While I know I wont get much sympathy from those who have endured another harsh winter back home, but a few weeks ago I was getting bored with cruising. We were here living in paradise, but yet the excitement had worn off and the cultural experience was lacking to say the least. The reality is we had transitioned to a slow pace and while the US and British Virgin Islands are great vacation getaway spots, I think I have about 42 years to go (age 75) before I could be content to just sail those areas for an entire winter.
One of the reasons I had wanted to go cruising was to see new places and experience cultures that are different from north america. The US and British Virgin islands do have the relaxed caribbean feel, but culturally don’t come across as that different from the rest of North America. The other aspect of these islands is that they are heavily influenced by the cruise ship traffic, and like so many other caribbean islands the ports of call are all becoming the same. Blocks of shopping that open up when the ships are in port with a few restaurants and when the ships leave they get shuttered. The locals don’t shop here and when the ships are gone it is a ghost town. It might seem more exciting if it wasn’t the same chain jewellery, electronic and souvenir shops in each port.
And yes, I have ventured beyond the tourist areas, climbing up the hilly streets and wandering through some of the local neighbourhoods and even the subsidized housing complexes near the cruise ship dock to get a feel for what it is like to actually live here. And for the risk averse, I have been been asked for money by locals more times in downtown Kitchener or Toronto than anytime I wandered beyond the ‘tourist’ district, despite that tourism as the main economic driver likely isn’t good for producing a lot of middle class incomes.
Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago we made an excellent decision and continued west to Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands and part of Puerto Rico. Just coming into Ensenda Honda towards the town of Dewey, I had a great feeling that culturally this was going to be different. And it has been a refreshing change.
Tacos at Zacos anyone?
Downtown by the ferry dock:
For only 2000 people population they have better looking fire trucks than some small rural hamlets in Ontario.
This must be a beast to drive down the narrow streets.
Outside of the town of Dewey there are some fantastic beaches and snorkel spots, so we headed out towards the uninhabited island Culabrita. Due to the large north swells we weren’t able to get into the better anchorage pictured below, so instead we anchored for the day on the South West corner to visit the island. We look forward to returning hopefully without a north swell so we can anchor in this bay:
The hiking trails are very easy on Culebrita, so we explored.
And the old lighthouse ruins are quite impressive. This was obviously a nice house in its day, but they have since blocked off access to the old light tower.
We returned to the town of Dewey so that we could explore the western shores of Culebra in the dinghy to do some snorkelling. While we were there a hippie couple anchored a little too close for comfort. We watched the boat swing towards us a few times and contemplated saying something, but they seemed quite relaxed with their position, so when they left in their dinghy we pulled up our anchor before a squall swung us into each other.
We didn’t expect that we would also be pulling up someone else’s old fisherman’s anchor at the same time. No chain attached so we weren’t pulling someone else’s actual anchor. Surprisingly this is actually the second anchor we have pulled up with our own since we arrived in the islands. The first one was a dinghy grapnel anchor which we still have.
As for the snorkelling, the coral was great and we saw a decent number of fish. Due the weather the water wasn’t extremely clear, but we now understand why people rave about the snorkelling.
Magnus is always keeping a watchful eye on us when we snorkel.
The picture doesn’t do this one justice, it’s huge!
These ones like to hide when they see you coming, but luckily there wasn’t a good hiding spot this time.
This guy looked a little grumpy to see me.
We have since returned to St Thomas for a few days to visit our next door neighbours who were in port on a cruise and to meet up with our friends on Second Wind as well. We have since returned to Culebra for a week with our second set of visitors and we will soon be headed to Puerto Rico.