The weather forecast was warning us of strong easterly winds in the whole of Caribbean, and since Ensenada Honda on Culebra is open to the east, we figured it was a good time to move on towards Puerto Rico. We had a quiet night sail down past the island of Vieques, towards Salinas on the southcoast of Puerto Rico. As I sat in the cockpit in the very early morning before the sun came up, I suddenly had the feeling like the moon had gone behind a cloud or a screen had switched itself off; it just suddenly became slightly darker. But I didn’t have a screen with me and there was no moon out. I looked around, puzzled, and then figured it must have been something I had made up. But as we arrived in Salinas the next day, we heard that the south coast of Puerto Rico had been hit by a strong earthquake, and that the island was completely without power – hence the sudden loss of distant light that night. Aftershocks continued over the next days, some days as many as 20 occurred, and we slowly got used to being in an earthquake zone. We never felt a thing. The main problem for us was the risk of a tsunami, but luckily for everyone, no tsunami ever occurred.
We sailed slowly into the bay by Salinas, looking out for the depth – and for manatees. Halfway in we did indeed see the tail of a manatee as it hurried to get away from us, but the water was murky, and during the week we stayed there, we only got a few glimpses of the manatees.
We anchored close to the little marina, and prepared for the storm by getting groceries. We weren’t sure how bad it would be, but guessed that leaving the boat would probably be difficult in the coming days. Then we put out an extra anchor, just as precaution, and for the next few days we mainly stayed on board. But Salinas is probably one of the most secure anchorages in the Caribbean when it comes to dodging the prevailing winds, and while we did have strong winds for some days, it wasn’t bad at all.
When the winds finally calmed down a bit, we hurried to rent a car and did the trip across the beautiful island, to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rica. Old San Juan is the third oldest of the cities founded by the Europeans in the Caribbean, and after a disappointing stop at West Marine, we continued to this impressive part of the city. Our mission was clear: Finding a nice restaurant for lunch. Mattis had finished his 1st grade math books on Culebra, so to celebrate we were eating out. We started down by the cruise ships, where we had plenty of places to choose from, but they didn’t seem that charming. As we continued, the streets became quieter, and suddenly we were at our restaurant, a charming little place with mostly locals and a few tourists, but most importantly, it had a lovely atmosphere and the food looked delicious. And we weren’t disappointed. Very good food and nice people. And halfway through our dinner, a street musician came in and tried to drown out the music from the radio. A bit much for the Scandinavians, but Mattis still got to give him some money when he had finished his song.
Next up was the forts. Being one of the oldest cities, San Juan used to be the place where many European ships landed in the Caribbean after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, so it was of great strategic importance. The Castillo San Felipe del Morro is located right by the entrance of the bay to be able to stop any enemy ships from entering the bay of the city. We made our way against the wind and looked out over the giant waves coming into the bay. We had considered going here, but went to Salinas for the protection. At this moment we were happy that we did. The castle was big, in many levels and with breathtaking views. We spent a while enjoying the place before we moved on towards the next castle. The Castillo San Cristobal is the largest fort build by the Spanish in the New World. For us, it was almost too big. We walked in some tunnels that had been built for the soldiers to be able to quickly move from one place in the fortress to another, without being seen by the enemies. Back then, the tunnels had been rigged with dynamite, to be able to quickly block enemies from moving through them. One tunnel, which had been used as a prison, had beautiful drawings of ships from the era. Very impressive.
We ended up coming home very late that night, but it had been a great day in San Juan.
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