Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Day in the life of me: Stranded at Sea

As a child growing up, I spent most of my holidays from school running around Port Antonio, regardless of how long each holiday was. My Dear Aunt would pick us up from school on the last day or if we were lucky on the second to last day of school and off we go, Portie or bust, come rain or shine, hell or high water nothing could stop us. I use to suffer from the worst car sickness, it was just horrible and the winding country roads made the journey even worst. I tried many different tactics to ease my suffering, from turning my head before the car starts going around the corner, to looking up, down or close my eyes but nothing worked, eventually I grew out of it. I remember on one trip the car had that green peppers smell because we had pizza and being nauseous at the time meant that whenever I smell Green peppers I got nauseous for the next couple months even when I was not in a car but no matter what, nothing could stop me from heading to my Portie. One of the good things about being a regular visitor to Port Antonio was that we amassed a nice legion of friends who would also head to Portie at the same time.

On one particular night the Portie gang was hanging out by the tennis court trying to decide what to do the next day when someone came up with the grand idea that in the morning we should go fishing out on the high seas. The agreement was made to rendezvous on Monkey Island just off San San beach, however while the members of the crew who lived at the Blue Lagoon had their own boats, we needed an additional boat for members of our crew and at that time one could rent a row boat on San San Beach. So everything was sorted, boats… check, crazy kids… check, fishing tackle… check, time to turn in and get some sleep because we had a 7:00 am wake up time and 8:30 am Rendezvous time.

At about 9:00 am the next morning the phone rang, the Blue Lagoon crew had been to the island and back and we were still in bed, so up we jumped in a mad rush and out of the villa in 15 minutes flat, stopping at the other villas to collect the remainder of the crew. We stopped at the last villa to collect a young English kid who was new to the group as this was his family’s first time in Jamaica and as soon as he hugged his mom good bye, she burst into tears, she must have thought this was the last time she was ever going to see her son again and looking back now, I do not blame her, since most of the crew knew nothing about surviving at sea or even how to row a boat, with the exception of my little cousin and some members of the Blue Lagoon crew we were all novice, with very little fishing experience.

Off we went, down the secret passageway, which is a series of steps through dense vegetation, leading down from the hill to the street, then a mad dash across the street, through the bushes and onto San San beach towards the boat rental place which was just a section at the far end of the beach. On our approach one of the men working there said “a what unoo boys want?”, we said we needed a boat because we were going fishing, without batting an eye he said “unoo have money?”, we said have any what, why? …You see we were accustomed to running around Portie without a cent in our pockets, heck we did not even have pockets because all we wore at the time was swim trunks and our only means of payment was putting various expenses on our Dear Aunts tab and so the question of money was foreign to us. We looked at the man as if he was from the planet Mongo and he looked at us kids as if we were from the distant planet Remulak in galaxy far, far away, this was going to get nasty because we needed a boat and he was standing in our way. The boat debate carried on until the owner of the boat rental place came over and said, “oh... is alright man, is Mrs. Such and Such Pickney dem, just give them what dem want” ….great crisis averted. 

The man gave us a rawtid (very) big boat, we said to each other, no worries nuff room and jumped in as he pushed us off. We drifted for a while trying to figure out how we were going to do this, the boat was wide, much too wide for us kids to comfortably have one person row it and the oars were kind off fat for our hands but hey, we gave it a go. It was a slow and hard process, not very comfortable and we lacked coordination as each of us took turns. Finding ourselves out a bit we decided to change strategy, one person would row one side and another person would row the other side, …now que Benny Hill music, because it was the most Benny Hill of moments I have ever been involved with and I have been in many. First we tried to row to a beat to keep us in sync, like in those old Roman movies but soon after we started going in circles and off course, the boat bobbed up and down as tempers flared, everyone started calling everyone else an idiot and accused each other of not knowing what they were doing, truth be told none of us knew what we were doing. The English kid had the look of fear on his face and my little cousin said that he was not feeling too comfortable about this adventure and was thinking of jumping overboard to swim back to land. My little cousin does have a knack for abandoning any adventure he considers foolhardy and life threatening but we convinced him to do otherwise, we needed his expertise.

Next the decision was made to drop anchor, settle the boat and have a mature discussion as to how best to reach Monkey Island, where we could see the Blue Lagoon crew in the distance laughing their heads off at our expense, in our minds this was supposed to be a Hawaii five o moment but it was most certainly not. We dropped the anchor and watched as the rope swooshed over the side of the boat and sank beneath the crystal clear waters of the bay however it was way too late before we realized that the end of the rope was not tied to the blasted boat and we watched as the end swooshed over the side and disappeared from view.

Laughter, panic and cries of idiots filled the bay before we decided to signal the Blue Lagoon crew for help. One of the guys powered up his boat and came out towards us, he was coming at speed but hey he was the expert not us, then my little cousin realized he was not going to stop in time and shouted brace for impact! The boat hit the rented boat, it did not hit us too hard but the hole in the top side of the rented boat said otherwise, more laughter as he gave us a rope that we tied to our boat and he towed us over to Monkey Island.

We stayed at Monkey Island for a while laughing and joking about what just happened before the decision was made to split the crew into the two remaining power boats. I was given the job of tying the rented boat to a tree on the island and then we were off. It was a beautiful sunny tropical Caribbean day as we powered our way to find a nice fishing spot. We found a spot and dropped anchor with much laughter as someone shouted “make sure it’s tied to the boat”… It was then that I decided that fishing was long boring process, you can see the little buggers in the crystal clear waters below but they just ignored your line and bait. After a while the crew in the other boat decided they have had enough and was heading to the Blue Lagoon to relax while we decided to stick with this fishing thing a little longer. Then after about another hour everyone got fed up, we were hungry, thirsty and wanted out of this boat so we decided, to hell with these ungrateful fish, let’s head to the Blue Lagoon Restaurant for something to eat and to relax with the rest of the group.

What happened next can only be described as anchor’s revenge because this anchor was stuck on the reef below and no amount of powering and turning the boat could free it. After another hour which seemed like three hours of trying to free the anchor we began to feel proper sea sick. The boat bobbed up and down, up and down, the sun was hot, we were thirsty and hungry with parched dry lips and the smell of sea water made us feel even worst. One person shouted let’s cut the rope but the owner of the boat and anchor was not having it, it was not an option.

Not long after the English kid put his head over the side and decided to feed the fishes with the content of his stomach, he threw up and his face changed colour. I was this close to follow suit with a second course when another one of the boys went stir crazy, shouted he could not take it anymore and jumped overboard, dived down to where the anchor was and seconds later came up with not only the anchor but the large piece of coral it was attached to which had the most disgusting smell, it was an extremely stink piece of coral but we were free, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last and off we went, full speed ahead feeling the cool tropical breeze on our faces as the boat zipped over the water. All I could think of was standing on dry land, drinking some water and eating a club sandwich.

While heading back I left my line in the water, I looked back to see it skimming on top of the water as we sped along, then I looked back again a fish about a foot long was attached to it, I shouted I got a fish, even though it was totally by accident. We arrived at Blue Lagoon to find the English kids’ mother waiting for us with sandwiches, we chat and laughed then ordered more food on my Dear Aunts tab.

Sometime after we remembered the other boat we left at Monkey Island so we jumped back into the boat to retrieve it but when we got to the island the boat was gone. It seemed my expert sailor knot was rubbish because I knew nothing about tying knots at sea. The boat drifted away and went further out to sea, we went after it and returned it to the rental boat place which by this time was no longer open, everyone had left for the day, so we dragged the boat onto the beach with the rest of the other boats then head back to the Blue Lagoon where great fun was had by all.

The next morning my Dear Aunt called the villa, she was not pleased, she demanded we marched our little behinds down to the office immediately, which we did only the see the boat rental owner with a long list of grievances and to say he was not a happy chappy was an understatement. Anchor and rope missing, damaged boat due to hole in the side, boat not returned at the appointed time, rental fee due and he was told by someone that it was drifting alone on the high seas. The man demanded compensation which my Dear Aunt paid, she was very upset and demanded we be more careful at which point my little cousin and I put on our best Puss in Boot, “poor ting pickney” Face and even though she pretended it was not having an effect, we knew it was, how could she resist us, we had power and we were not afraid to use it as we turned up the “Cutetage” to max. Couple days later, Dear Aunt got the bill from the Blue lagoon and it was Puss in Boot face time again.

Health and Safety was not an issue back in those days as the owner of the boat rental place did not think twice about giving a bunch of kids most of which was not even in their teens, a boat and helped pushed them out to sea, no licenses and certification required. Personal responsibility was yours regardless of age, if you climb a tree and fall out then either you, broke your neck and die or get up dust yourself off or never climb a tree again or you learn to be more careful the next time you climb a tree. In those days you learn by trial and error, broken limbs, cuts and bruises was a part of the process.

Not too long ago I sat on my verandah drinking a beer, I saw my neighbour pulled into her drive way as she had picked up her little Tubby from school and was dropping him home. I watched as little Tubby rolled out of the car with his box of Meal Deal and entered his house. Then his friend from next door Little Tubby2 rolled over to Little Tubby’s house, soon after both of the Tubbies left the house with the meal deal and video game console in hand and waddled over to Little Tubby2’s house.

It would not have surprised me if mom packed the Tubbies back in the car, backed out of her driveway and drive the couple feet next door to deliver them to Tubby2’s house, fearing the little round porkly Tubbies might stub their toes while walking. The Tubbies were so out of shape and overweight that I would not be surprise if their Overindulgent parents still wipe their nether regions for them after doing a number two. I looked at little Tubby and I wondered if these kids still climb trees, roll ball, fly kites, make sling shot and have fun and experienced life threatening adventures or are all such excitements now reserved for the virtual world? When I was growing up the only reason I would be inside was because I am sick and even then they had a hard time keeping me indoors.

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