We decided on a night cruise from Salinas to the Island of Culebra, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. There were large unforecast thunderstorms dumping rain on us two hours before departure, but they cleared away and headed south in time for us to pull up anchor and leave. We made a quick trip to Sal Pa Dentro to say our goodbyes to friends and grab a quick dinner, and just before sunset started our engine.
The first part of the trip was beautiful and we cruised in the shelter of a barely submerged reef for about 10 miles then exited through a narrow cut in the reef the locals call Boca del Infierno, or “Hellmouth”. John Baptiste assured me the charts were good in the area and we could make it through the cut at night. As soon as we exited, we went from calm to fairly rough sea conditions.
We quickly decided to tuck in close to the southern coast of Puerto Rico due to the sea state and at times were only 1000′ offshore. Ann took the first shift as I was still recovering from a cold I caught in Ohio, and then at 10:00 p.m. I started my shift.
It was at 11:00 p.m. that the fun began. A large black speedboat with no lights and no visible markings pulled to within 10′ of our port side and matched our speed. I stuck my head outside the pilothouse and was rewarded with a large spotlight in the face. They then dropped behind us and to the starboard side with the searchlight playing along the sides of the boat and in every window.
I was a little apprehensive since they had no navigation lights or flashing police lights, so I tried to call them on the VHF channel 16. The US Coast Guard monitors 16 so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to state our position and circumstances in the blind and hope they were listening. The boat refused to answer three different radio calls and I was getting ready to call the Coast Guard directly when they asked me to switch to sesenta y ocho, channel 68.
They stated they were local Policia and asked me several questions in Spanish. I responded in English that we were headed to Culebra. After 5 minutes of questions, most of which I did not understand, they asked to board us. At this point, I thought they were police, but wasn’t sure, plus, why did they still have their lights off? It wasn’t like they still had the element of surprise. I politely refused saying the seas were to big for us to safely stop and they were welcome to board us in Culebra the next morning. I wasn’t sure how smart refusing was, but I thought I’d politely give it a try.
They then asked more questions and and shadowed us for another 10 minutes. I once again contacted them on the radio, stated I was headed to Culebra, we didn’t feel safe to stop and what else did they want. They said “OK” and dropped about a mile behind us. We never heard from them again!
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we pulled into a beautiful anchorage “Ensenada Dakity” at around 10:00 a.m.
Our friends Richard and Lavinia Maggs aboard the Krogen “Partners” were already there and we managed to snag a mooring ball next door to them. By 10:30, they were serving us Bloody Marys. Ann deservedly slept right through lunch as she had driven most of the 14 hour trip.
For those of you who have ever spent time with Ann and me in Isle of Palms, you’ve probably been to Dunleavy’s Pub on Sullivan’s Island, one of our favorite hangouts for the last 25 years. We were surprised to find the bartender extrodinaire at the Dinghy Dock was none other than Bill Dunleavy, the co-owner of the Sullivan’s Island pub with his sister Patty. Bill has been here in Culebra for a year and, unfortunately, was leaving for Block Island in his sailboat the day after we arrived.