Monday, November 29, 2010

Culebrita - more exploration

We awoke once again to our deserted anchorage and mile-long white-sand beach laid out before us.  Hard to believe if you look carefully behind Mowzer in this picture that all the mooring balls in the anchorage are empty and we haven't seen another boat since the family in the power launch at the beach left yesterday afternoon.  This has been our experience in the Spanish Virgin Islands; perhaps it is the time of year early in the season, but it has been delightful.

We decided to tackle the hike to the lighthouse on Culebrita this morning before it got too hot.  The first challenge, as it was yesterday, was finding the trailhead.  Once you know where it is on the beach is is very easy to find, but there is no signage and the same path leads off towards the bubble-pools before branching off up the hill to the lighthouse.  I think "path" is a rather charitable way to describe what we followed.  In places it was wide open under trees although you had to watch not to step on hermit crabs who follow the 'stop-drop-&-roll' principle of trouble-avoidance, but in many other places we were tearing our way through thorn trees who's every intent was to leave us battered and scraped so we could truly feel we'd earned the reward at the top of the hill.  Culebrita lighthouse was built by the Spanish in the late 1800's and sits atop the 350' headland at the southeast end of the island.  It is now a (maintained) ruin but one can imagine it's former splendour when you realize that the beautiful black and white floors are hand-hewn marble tiles.

The view from the top of the tower is spectacular; a full 360 panorama spanning from Puerto Rico in the west to St. Thomas in the east, Vieques in the south and the empty Atlantic to the north.  The wind did it's best to get us to release our grip from the rotting iron structure at the top, but I am happy to report we were all victorious in that little spat.  This particular view is of St. Thomas about 20 miles away and gives a preview of the crossing we will be making tomorrow as John and Eleanor need to be back to catch their flight home on Wednesday.

We spent the remainder of the glorious day revisiting the bubbly-pools and snorkling the reefs lying right alongside Mowzer in the anchorage.  We had a wonderful turtle sighting and the reefs were full of wonderfully coloured and colourful characters.

Having read a number of the cruising guides for the area, many of them rave about Bahia de Almodovar back on Culebra.  Before the sun got too low we decided to cross over to the bigger island and check out what makes this anchorage so attractive.  Much like the Ensenada Honda / Dakitty Bay anchorage we stayed in back on our first night on Culebra, Almodovar is located behind a reef that protects it from the wave action outside; just a light chop flows through the anchorage.  However, it is a windy spot so the wind is whistling through the rigging and the halyards are tied back to stop them slapping on the mast.  The bay is backed with mangrove trees and the odd house dots the hillside above, but to be honest I am at a bit of a loss as to what makes this such a 'beautiful' anchorage.  Very practical yes from a weather protection point of view, but not as pretty as many of the others we have stayed in.  Perhaps we are just getting a little picky and will have to come back down to earth with a bump!

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