Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spanish Virgins: Cayo de Luis Pena!

We left just before dawn on the overcast morning of January 20th, to take advantage of the light winds and calmer seas as we headed east. It was spectacular to slip out of the harbor beneath the looming promontory of El Morro, then head east along the shoreline to view Old Town San Juan from the sea. We enjoyed the sense of the history behind the waterfront area and the gated city as we passed. It really was an interesting port, and one we really enjoyed!
Old Town San Juan from the Atlantic
The forecast was true to form, and the seas were lovely, just 3-4’ in a fairly gentle ESE swell, with none of the nasty, short, bouncing chop of our previous passage. We cruised a solid 6 hours under increasingly sunny skies, making our way through the eastern islands and cays of  Puerto Rico until we reached the small National Wildlife Refuge of Cayo de Luis Pena, just to the west of the Spanish Virgin island of Culebra. There we found a beautiful protected anchorage on the northwest corner of the island, in the lee of the stiff SE trade winds, where we dropped anchor in a good 25’ of water. We found that we could have anchored in much closer to shore than we did, as these islands are not the shallow waters of the Bahamas, the Caicos Bank or even the Chesapeake! There is deep water -- 30’ - 40’ -- until quite close to the shoreline of these spectacularly rugged islands. But, not being familiar with the depths of these waters, we were cautious in our anchoring, and stayed offshore a bit. We had no idea that Puerto Rico’s Spanish Virgin Islands were so mountainous and serene: wild goats roamed the hillsides above our anchorage, with  stunning bits of beach tucked in between rocky crags and cliffs. The beach itself is a protected sea turtle nesting area. It was isolated, remote and starkly beautiful, to say the least! 
Craggy rocky shoreline of Cayo de Luis Pena
Pristine and remote, the colors glowed along this shoreline
We stayed on anchor there a couple of days, first giving the boat a thorough loving wash-down, rinse and dry after its salty passages of the past week. While we had the boat washed in San Juan, Ron and I put in a good 4 hours of time between us to really do the boat with care. It looked gleaming and gorgeous in the beauty of the anchorage! We enjoyed the solitude, swimming, snorkeling and walking along the beach before moving on. A couple other sailboats shared the anchorage with us before we left, but it was a cruising anchorage to remember. Gorgeous!

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