05 May 2013

Blows & Blasts in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Culebra - anchorage in Ensenada Honda

We arrived in Culebra and dropped the hook in Ensenada Honda - a huge landlocked bay - just off the little town Dewey. It's a little island with a population of just 1'800 East of Puerto Rico and part of its commonwealth. Together with Vieques to the South of Culebra they are known as the Spanish Virgin or the Passage Islands. After the hustle and bustle of St. Thomas with its cruise ship traffic the idea of staying in this sleepy and non-touristy place for a couple of days felt appealing... Just that in the end we didn't just spend "a couple a days" there but almost two weeks! Due to weather, of course.

The original plan was to enjoy Culebra for 2-3 days, then head on to Puerto Rico, pick up Marco's brother Serge, circle the Spanish Virgins for some time together, sail back to Puerto Rico to explore the island before his departure. But it started to BLOW and the sea state was predicted a mess for days. So change of plans - Serge booked last minute an additional flight from San Juan PR to Culebra. We figured better to be stuck in a spacious anchorage on this nice little island than in a marina in Puerto Rico. Even though it meant to get soaked with saltwater on each dinghy ride to shore... We rented a car for one day and zoomed around the whole island. Top of the list was to pay Flamenco Beach a visit - the water is really almost like in the Bahamas, so clear.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra

Then you have to eat in Zaco's Taco's and it was well worth it. Even Marco who isn't a big Mexican food lover ate 4 tacos! To go snorkeling was not an option as it was just too windy. But as friends of ours have written in their blog: "Culebra is a 3-4 days island. After 3-4 days you probably have done all there is to do". Fortunately there was the "Dinghy Dock", a bar and restaurant with - as the name says - a convenient dock to tie your dinghy on. They had a sign up that said: Free Beer Tomorrow! We were there so often for some beers (unfortunately never for free) or a bite to eat that the staff (and the regular guests) knew our names... I guess this meant it was time to move on or we'd have stayed there and become liveaboards!

We started to make plans as soon as the weather seemed to clear up. We wanted to visit Vieques and friends of ours offered to point out on the chart where they had been and what they liked. There was one particular anchorage on the South East in which they found the snorkeling to be nice. "But there are some bombs, so you have to be careful on where to drop anchor", said Ron. "Bombs? Did you say there are bombs?" I asked stupefied. "Oh yeah", was his dry reply. He made me giggle. I knew that both islands have been gunnery and bombing practice sites of the U.S. Navy since 1939. In Culebra they removed the Navy in 1975 after people had began to protest. Vieques wasn't so fortunate, the Navy withdrew much later in 2003 and only because of a lot of political pressure. The islands have been closed off by the Navy for 40 to 60 years which means they were undeveloped for tourism. Or in other words - they are sleepy, unspoiled islands with pristine, deserted beaches. But nevertheless we don't want to lose our boat in a BLAST because we dropped the anchor on a bomb! Therefore we decided against going in this particular anchorage and sailed to Green Bay on the West of Vieques instead. Also recommended by our friends, we were only two boats and it was gorgeous! Miles of white sand beach lined with palm trees and clear water. Nevertheless, I decided to snorkel and check what's around our anchor. And guess what? A lot to see but at least not any kind of unexploded grenades or similar...phew!

Green Beach, Vieques

From paradise with love

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