Isla Culebra is just about 30 miles west of our last anchorage (Red Hook) in St. Thomas, but as soon as we dropped the hook here in Ensenada Honda harbor we realized we had entered a whole new kind of place. There were no charter boats, no mega yachts, and no rolly swells. As we went through our routine of tidying up the boat, we watched a few small charter planes take off, admired a solo cruiser drop anchor, and enjoyed the swift breeze that cooled off our below decks to almost chilly (we have a new scale for chilly these days!). We looked at each other with big grins on our faces and said, “Cool. This is really really cool.”
Culebra was used by the US Navy as a gunnery and bombing practice site until 1975, making it off limits to cruisers until relatively recently. The largest settlement – sometimes called Dewey…sometimes Culebra…most of the time just Town – is a sleepy place with a US Post Office, a bank, a brilliantly painted bridge and LOTS of good food. Although we are still in the Caribbean, the vibe here is very latin. Logan and I both speak some Spanish, but it will take us a while to work up the confidence to start using it. People here speak both Spanish and English so it’s a great warm up before we head to the main land of Puerto Rico. There are two main roads here, making directions incredibly easy – you go straight either this way or that way until you find whatever it is you are looking for. Since we have been here almost a week now, we have been both this way AND that way.
We decided to do a beach tour of the island, but there are so many here on Culebra that we had to choose! First we made our way to the popular Playa Flamenco and were taken aback when we walked onto mile long white crescent beach full of palm trees, reef to snorkel and abandoned tanks. Maybe we should just stay here for the day?!
After lunch we made our way to Playa Tamarindo which lured us with the promise of sea turtles. For the past six months, we have been watching sea turtles come up for air and get some sun on their shells from the deck of our boat (or from Princess Ding-a-ling). But they seem pretty skittish and don’t tend to stick around for long. But this was going to be my day to finally swim with one, I could feel it. SUCCESS! And not just turtles, we saw big sting rays and even a spotted eagle ray! For the record, I assume all turtles have the same personality as they do in Finding Nemo, “What’s goin’ on bro? Why are ya hoverin’ up there?” Totally worth making our way over the rocky beach.
For our last stop, we ventured over to the east side of the island to Zuni Beach. All of the beaches here close at 6pm – for the turtles! They come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach at night but lights and sounds will scare them away. There were signs everywhere providing education about protecting the sea turtles and their eggs. We decided to walk the beach…and it kept going and going and going. By the time we reached the end, we were totally alone next to a rocky cliff covered in rock art. We couldn’t see any people, couldn’t hear any sounds other than crashing waves, couldn’t do anything but take it all in.
The latin culture, the fantastic beaches, and the unbelievably calm anchorage make Culebra one of our favorite spots yet. We also feel like cruisers again. In the BVI’s and USVI’s we sailed in circles, but now we are sailing west, leaving each beach behind us, the next anchorage just ahead of the sunset. We dig it.