September 20, 2010
Dave Reed answers surfing related questions in response to his recent surf/charter story "Dropping In On Culebra."
A CW reader writes:
"A few weeks after booking my first charter to the Spanish Virgin Islands (for next winter) I read your intriguing article about surfing Culebra in the August edition of Cruising World! It got my boat mates and I stoked, and we want to bring our boards and see if we can do a little surfing as well.
In past years I've chartered in the BVI's when the northern swell was in and the surf was up in Cane Garden Bay, etc. It rendered all the anchorages on the northside of Tortola untenable. How did you manage to keep the boat safe in proximity to surf breaks? Can you suggest any spots on the north coast of Culebra and Canal de Luis Pena to anchor or moor that aren't too rolly? Are there any north coast areas to avoid and any that you would recommend? Also, Do you have any tips for storing longboards on the catamaran? Your advice would be much appreciated."
"Glad you liked it, and since you're the first to respond, I'll pass along what I know. As far as longboards on the cats...all the room in the world. Assuming you're traveling with board bags, we simply lashed all of our boards (one long, six short), in bags, to the lifelines, or on the coachroof, and they were never in the way. I've done the BVI thing as well, and trust me, if you get it right, Culebra will be far better.
As I mentioned, the week we were there, we lucked with a advisory-sized ground swell, but most importantly was that the winds stayed light and southerly, which made the north coast easy. On the biggest day, when the wind was a little more east, it was messy on the north side, even in Playa Flamenco, which on the chart would seem protected enough. So that's when we went around to the west and found really fun surf at Point Tamarindo. Again, as I mentioned in the article, on the south side of Tamarindo are a whole bunch of moorings that are fully protected from the swell; it's wild, you paddle in 50 feet, walk a short foot path and come out the other side to surf. Really quick left and only a few big coral heads. Next door at Cayo de Luis Pena, on the north side, are three small coves, and honestly, we surfed what we thought was the best, but the other two definitely looked very, very good. Tide was a huge factor, even though it was minimal. As soon as it dropped, the surf tended to get smaller.
The three bays on the north side of Culebra all have surf, but our favorite was Resaca; from the boat, it looks deceiving, but the left going into the east corner of the beach was one of the best lefts I've ever surfed; the bigger it got, the better, and there was a nice outflow channel so getting back out was no problem at all; soft, sandy bottom, too--not a coral head in sight. I'm sure there are all sorts of breaks elsewhere along this beach and the next cove over, but we didn't bother checking. We found our perfection and it was hard to leave it. As far as anchorages go, this was my biggest reservation before going, but, again, with the offshore breeze and sandy bottom on the north coast we anchored in 25-30 feet of water and paddled maybe a 1/4 mile. My wife and the photographer's girlfriend stayed on board, and never complained about it being too rolly. Although sometimes, I'd see it crest over a wave and wonder...but I always made sure we were far enough out. That said, if you've got someone spare with you, you could always stay further off and have them shuttle you in...after surfing for 6 hours straight one session, I was wishing I had a dinghy ride back out to the boat.
The beauty of this, though was that protected anchorages are about an hour (at most) of motor-sailing away. The southeast side of Culebra (can't recall the anchorage right now) was close enough that we'd just get up early, motor out to the north side, surf all day and make sure there was enough daylight to get back to the anchorage before dark. Culebrita, which also had really good waves (much more reefy) has moorings inside and out. Honestly, there were more than enough moorings to go around; maybe because we were there on the weekdays, maybe because the high-surf advisory was keeping the Puerto Rican navy in port...
The one break that we didn't surf that everyone knows about, Playa Flamenco, is supposed to be really good, too. From here, it's a quick motor around to the west side for an overnight anchorage.
Well, hope this helps, and do me a favor; if you go and get lucky, share it with the folks at Cruising World Magazine. I've been trying to get them to do stories on great surf/charter destinations, and this might be the start of a good series ;) I might have to try a few more! And finally, if you do go, and book through CYOA, tell them you read it in Cruising World!"
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