21 April 2017 | Caja de Muertos
17 April 2017 | Bahia de Jobos
15 April 2017 | Cayo de Santiago
13 April 2017 | Cayo Lobos
12 April 2017 | Isla de Palominos
10 April 2017 | Puerto Rico
09 April 2017 | Isla de Vieques
06 April 2017 | Isla de Culubrita and Isla de Culebra
04 April 2017 | Charlotte Amelie, St Thomas Island
28 March 2017 | Charlotte Amalie St Thomas USBVI
28 March 2017 | Charlotte Amalie St Thomas USVI
27 March 2017 | Great Harbour Jost Van Dkyke Island BVI
25 March 2017 | Cooper Island Sir Francis Drake Channel Islands BVI
22 March 2017 | Jost van Dyke BVI
19 March 2017 | Christiansted St Croix USVI
17 March 2017 | Christiansted St Croix USVI
15 March 2017 | Spanish Town Virgin Gorda BVI
13 March 2017 | Bitter End Virgin Gorda BVI
12 March 2017 | Bitter End Virgin Gorda
05 March 2017 | Soper's Hole Tortola BVI
Puerto de Salinas and Caja de Muertos
21 April 2017 | Caja de Muertos
Next morning the rain had cleared but it was overcast and the wind was up, even in the protected mangrove surrounded anchorage. We decided to take an exploratory tour in the tender but being Easter Monday, the sleepy village of Salinas was barely awake by mid morning. Puerto de Salinas has a marina and lots of shallow draft craft are at anchor or on buoys throughout the bay. It was quite scenic with the backdrop of the every present mountain spine of Puerto Rico in the distance.
The restaurants all seemed closed but as we pushed our way around the foreshore we had spotted a bank of bright orange umbrellas on a waterfront deck, that surely meant coffee on tap. We tied up to the dinghy jetty to realise that the restaurant was undergoing a refurbishment and was not open for business. We walked along a road that had a mixed collection of small cottages and came to La Barca restaurant that we ended up having a Puerto Rican style lunch in. We chose fish (mahi mahi and red snapper) or chicken, dressed in mojito sauce (pronounced mo-ho) that the township is famous for. Some years ago a lady from the town became well known as a seafood chef and refused a government offer to cook for tourists in San Juan, as she could not bare to leave her lovely beach. She has since passed away but her sauce recipe lives on, attracting tourists and locals to the many restaurants. The meals were very substantial and we all left food on our plates. No problem for the waitress as she tipped what was left into the water where huge tarpon fish eagerly awaited their lunch. We headed back to Trilogy as the sky once more looked threatening. We relaxed with our full tummies in recovery mode and only needed a toasted ham sandwich with a cuppa for supper.
The sky was brighter in the morning and the wind had eased. We knew that manatees were in this location and Peter was instructed to motor stealthily to a spot not far from Trilogy where we thought we'd seen these aquatic mammals come to the surface for air. Peter's stealth paid off! These mostly herbivorous creatures, otherwise known as sea cows, display similar attributes to land cows ie slow plant eaters and peaceful in nature, growing up to 4 metres in length. All water craft are restricted to a 5mph speed limit which seems to keep the manatees happy. We had many sightings, but these elusive creatures were definitely camera shy, and would not smile for a photograph!
We next motored to the marina jetty and found a delightful small cafe surrounded by mangroves at the marina. We were able to get pastelillos for a snack along with bad coffee and good fruit juices. Fortified, we wandered in the direction of the main township over a mile away, which being Easter Tuesday, would have only a few businesses open. We settled for checking out the local beach, which although at first seemed lacking in sand, turned out to be quite attractive with mangroves dividing the foreshore into swimming and picnic areas. We found a bakery and deli, but both were closed as was the church, so we headed through the narrow streets of Salinas, taking in the large amount of wrought iron security grilles on the houses.
Salinas is famous with Puerto Ricans for cockfighting, which is one of the few countries where it is a legal activity. We had no problem sighting caged roosters all stacked together in low fenced backyards, crowing as they paced in their small cages. Apparently the cockfights take place in gallera but we had no intention of tracking down the next fight. An internet website stated that it is the national sport, raising in excess of $100 million for the island's economy which is otherwise struggling. Wealthy professional men can own up to 700-800 cocks, with an estimated 200,000 fighting birds in any one year! Satisfied that we'd checked out the highlights of Salinas, we motored back to Trilogy.
We then sailed for Isla Caja de Muertos in 15 knots SE wind, a beautiful island about 6NM northeast of Ponce, the next main port. The quartering sea and large swell gave Trilogy a tough assignment for 16 NM, but once we'd rounded the headland, the sea settled and we were able to anchor in relatively protected waters off a golden sand beach. The island is often referred to as Coffin Island, perhaps due to its shape or perhaps because of a legend involving a tragic love affair. The island has two peaks either end with a narrow sandy strip in the middle. The tallest peak has a disused lighthouse on top and the other peak has a fisherman's shrine in one of the caves that has a Jesus statue with arms outstretched over looking the wild and treacherous northern coast. The intrepid swimmers swam ashore for a quick look before the daylight faded. Another dinner in the saloon followed, this time Coq Au Vin was on the menu, and although the chicken pieces were very large, we convinced ourselves that they were not rooster and not from the fighting stock!
A long swim along the shore next morning was used to confirm that there was nothing more interesting than a few big fish to be seen where we'd noticed several pelicans diving earlier. This was followed by exploration of this uninhabited island, which is protected as a natural reserve because of its native turtle traffic. The Museo was interesting to check out, even though all the information was in Spanish. We worked out that there is one snake native to the island, the nurse shark is in the waters and a myriad of birds and cacti varieties have taken up residence. There was a rather elaborate two level wharf building and a series of attractive picnic shelters, indicative of many more visitors at times. The northern coast was open to the full blast of the prevailing northerly winds and the ocean looked raw and wild and certainly not fit for swimming. The southern side was much more sheltered and swimming in the aquamarine water was a pleasure.
After lunch, Peter, Sue and Ros took the tender ashore to climb the lighthouse peak. The climate is dry and the island supports dry forest, with multiple cacti clumps soaring above the otherwise low level vegetation. The lighthouse, established in 1887 appeared to be in a derelict state, but it was automated in 1945 and is still functioning. The view from the 170 feet high peak was well worth the climb! The wind had increased in our absence and by the time we got back to Trilogy, the skipper was concerned that he gusts of 30 knots were taking their toll. Before we knew it we were lifting the anchor and moving to a designated anchorage in the lee of the peak we had just climbed. It did feel more protected and we settled for a good night's sleep after the usual pleasantries that occur as the sun is setting.
Palmas Del Mar, Puerto Patillas, Bahia de Jobos
17 April 2017 | Bahia de Jobos
The pilot mentioned a marina nearby that we had initially ignored, but the skipper was attracted by the promise of the beautiful beach close by, and so without further ado, we decided to call up and see if there was a be th. No answer! No answer! Ah....siesta time on Good Friday, we reason! Close to 15:00 we decided to motor towards the marina and see if that got their attention. Sure enough, our call was answered and in we went, to a rather empty marina. Maybe being Easter, all the boats had headed out. The marina staff were most welcoming and we immediately felt at ease.
Palmas del Mar Yacht Club and Marina is designed to service yachts from 50-160' (Trilogy is 54') but we only saw one super large yacht. The marina sits adjacent to Palmas del Mar real estate development, once called New American Riviera. Previously the 2750 acres was a sugar plantation but now the spacious grounds are filled with all manner of accommodation, from luxury single level villas to 3 storey complexes. There are security levels everywhere and as this is considered an 'exclusive', destination, there is security within security, to make sure all others are excluded!
The girls were on a mission to defrost the fridge freezer that had completely frosted up and after that task was done they joined the boys at the very pleasant marina pool, and they had already downed a piña colada. The girls declined the offer to attend a fashion parade at poolside, preferring to relax in the late afternoon breeze sipping on their cherry topped piña coladas. Before heading back to Trilogy, we wandered through some of the accessible parts of the resort to check out the long sweeping beach, that had signs up saying that as turtles nested there, there was no access from sunset to sunrise.
The skipper had made a reservation for Chez Daniel's Restaurant, a French cafe within the resort. As it was on one of the canals, we decided to access the restaurant by tender. It felt lovely to be on the water at night and after a bit of searching where to tie up, we settled on a pier for super yachts, right outside the restaurant, as we were able to step up onto the massive fenders and step ashore in style. The restaurant was definitely French, with a beautiful French speaking Madame welcoming us. We dined on delicious 'all things French' from a starter of du pain et le buerre to entree selections of Coquilles Saint Jaques, Crab Crepes and Brie Salade; Canard Confit, Carré d'Agneau et Vivaneau grillé et câpres hachées, followed by Creme Brûlée, Profiteroles et Chocolate Mousse. We are not accustomed to so much food, but it was all so delicious and our resistance was definitely low.
Early next morning the skipper got us all revved up for a long walk along the beautiful beach. We went in search of a coffee first and although we found a cafe open, to our disappointment the coffee never lives up to our Aussie expectations. The walk and beach did though, and we all felt better for the exercise. The beach had several signs warning of rips, but to our eyes, although there was a decent shore break in sections, there was no hint of a rip. We really enjoyed out swim with very few others on the beach, but as we walked back, we could see the locals taking up their positions in the sun for the day. We headed for the marina pool for another swim before heading back to Trilogy. The boys topped up the water tanks while the girls got a lift to the supermarket to pick up a few supplies. As it was Easter Saturday, the little shop was filled with others buying cooked food from the little cafe within the store. The supermarket was located within an outdoor plaza and it was apparent there had been a rowdy party the night before in the centre of the plaza. Broken glass was strewn across the space and overflowing garbage bins told the rest of the story. Peter had visited the local post office and the lady had been offended and refused to open her doors (except for Peter!) until the mess was cleaned up, muttering ' these are outsiders who've done this. Haven't they had sex before!'
We decided to have brunch at the fisherman's coop at the southern edge of the small harbour. We used the tender to get there and it was well worth it. It was a lovely setting and we managed a table closest to the water under the shade of the trees. We naturally ate fish - mahi mahi and red snapper, while Peter was happy with his grilled chicken. The accompaniments were french fries, fried plantain or arepos, which was something like a potato scallop, and a small garnish of lettuce and tomato. Cold local beer washed it all down very nicely.
A short motor down the coast, we dropped anchor at Puerto Patillas, a comfortable anchorage that is well protected by a reef. There was a holiday atmosphere in the bay, with music blaring and jet skis zooming all around us as we anchored. The music didn't stop all night in fact, due to it being Easter Saturday night. It wasn't long before the music started in the opposite direction next morning, so the township of Puerto Patillas captured our curiosity. Families were gathering along the foreshore for Easter Sunday picnics and the local kayak and jet ski operator was providing the boom box music from the back of his truck. That didn't stop each family having their own music blasting forth, but nothing will stop the Puerto Ricans playing their own music and LOUDLY! Peter had read that the church was a 'must see' and so we set off on foot in search of the church, a good thing to do on Easter Sunday, we thought! We never did find the church, but we did find a wonderful roadside cafe with tables and chairs overlooking the water. The cafe sold icy cold fruit frappes and very nice hot pastelillios and salt and pepper fish on skewers to enjoy. We've come to love the meat pastelillos and these were very good. The traffic was building up on the road and the police were patrolling back and forth constantly, both in cars and on motor cycles. We've become used to see this strong arm of the law presence in Puerto Rico, both on land and at sea. The coastguard have talked to us only once and oh so politely advised the skipper that he was flying the Puerto Rican flag upside down!! Meekly the skipper apologised and they went on their way, thank goodness. We figure they know exactly what Yacht Trilogy is up to, and are leaving us alone....but maybe the real drug runners are more their target. Meanwhile along the road came two party buses, filled with very excited waving passengers, the buses all decked out with lights and horns to let everyone know it was party time....but on Easter Sunday to our amusement. It felt that no one goes to church in this part of the world.
Next stop was supposed to be a short hop away, but as with all cruising, it is very much weather dependent. The bay was too exposed to the SE wind that had now unpredictably arisen and we motored for about 20 miles before we found a suitable anchorage for the night. Alas, it was not as scenic as we had become accustomed to, and was in fact Bahia de Jobos, a mangrove lined waterway, with many nooks and crannies to tuck into. During Hurricane George, no boats in Jobos were damaged while other yachts close by were significantly damaged. We had a nuclear power plant to look at and a disused coal power facility nearby. Also adjacent was a substantial wind farm, so this picture tells the development of 20th century power generation technology. When we finally found an anchorage, the sky was looking very threatening once more and this time Trilogy got a good wash down as the rain lasted at least an hour. Snug down below, we cooked our butter chicken for dinner and ate in the air conditioned comfort of the saloon.
Puerto de Naguabo and Cayo Santiago
15 April 2017 | Cayo de Santiago
We'd now made the decision that our route would be back down the east coast, rather than across the inhospitable northern coast. It would have seemed logical to circumnavigate Puerto Rico, but the prevailing northern swell is almost impossible to get shelter from on the north and upper third of the west coast. We'd have had to be prepared to do 140 NM in one go and there was not a lot to see on the north coast that we couldn't access from another coast.
The boys had a quick swim in the choppy water next morning and then it was time to release the lines and sail south along the east coast, leaving the beautiful La Cordillera islands and reefs behind us. There was 10 knots of N wind initially that reduced to 7 and the skipper called for the Code Zero sail to be launched. After the preparations were made, the gossamer light sail was hoisted and Trilogy immediately responded! There is a lightness, a floating sensation when Code Zero is flying high - Trilogy almost soars on the light breeze as several knots of speed were added. The skipper said at one point that we were going faster than if the motor was on. But....the sky once more started to threaten ahead and it was time to lower the sail back on deck. There is a knack to everything we do in life and reducing this giant sail to a neat folded bundle is no exception, but practice makes perfect and it was in the bag and stowed, along with the mainsail dropped before the rain arrived. We had decided to anchor for lunch at Puerto de Naguabo and Peter got the rain drenching task of dropping the anchor!
With the rain still drizzling after lunch, we went ashore where we had heard music blaring from as soon as we arrived. This was Easter Thursday afternoon and it seemed like the place was already partying. The traffic was bumper to bumper, roadside stalls were selling whole fresh fish and the local cafes and bars were doing a roaring trade. Trilogy looked magnificent out in the bay with the sun now sparkling on her shiny hull. We even saw the local police stop in the middle of the road while the policeman took a shot of Trilogy on his iPhone! We wandered along the street, feeling very much the odd ones in the scene, but later mingled with the crowd in the cafes, checking out all the hot fried food they were selling. No such thing as a low fat diet in Puerto Rico. It seemed to us it was Piña Colada time and we settled into a quieter bar for a delicious cocktail. The barmaid could not believe that we slept on board Trilogy! Cars drove by blaring music from heavy duty speakers and it seemed that this was heralding a pretty big Easter which was around the corner.
Back on board, we lifted the anchor and motored about a mile to anchor off Cayo Santiago, or Monkey Island, as it is more commonly known. There was a reasonable chop on the water's surface and there was again no sun as the clouds had gathered. We opted for a glass of wine with some upbeat music, as dinner was prepared and we settled for the evening. We spotted a few monkeys down at the shoreline on dusk and could hear them calling to each other as darkness fell.
Next morning we were keen to do an exploration of Monkey Island and also snorkel on reef that promised good coral. There are big yellow signs on display, clearly warning people not to set foot on the island because monkeys do bite. Our research informed us that the Rhesus Monkey sanctuary was set up in the 1930's, in order to gather valuable data on a captive but wild population of monkeys. The monkeys naturally carry the Hep B virus and getting peed on is definitely to be avoided. The mothers are very protective of their babies and will lash out if the baby is threatened and the large adult males will become aggressive if humans do not assert themselves and insist on who is boss. A twist on things is that the humans eat in cages and the monkeys are free. When the monkeys are fed, they are extremely keen to get their share, even climbing up the keepers legs and arms. These endearing creatures seemed very much at home far from their homeland of India. At least 9 generations of monkeys have survived since the colony commenced. From the water we could see them swinging through the trees, preening each other, mothers cuddling their young, alpha males strutting their stuff and the forever playful youngsters chasing and squabbling. We continued to circumnavigate the island and stopped near a rocky point where a diver's boat was anchored. We could see other snorkellers in the water nearby and sure enough, some of the best coral and fish we've seen on this trip was waiting for us. It was a great morning's excursion.
13 April 2017 | Cayo Lobos
Puerto Rico lies a bit over 1000 miles from Miami and is the smallest and most easterly island of the Greater Antilles. The generally accepted classification of the Caribbean Islands is that they are divided into the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The term Antilles comes from Antilia, a mythical island that Old World Europeans believed existed in the mid-Atlantic. The Greater Antilles consist of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico (including the Spanish Virgins). The Lesser Antilles consist of the smaller islands from the Virgin Islands in the north and following the chain of islands of the eastern Caribbean (The Leewards and The Windwards) as they arc southward to Trinidad and Tobago.
The island is approximately 13 percent occupied by the US Military while 33 percent of the population reside in San Juan. The island is ringed by a flat coastal plain with a mountainous interior. There are two primary mountain chains: the Cordillera Central and the Luquillo. A smaller chain, the Sierra de Cayey is in the southernmost part of the island. The highest peak is over 4,400 ft and the higher mountains are near the southern and eastern coasts. The northern coast is green and lush due to the higher rainfall, while the southern coast tends to be more arid. The island is surrounded by an irregular shallow shelf, 7 miles wide at the widest point. However, 2 miles north of Puerto Rico, the sea floor drops to over 1000 fathoms. Some 45 miles north of Puerto Rico the ocean floor plunges to a depth of 28,000 ft. (Information from S. Pavlidis A Cruising Guide to Puerto Rico.)
After a leisurely start to the day, we decided to explore another nearby island, as the wind had picked up. We worked our way in through a narrow channel and selected a buoy in 6 metres off Cayo Lobos, a privately owned island. There was better protection in this spot and we donned our snorkelling gear before the wind increased. A young guy on a jet ski was having endless fun riding the breaking waves over the nearby reef. The sun was shining which made the swim more pleasurable among the coral and fish. Once ashore, we were greeted by large signs stating Private, Do Not Enter and Guard Dog, with a graphic of a German Shepherd! We stayed well below the high watermark and walked as far as we could on this tiny beautiful island with swaying palm trees and only one low level building. No dogs encountered, thank goodness!
Back on board it was time for a late lunch and a siesta for the girls while the boys worked on generator maintenance, due to a large amount of weed blocking the inlet pipe. There is always something requiring attention! The sky had turned quite cloudy, with two fronts coming our way from opposite directions! The one from the sea produced a water spout for our entertainment and the other from the land got increasingly threatening. Somehow Trilogy was sitting sweet between these two systems and we only gathered a few drops of rain on the deck. When the day trippers departed the moorings, we were left to enjoy the dramatic sky and beauty of the many islands that surrounded us. At dusk, the island lit up with a single row of lights running beyond the building and up-lighting the palm tress. The mainland was also lit up, with glittering lights all along the coastal fringe.
Isla de Palominos and Cayo Icacos
12 April 2017 | Isla de Palominos
We awoke to sunshine and Take5 still alongside. The boys washed down the decks while the girls cleaned below in readiness for another week of cruising. Come midday we cast off the lines and bid farewell to some of the Take5 crew.
We motor sailed for 30 minutes to reach Isla de Palominos, a popular family destination for Puerto Ricans. We picked up a mooring in 15-20 knots of easterly wind, as close into the shoreline as we could. After lunch we swam about 150 metres to the sandy beach, where the party was happening. Motor cruisers lined one section of the beach, each blaring out their music, trying to drown out the neighbours....it was deafening. We noticed that two boats had barbecues sizzling on the stern, something we have only previously noted happened in Australian waters.
Palomino Island is a 100 acre privately leased island of the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. As the hotel does not have a beach, the guests can access free day passes to this tropical oasis with palm trees, white sandy beaches and azure blue water. Activities on the island include walking, windsurfing, horseback riding, snorkelling, jet skis and scuba diving. There were hundreds of blue deck chairs lining the beach areas, a large cafe called Iguanas and plenty of piña colada bars to quench the thirst. There were lots of families present which makes us think that it is school holidays with Easter coming at the end of the week. Once we'd done a lap of the complex, we escaped to our own private mobile resort! We settled in for a quiet afternoon and evening, as the weather had closed in and was threatening rain...and rain it did through the night!
Next morning the sky was still overcast, but through the day the skies started to clear. The wind was from the SW but then swung to the SE but the swell continued from the north, weather not as predicted, at all! We decided to leave our bumpy anchorage in search of a quieter spot but after nearly 2 hours of motoring to various bays along the north of Puerto Rico and finding difficulties with them all, the wind abated and we anchored off d , part of the Cordillera, a small chain of rocks, reefs, and small islands. It is a 40 foot high island, covered with scrubby growth and is the second largest island in the chain. We anchored and swam ashore when the skipper had noted before he set off that Trilogy had swung on the anchor and was only just clearing a mound on the sea bottom. Before we had a chance to explore ashore, we all swam back to Trilogy and managed to find a 6 metre hole to anchor in nearby.
There was a line of buoys about 100 metres astern which allowed boats good access to a fringing reef. A catamaran and a string of tenders with tourist snorkellers arrived, which provided good entertainment while we ate lunch. By the time lunch was over, all these people had left and Sue, Peter and Garth all snorkelled to the reef to check it out. I decided to cook the evening meal of curried sausages a bit early, so that we could all relax and enjoy the sunset, which was really quite beautiful and dramatic.
Puerto Rico and Old San Juan
10 April 2017 | Puerto Rico
We all enjoyed the sweet sail from Isla de Vieques to Puerto Rico, with Trilogy topping 9 knots, reaching in 15-20 knots of ENE wind. We had hoped to find a protected anchorage at one of the small islands off shore from Marina Del Rey on the east coast of Puerto Rico, but the pervasive swell put a stop to that idea. We were granted a berth in the huge 700 berth marina, which seemed almost full nonetheless. Our first go at docking Trilogy this trip went smoothly in berth 1339, on an outer pontoon.
The marina is so large, the management run trolley carts back and forth on request. The trouble is the drivers are seeking the thrill of hurtling along the narrow piers and turn tight corners with no thought of missing the turn! However we came to realise that the drivers were all required to wear life jackets, as one trolley driver had tipped into the drink!
We opted to cook our good old standby of spaghetti bolognese on board and relax in the cockpit in the balmy evening. There was plenty to keep us entertained as it was Friday night and many people were preparing to go away on their cruisers for the weekend. One large fishing boat had a large amount of hot food delivered with endless trips back and forth from the trolley cart. They certainly weren't going to crank up their pressure cooker!
Next morning the boys made good use of the marina laundry while the girls took a taxi to Ralph's supermarket, a 10 minute drive away. Once all the jobs were completed, we had a quick lunch and headed off for an afternoon tour of El Yunque National Forest with our excellent driver Christopher. The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system. At nearly 29,000 acres, it is one of the smallest in size, yet one of the most biologically diverse, hosting 200 species of trees and plants, 23 of which are endemic.The forest region was initially set aside in 1876 by the King Alfonso XII of Spain and represents one of the oldest reserves in the Western Hemisphere. Due to its location in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico, the incoming trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean bash into the mountains, leading to an excess of rainfall registered at about 6 metres (240 in) per year.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the forest, taking La Mina Trail to descend on a well formed track, following the river most of the way to the Mina Falls. We had hoped to plunge into the deep pool at the falls but far too many others had the same idea. We ascended on the Big Tree Trail which was a total of one hour walking. The trail took its name from the magnificent 300 year old Ausobo tree, the seed being planted by a bat. The forest vegetation was rich in birdlife and bats, which keep the mosquito population under control. The local coqui frogs sound like a bird call which adds to the forest chorus. Before leaving the forest, we took in some excellent views across to the coast at the old Yokahu Tower and took in another waterfall, La Coca.
On the way back to the marina, Chris recommended a restaurant which serves genuine Cuban/Puerto Rican cuisine. We jumped at the suggestion and had a wonderful meal at Casa Boricuba. We tried monfugos, which has a base of cooked and mashed green plantain. The accompaniments to the beef, chicken, pork or fish main meals were rice and beans and either cassava with garlic and oil, fried sweet plantain or fried potato chips. We ate a small simple salad with ham croquettes and spiced chicken strips as a starter. Puerto Rican Temperanillo wine washed it all down! Our delightful hostess Migdalia made us feel most welcome and we all felt we had been served dinner in her home.
Next day, Garth's birthday, started with a special breakfast of Prosecco and sailor's breakfast (Garth's favourite), and Marilyn Munro style singing of a smoochie version of Happy Birthday. Christopher met us at 10:00 for a day in San Juan, an hour's drive to the north coast. We headed for the Old Town and after being driven passed the main points of interest, we had 4 hours of free time to enjoy the city sights. There were 3 cruise ships in port and also being Sunday, the place was humming. Old San Juan is a walled city, whose boldly coloured houses and shops line its narrow cobblestone streets, watched over by decorative grille-work balconies. There is 500 years of history encapsulated in this city, commencing soon after Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493.
Our first stop was Mallorca Restaurant for bad coffee and very good pastries. The waiters all looked like they were from a mafia film set and a trumpeter arrived to play a few tunes during our visit. We later visited Castillo San Cristóbal, a fortress built over 150 years to protect Castillo El Morro and the city from land attack. Castillo El Morro, the other fortress in old San Juan, was built to protect San Juan Bay's deep harbour from attack by sea. It was the first good harbour for sailing ships en route to the New World, after a 1-2 month Atlantic voyage from Europe.
We then had some free time which the boys used to walk along La Pella (The Pearl) while the girls wandered the narrow streets but particularly enjoyed checking out a traditional tobacco shop, with a surprising range of cigars and smoking paraphernalia. There was a smoking lounge for customers to test the cigars before buying, which had a well stocked wine cellar to support the experience. The pervasive smell of tobacco evoked memories from yesteryear!
We regrouped for lunch at The Parrot Cafe, the last time we would be with Kat and Mike, as they were to fly out from San Juan the following morning early. After a lovely birthday lunch of local flavours, we met up with Christopher for the return trip to the marina. En route, we stopped at a massive electrical store called Best Buys, where Peter purchased a replacement for Dronie. The salesman said that they had just got a supply in the day before and we saw two other drones purchased while we waited for Peter. It is a testament to the popularity of these rather expensive 'toys'!
Our day finished when 'Take 5' motor yacht cruiser, 131 foot in length, berthed alongside us! This beautifully kept vessel is skippered by an Aussie and is owned by a New York businessman (no name supplied!), but the 8 crew are either Australian or New Zealanders. There was immediate comraderie and although the crew were not able to take up our offer of coming on board Trilogy, they gave us a bottle of Californian red as a gesture of goodwill.