Last week I left you at Luis Pena Island off of Calebra. We stayed here for the night, because it gave us an easy departure point to sail 8-10 miles south to Viequez (although I have seen it written as Vieques also). After a fun and fast beam sail we arrived at Isabel II, which sits about midway along the north shore. This town has a natural harbor due to a ¼ mile drop of the coast to the south giving it some shelter, but don’t expect too much protection when you are here. One of the best features of this town are the fort that sits on a hill over the town. This was the last fortification built by Spain in the new world. Apparently it cost so much to build the Queen asked if they were using actual gold bricks for the construction material. There is also a wonderful example of a Spanish lighthouse, unfortunately it was closed and I do not know when it will open again. All of the Spanish lighthouses I have seen follow the same architectural design. There is a rectangular building with the living quarters and a lighthouse built a top this about 20-30 feet. One final stop for my parents and I was at Mamasonga. This unassuming looking café turned out to have unbelievable food. Yummy!!!
After lunch we raised anchor and motored upwind along the north coast only to find the anchorage on the northeast part of the island literally closed. The anchorage is called Bahia Icacos and is considered to be one of the best in the eastern Caribbean, but to no avail. There were signs on the beach, buoys in the water, and all three entrances had orange floating booms across them. There was no question cruisers are not welcome at this time as the Navy cleans up the ordinance left after their years of bombing the island.
Since we did not have much of an option we took an hour or so and whipped around the eastern tip of the island and anchored in Bahia Salina del Sur on the south coast. You will find a nice sandy beach rimmed cove that is protected by a reef for you anchor. This bay is also in the most heavily bombed area of the island and is only about a half a mile overland to the closed bay. Therefore not a lot of cruisers think of coming here, but as long as you don’t go ashore (and watch where you anchor 😉 ) you will be fine. My mother and I snorkeled of over an hour looking at all the debris left behind. We found two shipwrecks, which we can only assume were used as target practice, and several pieces of ordiance (ie bombs and shells). I found it fascinating, but I think my mom found it a little disturbing.
After snorkeling we sailed to the town of Esperanza and anchored between Cayo Real and Cayo De Tierra. I usually do not have issues with holding, but I feel this anchorage’s holding was very poor and I would recommend anchoring west of Cayo Real or pick up a mooring ball. While walking around Esperanza you will notice a bit more of a touristy feel. I think this is due to Bahia Sun which is a fantastic bay with an amazing beach. Plus the best place to see bioluminescent (microscopic creatures which light up when disturbed) in the entire world is right here at Mosquito Bay and there are several companies offering two hour night tours for around $40. I would highly recommend joining one of these tours, because the bay is protected and fuel based engines are not allowed in the bay. Also it is at least a mile and a half kayak to the next bays and you would have to do this at night in unprotected water. Seeing the water light up when you move around in it was pretty amazing and quite captivating. After about an hour a small rainstorm came through and the entire bay light up as the wind kicked up small waves. This was absolutely beautiful…and cold as you are standing on a bay, in the rain, with the wind blowing on you. One final stop in this town is the local “stonehenge”, which is a rock outcropping on a small hill. I am told the native Taino Indians moved some of them to form a religious site. If you seek this site out I guarantee you will see something few others visit. It was picturesque and I thought worth the walk to see it.
We spent our final night on Viequez on the west coast. Here you will find beaches all along the coast and all you have to do is pick the secluded spot you want to call your own private beach. Be careful though you might end up wasting away several days as you enjoy the beaches, snorkeling, and solitude on this end of the island before you head to the east coast of Puerto Rico, which I will be writing about next week. So make sure you come back!!!!