Welcome to Gypsea Heart

This blog documents the adventures of the sailing vessel Gypsea Heart and her crew Rankin & Sandy. Thank you for visiting our blog and we encourage y'all to poke around and explore. We have many features which will enable you to keep track of us and in touch like subscribing below. We hope you enjoy your visit and follow our adventures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Montego Bay, Jamaica

We left Port Antonio, Jamaica on Thursday, February 2nd around 5 p.m. and had decent night sail to Montego Bay, Jamaica.  We dropped our hook in the harbor which was a feat in itself because there was very little room.  When our friends, Debbie & Terry on the sailing vessel Wings who arrived just ahead of us, went into the marina it freed up a nice anchor spot for us so we quickly grabbed it.
Montego Bay has a very nice yacht club with soft comfortable chairs and a nice billiards table, however, traveling into town requires a taxi.  So, of course, we took a quick tour around Montego Bay stopping at the Mega Mart (the name says it all and we just couldn’t resist) and hitting some “cruise ship” touristy places like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  The tour of the city was quick only a few hours, because besides shopping there wasn’t much else to do or see.  The next day we watched the Super Bowl enjoying a wonderful meal of jerk chicken while watching the game (New England versus New York Giants) on a big screen projection TV.
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Finally, on Tuesday, February 7th, we got a good weather window for our sail to Panama.  The original plan for a trip to Columbia was cancelled Mother Nature just didn’t want to cooperate, so we headed for Panama.  We left Montego Bay around 7 a.m. and four days later, we arrived in Portobello, Panama on Saturday, February 11th around 9:30 a.m.   The sail from Jamaica to Panama was pretty much uneventful except the traveller broke and the wind wasn’t as consistent as predicted which meant we had to motor more than expected.  Not a problem, we arrived in Panama and was time to get ready for the Panama Canal Transit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Port Antonio, Jamaica

On Sunday, January 22nd, we spent most of the day waiting for customs and immigration. No problem, mon, it’s Sunday.  Clayton from the health department came aboard around noon and gave us the thumbs up.  This meant we were allowed to remove our quarantine flag, raise our Jamaican flag and were now permitted to leave the boat though we were still waiting for immigration. Another boat arrived this morning called Wings (Terry and Debbie), so we met them and became quick friends. Terry and Debbie are finishing their circumnavigation which began 10 years ago and have been so kind to share their South Pacific and other experiences with us.

Well, Immigration arrived around 5:30 p.m. while we (GH & Wings) were having cocktails aboard Gypsea Heart. So Immigration came aboard Gypsea and checked us all into Jamaica. Free from the check in process, we decided to grab a taxi and have dinner at Anna Banana, a nearby restaurant. The restaurant was located on the water with a view though it was too dark for us to see anything. The menu had a nice selection of fish, chicken, shrimp, pork and beef.  We all wanted jerk chicken or pork, however, many things were not available because the restaurant had a big musical event the night before and ran out of many items (like jerk chicken and pork). We didn’t get any jerk chicken or pork that night, but the shrimp curry was pretty good.  No worries maybe another time, Mon.
We’ve spent the last week exploring the little town of Port Antonio with it’s craft stands and fresh fruit and veggie market.  We’ve met several of the Jamaican women at the local market, Norma, Diane, Kelly (Diane’s daughter), Joanne, Mama (Joanne’s mother) and those are just a few.  These ladies sell their goods almost every day except Sundays when most go to church.  In some parts of the market, as you walk along the rows of fruits and veggies, there is a distinct smell of ganja (pot) in the air … no problem, Mon.   Below is a picture of me, Norma and Debbie along with the fresh fruits and veggies from Norma’s stand.

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Though the little town has a bustling feel, everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming.   As you walk around town (looking lost), there are many people willing to help you find anything you may need and even things you don’t realize you need.  While walking around town one day, we met Water Rat whom we called Mr. Rat.  He’s a local Jamaican man with a rather buff physique who claims to be a vegetarian.  We say claims because we’ve asked other local residents if Water Rat was a vegetarian and they just laugh, so we’re a bit skeptical.   We needed bread, so Mr. Rat took us to the local bakery where they sell 5 lb loafs of bread … it was enough for us to split with Wings.  While at the bakery, we also tried the patties, pastries with beef filling, which are very tasty especially with hot sauce.   Mr. Rat then took us to Jennifer’s stall in the crafts market. Jennifer is his sister.  As with many Jamaican people, Jennifer was very nice and we purchased a very nice folding hot plate from her.  Once our purchases were made, we said our goodbyes to Mr. Rat and continued exploring the town on our own.
Another day while casually walking around town, we ran into two non-Jamaican ladies, Boom from Boston and Christina from England who told us about a wonderful little espresso café and sandwich shop.  They also confirmed that the Italian Job, a local pizza restaurant, was worth a visit, so of course, we gave both the café and restaurant a try and were not disappointed.  We have made a few trips to the café where we not only had lunch but also delicious coffee and tasty chocolate crescents.  In between trying out the different restaurants in town, Rankin purchased fresh live lobster from a local Jamacian man for $6 each which we grilled for dinner one night …. MMMMM!!!
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Lobster for dinner!
Here at the Errol Flynn Marina, where we’ve decided to stay, we’re surrounded by beautiful tree covered hills.  From the local Jamaican people, we had heard good things about the Blue Mountain coffee and decided to visit a coffee plantation.  We (Gypsea Heart and Wings) hired a guide Omar, nicknamed Mac. By the way, we discovered that most of the men here have nicknames (like Water Rate mentioned above it’s a nickname).  We left the marina around 9 a.m. Thursday (1/26) morning, and after three hours of slightly bumpy and very windy roads, Mac pulled over next to a small shed.  We followed Mac down a flight of cement stairs along the left side of the shed and at the bottom were greeted by two dogs (Scarlet & Blackie) and an older lady. Apparently, we had arrived a Old Tavern Coffee Plantation.  The lady’s name is Dorothy Twyman, the owner’s mother, and this was their cottage. Dorothy took us on her balcony which overlooked their coffee plantation that was located quite a distance down below us. It required binoculars to watch the men picking the beans.  Dorothy explained the process to us and answered all of our questions and then invited us into their little cottage.   First, we visited a very small “coffee” room where a lady (Pamsy) sat perched on the stool sorting the beans. It was Pamsy’s job to pull out any odd shaped or bad beans these beans would be used for the ground coffee not the whole bean package.  The fairly large coffee roasters were located in the same room and this is where the bean tasting was performed. Dorothy gave us four different beans to try Peaberry, Medium roast, Medium-Dark roast and Dark roast. Once we tried the beans, we determined which two coffees we’d like to try prepared. We chose Peaberry and medium-dark roast. We were escorted out of the coffee room and into her sitting area which had a wonderful view of the Blue Mountains and their coffee plantation. She gave a few books to look through while she prepared our coffee selection and snacks and made us feel extremely welcomed in her home.
It wasn’t long before we were enjoying coffee and treats while absorbing the beautiful view of the Blue Mountains. The coffee was very good much better than the Blue Mountain from Silver Hills plantation which we bought from the market.  We bought 8 ounces of the Peaberry for $18 and 8 ounces of the medium dark roast for $12. They have a website http://www.exportjamaica.org/oldtavern/, so if you would like purchase some of their coffee just click the link.

More people arrived and it was time for us to move along.  This plantation wasn’t what we expected, at least from our past visits to coffee plantations, but it was interesting, comfortable and Dorothy is a lovely and inviting woman.  We had a wonderful trip and this experience was a pleasant and unique surprise.   Thanks Mac!  Below are pictures of the Blue Mountains, Dorothy next to a coffee plant and Pamsy on her stool sorting beans next to the coffee roaster.

Blue Mountain Old Tavern Plantation_01 26 12_0001     Blue Mountain Old Tavern Plantation_01 26 12_0007     Pamsy sorts beans with coffee roaster to her left

It hasn’t been just fun, fun, fun here in Jamaica though that’s been most of it.  We have done boat chores fixing our main sheet which broke during our trip and doing a few other minor repairs which we have put off until now.  These tasks didn’t take long and soon it was time for a trip to Boston Bay, the place to be for Jerk food.

On Saturday, January 28th, we (Gypsea Heart and Wings) grabbed a taxi (Andre) negotiated our rate and off  we went to Boston Bay.  It was pitch black so we couldn’t see much but we could tell part of the drive was along the coast. The road was a little bumpy, narrow and weaved back and forth (sound familiar) with Andre driving very fast.  About twenty minutes later, after making one stop to drop off eggs, we arrived at Great Huts Resort. We had heard you could have dinner and see a show on Saturday night at Great Huts, so at the last minute we made it happen.  Great Huts (www.greathuts.com) is a resort and has a range of rooms and many facilities. The reservation and dining hall where we were located was a tree house with a large fake giraffe displayed in the middle and a bird aviary off to the side. The floor was brightly painted with leaves and birds and the table and chairs were made out of trees. We had to climb steps which were almost as steep as a ladder to get to our table. The restrooms were located to the right and were shaped like little huts. It was tricky finding the restrooms because it was pretty dark and it would have been easy to walk into the mens instead of the ladies.

Juliet, the lady we had communicated with earlier in the day, was very nice and professional and promptly had someone escort us to our table upstairs right in front of the stage.  Leslie seated us and took our drink order two pina coladas and two rum punches. We asked about the dinners since all we knew was that we were being served chicken (two with redstripe and one with peanut sauce) and pork (preparation unknown). Leslie explained the redstripe is a type of jerk and the pork was prepared with jerk seasoning and sauce. We were thrilled because Boston Bay is known for the best jerk. Shortly after we placed our drink order, our pumpkin soup and banana fritters (a mixture of flour, milk sugar and bananas) arrived.  It was delicious and then the show started.

There were eight singers/dancers though mainly they danced and the music was prerecorded. The dancers were black Jamaicans dressed in traditional green, black and gold outfits. The ages of the performers ranged from young girls around 10 to 12 years old to the lead man who may have been late 40s early 50s. They mentioned during the performance that usually their company has 12 members instead of just 8, but they had transportation problems.

The performance told a story about the history of Jamaica beginning from when the people were taken from Africa, and the music and dance reflected this difficult period. It continued with the next period of slavery and how the slaves would watch the European balls and then mix their own dance with what they had seen watching their masters. The performance included a May pole dance which reflected the European influence and the dance were performed in May each year. If the dance was performed properly good crops would come. Next, they displayed the music and dance of independence and then sadness which came after independence. I think the Bob Marley influential music came next followed by a version of rock and roll that’s when audience members were encouraged to dance. Here are a few photos from the dance routines performed.

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The dance performance wasn’t something you’d find in Las Vegas. As a matter of fact, before the show began the dancers did not look very enthusiastic. However, it was a nice performance and the audience participation helped boost everyone’s spirits and entertainment value.

After the performance, we noticed Christina and Boom (mentioned above) were also there. Apparently, they watched the performance (just needed to buy a drink) and ate dinner not at the Great Huts restaurant but at a hut outside.  So if you want to watch the show and save a few pennies, you can buy a drink watch the show and then have dinner right outside of Great Huts in one of the many jerk shacks.  We visited a bit with Christina and Boom and met Boom’s husband Coco. That night, we also saw a couple whom we ran into at the Italian Job, the local pizza restaurant in Port Antonio … what a small world.  About twenty minutes later, we were home again with full bellies and completely content. 

We’ve been in Jamaica for a little over a week now and due to weather it looks like we won’t be leaving for Panama until late next week.  We’ll see and keep you posted, so keep checking back with us.  Take care.