an excellent guitar player, and he never goes anywhere without a guitar. As he walked, guitar in hand, up and down the streets of Montego Bay, strangers would stop and ask for a mini-concert and Reed never dissapointed.
He learned Zach Brown Band’s song, “Knee Deep” so he could play it for us. The lyrics are pretty apt:
Life in Jamaica
Jamaica is up there on our list of friendliest places we have visited on this trip. It was all Serena and I could do to NOT hug our first waiter here. Compared to the cool, arm’s-length treatment we received in Panama, Jamaicans greeted us like old friends.
The colors on Jamiaca’s green, yellow and black flag stand for the lush vegetation, golden sun, and hardship of its people. The locals here are the first to admit that life in Jamaica isn’t all fun and sun and pretty beaches. Only independent for 50 years, Jamaicans are still struggling to work things out. Cost of living is high, wages are low, and the Jamaican dollar is losing value.
Adventures in Anchoring- Carribean Style
Elan and I are well aware that we have a much more conservative view on anchoring than many boaters, we would just rather have a little too much space, rather than too little, between us and the next boat. It has been clear that we are in the vast minority on this matter of opinion, especially since we crossed through the Panama Canal and anchor near more Europeans, who, by necesity are used to anchoring much closer to one another.
Take the French catamaran (below) for example. After E and I hemmed and hawed over whether we were too close to the white boat (in the front), the catamaran came and anchored BETWEEN us. We told the captain that we measured their distance with our radar at 115 feet away, and that we had out 120 feet of chain. To us, this clearly meant that we could swing into them if the wind shifted, but he just shrugged his shoulders and spent the night.
On another day, we were just coming in to the dock on Solent after a day-sail, struggling to “med-moor” (a tricky process of dropping your anchor about 100 feet from a dock, and then backing your boat up, between the other boats, to only tie the stern of the boat to the dock – its the “parallel parking” of the boat world, and it sucks!) on a windy afternoon. Elan was trying to help from our dinghy when the dock line got tangled in the prop, which let Solent drift until it’s prop was resting against another boat’s anchor rope. At that exact stressful moment, I looked out into the anchorage to see another French boat attempting to anchor so close to Silver Lining that they actually wrapped OUR CHAIN around THEIR PROP. They were literally dragging our boat away as they tried to use their windlass to pull their now disabled boat away from Silver. Three tangled props all at once- a perfect storm of sorts. Elan zipped over in the dinghy to dive their prop for them and untangle 8 wraps of our chain from their prop, but in the meantime, their boat bashed scrapes into our hull and bent our stainless pulpit railing. When all was said and done the couple, although very polite, didn’t apologize, much less offer to fix the damage they caused.
Crossing Things Off the To-Do List
As usual, in between days relaxing with our feet up at the beach, we have done a lot of work on the boat too. Elan finished running some wiring from our VHF radio to the GPS plotter, which allows us to not only receive important AIS info (speed, bearing, name and radio call sign) from large ships on radar but it lets us use the radio more like a phone. We can call those big ships with just the press of a button- pretty sweet! We also finally figured out the problem with our radar… or maybe I should say MY problem with the radar… it seems as if I mis-wired something as I attempted to fix it during the middle of the night in rough seas months ago. Since then, we sent it all off for warrantee work, when we didn’t actually need to… My bad! However, Apollo says I redeemed myself by installing netting along all of the lifelines- this means he is a lot safer and more comfortable running around up on deck. Wouldn’t want to lose the little dude if he ventured too close to the edge.
Elan is proud to be the only person he knows to have replaced a prop with only a snorkel. He and Lee mustered the courage and did it all between breaths gulped at the surface. Our new prop seems to be a much better match with our transmission, but we are delaying our verdict for now since a long passage will be the true test.
After almost a year of buddy-boating with Solent, we may have just parted ways for the last time. Lee and Serena are putting Solent in dry dock in Jamaica while they go home to work for about a month. Elan and I are leaving first thing tomorrow morning for a 24hour run to Port Antonio, on the north coast of Jamaica. From there we will head through the Windward Passage towards the Turks and Caicos followed by the Bahamas. There is a chance that they might catch up with us there, but since we are basically going to start heading in the direction of home at this point, we’ll just hope that our meandering paths cross again, if not on this trip, then for sure once we return to “normal life”.
It was also hard to say good-bye to Reed and Mary, but their visit has stirred up the inspiration for my parents to join us in the next few weeks as well! My dad will be here in 3 days to crew for us through the infamous Windward Passage. He wants an exciting trip, and if it lives up to its reputation, I have a feeling the Windward will provide just that. Mom will be waiting for us on the far side of the passage in the Turks and Caicos… I am beginning to wonder if she is the only one of us with any sense!
Until next time,
Ashley & Elan