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Spanish Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands

We loved the Spanish Virgin Islands! It would be easy to spend a season here. It’s the quintessential Caribbean cruising scene that we’ve read about over the years. White sand beaches backed by swaying coconut palms, turquoise blue waters dotted with live coral reefs and brilliant tropical fish, brilliant blue skies with puffy white cumulus clouds… except without the hordes of boats and crowds of people on the beaches and reefs that you're likely to find in other parts of the Virgin Islands. The town of Dewey, on Culebra, has a very sleepy, laid-back, "out-island" feel to it, even though a $2 ferry ride brings you to Fajardo on  Puerto Rico in under two hours, and there you'll find huge American shopping malls and marinas, even a West Marine! We really enjoyed our time at Culebrita, with it's perfect white sand beaches, great snorkeling, and a cool hike up to the old lighthouse. The path leads through an amazing assortment of ecosystems, from arid semi-desert with comical Turks Head cactus, through a low and lush marshland, under shady low trees and finally up the hill to the ruins. The beautiful stone lighthouse was built by the Spanish crown in the 1880’s to establish Spain ’s sovereignty of the area against the British and Danish,and now has a U.S. Coast Guard solar-powered light. Unfortunately, it has become the victim of neglect, vandalism and hurricane damage. Neil and I climbed the rusting spiral stairs to the very top of the tower, whose cupola was blown off in a storm a few years back. From there we had absolutely breathtaking views of the islands and reefs and our boat anchored below in turquoise waters. Liv had a great time imagining we were going to move to the building and restore it as our home: she planned where we would sleep and where the living room would be. It certainly sounded good!

The last picture, above, shows a beach just a few minutes walk south from the main anchorage. After our climb we were very hot and sweaty so we dove into the crystal clear water. We had the entire pristine beach to ourselves! Neil had seen the surf break from the lighthouse; unfortunately when we got down to water level it proved to be only a foot high! We saw lots of wildlife on our hike, too. Liv loved the hundreds of land hermit crabs ("Hermies!!!!"), and we saw evidence of deer which we later found out are White-Tailed Deer, the same species we have back home in Maine. In the 1960’s they were imported to Culebra and St. Croix as big game for hunting expeditions. They have adapted to this rather foreign environment, although they are much smaller and less robust than our New England deer.

We next headed over to the big island if Vieques to visit with Neil's family friends Elaine and Gene Blood. It was great to see them, and we enjoyed a dip in their pool and an evening beach party with their friends in gorgeous Sun Bay on the south side.

 

Our favorite stop on Vieques was at Bahia Icacos, on the east end. Until a few years ago, most of Vieques was used by the U.S.Navy as a weapons testing ground and ammunition dump, much to the (understandable) outrage of the native islanders. It did, however, have the effect of postponing rampant tourism development, and today the island is lined with miles and miles of pristine white beaches with no buildings in sight. At Bahia Icacos, the only signs of people we saw were some trucks which were clearing mines and stopped for lunch at the beach, and large signs warning people not to venture further inland and not to touch any man-made objects, since there is still unexploded ammunition about. In any case, we had a lovely time simple beachcombing, swimming, and snorkeling. Puerto Rico has a year-round lobster season, and Neil was thrilled to bring us dinner again!

But it was time to head east. We had a marvelous sail (a real sail!) to St. Thomas, paralleling the drop-off so we could fish. It paid off when we saw a flock of feeding tropicbirds and altered course though them. Bam! Bam! We had two hits on our lines. Neil and I each grabbed a rod and reeled it in. They were small Blackfin Tuna, yum! We ran thought the school again and got another two hits, and had dinners for a week..... Here we are sailing into Charlotte Amalie at Saint Thomas  a few minutes later. Notice the stalk of bananas hanging under the dodger. How tropical is that?

We were looking for Galadriel, and didn't see them in Charlotte Amalie, so we continued east to Christmas Cove, where we spent the night. The next day we caught up with Galadriel at Jost Van Dyke in the B.V.I, and had a fantastic sushi feast with them. The next day we went to the "Champagne Baths" at Diamond Cay on Jost Van Dyke, which were like the "Jacuzzis" at Culebrita, and lots of fun.

For almost two weeks, then, we waited in the U.S.V.I. for some boxes of Liv's books to arrive. We explored the south side of St. John, particularly enjoying Salt Pond Bay with it's great snorkeling and lobster fishing. We met another "kid boat" there, Flying Shadow, and Liv's been having a great time with Abbie and Bruce. Every time we went over to Red Hook on St. Thomas for supplies, Neil and I would get sucked into the fabulous fishing store there: like kids in a candy store!! Anyway, we finally have our boxes and we're in Gorda Sound at Virgin Gorda right now. We've got to get out of the Virgin Islands, though. It is stunningly beautiful here, but also just waaaay too expensive for our budget. We plan to spend a day or two, then stop at The Baths on our way to St. Martin, our next destination!

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