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Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI #174866
11/11/2018 10:15 AM
11/11/2018 10:15 AM
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 103
Georgia
C
cruzdoc Offline OP
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cruzdoc  Offline OP
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Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 103
Georgia
There seems to be a paucity of information for those interested in exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands compared to the British Virgin Islands so thought I would share a trip report for those that might be interested in future explorations of the Spanish Virgin Islands. This trip would clearly be easier if you could charter a boat from Fajardo in Puerto Rico or from St. Thomas with the base at CYOA, but we had to do so from Tortola where my chart company is located.

OCtober 31 – Arrive in Roadtown Tortola for sleep aboard and finish provisioning lists and dive gear. We were on a Moorings 4800 catamaran which was well equipped but, as luck would apparently have it, had its BVI registration expiring the next day and had to be renewed. The base recommended we not clear out of the BVI until the second of November to allow the registration a day to process. I still question the validity of this as it seemed quite coincidental and effected our plans the next day. We wondered if BVI registration had just not been renewed appropriately.

November 1 – Initial plan to pick up four passengers arriving to STT in Cruz bay on St. John after clearing out of BVI but the registration forces us to White Bay on Jost instead where we had a passengers ferried via a private ferry service. Slight glitch in plans but wanted to be as far west as possible to jump to Culebra the next day. Hurricane Oscar had churned up the Atlantic and forecast for the next evening was wind gusts into the high 20s and sees up to 8-9 feet swells at times so we wanted to be well ahead of this forecast.

November 2 – Cleared out of Great Harbour on JVD at 0830 and began a long sail of 41.3 nm to Culebra heading just south of Little Tobago Island on a NW course before a single jibe SW towards Culebra across the Virgin Passage. Seas had six foot swells from NE and seemed like we may have surfed down an 8 footer or two but maybe that is a fish tale on my part. wink

Arrived in Ensenada Honda and anchored, raised the Q flag, and attempted to clear in via ROAM app. Had to call CBP to get them to look at info on the app and begin processing but things ran smoothly from there until the video conferencing failed to connect. CBP thus required the whole crew to come to airport for visual confirmation which was a bit of a hassle but painless once we arrived. They seemed suspicious that I might be trying to make money as a captain bringing people to the SVI for some reason which is why I think they forced us to come in to the airport. Had video conferencing worked I think they would have been fine and allowed us to stay on the boat to complete the process.

Had a few drinks at the Dinghy Dock restaurant to celebrate the long sail with some excitable folks from Puerto Rico who were enjoying the weekend in the SVI as well. Cheers to Raphael and Omar if you are reading this!

November 3 – Leisurely morning before motoring around the corner to Playa Tamarindo with beautiful views of Cayo de Luis Pena. Picked up a National Park mooring ball and most of the crew snorkeled and hung at the beach while my friend and I went for a dive along Punta Tamarindo Grande. Good thing I had warned the snorkelers about possible swift current at the point as this was indeed the case. We quickly realized that we would have to use our secondary plan of drifting around to the other side of the point as we would not have been able to swim back against the current. A good reminder for us about the power of the sea. Dive was interesting with a cave on the northern aspect of the point and the largest lionfish I have ever seen. Alas, we had no spear to take him out. Other than 2 snorkelers dropped off via speed boat, we had the entire beach to ourselves for the most part.

We then motored over to the SW corner of Cayo de Luis Pena for lunch and more snorkeling. Picked up a NPS mooring here as well. Thought about taking the hike to the 476 foot peak of the island but trail seemed overgrown and we all decided to relax instead. We were the only boat here as well and felt like we were on a deserted island, a stark contrast to the BVI. Due to the wind gusts and seas predicted with small craft advisories still out, we decided to head back to the well protected Ensenada Honda for the night as opposed to one of the anchorages along the south side of Culebra.

More to come….

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Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #174878
11/11/2018 12:04 PM
11/11/2018 12:04 PM
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 103
Georgia
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cruzdoc Offline OP
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cruzdoc  Offline OP
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Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 103
Georgia
November 4 - With the swells still pretty high from the North to NE, we decided to skip Culebrita as originally planned and instead had a nice beam reach towards the eastern tip of Vieques averaging close to 8 knots in a 17 knot wind. Seas became confused as we reached the tip due to a thunderstorm and we dropped the sails in the lee of Vieques and fired up the iron jib to complete the trek to Sun Bay near Esperanza. Almost had to break out the rain gear on this 24 nm trip but the helm station was well protected. Anchored in the NE corner where a monohull had spent the night and a large yacht was also anchored.

We did find the term Sun Bay to be a misnomer on this day but the beach was a beautiful arc-style beach with good sand and we enjoyed walking the beach and some snorkeling. Managed to meet up with a tour guide here who agreed to pick us up on the beach and take us to Mosquito Bay to see the “world’s brightest bioluminescent bay” for ourselves at $40/person.

We were very near a new moon and moonrise was not til 0330 making this a very dark night with some cloud cover. We did the tour in four person shifts as we had read some reports of dinghy theft in the area at times, but feel that would’ve been unlikely in hindsight on this given night. The Bio Bay did not disappoint and was exactly what we had expected based on reading and watching videos. Definitely a bucket list type of experience we thought and worth the trip. This video is a very accurate representation of our experience although you cannot capture this with a regular camera or cell phone. https://youtu.be/VwfG9s1A8pI

November 5 – Would’ve stayed a second day here to explore Vieques more but limited duew to having to get two crew members back to STT on the 7th so decided to head back to Culebrita as swells had calmed down. Arrived about noon to Culebrita after making the reverse trip from the day before. We motored in the lee of Vieques again before a close hauled sail back towards Culebra after rounding the eastern tip of Vieques. This crew did excellent at water conservation and we therefore did not have to make a pit stop in Puerto del Rey in Puerto Rico for water. There are no good options in the SVI for water short of using Jerry cans in Culebra at an expensive price so plan accordingly.

Culebrita was a beautiful anchorage as is well documented but the NPS moorings (save one) are a little close to shore and would recommend anchoring in the well holding sand here unless you really trust the moorings. We had a pleasant walk to the natural “jacuzzis” at the northern most tip of Culebrita and the swells did give us quite a show. There seem to be three main sections of the jacuzzis. We stayed in the southern most section as the swells were reaching here periodically and strong enough you had to hold on. The middle section would have been interesting and likely safe in these conditions but the northernmost section would have been asking to get sucked out into the cut. This had the feel of the bubbly pool only bigger and better and definitely worth a visit.

A storm cloud again prevented us from our plan to hike up to the lighthouse ruins which we were told by others was a 20 minute hike or so. We waited toil the storm passed and decided the anchorage would be pretty rolly that night and opted to head to Bahia de Almodovar on the east side of Culebra to anchor for the night. Pay close attention to charts in these areas as there are shallow reefs and shoals everywhere.

November 6 – We got up early and took a NPS mooring on the south side of Culebrita. Beautiful snorkeling and a nice wall dive here. We had planned on more diving but sea conditions and visibility did not allow on several days. We left here around 1030 and headed around the north side of Culebrita into the Virgin Passage to begin our tack back towards St. Thomas. Fortunately, the seas had calmed to 3 feet and 12 knot winds allowed us to motor sail towards the south side of St. Thomas where we eventually dropped the sails in the lee of St. Thomas. We made our way through Water Point and to American Yacht Harbour in Red Hook where we docked for water and a few supplies.

We then motored across the channel to Honeymoon Beach near Caneel Bay for the night and picked up a mooring ball for $26. Spent the evening with some fellow bare boaters at Bikinis Bar and tossed some football and Frisbee on the beach.

November 7 – Breakfast and dropped 2 crew members at Cruz Bay to ferry back for flight from STT. Motored to west End Tortola and cleared in at the customs office without difficulty before heading to Cooper Island for the day to relax before heading home the next morning. My buddy and I had just enough time to get in a Wreck Alley dive ahead of our 24 hour mark before flying. Always a favorite dive of mine. Dinner at CIBC that night which was our first meal off the boat since eating at Hendo’s Hideout the first night. Best weather day and sunset we had by far from what ended up being one of the rainiest weeks I have ever had in the Virgin Islands. We dropped the boat off the next morning in RT before heading to the ferry.

All in all we had a great adventure and would recommend this trip for those who want a break from a typical BVI or USVI adventure. The Bio Bay is definitely worth the time and trouble to get to Vieques in any manner you choose (many use the ferry from Fajardo and stay the night while on vacation in PR). We did have opportunities to have dinners in Dewey, Culebra and Esperanza, Vieques but had great cooks on board and planned meals accordingly to save time given the longer than normal sails. Also, was very nice having many anchorages to ourselves or just one or two other vessels at most.

We did use the guides recommended on other posts from this site including the one from www.freecruisingguides.com which were very helpful. Hopefully this will provide some help in planning what I feel is not necessarily a trip I would recommend for newbies to sailing, but a worthwhile and exciting new adventure for those interested in such excursions. Will try to keep tabs on replies if there are any questions I can help with.

Cheers and happy cruising!
Brett

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #175291
11/14/2018 12:19 PM
11/14/2018 12:19 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 428
St. Louis, Mo
Dougie Offline
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Dougie  Offline
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Posts: 428
St. Louis, Mo
Likely as not, those mooring balls are USFW, as Canal Luis Pena is one of their wildlife preserves. Fishing is prohibited there, but Lionfish might be excepted. Ill be there Saturday and will update, if signal permits.

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #178050
12/14/2018 06:13 PM
12/14/2018 06:13 PM
Joined: Mar 2018
Posts: 11
Durban South Africa
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Bernard Offline
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Bernard  Offline
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Durban South Africa
Hi Brett.

I understand that we have to clear into the SVI from the USVI, but when we return to the USVI do we have to clear back into the USVI?

Regards
Bernard

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: Bernard] #178087
12/15/2018 12:07 PM
12/15/2018 12:07 PM
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 2,402
VI,PR,NY,AZ
sail445 Offline
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sail445  Offline
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Posts: 2,402
VI,PR,NY,AZ
Bernard, No you have to clear in from USVI to Puerto Rico (Culebra) because of Customs since the USVI is a Free Port.
If you go to the BVI you have to clear in.

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #181440
01/21/2019 05:06 PM
01/21/2019 05:06 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 6,084
Maryland
Twanger Offline
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Twanger  Offline
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Posts: 6,084
Maryland
Thanks for the report!
We've visited the SVI a few times and I really enjoyed it.

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #181516
01/22/2019 10:18 AM
01/22/2019 10:18 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 883
USVI
LocalSailor Offline
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LocalSailor  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 883
USVI
after over 40 years of living in STT and sailing hundreds of days a year I spent Xmas week 2018 sailing in the SVI for the 1st time.
I was impressed with the peaceful and beautiful anchorages and enjoyed it immensely. A family trip on a catamaran from Sail Caribe
in Puerto Del Rey - so I can't comment on the C&I regulations.
We provisioned in Fajardo at [Ralphs?] a good size well stocked supermarket and also brought some dinner and lunch items frozen in a cooler. Only had one meal ashore - in Vieques, Esperanza - at El Quenepo - very good.
There are quite a few mooring balls available throughout the more popular spots but I tend to anchor in most circumstances. We did use a paid mooring in Esperanza which served us well in very unsettled weather. Many of the local power vessels use the moorings stern to - the practice seems to often cause prop damage to the mooring lines so check them carefully if you pick one up.
The whole trip was wonderful in a way the BVI used to be, uncrowded and good sailing.
There are so many unspoiled bays and except for some of the more popular weekend power boat destinations it is truly a Virgin paradise.
I will be spending time there more often now having seen the beauty.

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #181695
01/23/2019 02:55 PM
01/23/2019 02:55 PM
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 394
BaardJ Offline
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BaardJ  Offline
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Posts: 394
We just returned from our 7th trip through the SVI in the past 2-1/2 years, after spending a week in the BVIs and several days in St John. Needless to say, I love it there, and it provides a wonderful contrast to St John and the BVIs. In some ways, it even makes Anegada feel fast paced (especially when I see 50 boats anchored at Setting Point on a Monday in mid-January with Potter's and Anegada Reef Hotel having 'dueling' DJs blasting music til late). We were fortunate to have several days of absolutely dry, blue sky weather. We spent 2 days & nights at Bahia Tortuga, Culebrita with very little swell. Saturday brought in 25 power boats tying up close to the beach, but unlike White Bay, Peter Island, there was no mayhem or blasting music. Just families enjoying the day. Only 1 or 2 other boats spent the night.

We had a tremendous beam reach to Vieques. The seas at Punta Esta, the eastern point of Vieques, can get very steep as they pile up in the shallow water especially if the tide is setting against the prevalent E-W current, so it's best to stand off at least a half-mile to one mile from the point as you round it (depending on tide direction).

In 2 days along the south shore of Vieques from the eastern point to Bahia de La Chiva, we saw only 2 other sailboats. We spent 1 night anchored alone at Bahia de la Chiva - one of my favorite anchorages in the BVI/USVI/SVI. At 83 deg-F in the anchorage, it was the warmest water by at least 1 deg-F that we experienced during our 2 week trip (surprisingly the very shallow Setting Point anchorage at Anegada was a 'chilly' 79.5 deg-F). There has been a significant cleanup of the beach debris and repair of the hurricane damaged pavilions since we visited last March.

We saw one boat anchored at Bahia Salina del Sur, which is still being cleared of ordnance, and we saw a 2nd boat enter the bay just as we were passing south of it. Just then a police patrol boat came along the coast, entered the bay, and approached both boats. I could see the 2nd boat start to turn so I'm guessing they were asked to leave, but I passed the bay entrance headlands so I can't confirm if they were forced to leave.

Returning to Culebra, we attempted to day anchor in Playa Flamenco for the first time, but the 4 foot north swell was stacking up waves at the entrance with a significant riptide at the beach keeping most beachgoers out of the water. We hovered at the anchorage for a few minutes to plan a future return visit, then headed for flat water at the southwest shore of the island. I counted 18 free moorings on the SW coast - 2 at the bay just north of Punta del Soldado, 5 at Bahia Linda (near the ferry dock in Bahia de Sardinas), 2 in the small bay just NW of Punta Melones, 1 at Bahia Tarja, 1 at Bahia Tamarindo, and 7 at Playa Tamarindo. There are ~12 balls along the west shore of Culebra, from Playa Carlos Rosario northwards. Only 7 of these 18 moorings were occupied at dawn.

Spent the day at Playa Tamarindo where we were only 1 other boat made a short snorkel stop. We had an unobstructed view of the sun setting over the distant southeast shore of Puerto Rico. There was excellent snorkeling in the bay with sea turtles, nice variety of fish life, literally hundreds of conch in the seagrass, and healthy soft corals.

We'll be back in March!

Re: Trip report - Spanish Virgins from the BVI [Re: cruzdoc] #181700
01/23/2019 04:22 PM
01/23/2019 04:22 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 6,084
Maryland
Twanger Offline
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Twanger  Offline
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Posts: 6,084
Maryland
Nice review Baard!

We also really like Bahia de la Chiva.
We had bioluminescence around the boat the night we anchored there, and there is very little light-pollution to get in the way of seeing it.

We've anchored in Bayo Flamenco three different trips now, and have been fortunate to not have a ton of swell, but we usually go in the summertime.
That said, the swell does get in there, and monohulls would be thrashing around. A big cat like Cuvee doesn't move much.

The thing I love about SVI anchorages is something you already mentioned. Much of the traffic is local powerboaters from Puerto Del Rey, and they are usually gone by 4pm, sometimes leaving the anchorage totally deserted. So don't despair if you arrive at 11am and are 4-rows back from the beach. Be prepared to move up after the day-trippers all bail out.


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