Thursday, May 01, 2014

Bahamas bound

We are currently underway, with 230 nm to go before we get to Gerogetown in the Bahamas.  In total it should be a 6 day passage.  We could have stopped at the Turks and Caicos but decided against it because we want to have at least a couple of weeks in the Bahamas before heading up to the Chesapeake.  The Bahamas have me a bit spooked though, looking at the charts, it is very shallow and lots of places you need to navigate by eye rather than trusting your charts, shades of Fiji, but I think the charts that we have (so kindly lent to us by another Canadian cruiser, that we only met for a night, we promised to give them back when we get to Halifax) are far superior to what we were able to get our hands on in Fiji.
ANYWAY, we did stop in San Jaun, Peurto Rico and were able to get our U.S. cruising permit there.  I think once we get to the States we will be able to check in by just calling Customs and Border Protection and will manage everything over the phone, that would be pretty slick.  That is my impression we will see in about a month. 

Getting back to Puerto Rico, it was a very interesting place.  We were anchored about 3 km from where the cruise ships dock and a 15 minute bus ride from the old city of San Jaun.  They have done a marvellous job of refurbishing the old town, the buildings are beautifully painted in brilliant colours, there are museums and art galleries galore . We wandered around taking pictures and listening to the buskers playing and singing soulful Spanish melodies.  The whole area was so clean and safe, towards the end of the day there was a policeman in full gear, sidearms strapped on, at every second corner.  I found it interesting that they were much more in evidence at the end of the day. 

The fort at the end of the long thin peninsula is the crowning glory of San Juan, I think we saved the best for for the last, mind you it is a Spanish fort!!! The fort itself is  feet high and the walls are   feet thick.  It was built in stages and there are six levels.  I think one of the cannons we saw was the biggest yet and the stack of cannonballs was impressive.  

The fort protected the harbour entrance and there was a wall built all around the city. At one point they built another fort on the other side of the harbour entrance and were able to get ships in a deadly crossfire.  San Juan was a very strategic spot, a first landing for ships crossing the Atlantic and it was a great place to protect Spain's other holding in Latin America, down in the Gulf of Mexico.  The Spaniards, holed up in this marvellous fort, successfully repelled a raiding party led by Sir Francis Drake and another attempted invasion by the Dutch. Puerto Rico remained a Spanish territory until the Spanish American war in 1896 when it, the Phillipines and Guam became U.S. property.  I am not sure that my almost 60 year old brain ever knew that fact, okay well that is it for the history lesson. I could have spent 2 or 3 more days exploring the area.  

One of my goals in Puerto Rico was to attend a baseball game.  They are baseball crazy down here.  The closest it got was standing in line to try and buy baseball tickets, their season is in the winter and it was over, too bad. I spied a set of stadium lights when we were sailing in, so the first day ashore after we had succeeded in finding Customs and Border Protection we set off to find this, what I assumed to be, baseball stadium.  We found it after much scurrying across highways and heading in the right general direction.  Lo and behold it was a track for Athletics with a very nice covered seating area, it was all locked up so we couldn't check it out carefully.  The beach that was adjacent to it had a lovely walkway along it and at the end there was a very beautiful protected beach for public swimming.  
We went into another area of town to the West Marine store and it seemed we were in North America, big box stores, fast food restaurants, Macy's a huge three story mall, everything a consumer society thinks it needs. Barry had a Whopper at Burger King while I satisfied my cravings at the Yougen Fruz. 
I realize that we probably went at too leisurely a pace through the Lesser Antillies and could have used more time to explore the last five countries we have been in, St. Martin, BVI's, USVI's, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas but I am glad we didn't rush too much, I guess you can't see everything!!!