Spanish Virgin Islands Yacht Charter, Caribbean
A yacht charter in the Spanish Virgin Islands takes one on a journey back in time. Until recently the islands were off limits to charter yachts as they lie within the territory of the United States Navy. The uncomfortable possibility of either being targeted by a torpedo, or arrested for espionage, kept most charter yachts away for many years, preserving the natural charm and landscape of the Spanish Virgin Islands. Nowadays, the passage is safer and the islands still hold the charm, of yesteryear.
The Spanish Virgin Islands, or Passage Islands are an untouched, pristine Caribbean boating bliss boasting spacious white and mostly deserted beaches, crystal clear turquoise blue water, and healthy intact reefs teeming with fish, coral and crustaceans. With nearly empty anchorages, the Spanish Virgin Islands have the natural charm of the British Virgin Islands forty years ago.
The Spanish Virgin Islands (formerly called the Passage Islands) consists of three major islands of Vieques, Culebra and Culebrita and a myriad of smaller islands located west of the Virgin Passage midway between the island of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If you're expecting the glitzy nightlife of St Maarten or Antigua though, the Spanish Virgin Islands is not the right yacht charter destination. Culebra is spotted with local cafes and restaurants which may be open, or they may be closed, depending on the proprietor's whim - it's all part of the enchanting island way. A brilliant anchorage by night is Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques. The water around your charter yacht is filled with glowing organisms turning the entire bay into a luminous 'twighlight zone' at night. You'll also find a more active nightlife in Vieques as the island is two thirds owned by the US Navy.
As with most of the Caribbean, the Spanish Virgin Islands yacht charter season runs from November through to July. The Caribbean's primary high season is from mid-December to March, when North Americans and Europeans come, escaping the winter. The hurricane season is from late July to early October, although hurricanes are in general rare and more likely to hit the East Coast of the U.S. than the Caribbean. This is the least expensive time for chartering in the Caribbean and there are some really good deals are available. However, as well as running the risk of storms, this time of year also tends to be associated with lighter (or non existent) winds.
ISLA DE CULEBRITA, Spanish Virgin Islands
Bahia de Tortuga lies on the north side of the island of Culebrita. This pristine crecent shaped beach is a half-mile long bordered by palm trees and at the north-western end by "The Spa Pools", which is an unusual volcanic rock formation similar to The Baths on Virgin Gorda. Culebrita is ringed with reefs and has a total of six beaches.
Culebrita is a wildlife refuge available for daytime hiking to the top where a 125-year-old lighthouse remains at an elevation of over 300 feet.
The town of Dewey is the population center of Culebra with approximately 2000 inhabitants. This is an interesting town to explore with boutiques, gift shops, bar and restaurants. There is a canal which spans the short distance from the Ensenada to the western side of the island that can be safely navigated by dingy. The canal is bordered by restaurants which provide an enjoyable interlude to an afternoon's exploration, or delightful dining atmosphere for an evening out.
There are numerous beaches and snorkeling spots around the island although most on the northerly side are suitable only for day anchorages. Some of hotspots include Punta Melones, Cayo Luis Peña, Bahia Tamarindo and Bahia Flamingo.
ISLA DE VIEQUES, Spanish Virgin Islands
The island of Vieques is the southernmost island of the Spanish Virgin Islands (SVI) and is about 20 miles long and is four miles across at its widest point. Once home to the U.S. Navy practice bombing and targeting area and still shows the remnants of these activities.
The two main towns of Vieques are Isabel Segunda (sometimes written as “Isabel II”), the administrative center located on the northern side of the island, and Esperanza, located on the southern side. At its peak, the population of Vieques is around 10,000. Vieques is a Spanish spelling of a Native American word said to mean “small island”. It also has the nickname “Isla Nena”, usually translated from the Spanish as “Little Girl Island”, as a reference to its being perceived as Puerto Rico’s little sister island.
The town of Isabel Segunda is the capital of Vieques Island and lies on the north shore of the island. The architecture is fabulous and traditional, boasting an old fashioned charm with rich history. El Fortin Conde de Marisol, the last Spanish fort built in the western hemisphere, is just off the center of town and is now a museum. Esperanza is a quaint little village that borders the southern side of the island of Vieques with a number of restaurants and bars and a couple of boutiques and gift shops.
To the east of Esperanza are Puerto Mosquito and Puerto Ferro, two phosphorescent bays. This is well worth a visit, especially in the evening when the phosphorescence is spectacular - some say far more impressive than Puerto Phosphorescencia in south-western Puerto Rico. On diving into the water at night, you can make "light angels", a truly unforgettable experience.
Bahia Salinas del Sur is another recommended anchorage, well sheltered most conditions that is a quiet bay with sandy beaches, some mangroves and great snorkeling. It is also possible to hike over to the north shore of the island and swim in Bahia Icacos.