February 4, 2012

My Year So Far: Jamaica, mon

After several days at anchor in Samana bay we set off once again, this time for our last stop, the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio, Jamaica. On our way there we caught a 22 pound mahi on the line we always had set up on our stern. Actually I can't quite remember if that happened then or earlier, but according to the order of my pictures in iPhoto it happened after we left the DR.... 

It changed color so quickly! That was the most surprising part. Look at these photos in chronological order: 

I love this picture, because of how you can see the anticipation just in our feet!

As in San Juan, the colors were very vibrant in Jamaica, although of a different palette. More saturated and dark than the pastel stucco of San Juan's townhouses. 

Goats everywhere

Rainbow building taken from our bus

Rainbow town where we stopped for ting and sandwiches
Even the mud was rainbow!

The field trip I opted for in Jamaica was a hike through the agricultural land. I initially expected we would stroll across vast fields of grains and bananas. However, as we quickly found, Jamaica is very mountainous and most farmers farm on extremely, dangerously steep hillsides. We would be walking on a small path right by a cliff and I would look over the side and see Scotch Bonnet peppers or tomatoes clinging to the hillside. We also saw bananas and cacao and giant versions of every single house plant I've ever seen. Chocolate is not what we think it is. Cacao pods look like yellow squash and are filled with sappy white fat packets containing the beans. 

Looking down at the Rio Grande river from the hills

And the people of Port Antonio were welcoming and kind. (Except for the building code man who was angry with me for not sending in a letter of introduction, which I had....) Everybody said hello and wanted to know more about us- not to sell us stuff like in the DR, just to know what we were doing there. They were so proud and delighted that we chose their part of the island to visit. I met many people with neat stories and most of them asked me to take their picture! 

Here's Noel, who was born on Christmas. He got in trouble 5 years ago for selling blank CDs, but now he is "no bullshit!". So I bought one of his CDs and went back to the boat and put it in the galley CD player and it was a good roots reggae collection!

Then there was Rock Bottom, a wood carver. He's been carving for 30 years and said this is his favorite piece:

Then I met Norma, a nice lady in the market. She said she's an all-natural girl. She gave Beth and I a taste of her spice- as though she knew once we tried it we couldn't leave without buying some. It was so good even though it was 10 in the morning. I almost wanted to keep munching on it. A spice! I went back to take her picture and she told me about her family and showed me pictures of her many offspring and their children.

An old man came up to our boat and sold us some spiny lobsters and a crab! I drew this guy. Half of it is from memory because my model was turned into ceviche by the chief scientist before I finished!

Ian and I wrote this when we left Jamaica:
Goodbye Jamaica! You’ve treated us well, but the time has come to head towards Key West. We woke up and were thrown straight into intensive cleaning when a “Field Day” was called. As part of A-Watch, we had to clean the galley! I (Dylan) spent several hours in the small, dark corners of the galley scraping “mung” (not quite solid, not quite liquid) off the soles, walls, and nooks and crannies while I (Ian) washed and wiped down every dish, jar, and container from the galley. After cleaning belowdeck, we had a deck wash and then met for the gear adrift auction. During the auction, items strewn across the boat are “auctioned” off in exchange for displays of talent. I (Dylan) won back my bag of Blue Mountain coffee by licking my elbow while Ian won back his rash guard by leading us in a very silly dance. Then we motored away from the \marina and set sail! Class was canceled, which gave us a chance to relax and get our sea legs back. Dylan slept through lunch, dinner, and breakfast, a total of 14 out of 24 hours. But back in the throes of seasickness, it is pretty much the best thing to do to restore yourself. We did wake up, of course, for midwatch, from 2300 to 0300.
The last leg was very fun, even though I was seasick and had a stomach bug I probably picked up in Jamaica and I couldn't eat or even drink much water. For a few days, I had constant pain all over my body and walking was a challenge and all I could do was sleep, which was unfortunate as we had several projects due. But it was still fun! We exchanged secret Santa gifts on Christmas. I received a lovely hand-made wooden boat from Laura and gave Ellie an embossed leather journal. We spent much of our time off the coast of Cuba. We didn't have research clearance in lieu of our regular scientific deployments we sent several dozen styrofoam cups and two foam head-forms down to 2500 meters! My smallest cup which reads "XMAS CUBA 2011" is now thimble sized. We were a very crafty crew and enjoyed coloring our cups, making incredible secret Santa items, cutting out snowflakes and decorating Christmas cookies. I was really bummed at first about missing Christmas, but it was neat to experience it in a whole new way! I didn't miss it after all. 

During this leg another watch started doing theme days. They did pirates, mustaches, a few others including nerds:

 I joined in once or twice:

The last leg was the best for wildlife collecting and sighting. One night I was steering and spotted a couple sperm whales! We saw many dolphins the entire trip, but I rang in Christmas eve (literally, I was on watch from 2300-0300) watching dolphins playing in the bowsprit illuminated by bioluminescent plankton. So cool. 

We saw hundreds of jellies in the Florida Straits. We caught this Man Of War for a genetics researcher at Brown University: 

I drew it:

We also caught a Nudibranch (named Nudie I think). It's hard to see!

A moon jelly we caught to look at.

I climbed all the way up the mast on this leg. It was very scary. The winds are much more perceptible a hundred feet above the sea! My camera was strapped to my chest so this shot was fired aimlessly!

Lastly, sailing into Key West!

SEA was a wonderful experience and I can't recommend it to anybody enough! Even if you are prone to seasickness, the non-sick parts make it worth it! (They have medicine, it just didn't work for me).

It probably wouldn't be a stretch to say it's changed my life. Immediately afterwards, I missed the benefits of polyphasic sleep patterns and I still prefered navy showers, and I'm sure I will notice more subtle but significant ways that my perspectives and ideas have changed in the future as I travel, explore, and study more. I am glad also to have followed in the footsteps of my great-grandfather and father and to have become a capable sea-woman. They both kept wonderfully written sailing logs and I'm sad I was too sick to write much, so this blog is my modern literary contribution to that family tradition! I hope you've enjoyed reading it and let me know if you have any questions about the places I visited or living on a boat! 

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