Friday, 29 November 2013

Puerto Rico November 2013

We had to go up to the office to phone customs. The marina do not charge for this of you take a berth and it was as cheap to stay a week as for 3 days so we booked in. Richard spoke to customs and they wanted to know what food we had on board and if we had tinned meat. We were told to go back to the boat and wait for them to come.

Quite soon, Cagney and Lacey arrived. Cagney armed, ready to arrest or shoot. Lacey, the “Agricultural Officer”, could only hand out a $5000.00 fine for any garbage infringements. She asked about fresh food, but fortunately I had read a book of a couples cruise down here and she had mentioned the problems with produce, which is what the Americans call fruit and vegetables, and we had used all ours on passage.

Then Lacey wanted to inspect all the tinned meat to find country of origin. She did not say which countries were banned, but luckily all ours passed muster (even the Fray Bentos pies!). Finally we came to garbage disposal. We are not allowed to throw away anything from the boat unless she has inspected it first and then it has to go to a specialist disposal company. She would kindly give me their number when we went to their office. In the interim it must be stored down below in a sealed container.

I asked if it would be all right if I went shopping and then only used the food I bought in Puerto Rico. No, she said.  As soon as we take anything onto the boat it becomes foreign and the same rules apply. I must also keep all my receipts of anything I buy in PR !!!

“Oh, and by the way, Welcome to Puerto Rico.”

The only good thing came from Lacey who said it would cost $19 for a cruising permit. If we just checked in it would be $34 and we would have to check in at each place we went to. So, we had to go down to their offices which was a $10 taxi ride each way!

Cagney eventually appeared with the garbage peoples number, telling me the first one had gone out of business, and these she knows are “very expensive”! I picked up a pamphlet in their office about the garbage with a website because I thought this is just impossible. I can understand fresh produce could have pests and disease, but not tins, etc.

Later, we tried to access this website but were informed that we did not have authority to access it. That was when we decided this was just not worth it and left.

The marina staff were lovely, washing machines only $1.50, a restaurant and a café on site and just behind our mooring was a clump of mangrove where dozens of cattle egrets roost as well as several pelicans. Most of the boats were big power boats but like an all marinas, not much movement, but a few came back with big wahoo and snoek.

One evening we walked to La Guancha Boardwalk which is where all the locals hang out especially at weekends. We had already heard the usual Spanish custom of loud music till all hours as the boardwalk was just the other side of the marina. It was interesting, lots of tiny cafes in blocks all serving more or less the same food, empandillas(nice), fried pork, fried chicken, fried fish, nice enough but too much oil. In the spaces between café blocks there were different entertainments, DJ and dancing, a talent competition, different music and like Spain, all ages out enjoying the evening.

A day out to Ponce by taxi because car hire is about $50 per day was not quite the “not to be missed” experience as described in the free cruising guide. There are still many lovely buildings even though the majority are derelict or empty. At times it felt like a ghost town as there were not many people about.

The market is in a huge Art Deco building but inside are about 3 stalls with vegetables, about 20 selling lottery tickets and the rest is empty.  We, of course could not buy any vegetables because we would not be able to dispose of the peels but we had a banana as a treat. Lunch was empanadillas in a café there run by two old ladies, delicious. Everyone speaks Spanish with very little English, so we were trying to remember the bits we learned in Spain.
Town Square

The Town Square has lovely gardens and the recent addition of lion statues brilliantly painted by local artists randomly placed.
Street Art
They have their old fire station, red and black, which is the main tourist attraction. Inside is and old fire engine and a small museum. From there we did a bus tour $2 each but mostly were shown more parks and statues, mainly of past governors. Some more lovely houses, but up the side streets, more poverty and dereliction.
The Old Fire Station

There were very smartly dressed policeman all over the place, almost as many as the population, with many different modes of transport from on foot, segways, mini mokes to a pair that looked like extras from “CHIPS”.
An Art Deco house

We had another taxi ride to Walmart where again almost everything is in Spanish. We looked in the fresh produce aisle for all the Puerto Rican fruit and veg they are so carefully protecting and found only locally grown bananas! We also found PR coffee which is very nice and local PR rum, which isn’t so nice. We threw away as much packaging as possible while waiting for the taxi and put more into plastic boxes on the pontoon, so that it did not become ”foreign”.

Salinas entrance
Saturday we left for Salinas at first light as it is 24 miles but the coastline is all reefs and little islands and the anchorage is tucked up in a mangrove. We wanted to arrive with good light and after motor sailing all the way we were anchored at noon. It is a lovely anchorage, mangroves on both sides and very, very calm. There is a yacht club at the top and quite a few buildings and boats moored and anchored, quite a few look as though they have been there a long time.

Salinas at night
The guide book says there are many manatees here so we were really hoping to see one. There are buoys everywhere warning of them and all the craft really travel slowly up there, but we unfortunately did not see one. We did not go ashore, just enjoyed the peace and watched the birds - all the usual pelicans, frigates and terns but we did see two American White Pelicans which are rare down here.

We had intended to go to Vieques, Spanish VI, the next day but after checking the weather on the Kindle and the winds to be NNE it looked good to go straight to St Croix. The next morning  I made a big pot of soup thinking that would be nice for supper on passage – turned out it was the worst choice possible – but more later! We had a nice relaxing morning planning to leave at 14:00.

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