Finally enough wind for a fast passage arrived, so the next morning at 0700 we carried on west for 25 miles, to Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, another first for us. A northerly swell may be arriving today, so it was good to get tucked up inside Ensenada Honda inlet before then. We have friends on ‘Partners’ anchored here, waiting for us.
As we left, 2 cruise ships were already docked in St Thomas and we saw another 2 heading that way as we sailed to Culebra. We had a fast passage despite having a reef in the genoa, averaging 6.5 knots but often seeing nearer 8. This was fast enough to comfortably cope with the swell and we were anchored off Dewey by 1130. The wind was around 15 knots just behind the beam and Beyzano likes that sort of weather. We had to gybe when we got near the bay and again for the narrow gap between the 2 navigation buoys but the holding was excellent and we were more sheltered than in any of the anchorages further south in the bay, especially the one behind the reef.
Next was a trip to the airport to clear Customs. We left the dinghy, unlocked for a change, at the Dinghy Dock Bar, as it seemed safe enough. Everyone is so friendly here and the barman called us a taxi to get to the airport, costing 6 US$. We arrived to find nobody from Customs there so another kind soul called the central Customs and Border Protection agency hotline, something we should have done apparently, if we had had a US phone. It is a violation to leave your boat without calling first but they let us off as I pleaded ignorance. I had at least 15 minutes on the phone giving information about us, our boat, passport numbers etc and then we had to wait for Customs anyway. They were both really helpful and explained the US entrance system to us a little more and we realised we had never been given the correct number to register our arrival. It isn’t that straightforward as it depends where we go next as to whether we have to call the central phone line or not. Clearing out is a matter of where you are going as well as Fajardo in Puerto Rico is covered by our clearance in Culebra, so we don’t have to call in advance.
It took a couple of hours to get everything done but the airport is cool, there are washrooms and little planes to watch, so no great hardship. We had to get a cruising permit, costing 37 US$ but this sees us through until the end of August, in case we leave from here in July for Bonaire.
We then hired a golf cart at Jerry’s Rentals opposite the airport to see the island tomorrow, walked the 15 minutes back to the Dinghy Dock Bar and had a drink to celebrate our arrival in a new island. It feels like we are on holiday now, everything being new! The bar is lovely, with a great atmosphere, a Happy Hour from 3-6pm and a good menu. We met a few holidaymakers, were offered a lobster meal in Maine by one lovely couple for next summer when we hope to get there and saw lots of sailors. It is clearly ‘the’ place to hang out.
We met Richard and Lavinia from ‘Partners’ for lunch and a stroll around Dewey, the main town. There are plenty of places to eat and provision, a couple of fuel stations, so we have everything we need. We will enjoy exploring this island over the next week or two before moving on to Puerto Rico.