Spanish Virgin Islands with Jeff and Terry
12 April 2016
The Spanish Virgin Islands are the lesser known of the three VI's. They consist of two larger islands, Vieques and Culebra and a host of smaller islands surrounding them. SVI's are located about halfway between Puerto Rico and St Thomas but are part of Puerto Rico. From the SVI's it is easy to see both PR and St Thomas, each about 20 miles distant.
We planned our stop there because Jeff and Terry McClellan travelled to Vieques to meet us and sail on Uproar after a few days on land (dirt dwelling). Our journey From Bahamas to the Caribbean overshot Puerto Rico so we sailed back downwind to the SVI's. Uproar made landfall at Culebra a few days before Jeff and Terry arrived. We loved it. The small town of Dewey is a delight. It is a favorite vacation spot for Puerto Ricans who take the ferry from Farado on the eastern tip of mainland PR or fly into the small airport. There is a definite PR flavor to the area, food, architecture and people. Everyone had a ready smile and most were bilingual. Getting around in English is no problem.
Anchorages in Culebra range from the main harbor in Dewey to smaller anchorages protected by low reefs. Our favorite was on the SE side of the island, Almodovar. It appears open to the Caribbean but a submerged reef made it a quiet place to drop the hook. Vistas of Culebra and the beautiful little sister, Culebrita surrounded this small lagoon.
Lisa and I sailed Uproar next to Vieques to meet Jeff and Terry. This was a nice reach of about 18 miles to the harbor of Isabella. Isabella is the major town on Vieques. There is more going on in Isabella than sleepy Culebra. Isabella still had that old, Spanish atmosphere with a prominent town square and old buildings. It reminded me a bit of the French Quarter (first settled by Spaniards) in New Orleans. They love their horses in Vieques. Most just roam free, including through the streets of town. In the evenings, there were several riders showing off their fancy and fast trotting through town. Everyone seems to know everyone and they were shy but helpful when approached.
We met Jeff and Terry at the dinghy dock and quickly found empty stools at the Azul (blue) Bar. It is so nice seeing friends from home. The next morning Jeff and Terry showed up with a rented car and we toured the south side of the island. There are more protected anchorages on the south side. There is another small town with a lot of guest houses, bars and restaurants on the south side. This is clearly where the beach goers congregate. That night we found our favorite spot, the Sombrero Viejo (old hat) bar. From there we had a nice dinner at some place that served nice dinner.
Day two started bright and early (OK for vacationers) on Uproar with a short sail to Cayo Blanco. We anchored in the lee of this island and enjoyed some great snorkeling. After lunch, it was another great sail back to Isabella. Jeff and Terry checked out of their hotel and joined us on Uproar. I believe there was another venture to the Sombrero Viejo but don't hold me to it. Anyway, it was a rolly night at Isabella. The anchorages on the south side are more protected but didn't quite fit our travel plans.
On to Culebra. I promised Jeff and Terry we would catch at least a Barracuda. We fished on the energetic sail to Culebra and came up with just a small Spanish Mackrel. It was a great appetizer for the large lobster tails we purchased in Vieques. We had two other hits and both bit off the line. One bit through 200 pound test mono like nothing! Tucked away in Dewey harbor, Culebra, we cooked on board Uproar. Now Jeff and Terry are Chopped (River Retreat version) Champions and we ate well.
The second day on Culebra was golf cart day. The 850cc demon golf cart took us to Flaminco Beach, rated #3 in the world by National Geographic. Yes it is spectacular. We swam and survived in the surf. Even caught a few waves that inevitably pounded us into the sand. We traveled to another beach and hit just about every road on this tiny island. Milka's Grocery was our last golf cart stop and late lunch at the seafood truck next to the gas station. Sorry I don't know the name of that truck but it was some of the best food of the trip. It looked like a permanent set-up. Just look for a brightly painted truck near Milka's on the canal that runs through Dewey.
Dinner was at the Crusty Crab. This is a very small restaurant on the main drag. They serve only seafood and do not have a liquor license. We were encouraged to bring our own wine which we did. Prices were reasonable and the food was tops. George, our waiter, was most helpful and chatty. Lisa and I went there our last night on Culebra after Jeff and Terry flew back to beautiful Wisconsin.
Now it was time for some peaceful, quiet time on Uproar, well not completely quiet but it sure was a peaceful last few days with Jeff and Terry. We sailed to Culebrita and snorkeled on a gorgeous beach. Swell was a bit much so we went back to Almodovar bay. We knew the route through the reefs by heart and the promised Barracuda bit! Jeff hauled in a nice one. Unfortunately, we are afraid to eat “barri” due to Cigutera parasites. This is a bad thing that some barri have and some don't. I have heard many versions about how to tell if the fish is safe and don't believe any of them! We gingerly un-hooked him, keeping fingers well away from those snaggle teeth.
The next day we sailed to a northern bay on Culebrita. This was a beach that rivaled Flaminco but a lot less crowded. We hiked to the top of the island to visit a lighthouse ruin from the late 1800's. It was quite a hike and a bit hot and muggy on the trail. Oh, there were mosquitos too but no one had welts from the bights. We should be so lucky with Wisconsin mosquitos. We spied a fisherman snorkeling from a small boat. I carefully approached him in our dinghy. He said when he was done, he would come over to Uproar and sell us some fish. He sold us a 5 pound snapper that landed on the grill that night. Yummm! Another swim and back to Almodovar.
Sadly, the next morning required a sail (motor actually) to Dewey so Jeff and Terry could fly home to cold, gray weather and jobs. We are so glad you guys could join us. Please come again and stay longer. No dirt dwelling next time!
The Spanish Virgins were a delight we may have missed if not for Jeff and Terry. I highly recommend them as a charter trip. Don't know how easy it is to get a boat there but the sailing is fun, anchorages beautiful and secure, people delightful and there is really a local culture to enjoy. Sailing distances are short so if you have just a week to cruise this area, you will have time to see some great spots. Troll a pink and white lure and I guarantee you a Barracuda!