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Culebra – Forgotten Virgin or the next St. John? By Mike Kirk


irgin Islands a well-known nesting means different site for some 85 things dependspecies of seabirds ing on your cultural and endangered sea point of view. The U.S. turtles. and British Virgins are Checking into well known by their Culebra from the east respective national oriis an interesting expegins, while to many rience. Clear into the native islanders they U.S. Virgins in the are just “The Virgins.” usual “informal” way (International borders at the customs dock are for travelers — not in St. John (see your for indigenous folk cruising guide). But who have common arriving in Culebra, roots.) However, this you are required to parochial pride and check in again. notoriety masks the Tom Tangveld single-handing his wooden Culebra Island sloop. Photo by Mike Kirk. Sounds tedious, but unsung individuality the Coast Guard is of these “Spanish Virgins,” displaying a culture as indenow issuing yearly stickers to make any entry into the “US pendent as Puerto Rico. Situated some 20 miles east of of A” much easier. So, assuming your boat is legal and has Puerto Rico and some 20 miles west of St. Thomas, this is an a $25 sticker, it’s all done by telephone. Simply pour youreasy weekend haunt for Puerto Ricans exploring the bays self rum, and from your arrival anchorage grab your cell and islets around the two main islands of Culebra and phone. Call the Culebra Airport at (787) 742-3531. With Vieques. passports and sticker number in hand, you will be checking The trip from St. Thomas (USVI) or Tortola (BVI) is, in sitting in your cockpit and enjoying an evening cocktail. however, well worth it for the seclusion, spectacular beachWhat could be a more civilized benefit of your tax dollars! es, bird watching and diving opportunities. Enjoy the (Tip: As always with immigration, be polite and gracious as downwind run across or around the Grampus Banks with the hike to the airport to do this the hard way can take half the strong east to west current, but remember to allow for a day.) the reciprocal slow return home. These forgotten Virgins Arriving from the east, you will be delighted with can reward you with quiet bays and true gunk holes. Dakity Harbor situated behind an exposed reef at the Caveat: Unless you “party hard,” Puerto Rican style, avoid mouth of Ensenada Honda. Several mooring balls are availthe Puerto Rican/U.S. holidays when those same getaways able, but anchoring anywhere in the two- to three- fathom become a focus for salsa/swim parties on the muscle boats lagoon is comfortable if they are full. Try to catch the unobof the Puerto Rican “navy.” structed sunrise with your morning coffee. When looking As of this writing, two-thirds of Vieques is still under for civilization, you can proceed to the island’s only towngovernment-restricted access despite the cessation of bombship, Dewey, at the head of Ensenada Honda. Anchor west ing. So the easiest way to enjoy the Spanish Virgins in a few of Cayo Pirata out of the mooring area. Look for Tom days is around Culebra and its neighboring 23 cays. Tangveld’s hot little Island Sloop, Buenadago, anchored here Colonized in 1879 by the Spaniards, much of this seven- by in the roads. On shore there is the inevitable Dinghy Dock four-mile island is the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge Restaurant (is this a franchise?). While serving three meals under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a day, seating for dinner starts strictly at 6:00 p.m.—using a 58

November 2005