Once upon a time (about six years ago), we chartered a catamaran called Eh Voila for two weeks in the British Virgin Islands with three other couples. We were there to celebrate a few 50th birthdays and one 25th wedding anniversary. Since some of the connections go back to early childhood, if you add up all the years of friendship, it amounts to an astonishing hundred+ years. We had lots of laughs and adventures together. And luckily for us, we got to recreate a lot of that joy this spring when two of our Eh Voila shipmates came and sailed with us again.
One of the couples on Eh Voila was Rand’s friend from elementary school, Jerry Castro, and his girlfriend, Michele Alsop. Jerry had never been married — he waited a long time for the right woman, and that was Michele.
Jerry and Michele are both triathletes and they met by chance at a gas station, filling up their cars, on the way to a race. They’ve been together ever since, even though they lived a long distance apart. They were married last Spring in Carmel, California, where Michele was raising her two teenage sons. Cole and Casey are now adults, so last year the time came when Michele could finally marry and move in with Jerry.
The wedding was magical and they chose to honeymoon on another chartered catamaran in the BVI ~ wisely by themselves this time. But a year later, it was our delight and honor to host their first wedding anniversary/second honeymoon trip aboard Golden Glow.
We had decided months earlier that we would explore a place none of us had ever been, the Spanish Virgin Islands, and more specifically, Culebrita, a nature reserve and part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. The SVI are east of Puerto Rico and west of the USVI and BVI. We sailed past them in January with Aria on board when we were on our way to the eastern Caribbean and were excited at how beautiful the water looked, knowing we’d be coming back later in the spring.
Jerry and Michele flew into St Martin because that’s where Savannah’s spring vacation trip with us ended. We had just a day in between Savvy’s leaving and Jerry and Michele’s arriving so it was a bit of a whirl for us thoroughly cleaning the boat, doing the laundry and all the other preparations to be ready to show our friends a good time.
Once Jerry and Michele arrived, we did our best to make their special week relaxing for them and I think we sent them home tan and Golden Glowing.
First, we took them to Grand Case, one of our favorite villages on the French side of St Martin. There’s a nice beach there, a good anchorage, our favorite “Love” bar, boutiques to browse, and the lots of French-delicious cafes.
The way the winds were blowing, we decided to go to St. Croix in the USVI on our way to Culebra. We’d been living with the easterly trade winds of the Caribbean since we’d arrived in December. Sailing west from St Martin we had good winds behind us all the way. This gave us a chance to unfurl the TEC parasail we’d bought at the Annapolis boat show in October for the first time. The sail handles from 5-25 knots of wind, which is an excellent range, and much more than the spinnaker or screecher can handle. We were able to keep the parasail aloft almost all the way. It flies high and in front of the boat and you can feel it pulling the bow up and forward, making for a nice motion over the waves.
The following winds made a course for St Croix ideal, so we stopped there to explore an island none of us had been to before. Since Christopher Columbus landed here in 1493, control of St Croix was traded back and forth between Spain, Great Britain, Malta, France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain until the early 1700’s when it became a possession of Denmark. That lasted until 1913 when it became a part of the United States. The main town’s architecture today still reflects its centuries of colonial rule.
We also learned that St Croix was a slave-trading hub of the Caribbean, and one of the buildings we saw was the former slave market. It was upsetting to stand there, imagining what it was like for the young Africans, kidnapped and brought here to be sold into slavery. If you want to know more about that history, here is one and a second excellent articles about the history of the slave trade. It was interesting to learn that slaves had been emancipated in the Danish West Indies in 1848, earlier than in the southern United States. However, right after that in 1849 the Danish Government created Labor Acts that forced free slaves to remain on the plantations. In 1878 there was a revolt against those cruel laws after which the laws were removed and slaves were free once and for all.
From St Croix, we sailed north to the Spanish Virgin Islands. We first stopped at Culebra to check in. We expected Culebra to be inundated with tourists from Puerto Rico because the ferry runs there, but we were pleasantly surprised to find clean streets and harbor, good stores, and a nice way of life for the locals.
We found an organic food breakfast place and a Mexican restaurant that would have felt at home in southern California, and enjoyed some of the best pizza we’ve ever had outside New York City. Mainly, we ate on the boat and our collaboratively cooked meals were superb, but occasionally it was nice to let someone else do the cooking.
Our favorite spot on Culebra was Flamenco Beach, on the northwest coast. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with sand as fine and white as sugar, turquoise water, and gently lapping waves.
The part of the SVI we had our sights to spend the majority of our time was Culebrita, a smaller island just north of Culebra that is a nature preserve and marine paradise with crystal clear water and white sand beaches.
One of our discoveries on a hike on Culebrita was the narrow isthmus at the western end of The island that separates the calm Caribbean Sea on one side from the raging Atlantic waves on the other.
We went from one great anchorage to another, snorkeling, snuba’ing, playing games on the beach, exploring the islands, swimming, relaxing with hammock time and card games, making painkillers, a fruity Caribbean drink we loved in the BVI, and enjoying great meals together.