Sail Away To The SVI
— By Nancy Birnbaum, Florida
A couple of years ago, my partner Jann and I took a bareboat
charter with Island Yachts in Red Hook, St. Thomas, owned and
operated by Skip and Andrea King, who offer the full range of
Island Packet yachts in both bareboat and crewed charters. The
checkout and customs process before you get to your boat takes
about an hour; afterwards you’ll feel ready to handle anything.
Although they’re just 15-20 miles from the U.S. and British
Virgin Islands, the Spanish Virgin Islands, (SVI), are still relatively
untouched. The islands of Vieques and Culebra are especially
lovely and the tiny offshore cay of Culebrita is a must-see. The
anchorages are fairly deserted during the week, but on weekends
everyone from Puerto Rico with a fast boat heads for Culebrita. It’s
hard to pick out just a few highlights, as it’s really the unspoiled
beauty that makes the SVI special. That said, a definite stop for
foodies on Culebra is Juanita Bananas, a restaurant run by chefs
Jennifer Daubon and Javier Cabrera. They’re a young couple offering fresh organic foods and local-caught seafood, and grow some
of their own produce hydroponically, right next door.
Vieques, the furthest-out island, has more restaurants and
local businesses than Culebra and many cruisers consider the
bays, coves, and beaches of this island the best of all Virgin Island
anchorages. The Marines and U.S. Navy used the island of Vieques
for bombing practice until 2003, which kept land developers away.
As a result, mile-long white sandy beaches, crystal-clear water,
and healthy intact reefs teeming with fish, coral, and crustaceans
The bioluminescent bay (Puerto Mosquito) is another must-see in Vieques. At night the water emits a bright glow whenever it’s
agitated so it’s like jumping into the starry sky.
PHOTOS NANCY BIRNBAUM
Getting There: Sometimes known as the Passage Islands, the
Spanish Virgins, mainly Vieques and Culebra, lie just east of Puerto
Rico and are part of its commonwealth. Both are accessible by air from
San Juan International Airport in Puerto Rico or by ferry from Fajardo
(about 40 miles southeast of San Juan). www.gotopuertorico.com
The Boats: Island Yachts in Red Hook, St. Thomas, on the U.S.
Virgin Islands has been family-owned and operated by the Kings for the
past 32 years. They offer Island Packets ranging from 32 to 50 feet, from
$2,500 to $4,200 depending on season and boat size. www.iyc.vi