3rd February 2013 – San Juan, Puerto Rico

We had a nice sail from St Martin, with the jib poled out, main out and preventer on. Chris a less seasoned sailor took us pretty close to a fishing boat and woke Nick C up to ask are we to close? Nick C said “considering we can hear the engine and see the people perfectly in the middle of the night I would say yes we are to close”.

We arrived at Puerto Rico in the afternoon and had to contact U.S. customs as Puerto Rico is a U.S protectorate. We did most of the paper work over the phone and were then told we had to go to customs. We hoped in a taxi and went to see customs, at first the customs officer were friendly asking about our ESTA visa waivers and where we had been etc. They asked Nick C what happened in 2005 to which he replied I crossed over the Canadian Border without a passport to America before being taken away, interrogated and then let back into Canada. That was all cleared and it was now Javier’s and my turn, they said we are illegally in U.S. territory and as we entered by private vessel and not a commercial signatory our esta visa waivers were deemed invalid and we had 2 options;

Option 1: Be deported, not be allowed to sail my boat out and never be allowed back into the United States of America

Option 2: Pay $585 per person to get an expedited 6 month visa

After a big negotiation we realised the only option was to pay the money. We asked if they took card but they only took cash, a real extortion if you ask me. Who carries around $1070 in cash? Fortunately for us Roland does. We then paid for it and were put in lock up until the visa paper work was sorted out, this took around 4 hours. Finally after being driven home by the customs officer who had now taken pity on us illegal aliens and spending $1070 we were allowed legally into Puerto Rico. We explored el Morro the Puerto Rican fort and learnt all about Puerto’s strategic position in the Caribbean.

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