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Part 1 Apr. 11th - 2.5 Months to Departure - Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 27

Key Biscayne - Grapetreee Townhomes

I had forgotten how much work it is to plan an expedition. This journey is far more complicated than circumnavigating Florida. A year ago, all I needed to do was to dolly my kayak out of my living room onto the sand, take a few back-and-forth trips for the gear, and give a strong push off the beach. This time the kayak, and everything and everything that goes with it, has to somehow find its way across the Caribbean before I can even look at the waves in San Juan and contemplate the feeling of whether or not or not I make it back to my starting point. There will hopefully be a time to think that, but it isn’t now.

Flying the kayak is out of the question. Air shipping with FEDEX or UPS is more than $400 per bag, each way. I have three very large bags, and too much respect for money, even if I would be paying for it with tainted Trump money.

The clearly best and only option is to send the equipment by sea. I dug around Miami and I discovered a company called Crowley Maritime that sails a cargo ship to San Juan once a week. “If you can fit it on a pallet or two we can ship it.” said a lady over the phone. “You’ll need to have the three bags with your kayak at our facility for us to give you final pricing, but from the measurements you provided, it will be around $200 total. The ship sails Wednesdays and arrives on Sundays.”

“Oh, that’s expensive, but much less than air shipping. How much of that price comes from the Jones Act?” I asked jokingly.

“We don’t have a line item for it.” She responded with a sharp quip.

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The Jones Act is an obscure law from the 1920s made to shield American shipbuilders from competition. It states that if you ship anything between two American ports, then it has to be done on an American made ship, with an American crew. We in the mainland usually don’t think about it because so much of what we buy moves by rail, truck or plane; imagine the inconvenience if to send something using FEDEX, you had to use a truck made in a US factory, with an American truck driver, or if you wanted to fly between Miami and New York, the plane couldn’t be an Airbus. Alas that is how it is with sea shipping. Puerto Ricans get squeezed by the Jones Act. I remember hearing that when hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017, there weren’t enough qualified ships or crew to bring in supplies from the mainland and a lot of time was lost in the relief effort.

“Oh, and remember, there is an 11.5% excise tax on the value of anything you are importing into Puerto Rico, even if you are coming from the mainland, ” said the Crawley lady.

“But I don’t remember how much my kayak cost me, and it’s used. Who knows how much it’s worth now. It will go back home with me when I’m done going around the island.” I said with concern. The kayak, plus all the gear is easily $5000, what that would mean a bill north of $500 at least. “Well then you can declare it as a personal item, which would not be subject to the excise tax, but it might have to go through inspection, and that could tie it up for a week, maybe more. We can hold your cargo for 6 days once we receive it in San Juan and it clears inspection, so plan accordingly.” That won’t leave me many days to plan ahead of time to book plane tickets.

Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation


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