Category Archives: Puerto Rico

MOVIE TRAILER – by Ronan(10) and Ryan (11)

Ronan (10) and Ryan (11) made a “movie trailer” for our Caribbean cruising adventures. We added it to our “VIDEOS” page at: https://pilotsdiscretion.com/videos/. We are also sharing it here, below. I think we found our new videographers! They had a lot of fun making it. We hope you enjoy watching it! Click on the below image to play.

We have also created a dedicated YouTube channel  where we have compiled the videos from our blog, and uploaded additional videos from our journey.  To view the videos click on the link below (or copy and paste into browser):

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC94z5hCIrRiEvY8MTJegTbA.

El Morro, Old San Juan, PR

Passport Renewal Procedures for U.S. Minors Cruising the Caribbean – by Theresa

Passport

Passport

If you are cruising, or thinking of cruising the Caribbean with minor (under 16)  U.S. citizens, be sure to  check the expiration dates of their passports and leave plenty of time to navigate the renewal process. As a practicing immigration attorney, I routinely track and monitor expiration dates of clients’ immigration documents. Recently, while cruising geographically halfway down the Caribbean chain, we had the pleasure of navigating passport renewals for our minor crew aboard, Ryan and Ronan.

Unlike U.S. adult citizens , whose passports are valid for 10 years, minor U.S. citizens’ passports are only valid for five years. Since some countries require at least six months remaining validity on a passport to allow entry, this effectively limits the duration of a minor’s passport to 4.5 years. In addition, while U.S. adult citizens have the option to renew their passports by mail, U.S. citizen minors must physically present themselves, their renewal application, and original supporting documents, along with both of their parents, at a US passport agency. Not surprisingly, other than the U.S. territories in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, there are no U.S. passport agencies located in the Caribbean. Logistically, this requires a trip to the United States, or a U.S. territory, either by boat or by plane. These are all factors to consider when planning one’s cruising itinerary.

Standard and Expedited Passport Renewal Procedures (6-8 weeks)

DS-11

DS-11

As mentioned above, to renew a U.S. citizen minor’s passport, the passport application (Form DS-11), and original supporting documentsmust be submitted in person at a passport agency or authorized passport application acceptance facility. The child and both parents must be present. There is an option to have only one parent appear with the child(ren), so long as that parent has signed and notarized authorized consent from the other parent on Department of State Form DS-3053. This option at least allows for one parent to stay with and attend to the boat.

If you do not happen to be cruising with all of the required original documentation, i.e. birth and marriage certificates, you will need additional time to order them online, by phone, or by fax and have them shipped to you. The processing times and fees to order the original documents vary from state to state and agency. It cost us $10-$30 per document (additional fees to expedite) and took between 2 to 10 weeks for delivery. The time required was variable from agency to agency. As they say in the commercials, “your experience may vary.”

Standard

Standard

The current standard processing times for a passport renewal is 6-8 weeks. The passport agency personnel takes and holds the minor’s original documents, including their passport, while the application is pending. Original documents, the old/canceled passport, and the newly issued passport are returned upon completion of the application process 6 to 8 weeks after filing. This generally is not a problem for landlubbers, however for minors cruising the Caribbean, no passport means they cannot leave the United States and  return to their boat for 6 to 8 weeks! For an additional fee of $60 , you can request “expedited” processing and the passport agency will aim to complete processing in 2-3 weeks, however there are no guarantees. If there are any problems with the application, fees, or supporting documents the process will be delayed.  Whichever route you choose, suitable long-term accommodations will be required. For additional information regarding passport renewal procedures for minor U.S. citizens go to the Department of State website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/under-16.html .

Emergency Passport Renewal Procedures (24-48 hours)

Emergency

Emergency

If relinquishing your child’s passport and ability to travel for 6-8 weeks while the renewal application is being processed does not sound appealing, there is an alternative “emergency passport application” process. To apply for an emergency passport, all of the above standard processing requirements must be met. In addition, you must be able to document, via confirmed flight itinerary, international travel within two weeks of the date of the  scheduled passport appointment at a Regional Passport Agency. Only certain locations will process emergency passport applications. You can locate these locations on the U.S. Department of States website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply/agencies.html.  Again, not surprisingly, other than Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory,  there are no locations located in the Caribbean. The most convenient office location that we found, relative to our boat’s position, was in fact, San Juan,  Puerto Rico.  We left the boat in St. Martin and flew to Puerto Rico. We scheduled the earliest available appointment at 7:30 am and received the passports that same afternoon!

The passport office in San Juan, Puerto Rico is located directly across the street from Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which is a nice place to stroll while waiting for your application to be processed.

Anticipating it might have taken more than a day to process the renewals, we scheduled to be in Puerto Rico for several days. We made the most of our visit by touring Old San Juan and El Morro Fort.

All of this process may seem intimidating at first. To be fair, we found all of the folks that we interacted with at the various agencies to be both professional and genuinely interested in helping us address our somewhat unusual traveling constraints (at least from the perspective of our landlubber friends). The key to a successful outcome is proper advance planning.

Pet Import Requirements in the Caribbean – by Theresa

Patton driving the dinghy

Patton driving the dinghy

We have been receiving a lot of inquiries through our site recently about the customs and immigration issues associated with bringing our Cocker Spaniel “Patton” along with us as we have cruised throughout the Caribbean. As such, we have updated Patton’s page to include a compilation of helpful contact details and information for various island nations that we have visited in the Caribbean over the last year and a half (2014 – 2016). For those interested in cruising the Caribbean with their four legged friends check out Patton’s page under the “About Us – Patton – Customs and Immigration” on the header above or visit:  https://pilotsdiscretion.com/about/patton/customs-and-immigration-issues-specific-to-bringing-patton-along/ or send us a reply message below.

The Indians, British Virgin Islands

Puerto Rico, The Spanish, U.S., & British Virgin Islands – by Theresa

We have been remiss in posting updates lately, partially because we have been busy running the boat, partially because we have had limited access to internet, and mostly because we have been enjoying the company of friends & family that have flown in to visit us.

El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico

El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico

Prior to departing the mainland of Puerto Rico, we had the opportunity and pleasure of travelling inland to visit El Yunque National Rain Forest where we spent the day hiking and swimming.

El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System and was well worth the day long exploration.

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When the next appropriate weather window presented itself, we  set a coarse east stopping first in Ensenada Honda, Culebra, in The Spanish Virgin Islands; next in Francis Bay, St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and then on to Sopper’s Hole where we cleared immigration and customs  in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Having bareboat chartered in the BVI on two previous occasions, we experienced yet another surreal moment after clearing in to the BVIs in our own boat. Familiar with the islands from prior visits we immediately set off for some of our favored destinations.

Pilot's Discretion moored in front of The Last Resort, Bellamy Cay, Trellise Bay

Pilot’s Discretion moored in front of The Last Resort, Bellamy Cay, Trellise Bay

Trellis Bay, Beef Island was our next stop as it is a 5 minute easy access walk from the airport for visiting guests. Of couse no stop in Trellis Bay would be complete without visiting The Last Resort on Bellamy Cay in the middle of the Bay.

Next we crossed the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Great Harbor, Peter Island.  Great Harbor is less frequented by charter boats and we enjoyed a quiet evening at Ocean’s Seven restaurant ashore, and the solitude of only a few other boats moored around us.

No trip to the BVI for visiting guests would be complete without stopping at The Bight at Norman Cay.  From there, we snorkeled the Indians and the caves at Treasure Point, and also visited Pirates and the infamous William Thorton’s (a.k.a. Willy T’s).

We are currently tucked in at Nanny Cay Marina which is headquarters to several large charter companies. As such, it is a full service marina with a hotel and resort-style amenities on premises, making it another good spot for meeting visiting guests. It’s mid-island location on the south side of Tortola also makes it an ideal location for island hopping.

We still have much more of the BVI to explore and are looking forward to sharing additional updates on our journey as time and internet access allows.

The South Coast of Puerto Rico: Puerto Real, Gilligan’s Island, Salinas & Palmas del Mar (18° 4.746″ N, 65° 47.743″ W) – by Theresa

South coast of Puerto Rico

South coast of Puerto Rico

We have been on the move quite a bit over the past 10 days. Part of that has been driven by our desire to take advantage of favorable weather windows and part of it is that we would like to be in the British Virgin Islands by mid March so that we can meet friends and family that are planning on visiting while we are in the BVI.

We had a wonderful time at the Cap Cana Marina in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic but at the risk of sounding like the boys, our newest favorite spot will likely be replaced at the top of the list by our next stop.

Cruising past Mona Island

Cruising past Mona Island

The day we left Cap Cana was a big one for us as it was the day we would transit the infamous Mona Passage. The 80+ mile trip from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to Puerto Real, Puerto Rico was at times challenging with large seas and little comfort to be found for the first few hours. Once we had moved sufficiently south and east of the Hour Glass shoals, the ride became much more civilized and we settled in for our transit. We were treated to natures wonder time and again, first by flying fish by the hundreds all around Pilot’s Discretion, then dolphin, and ulitmately by a massive hump back whale breaching less than a hundred yards off the Pilots’ Discretion starboard beam.

By the end of the passage, we had seen things in one day that many people will not see in a lifetime. We successfully navigated our boat across the Mona Passage, left one country for another and arrived feeling very much like we had grown both as a family and a functioning crew.

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Our first port of call in Puerto Rico was a charming little fishing village by the name of Puerto Real. The marina is an excellent facility in a well protected harbor. The town has a very quaint, small town feel with excellent re-provisioning stores nearby. The weekend we arrived was the Marina Pescadería Sailing Rally and the associated festivities at the marina were an added enjoyable bonus for all. Everyone we met were very helpful and understanding of our B+ attempts to communicate in Spanish.

Anchored off Cayos de Cana Gorda (a.k.a. Gilligan's Island), Puerto Rico

Anchored off Cayos de Cana Gorda (a.k.a. Gilligan’s Island), Puerto Rico

After enjoying a couple of days in Puerto Real, we moved south and east around Cabo Rojo to Cayos de Cana Gorda, also know by the locals as Gilligans Island (a not so subltle reference to the islands resemblence to the island in the Bob Denver comedy sitcom of the same name). We anchored off the island and spent a quiet evening in company with three sailboats.

At sunrise we were underway again, this time headed for Salinas, Puerto Rico. Salinas is another one of those spots the cruisers love. There were probably 50 boats in the harbor when we arrived.

Wind farm, Salinas, Puerto Rico

Wind farm, Salinas, Puerto Rico

It was rewarding to listen to the boys discussing the wind farms we saw along the coast  excited that they had just recently read and learned about them in homeschool.

We would have liked to stay and explore a bit but we are feeling the need to keep the odometer rolling to be in position for our soon to arrive guests. Hence, another sunrise and another day underway finds us now tucked into the marina at Palmas del Mar, on the east coast of Puerto Rico, just south of Fajardo.

It is here that we celebrated another birthday aboard the Pilot’s Discretion when Patton turned 13!

Patton's 13th birthday

Patton’s 13th birthday

The next leg of our journey  will take us to the Spanish Virgin Islands. It really does at times feel like this must be a dream. We have been blessed to have an opportunity to experience this trip. Stay tuned, we love sharing our journey with all of you.