We needed to get some boat jobs sorted out and do a good provisioning before heading to Panama, so we decided to book into a marina in Puerto Rico for a week. With Alex belting out “Puerto Rico, you ugly island…” we cruised into Palmas del Mar marina to meet up with 4 Coconuts for Easter. We even managed to hijack Endless Pleasure, so once again there would be lots of dominoes and empty rum bottles… The marina staff were exceptional and truly everyone on the island has been gracious and helpful.
The best thing about Puerto Rico, besides the people, is Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy and Walmart. The worst thing about Puerto Rico is… Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy and Walmart! We stumbled around like recent immigrants from a third world country, fascinated by all the shiny consumer products. We also apologize in advance for the empty coffers of your inheritance…
As the gateway to the Americas, Puerto Rico has played a critical role in the development of the Caribbean since its discovery in 1493. Ships arriving from Europe needed to restock with both food and fresh water, and the island had an abundance of both. San Juan has an excellent natural deep water port which also provided secure anchorage to large warships. Recognizing the strategic importance of the island, Spain built a settlement and fortifications which have increased in size and sophistication over its 500-year history. The French, British, Portuguese and Dutch all tried to take the island, but were repulsed by the massive fortifications of El Morro in San Juan. It was not until 1898, and the Spanish-American war, that the city was overwhelmed by the superior firepower of the American battleships and Puerto Rico fell to the US. The engagement lasted two hours and the then the US fleet continued north to Cuba where they dispatched that island’s defenses with similar efficiency. This marked the end of Spanish colonial influence in the Caribbean. Of note, during the Second World War, the Americans installed artillery at the fort to defend against both aircraft and submarines marking almost five centuries of active duty.
The town of Old San Juan is one of the best examples of old world charm that we have ever seen. We toured both the old town and the fort and were taken by the architecture, but especially the attention to detail and upkeep. We were more impressed than you two, although Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream on the way home was definitely a highlight.
We leave Puerto Rico with a new appreciation for its fascinating history, charming people and all the amenities that it has to offer. This will be the last stop on our trip where we will have ready access to supplies, parts, and all the comforts of home, before we return to Florida next year. This morning we will strike out into 25kts of wind and 8ft seas for the run down the South coast the island to start the leg to Panama.