We left Fajardo on August 10, 2017 and headed towards San Juan. The waters were calm, but we had enough wind to use the sails. Even in the smooth seas, Liam found it more comfortable to sleep rather than fight his slight seasickness. We have learned to just let him be.
As we approached the edge of San Juan, we wondered if we would be able to tell which part was Old San Juan. Mile after mile of buildings passed. Liam made his appearance as we got closer. He enjoys taking photos almost as much as I do, so he took over the camera for a while.
Before too long, we came upon Castillo de San Cristobal (or as Erik says, the castle). Just beyond was an older section of town with it’s boxy buildings and Crayola colors. There was no doubt that this was Old San Juan. It was so beautiful from the water.
We sailed past San Felipe del Morro Fortress which is on the other side of Old San Juan. The boys were so excited to know that we were planning a day of exploring the forts and town.
As we entered the harbor, a Pilot boat quickly made its way to us leading us to the anchorage area. We were pleased with this due to the fact that we had no idea where we were going. There were several other sailboats in the anchorage area, and we were close to a marina with a fuel dock.
After successfully anchoring, we took our dinghy over to the marina. The dock master was a very nice man allowing us to park our dinghy there for free while we took a trip to the grocery store for supplies.
We took an Uber van to the store which was about a 20 minute drive. The store was packed with people but very clean and stocked. We had trouble getting an Uber back to the marina, so we ended up having to schedule a ride. What showed up was a tiny little 4 1/2 seater car. John sat in front with the driver. The boys and I crammed into the back, and the groceries were smothered in the trunk. The driver was super friendly and talkative telling us all about his family.
We puzzled the supplies in to the cabinets and spent the rest of the day doing laundry and relaxing.
The next morning we headed out to tour Old San Juan and the forts. We initially tried to park the dinghy close to the town but the Coast Guard redirected us after telling us there was no dinghy parking that close. So, we ended up parking the dinghy back at the marina and riding the bus to the town.
We were told at the bus stop that there were trolley stops all over the city that would take us right to the forts. We waited just a short time before hopping on a trolley that took us to Castillo de San Cristobal.
We watched a short film of the history of the two forts…first in Spanish and then again in English. We felt pretty educated at that point.
The fort was expansive and open enough for the boys to run. There were tunnels, and towers, and big grassy lawns, and ramps up and down. It was hot outside. We saw cannons and cannonballs, Iguanas, and beautiful views of the city and sea.
We toured rooms and dungeons, climbed staircase after staircase, and played on the Battle Retreat Lines.
We were pretty hungry after touring the first fort, so we walked into Old San Juan in search of something to eat. We found a little restaurant that was serving Plantain Lasagna, and they gave us a taste to see if it appealed to us. We really liked it, so we ordered two regular Lasagna Plates and two Plaintain Lasagna Plates. Of course we were communicating with extremely broken Spanish and ended up with WAY more food than could be consumed. We could have done with two plates and still had leftovers.
Erik chose not to partake in the meal that he couldn’t identify, so the three boys and I went in search of something more Erik friendly after we finished eating. John stayed behind where there was WI-FI to work on our next route. It started to pour rain while we were on our search, so we ducked into a souvenir shop and didn’t come out empty-handed.
We found a little food stand with things that appealed to Erik. Chicken Empanadas and Coca-Cola. He liked it so much that he ordered another one and ate the whole thing. Liam and Glen decided that they needed to try a Virgin Pina Colada which they really enjoyed.
The rain stopped after about 30 minutes, so we decided to walk through Old San Juan towards the second fort (San Felipe del Morro Fortress). The streets were steep, and narrow, and made mostly of brick.
The heat started up again shortly after the rain stopped. Luckily on our walk toward the fort, we found a city fountain where children and a few adults were playing. The boys wanted to stop, of course, and managed to get sopping wet. After a few minutes of watching them, I decided that I too needed to get in the fountain to cool off.
The boys found a statue of Juan Ponce De Leon and asked me to take their photo.
The walk to the fort was just a short distance from the fountain. There was a very large grassy hill in front of the fort and a cemetery right at the ocean front. The boys played on the grassy area while John and I made our way up to the entrance. We read that on the weekends, the grassy area is populated with children flying kites. I’m sure that is a beautiful site.
The two forts were very similar but unique in their own ways. We especially liked the story about the Garitas or sentry boxes that were perched all over both forts walls and great places to lookout.
We took the trolley back into Old San Juan and walked many many blocks to get to the bus stop. It was evening, and the buses were few and far between. We managed to get on the correct bus after John talked to several people about routes.
We arrived back at the boat in the late evening. I had left the windows barely cracked while we were gone for ventilation…big mistake. Since it had rained, the water made its way into our main living area, under our cabinets, and ruined a ton of our food. We had to empty out all the storage areas and put everything out to dry. It was a disaster but a great lesson learned.
The next day was the arrival date for our friend Juan. He was flying in from Houston to spend the next two weeks with us. The boys met a fellow sailing kid on the boat parked next to us. Her name was Thalie. She came over to rope swing and cannonball off the boat. Glen and Thalie had a swimming race back to her boat where he met her mom. Both kids are great swimmers. Everyone had so much fun. I wish that we had met her sooner, but we are still in touch and maybe will meet up again one day.
Juan arrived in the late afternoon. He was so nice to bring us a ton of towels…which we desperately needed after the flooding incident. Pretty much as soon as he got there, we pulled anchor and started the journey towards Turks and Caicos.
I didn’t want to leave San Juan and hope that our journeys take us back that way someday.
My trip from Fajardo to San Juan
When I got to San Juan, I could see a castle. I went in the castle. In it I got a cannon. I saw a lighthouse. It was blue and white. I saw a cannon. It looked like my cannon. I saw cannonballs. I saw a retreat line. That is where they retreat.
I got to the boat from the castle, and someone named Thalie came over. We did the rope swing and jumped off the side of the boat and the dinghy racks. Glen and Thalie swam to Thalie’s boat.
Our trip from Fajardo to San Juan took a little while, but when we were coming in, we saw all the forts by the water. They looked like castles. When we came in and anchored, we could see the fort from our boat. The water there was brownish but there was no trash or any thing like that.
The first day we got there, we took the dingy up to a dock and got an Uber to Wal-Mart where I got some sunglasses.
The next day we went to the fort. It had cannons and the walls were about 10 feet thick. They had old churches and bakeries and all kinds of different rooms. The fort was first made by the natives then the Spaniards who had the fort for a long time. The British tried to take the fort but failed, and the Spanish had the fort till the Americans took the fort and still have it. We could see our boat from the fort.
The next day we went swimming in the water. We invited a girl named Thalie that lived in the boat next to us, and we swung off the rope from the mast. Thalie and I had a swimming race, and I won, but it was close. Later Juan came and moved on, and then we were off.
When we got to San Juan, the first thing I did was take some photos. We came into the city cruising along the outside perimeter. We could see the Old San Juan Fort from where we were.
We anchored somewhere past the giant barges. The spot we anchored at had a lot of boats in it. The water was cool, so we took a swim.
The next day we went to Old San Juan.
Old San Juan was a small town next to the fort we saw coming in. We came into the fort on a long, uphill, wide path. The entrance was filled with tourist, a two person band played in front of a golf cart, and the trolley would come and do a circle in the opening to drop off and pick up people. We explored the castle which had many levels. The top-level was the one with all the cannons and a lighthouse. The lighthouse looked really out-of-place, because it was really brightly painted. The rest of the fort was really worn down.
There were a lot of gift shops, and Erik got a little toy cannon. After that we went into the little town. We Looked through the gift shops for a while. It started raining, so we went to an Empanada bar with umbrellas. Erik had 2 chicken Empanadas, and Glen and I shared a nonalcoholic Pina Colada.
A boat next to us had two people on it. A girl who was eight and a mom. The eight-year old named Thalie swam over to our boat and swung off the ropes into the water with us. She played at our boat pretty much all day.
Later that day, our dad went to go pick up a friend from Houston. His name was Juan. Juan got on to the boat, and Thalie left. Glen and I made up this joke about Juan and John coming to San Juan.
That’s about all we did at San Juan.