Monday 1 Apr, SVI day 8: Motor around south shore of Vieques and an amazing bio-luminescence experience in Mosquito Bay.
Wonderful sleep in this peaceful bay of Icacos on the NE coast of Vieques island. Amazing to have the whole bay to ourselves and not even a sight of civilization on the land. We guess because this used to be a bombing range and then turned into a National Wildlife Refuge, development of any kind, has never had a chance. Thank goodness! Yet this coast is lined with the most wonderful beaches and we are so glad we didn’t miss it.
We start our morning with a dinghy ride, having the drone following us. Well, it was meant to, but it was being stubborn this morning. It apparently needs it’s forward looking sensors calibrated, yet won’t tell us how to! And without those sensors it refuses to enter the “follow object” mode. So Oana has to drive the dinghy while I fly the drone manually… what a bore! After this exercise we swim in the crystal water next to the beach, and take photos in the lovely mid morning light. There are several huge rusty-red star fish in the water here. We’ve not seen this before and wonder what makes this particular place an ideal habitat. Well maybe that humans rarely come here could be a factor!
By midday we motor out of our paradise bay and head east, hugging the shore. This coastline really is spectacular with white beaches tucked between golden rocky outcrops for mile after mile. And again, not a soul in sight.
The wind is only 9-10 kts plus we want to hug the coast, so we just motor today. And once around the eastern tip of this long thin island we head downwind along the south coast. Here, the coast is sheltered from the big northerly ground swell coming from the North Atlantic, which is replaced by a much shorter swell coming from the easterly trade winds.
As we motor westwards we pop in and out of each bay. All pretty, but nothing like the beaches on the north side. In one bay there is a shipwreck completely upside down. It is not mentioned on the chart, so must be a recent wreck. We can clearly see the propeller and the anchors.
In the middle of the south coast there are two very interesting sheltered inlets that are apparently renowned for their bio-luminescence. The best one is called Puerto Mosquito, but we have zero chance to get in there. The minimum depth on entry is just 1 meter. The other bay, Puerto Ferro, shows 2m minimum so although we draw 2.5m, we try to give it a go.
As we cautiously enter, we can see a few yachts anchored inside, but none our size. We very gently motor/drift in with our eyes glued on the depth. Where it is charted as 2m we manage to pass at 2.8m and we think we are through into the deeper water inside. But suddenly it shallows and we see 2.4 then 2.3! Hard in reverse we manage to stop before the keel actually touches and reverse back out. OK, so anchoring in there is a no-go for us 🙁 Looks like we are not going to get to see this so called bio-luminescent phenomena. Well, it’s probably over-rated anyway.
As we pass Mosquito Bay though, I notice that it maybe possible for us to anchor in the small entrance. At first we anchor a bit outside, next to the reef, in choppy waves. Then I go in the dinghy with hand held depth sounder to find if we can anchor closer in, where there is much less swell. It seems we can, just. So we re-anchor as close in as we dare, in 2.9m, and deploy a stern anchor to keep us into the swell. This seems to work OK. It’s just calm enough to stay overnight. Our stern anchor is certainly earning its keep just recently.
And here we wait until it’s dark hoping beyond hope that all this maneuvering will be worth it. Meanwhile another British registered Hallberg Rassy, a 41ft from 1979, anchors outside, where we just moved from. They are rocking all over the place. It seems others will also take discomfort to see the bio-luminescence.
By 9pm it’s absolutely pitch black, under a moonless sky full of bright stars. And the wind and swell have dropped too. Before we go to all the trouble of dingying in the dark I grab the boat hook to test the water, sure that I’ll see nothing. But oh what a surprise, the instant it touches the water there is a luminescent glow. And soon I’m calling for Oana to come see.
We can almost write words in the water as we sweep the pole on the surface. We then realize the stern is lighting up each time it comes down in the swell, and it looks like we have an LED all the way down the trailing edge of the rudder. Amazing. So in the dinghy we go. If it’s like this outside the inlet, we can’t wait to get inside.
The outboard is the next spectacle. The propeller really gets the water lit up. And soon we are doing “dounuts” in the water leaving loops and swirls as we spin around! As we head through the narrow entrance to the Mosquito Bay, at a more gentle speed, we get our first spectacle of fish darting out of our way. We can’t see the fish themselves but we see fish shapes and their trails painted in luminescence. It’s absolutely incredible, almost surreal.
As we enter the main inlet we pass the people from the other HR who are paddling their dinghy. They tell us there are groups of people in kayaks so best that we turn the engine off and row. Rowing is equally interesting as each paddle leaves a round pool of light which stays for several seconds, making a trailing pair of lit up dots behind us.
We find that in the middle of the inlet, where the water is deeper, there are few fish around us, but in the shallows near to the mangroves it’s absolutely alive with life as the fish, or whatever they are, all scurry to keep out of our way lighting up the water like underwater fireworks. Occasionally one or several huge Tarpon fish (each over 1m long) can be seen (only by their glow) as they pass by. What is really incredible is not only do you see the full shape of the fish painted in luminescence but you also get the area lit up that was disturbed by their powerful tail. So you see their body followed by this amazing tail of light as they weave through the water. And not only can we see this near to us but also looms of light from up to 50m around us.
And in between all the fish trails, if you look closely, are millions of small sparkles, as if someone had sprinkled party glitter on the water. And with the added effect of the stars reflected on the still water, it’s absolutely magical. We have to pinch ourselves, “is this real? Or are we in a dream?” It’s like that scene in The Life of Pi, where the whale surfaces through bio-luminescence … but without the whale of course! It’s that good.
We take it in turn to row and eventually end up back at Cloudy Bay. We did get to overhear a guide talking to the kayakers telling them there are roughly (+/- one or two!) 4 million bio-luminescent creatures per 1 gallon of water. That’s a lot! No wonder the water is cloudy in daylight.
For the rest of the evening we are so hyped up with the experience, can’t stop talking about it. But we do focus to do some work too: catch up posting several days of blog and even start uploading the next video while phone signal is reasonable here.
Then at midnight we go back into the inlet for another look. This time, with no one else in there, we motor in and out. Inside, the motor and wake of the dinghy is even more incredible than it was around Cloudy Bay. It stays lit up for at least 20 seconds and emanates out in an illuminated “V” behind us. And at speed (compared to rowing) the fishing life darting in front of us is more intensified. We almost feel guilty for chasing them like this! There are so many it’s a wonder to think how they all manage to avoid getting into the propeller.
Our last action is to totally stop on the water, listen to the silence, all but some spooky noises coming from the mangroves and odd splash of jumping fish, watch the stars reflect on the water and the slowly moving glowing shapes as fish swim below us.
Now THAT was an experience of a lifetime. And we really wonder how they have managed not to make such an extraordinary place a tourist “must do”. But so very glad they haven’t. These are the times you relish cruising on your own boat, discovering new things each day.
We go to bed to have bio-luminescent dreams!