Culebrita, Culebra, Vieques and back
ALL WAYS BOAT NEWS – APRIL
In the Spanish Virgin Islands we first visited Culebrita about 18 nm from St. Thomas. It was a pleasant down wind sail with several other boats heading west. Culebrita is a tiny little island near Culebra, with nothing there but a beautiful clear water horseshoe anchorage called Tortuga Bay and the remains of an old brick and stone lighthouse left over from the 1860’s. It’s deserted now but does still works as a solar powered lighthouse. It looked like it must have also been either a barracks or an observation post. The colored marble floors were still perfectly in tact and still colorful. And the turquoise colored stone on the tower walls was quarried from the stone outcroppings around the bay. The bronze dome of the lighthouse had been blown off by some long ago hurricane but lay nearby on the ground still in one piece. The path to the lighthouse was populated by hermit crabs everywhere. Did you know that hermit crabs change shells as they grow? When they get too big for their own shell, they find a larger abandoned shell and pull up along side it, inspect it with their claw and then in the blink of an eye they hustle out of their too small shell and dive into the new shell. There is also a place there called the Baths by locals as it is lower than the sea coming in, which causes a clear water pool 3’ to 10’ deep as the waves splash in and then drain off down the other side. That evening, March 11, we watched a glorious huge full moon come up over the palm trees.
Culebra is the bigger island and is the most progressive of the Spanish virgins in self sustaining alternative energy resources. We anchored inside the huge Ensenada Honda Bay and close to the dingy dock on the west side where the major part of town is located. They have a new high school there which is completely solar powered and the roof is a cistern collection system that helps serve the whole island as they have no natural fresh water supply. The rest of the water to the island comes from an underwater pipeline that runs all the way from Puerto Rico 19 nm to Vieques and then 12nm north to Culebra. The island also is well equipped so that after a hurricane they can quickly restore power and communications. A $1 ferry ride can get you to Fajardo, Puerto Rico in about 1 1/4 hour for the 20 mile ride.
After Culebra we headed for Vieques. As you approach the island from the East you need to call ahead on the VHF to the Vieques Range Control to inquire if there is going to be any bomb explosions as you pass. We were traveling in a caravan of 3 boats. We had been unable to get the Range Control to answer our calls. As the first boat entered the first anchorage we had planned to visit the Range Control finally came over the radio stating “There are hundreds of unexploded ordinances where you are and you are putting your vessel and everyone aboard at great risk.” If those words don’t make you turn tail and run nothing will. During the several days we were there we heard several loud explosions as the military tries to clean up the area and set off all those thousands of unexploded bombs. It’s a little disconcerting to be relaxing in your cockpit and suddenly hear a huge KABOOM just a few miles away. Vieques is an interesting mix of bohemians, ex-patriots, and left over military personnel. There are lots of Paso fino horses, presumably brought there originally in the days of the conquistadors, which the kids ride around the island bareback at top speed on the weekends. The one lane road thru the beach town of Esperanza is the source of much jockeying for position as pedestrians, kids on horses, private vehicles, mini-van taxis, and occasional motor scooters all try to travel the same route. The larger main town of Isabella Segunda (II) was named for Queen Isabella the second by Christopher Columbus and is home of the last fort built by in the New World by Spain. The fort has been beautifully restored into a museum of historic relics. One of the anchorages we visited is home to numerous white, almost clear colored large jelly fish, hence their name – Moon Jellies. We had several that liked hanging out right behind our boat by the dinghy. No swimming in that water. The next bay over, Mosquito Bay is famous for being the 3rd largest Bioluminescent area in the world. They are like fireflies in the water if you can imagine. At night any disturbance of the water creates trails of light in the water as the bioluminescents move. If you put some of the water in your mouth and then spit it out it is like a fireworks fountain going off.
We sadly said goodbye to the 2 boats we had been traveling with for 2 weeks and are now back in St. Thomas anchored inside the bay Charlotte Amalie close to the dingy dock at Yacht Haven Grande. We had a nice eight hour sail back to St. Thomas from Esperanza, 42nm, 12 to 18kt winds on several tack changes. Now waiting for the north swell to dissipate so we can head to St. Croix, the largest of the USVI’s. This last particular north swell was predicted to be rather large, 12’ possibly, which is not good for anchoring at Christiansted the main yacht anchorage at St. Croix.
This weekend St. Thomas was host to the Rolex Regatta race. There were over 60 entries. Yacht Haven Grande had the finale awards party and movies of the race on an outdoor screen with hundreds of sailing enthusiasts cheering their favorites across the finish line. Even though there are lots of boats here for the event and partying ashore, the anchorage is not crowded and has good holding in 17’ of water and no one seems to have a problem dragging into each other. However, one rather large cruise ship seems to have left in a hurry and stirred up the water with its huge bow thruster and upset the anchorage for about a half hour as everybody seemed to be pointing in different directions and rather close to each other. I had to push one yacht with our dingy to keep the two apart till the water settled down (the owner was not on the boat). There was also one very windy night (gusts of 30+ knots) and all the boats, including ours, swung wildly too and fro all night. It was like playing ‘ crack the whip’ with our anchor being the handle of the whip and our boat the snap at the end. It was a very strange sensation. There is one private yacht here that is so big it resembles a small cruise ship, named after a south american indian tribe and it’s large enough to house at least one entire village. It is too large to fit into a slip so he had to tie up to the fuel dock (which is as long as a cruise ship). This marina charges $4.75+ per foot per day for large yachts so I can imagine what his dock fee must be at 300+ feet or so. Anyway, they just refueled and took all the diesel fuel until the end of the week. We are now having to go over to another marina's fuel dock so we can fill our tank with 20 more gallons to be able to head out to St. Croix. Maybe tomorrow.
Best boat name heard this week on the VHF radio, “Anger Management”. Here’s hoping all your angers are being well managed at the moment.
All Ways H. and C.