Travel Through Puerto Rico on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Puerto Rico on a Harley (26/3/03 - 4/4/03)
Distance 392 km (325242 km to 325634 km)

This is part of the ninth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  St Kitts and Nevis

26/3/03 Again no wind and we motored the 50 nautical miles, at about 7 knots, to Vieques, an island to the east of Puerto Rico and part of its territory. A large part of the island is used as a naval aerial bombing range which tends to keep tourists away from the other third where less than 10,000 people live. Some tourists do come to visit the 50 yellow sand beaches in warm waters and where we are anchored at Esperanza there are low key beachside restaurants and bars. Mosquito bay, just along the coast, is famous for the phosphorescence in its waters. We waited in the dinghy in the bay till after dark and waving our arms through the water activated the small organisms to emit light. A little like thousands of fireflies going off together in a small area. You could see fish darting away from the dinghy leaving a light trail behind them as we returned to the yacht. We said goodbye to Bob, going home to the USA after his two weeks aboard the "Monsoon" .

27/3/03 We are now rapidly reaching the end of the first leg with the Monsoon Yacht. The original plan was to spend three weeks ashore in the Dominican Republic while the captain explored the area. However he now wishes to spend more time in Puerto Rico so we will offload the motorcycle there and take the ferry to the Dominican Republic rejoining at the end of April to travel to the Bahamas, Jamaica and Cuba. Anchored over a weedy bottom less than half a metre below our keel we snorkelled in the warmer waters, now out of the influence of the cooler Atlantic waters. There is a steady swell rolling into the bay and, snorkelling we could see, hundreds of brightly coloured sea fans lying across its mouth trapping food washing across their branches.

28/3/03 Still in light winds we motor sailed to the island of Puerto Rico. The southern coast almost an endless line of mangroves dotted with heavy industry plants. We sailed behind the first line of mangrove cays to the bay of Salinas. The waters were shallow and protected. Ventured into a "hurricane hole" where in an emergency boats could drive full speed into the mangroves, the mud holding the keel and the branches supporting the superstructure of the boat. The entrance to Salinas Bay was very shallow, the map indicated shallower than our draft, but by keeping to one side of the channel we made it into this quiet bay. Despite yachties having no real time frame, Friday nights ashore always have more to offer, and here it was a barbecue and happy hour all night. Everyone was from a yacht either heading east or west or stalled waiting for a job or money. As only small yachts can make it into the bay everything was basic facilities, the locals involved in providing small yacht maintenance from their homes. A relaxed friendly atmosphere and back to the Spanish ancestry.Boat at anchor, bike awaiting a place to unload, not always legally allowed

29/3/03 We had seen a manatee, sea cow, as we entered the bay yesterday and taking the dinghy at dawn returned to the same spot finding four grazing the sea grasses. We drifted slowly past them as every couple of minutes one would surface with a loud snort of air, maybe roll over onto its back and rest for a few minutes then duck dive to continue feeding. In slightly better winds sailed most of the way to Ponce, unloading the motorcycle at the yacht club's fuel dock, the upmarket end of Puerto Rico. The private club, situated on a peninsula with ocean and bay frontage, was holding its fishing contest. Dozens of dorado were being weighed in, some up to 1.5 metres long, hauled out of the water by large game fishing boats.

30/3/03 After commenting on not getting sick often, the inevitable happens. Swollen glands, sore throat and a temperature. Stayed on the boat resting while Kay patiently continued her cross stitch needlework.Sunrise, looking for manatee in the calm waters

31/3/03 Ponce is Puerto Rico's second largest city. On its outskirts America flourishes with its freeways and large private vehicles, Walmart and every conceivable fast food outlet. Towards the inner city it's more Spanish, a central plaza with beautiful old buildings surrounding. Between you can almost see the transition in time from one culture towards the other. Most people seem to speak some English although Spanish is all we hear spoken in the streets. With banking, film processing, and other jobs we descend on the tourist office for information. Incredibly helpful they spent an hour arranging boat tickets for us to Dominican Republic, not possible from a travel agent and difficult even for the tourist office.

1/4/03 Our first Harley dealer since Ecuador, 3 months ago, and an opportunity to read the two HOG magazine articles they have written on our trip. We were really impressed. Kay was on the front cover of one mag and the articles seemed to capture the feeling we have for travelling. The shop owner photocopied the articles, gave us a San Juan H-D T-shirt each and took us to a Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch. Traditionally only two things on the menu either beans and rice or rice and beans. The rest of the day we visited the Old San Juan, its two forts, narrow streets and historic houses, preserved, seemingly for the cruise ship passengers strolling its streets. Its only tourists that allow for the preservation of most historical sites and buildings and cruise ship tourists probably impinge the least. Self contained their passengers require minimal shore side infrastructure or transport, and return the city to the locals after just a few hours visit.Old San Juan city, its two forts, narrow streets and historic houses

2/4/03 The longest ancient ballcourt yet discovered in the Caribbean was only found in 1975 after heavy rain uncovered some artefacts. The 1300 year old ceremonial area with burial grounds and ball games was used by the local Indians till the arrival of the Spanish. This was an opportunity for us to piece together the past inhabitants of the Caribbean.  Where they had migrated from and how they lived. Just one more piece in the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the world, that we uncover for ourselves as we travel.

3/4/03 Our last day on the boat for this section so a total clean. The captain will be taking advantage of the availability of US products  at US prices to replace some equipment on the boat. Items unavailable in Venezuela or at high prices. A mixed feeling on departure. We regain our freedom and personal space. The need to be waiting on someone else each time we go ashore or to give a specific time for our return to the boat removes a lot of flexibility in the day. Living with a third party in their environment, like staying with a friend for eight weeks can strain a relationship, particularly where we are so used to being a twosome. Still we have benefited, not just the ease of transport, but the variety of places visited, the safety and the lack of worry regarding repairs and maintenance, had it been our own vessel. As we said at the start of the boat section, a compromise, but at the end, a compromise definitely to our advantage.

4/4/03 I awoke with a rash covering most of my body, swollen eyes, face and hands, an allergic reaction to the medication for the sore throat, which I also still have. Would have preferred to stay in bed but with a ferry to catch tonight left the yacht. Puerto Rico is very American and in some ways has taken the worst of the Spanish and US cultures. People seem locked away, in air-conditioned tinted windscreen cars. You can't see them and there is no-one to ask directions on the streets. Interaction is difficult, no public transport, everyone owns their own car, no internet cafe, each owns a computer, few laundromats as they have their own washing machines. This individual ownership, fast pace, no time creates an impersonal feeling. Our ferry booking had not been finalized as the motorcycle was only going one way, therefore should travel cargo, and was not on the ship's manifest. They finally managed a last minute entry onto the cargo documents and with customs also trying to flex their petty power officialdom we managed to be the last vehicle to be cleared onto the boat after three hours of frustration. Customs asked us to declare how much US cash we were exporting. We advised less than $10,000 US, our legal obligation. But they insisted on knowing the exact amount and wanted to see it or they won't let us leave. Mr Fernandez, officer 3124, in charge flexed his muscle. Most of our emergency money is hidden on the motorcycle. We obviously do not like showing anyone where, and there was no legal obligation to do so. If they wished they could search the motorcycle. These answers they did not like so we were threatened for the next 30 minutes with refusal to leave on this boat. In the end we were allowed to depart without a search or show of money, why have such petty power people in these positions, particularly in the USA?

Move with us to The Dominican Republic


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