Cool Culebrita

“Culebrita is my favorite island!” is a refrain we heard from several cruisers. So we thought Little snake, if my newly acquired Spanish serves, could be a nice stop. It’s a small island, about one mile by one mile. It’s uninhabited but in the care of Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The signs look just like those on Plum Island (the Massachusetts one) and reminiscent of home.

Having spent the night tucked in behind the reef of Ensenada Dakity, it was a trip of five miles, just around the corner, up the Canal de Cayo Norte, hook a right and sail into Bahia de Tortuga. The swells made the trip… interesting. The wind decided not to accommodate us, so we motored.

Once inside Bahia de Tortuga we grabbed a mooring ball and debated the best approach to the beach. The waves were breaking on the beach so the prudent course, was to row (not motor) Kory Kory 100 feet to shore, jump in and pull him up the beach. We succeeded without capsizing. Could we reverse the process with our dignity intact?

A beautiful stretch of beach and the waves we had to get KoryKory through

Culebrita has beautiful beaches, and we heard the snorkeling is wonderful. There were several day charters in the bay with tourists snorkeling and wandering the beach. We had a different destination in mind: The lighthouse.

After being on Fayaway for a few days, it was time to stretch our legs. After some searching and bad info from the charter guide (then visiting the beach with a boatload of tourists), we found the obscure trail. Along the sandy, succulent-strewn winding path, we encountered lots of lizardy creatures, heard some birds and passed a pair of somnolent goats (are they dead? I think I saw one blink).

Goat skulls decorate the trail signs.
Hermit crab crossing!

Eventually we made it all the way to the top of the 305 foot hill and encountered the lighthouse. The backstory is: it’s the only remaining Spanish-era structure in the Culebra archipelago. Built between 1882 and 1886, it guided ships through the Virgin Passage and the Vieques Sound. It was the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean until 1975 when it was replaced by the US Coast Guard with a solar powered beacon. The original structure has since fallen into disrepair, but there are signs that an attempt was made to rehab the building or at least arrest its disintegration.

Atop the hill, the lighthouse stands watch.

The building must have been impressive its day judging by the remaining marble floor tiles and brickwork. It made me wonder what it could have been like to live there. Lonely? Serene? The building has several rooms. How many people were there at one time? How did they get supplies? And now, more than a week later and in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, I think I have a better understanding of their isolation. We, too, are isolated, surrounded by water, just the two of us. We don’t have marble floors but we haven’t lost our marbles yet!

Stay safe, stay calm, stay kind! Be a lighthouse for those around you!

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