Donald M Street Jr is a Caribbean sailing legend. He plied these waters for 40 years in his engine-free yawl and literally wrote the book, plus most of the charts. We still use his pilot notes on Escapade even though they are now 20 years old. The guru has this to say about the Spanish Virgin Islands: “they beat the BVIs 16 ways to Sunday.”
We don’t really know what that means, but it sounded good so we made the 40 mile passage from St Thomas, hoping to get off the beaten track a bit. Now we seem to be quoting Don’s line every time we round a new headland here and see what lies beyond.
Also known as the Passage Islands, they are Spanish speaking and part of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The islands were used as a firing range by the U.S. Navy for many years, some areas are still restricted due to the risk of unexploded ordnance, we did snorkel over the odd rusting bomb.
In Culebra we anchored behind the coral and slept on deck in the cool breeze. Cicadas singing in the mangroves, shooting stars above and phosphorescent plankton flashing in the water below.
At Culebrita we anchored in a beautiful bay equipped with its own natural rock-lined swimming pool, a promising little surf break, nice breeze for windsurfing, coconut trees on the beach and wilderness beyond.
In Vieques we sail in to a huge bay protected by reefs. Not a building, person or boat in sight. Anchor drops in 5′ of transparent water over white sand dotted with red starfish. We are alone, apart from the turtles and rays swimming around us and pelicans crash-diving for prey.
Supplies are running low so we climb for green coconuts and dive for conch. Both foods quite labour intensive, but tasty. (We cook conch like an ormer.)
Down the coast in the little town of Esperanza we buy supplies and find great restaurants. It’s Easter holiday time, locals are camping on the beach and merengue music is playing.
There is a bit of low-key tourism here now, One of the bays was judged ‘2nd most beautiful beach in the Caribbean’. We sailed straight past. Who ever compiles these lists really needs to get a boat! None of our favourite beaches have any road access and we could suggest several, all of which would beat that one 16 ways to Sunday.
Whatever that means.