This weekend we made use of the light winds to visit a few of the bays by boat, staying overnight in one of the loveliest anchorages in the Caribbean.
On the east coast of Culebra is a narrow entrance into Puerto del Manglar but there are two white markers on the port side to help you avoid the reefs. Fortunately our electronic navigation plotter is accurate again, having shown us sailing on the land in some areas such as through the cuts into Rodney Bay, St Lucia and Spanish Water, Curaçao. We resort to our iPad then, with both Navionics and Blue Garmin charts downloaded. They are excellent and have proved very accurate and useful, especially Garmin’s Active Captain reviews, which are added by other cruisers.
Puerto del Manglar is a calm enough bay but there is another just adjoining it to the south that is even better. If you take the western channel past the small reef (it is marked on some charts as an island but it is no longer above water), keeping the mooring buoys close to port, then you are fine. We still had over a metre and a half of water under us (we draw 2.1 metres) and once into the Bahia de Almodovar there is plenty of water over a white sand seabed, great for anchoring.
The moorings are marked ‘day use only’ and this keeps the abandoned boats off at least. The bay is spectacular, protected by a visible reef; a couple of small islands and it is beautifully calm inside. The breeze keeps us cool and the view is one of our favourites, just looking over the water crashing over the reef and out to sea.
Earlier in the day we spent a few hours at Isla De Culebrita, a small island on Culebra’s east. Again, stunning water and a few small, sandy beaches but the coral is in poor shape. There are only two moorings, both with sandscrews rather than blocks and you should take one before anchoring in sand only, not coral. There were some shallows near us over coral and rocks but not worryingly close. If you feel energetic, there are trails on the island and a great viewpoint from the lighthouse but the park closes at 1800.
The following day we decided to stay another night in Bahia de Almodovar as it was so entrancing but were soon joined by several modern fishing boats from Puerto Rico, many rafting up together and tying a stern line to the mangroves to allow the breeze to get into their cockpits. Fortunately they were not there to party and we slept well in the calm and quiet anchorage. We snorkelled over the reef and saw a couple of rays but otherwise there wasn’t a lot of sea life.
We explored the bays on the western side of Culebra the following day, going to the west of Cayo De Luis Pena before taking a day mooring in Bahia Tamarindo. There are four white buoys with blue stripes but again, day use only. You can anchor in the deeper water if necessary and there are markers delineating the beach area from it. It would be a pretty bay if it weren’t for the rubbish tip on the hill above it.
Now back in the town anchorage, we have been using the fast WiFi at the Community Library, which is near the Milka supermarket and only a few minutes walk from the two dinghy docks.
They ask for a fee of just 1 US$ an hour for their donation box as the library is staffed by volunteers. There are a few tables and chairs on the decking outside but if you prefer the cool of the air-conditioned library, there is a separate area with computers, a scanner and printer available. They sell CDs, DVDs and books too, to help their funding.
They also have a charity event on St Valentine’s Day to raise funds for the animal welfare organisation, with food, music and an auction and it promises to be a good afternoon, so if we stay here a bit longer we’ll go along to support them. With only 2000 inhabitants, there is a village atmosphere about the laid back island, with everyone knowing one another and they are very welcoming to visitors. As usual I am feeling ‘at home’ and in no rush to move on.
This week we need to call up Cathy, to have our laundry picked up, dinghy our dive tanks to Culebra Divers to get them filled and Skype with the ‘children’ before we move on.
We often get asked ‘which is your favourite island?’ but it is hard to say. We now have several for different reasons. For tranquillity and clear water: Anguilla, Barbuda, Carriacou, Culebra, Klein Curaçao, Les Saintes (off season) and St Johns in the USVI (except the 15 US$ daily charge!). You can find empty bays on most islands if you look hard enough though. For provisioning: Antigua (cheap wine), Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Thomas and Trinidad. Trinidad, Martinique and St Martin are good for boat equipment and maintenance. Bonaire is our diving destination and safe for hurricane season.
Our top bays, so far and in no particular order, are Bahia de Almodovar, Deep Bay, Carlisle Bay and North Sound in Antigua, Low Bay in Barbuda, Tobago Cays off Union Island (but often busy in high season), Pain De Sucre in Les Saintes, Anse Canot in Marie Galante, Waterlemon in St Johns, USVI, St Annes in Martinique, Tyrrel Bay for the Slipway Restaurant and Gallery Café!, Admiralty Bay in Bequia, nearly all the bays in Culebra, Blanquilla (half way between Bonaire and Grenada), Klein Curaçao and Benures Bay in the BVI.
We are going to move on within a week or so, to Puerto Rico where we know a couple we met in Bonaire in 2012 who live in Salinas and hope to see them when we get to PR. No doubt there is a Facebook page as I have already joined the Cruisers Groups for Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua and Culebra and am sure there are many more. They are a good source of up-to-date information, especially what’s on socially and also for security issues.
So, we have been thanking our lucky stars again lately, as we really feel we are living our dream in paradise, with glorious sailing weather and amazing islands. As the Christmas winds were short and sweet this year, I wonder if hurricane season will be worse as a result. Time will tell.