Sunday, February 2, 2014

Waiting for Jamaica to surprise me

Posted by Scot.  Written Jan. 30, 2014.

Downwind sailing - one of the best things about Jamaica.
Nobody likes to be stereotyped, pigeonholed, or typecast.  But based on what we have seen so far, Jamaica isn’t doing much to fight it.

You can start with the reggae.  Now, I like reggae as much as the next guy.  In fact, back in my 20’s, I purchased and listened to Bob Marley’s “Legend” album until I knew it by heart.  (That’s right kids, actually purchased the whole album, in an ancient format called “cassette tape”.  No downloading back then.)  I can still pretty much sing along to the whole thing.  Not that you’d want to hear me do that.

But at the risk of offending an entire nation, can I point out that there are one or two other types of music in the world?  And there have been a few new songs recorded since Marley?  It blows me away that everywhere we’ve been, we actually hear as much reggae as the stereotype would have you believe.  In every restaurant, on every beach, and on every radio station.  Pretty much reggae 24/7.  Can that really be all anyone here listens to?  I’d ask someone, but I probably wouldn’t understand the answer.

Which brings me to stereotype number 2.  That Jamaican accent.  It is more or less exactly what you think it is.  Have you ever watched Futurama?  Do you know that Jamaican character?  No idea what his name is.  Anyway, that accent that you thought was just a joke, like a broad mockery of a far more subtle accent?  Nope.  That is really it.  That is how they talk.  The other day, the boys and I were listening to the radio on the boat, and we couldn’t help but laugh.  The D.J. sounded like what we used to think of as a parody of a Jamaican accent, but have now come to realize is the real thing.  Yeh mon.

And finally, stereotype number 3.  The ganja.  Yep, it’s really as prevalent as you have been lead to believe.  So far, we haven’t gone anywhere on land without coming across the sweet smell of pot somewhere.  And last night, on the boat, we all got a contact high coming from the boat next to us.  On shore, every few minutes, someone tries to sell me some “ ‘erbal, mon.”  OK, I know, coming from B.C. I can’t really make fun of all the pot.  In fact, it kind of smells like Rossland around here.

Cruise ship in Ocho Rios.  Time to start hustling for a buck!
Maybe the tight adherence to stereotypes is somehow tied to the Jamaican tourist industry.  It could just be that they are giving the people what they want.  The tourist industry here is one revved up machine.  We spent the night before last in a cruise ship port (Ocho Rios), and got to see the height of the system to separate tourists from their money.  Cruise ships go in there for the day, and the town puts on the full court press to drag as much cash out of them as possible while they are there.  As we walked through town, every 15 steps we were hit up by someone wanting to take us somewhere in a taxi, sell us some souvenirs, or braid our hair.  The Cuban jinteros, which we were warned about in the cruising guides, have nothing on these guys.  It really makes it hard to enjoy being ashore.  Wedged in between the cruise ship on one side, and the blaring beach party music on the other, Ocho Rios ranked up there as one of our least favorite places on our trip so far.

This guy was really interested in the houses on the beach in Discovery Bay.   He circled around and around. At least as annoying as a jet ski.
I guess if you want to find something surprising about Jamaica, you have to look to mother nature.  I don’t really know what we expected from the landscape, but it is greener and more mountainous than any of us would have guessed.  There is also more rain than we expected, but that is what keeps it so green.  I just wish there were some more peaceful, isolated bays to enjoy it from, without jet skis buzzing us every few minutes.

One thing that we did expect, but that we are enjoying, is the downwind sailing.  Having made it through the windward passage, we are finally heading west, with the trade winds.  That means our sailing days have all been with waves and wind pushing us along.  We’ve been able to fly our spinnaker quite a bit, and have really made good time, pushing the boat up to 8 or 9 knots frequently.  The auto pilot has a hard time steering when we are surfing moderate waves from behind, so it means more hand steering, but it has been fun sailing.  Here’s a video of Alexander keeping us on course as the spinnaker pulls us and the waves push us.  And no, the background music is not reggae.


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