LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

Our Favorite! Isla de Culebra

Isla de Culebra, oh how I love thee so.

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I know I must sound like a super annoying broken record, but Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands (okay fine, technically Puerto Rico) is by far one of our favorite spots in the Caribbean!

I’m sure you’re thinking… Huh? Puerto Rico is really your favorite?

And YES!!!, that would be accurate.

We love this unspoiled Caribbean gem so very much the first time we visited the island in early December, and possibly even more the second and third times around!

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After spending almost three months island-hopping our way around USVI and BVI, and seeing a bit too much of the same crowded charter-boat-packed-anchorages and honestly not enough gorgeous beaches for all the hype these islands are given, we made the executive decision to sail Jereme’s parents back to Culebra for a chunk of their week-long stay.

And boy oh boy what a good decision that was!

Culebra is where it’s at.

You won’t find any mega charter boat businesses or fancy resorts, or anything that screams luxury Caribbean vacay. But what you will find is an island full of friendly locals, gorgeous hill-top vistas, top-notch reefs and snorkeling spots, and honestly some of the most pristine white sand meets turquoise water beaches around!

A hidden gem, I tell ya.

After our second and now third trips to Culebra (we’ve also visited Culebrita as well), here’s what we’ve found are some of the highlights…

Zoni Beach. Hands down one of the prettiest beaches ever. I’m talking it totally rivals the best pristine Bahamas beaches we’ve seen. Flamenco Beach gets most of the hype on Culebra (and it’s gorg too), but Zoni is amazing in the perfect, secluded, paradise kind of way. I seriously want to win the lottery and build a house on this beach. It’s that good.

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Swimming with sea turtles at Tamarindo Beach. Okay, I’m not going to lie…at first glance this beach won’t win any beauty awards (it’s your typical rocky caribbean shoreline), but dive a little deeper (pun intended) and you’ll find a family of majestic sea turtles living right off the beach! These gorgeous creatures are some of the tamest around as they casually munch on seagrass in about ten to 20 feet of water. We’ve gone swimming with our sea turtle friends three times now (yup, we actually did this twice on our first visit to Culebra and made a VIDEO) and each and every time we’ve found them right where we left them.

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PS – I am saving a ton of sea turtle photos for another post altogether, but ^^these^^ shots were some of the highlights.

Zaco’s Tacos. Seriously legit taco fare! And, even better, cheap (relative to the Caribbean that is). I ate four, yes FOUR, tasty tacos — Carnitas, Ahi Tuna, Fish, and Carne Asada. Can anyone say food coma? If you don’t believe me, it was so good Jereme even bought a t-shirt. Lol.

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Renting a golf cart and touring the hilltop vistas. To get around and see the entire 15-mile island, we’ve rented carts from Carlos Jeep Rentals on two separate occasions. Meandering your way through the streets of town isn’t anything to get too excited about, but we really enjoyed going off the beaten path and finding a few amazing views to soak in. Our favorite was up the hill by Melone’s Beach where you can drool over some gorgeous properties and even more breathtaking vistas.

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^^Looks like someone just cleared this lot for a home to be built. Someone sure is about to have one of the best views on the island.^^

Flamenco Beach. Even though Zoni Beach wins my heart, you can’t come to Culebra without seeing one of the world’s Top 10 beaches. I’m not sure who actually ranks these things, but Flamenco is definitely pretty awesome. We’ve enjoyed two lunch picnics on this Caribbean beach hotspot and certainly can’t complain. The wave breaking shoreline and beautiful views are pretty darn great!

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Dinghy Dock Restaurant. The best dinghy dock around. As in a secure, easy spot to tie up your dink. Plus they have a great happy hour and just as tasty food! My favorite here is the Churasco steak with tostones (and the bean salad when it happens to be their “salad of the day” choice).

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Groceries from Colmado Milka. Looks can be deceiving my friends. I’m not even joking when I say this is one of the best grocery stores we’ve found on all of our travels through the Caribbean (Bahamas included). It’s small and “rustic” to say the least, but they really do have everything…and at reasonable prices. Oh and I almost forgot you can freaking dinghy up to the back of the store! Major bonus points for that!

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And that’s Culebra ya’ll! If you want to read more about this awesome island, you can find our first trip/post here.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

[…] It was so magical, so unbelievable, so perfect that we, not surprisingly, couldn’t sail to Culebra again without visiting our turtle […]

SofiJune 13, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Hi Guys,
Great post! We are now here in beautiful Culebra, and next week we will start going back to Florida!
I cant believe you just sold your boat, congrats!!
We will post ours soon and cannot imagine how hard was to see her go…

All the best :)

February was for visitors.

Whoa! Can you believe it’s already March?!

Holy moly, that snuck up on me.

You know what they say…times flies when you’re having fun! And we’ve been having a blast hosting lots of fun visitors aboard this here sailing vessel. :)))

Last week alone we sailed about 85 miles around the Caribbean with Jereme’s parents on board! Yup, they officially qualify as salty sailors after making one heck of a slog with us…in some less-than-ideal conditions, no less. Way to go you two! :))) From St. Thomas to St. John, then on to Norman Island, BVI, all the way back west to Culebra, Puerto Rico, and then finally back again to St. Thomas.

Phew! I’m exhausted.

Jereme’s folks flew into St. Thomas and met us just across the way from Christmas Cove for a week-long stay aboard s/v LAHO. They were our THIRD set of visitors this month after first hosting Jer’s cousin and then his sister. :))) (I’d say we’ve done our fair share of laundry this month, lol.)

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I think we’ve also successfully acclimated all three sets of guests to “life aboard.”

Let’s just say everyone enjoyed at least one (or more) wet dinghy rides, had something toasted in a pan on the stove for breakfast (as opposed to a normal toaster), used wet wipes as a substitute for a daily shower, helped us hoist or lower the dinghy on the regular, pumped their poop (sorry!), and hopefully even managed to have a blast hanging with us in the Caribbean!

I have TONS of photos from our days spent around all three sets of Virgin Islands with my future in-laws, but for now, here are a few favs from our first few days in St. John and Norman Island, BVI.

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We stopped on Day 1 in Cruz Bay (took a mooring in Caneel Bay and dinghied ourselves over) for some shopping and lunch! (Side note, we’ve found Cruz Bay to have some of the best restos to choose from and one heck of an ice cream spot at the far end/corner of Mongoose Junction.)

With plenty of money spent and just enough sunlight left in the day, we left Cruz Bay and headed around the corner of St. John to spend the night in Leinster/Maho Bay where we enjoyed a fab sunset and some tasty shishkabobs on the grill!

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Next, we moved on to Norman Island in BVI.

For those of you who have sailed around the Virgin Islands, you probably already know that the anchorage at Norman Island is by far one (if not THE) most comfortable and super calm anchorages around. (I’d say we’ve spent a collective week and a half to two weeks in this particular anchorage and we’ve always found it to be perfect…i.e. no roll whatsoever.)

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Really though, we picked this spot for a two-night stay with Jer’s parents while we waited out some of the strongest winds forecasted that week. And there was plenty of snorkeling, lounging, sun-bathing, cocktails, and dinner at Pirate’s Bight while we waited!

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…Lots more to come from our week with Jer’s folks and a side trip to Culebra in the Spanish Virgins…just after I finish editing a crap-ton of photos. ;))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Will G.March 9, 2015 - 4:49 pm

Yesssss culebra is Awesome and so is Culebrita. Also in Culebrita there is a nature made pool on the eastern side of the island that not to many people know about because you would have to climb some rocks to get there but it is Awesome. I didn’t see it on your pics of Culebrita so if your still there you might want to check it out.

Cruising with Pets! Oliver’s Experience in the Islands

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Including our rescue poodle, Oliver, on our adventurous two-year sail was a no brainer for us. He joined our family long before the sailboat did, so he gets priority over our little sailing “vacation.” And as such, we always knew we would do whatever it took to include Oliver as we island hopped around the Bahamas and Caribbean.

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So, this leads me to one of the most commonly asked questions from some of our blog readers…

Although we’ve posted a few times before (>>here<<) about the process of cruising with a dog (or pet), it seems like several folks really want an update on how the pet import process has actually unfolded for us along the way. You know, they want the lowdown on how crazy difficult or easy peasy the actual check-in process has been with a dog on board.

So here’s a little update on Oliver’s experience thus far…

So far, so good.

The end.

Just kidding you guys.

I realize the pet importation process seems extremely daunting for those newbie pet owner cruisers. Seriously, I felt the same exact way before we left Florida. Honestly though, I’ll tell you we haven’t really had any major issues checking Oliver into any of the countries that asked whether or not we had any pets on board (i.e. Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands).

Before you read any further, make sure you read my first post >>here<< that explains most of the requirements…and then you can find lots of other great boat dog resources over >>here.<<

Bahamas

In the Bahamas, we applied for our pet permit about three months in advance of our arrival in Bimini. We had all of the necessary requirements before applying for the permit, and fedex’d all of the required documentation and our $15 money order over to Nassau in December. Surprisingly, we received our approved permit by efax only a week later. The original was mailed back to us about two weeks after that. Honestly, I probably got a little overzealous in securing our permit and totally could have waited a month or two longer to apply. #overachieverprobs

When we made the crossing from Florida to Bimini, we were in fact asked on the customs and immigration paperwork to indicate whether we were traveling with any pets. So we did. Jereme was also required to present our Bahamian pet permit at checkin. And that was that. There were no extra fees charged at check-in and no additional red tape. In other words, not terribly difficult if you get all your ducks in a row at your local vet back home and square away the necessary paperwork/permitting in advance.

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Turks + Caicos

Ahhhh, the Turks and Caicos…our first experience with the don’t ask, don’t tell pet policy. When we rolled into South Side Marina on the main island of Caicos, we were quickly informed by the owner that we should leave Oliver on the boat while Customs and Immigration came to check us in. We sat in the gazebo of the marina and handled all the paperwork, while Oliver chilled in the boat. Literally. It was the first time we had hooked into AC since leaving Florida. What a lucky duck. ;))

Turns out, none of the paperwork we completed technically asked about pets on board, so we didn’t offer up that tidbit of info for the customs guys. This was a bit surprising to me after having studied the legit requirements for importing a dog into the Turks and Caicos. I’m quite certain we had everything we needed (most importantly the Titer certificate), but since they didn’t ask…oh well! And I really don’t feel terribly bad since both times they kinda duped us into overtime charges anyhow. Don’t even ask. I’m still annoyed about that.

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Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic was hands down our worst check in experience yet (you can read about all the fees for just Jer and I >>here<<). But only for ourselves, they too did not ask nor obviously care about Oliver coming along for the ride. I’m not even kidding, no more than 15 minutes after Jereme had checked us in, we marched Oliver by the assortment of “official” customs, immigration, navy, you name it, trailers (with all the officials lounging out front of in lawn chairs no less) and no one gave a rat’s you know what that we were bringing a dog into Luperon. It’s shocking really. They wanted a hand out or random “fee” for just about everything else, yet didn’t care about pets. Go figure.

Puerto Rico

Once again, no questions asked. This is technically the United States so I can’t imagine we would have had an issue. Although, I kinda wish they would’ve told us we had to keep Oliver secured on the boat while we were on the island, and then maybe he wouldn’t have contracted the super serious >>Ehrlichiosis<< blood disease. No bueno.

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U.S. Virgin Islands

Once again, no “pet on board” questions asked. No problems here.

British Virgin Islands

We screwed up here. Kinda sorta. But let me start at the beginning.

Once again, I knew we had all the necessary requirements squared away for Oliver to enter the BVIs. Most importantly, he has the Titer/FAVN Blood Series certificate. Following the instructions provided on the BVI government website, I applied for Oliver’s pet permit in advance of our arrival. Specifically around Thanksgiving when we were still in Salinas, Puerto Rico and planning on arriving in BVI by December or January. The permit application process was simple. I completed this form linked online and emailed it to the address along with one PDF attachment of all of Oliver’s pertinent medical records as required (international health certificate – USDA endorsed, Titer/FAVN certificate, Rabies Certificate, and Vaccination History). Literally, within the hour I had the approved permit sitting in my inbox.

When we rolled into Soper’s Hole, Tortola in January to check-in, we weren’t sure whether or not we would be asked about pets on board. Our experience thus far had led us to believe that maybe they wouldn’t even ask and that we wouldn’t need to show our approved permit (which we only had electronically).

Wrong-a-roni!!!!!

They did ask, and better yet, we were supposed to have called the vet on the island approximately one hour before arriving. Whoopsie! I guess I missed that part on the instructions. The Customs folks phoned the vet for us and Jereme waited about an hour for him to come down to the Customs and Immigration office. Once he arrived, he informed Jereme that we were under duress (whatever that means) and thus required to pay an extra $100 fee. WTH?!?! The usual pet fee is $10. At that point though we really had no choice, and begrudgingly paid the $100. Ugh, lesson learned. The hard way. Make sure you call the vet before arriving!

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^^I would stick my tongue out at those jokers too!^^

The sad part about all these unaccounted for (and pretty much made up on the spot) charges is that the vet never even asked to see Oliver to check him in. And literally pocketed the cash. So sad.

Anyhoo, with all of our experiences thus far, I still recommend turning to your local veterinarian in advance of your departure to help guide you through the process. For us, it helped to search out a vet that had experience with international pet travel. We quickly learned we would need to microchip Oliver for identification, administer a rabies booster and additional vaccinations, and request an International Health Certificate. We also went ahead and took the steps to apply for a Titer Certificate (more extensive Rabies testing), as well as a USDA Endorsed International Health Certificate — both required in several of the “stricter” Caribbean countries.

Getting all the necessary vaccinations and documentation squared away in advance and having our ducks in a row prior to setting sail made the process a breeze!

Pretty much. ;)))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

GUS CORTESFebruary 26, 2015 - 5:40 am

I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOUR BLOG, AND I’M A BIT JEALOUS OF ALL THE FAN I’M MISSING, BUT WE’LL BE FOLLOWING YOU IN JUST A LITTLE BIT, I’VE HAVE TO PUT SOME THINGS IN ORDER AND THEN MET YOU SOMEWHERE, THAT’S MY DREAM, JUST TO DO WHAT YOU’RE LIVING RIGHT NOW

Skelton CrewFebruary 26, 2015 - 2:09 pm

Thanks for the info, it’s nice to hear first hand (recent) experiences!! So far our vet is willing to work with us but is by no means well versed in cruising with pets. I’m guessing that the “this certificate is valid for 30 days after issuance” statement on the bottom of the health cert has not been a problem when outside the 30 day validity?? Thanks again, cheers! ~Jackie

SandyFebruary 27, 2015 - 11:25 pm

Re’ good books, have you read “The Art of Racing in the Rain”? As a dog lover u will love it. Also ” On the Wind and a Prayer ” by Paul Koestner (available only on Amazon). Hope to run into you one of these days.

LAHOWINDFebruary 28, 2015 - 6:21 pm

Hi Jackie! I got one that was not dated so I wouldn’t have to worry. Any chance you can get that from your vet? Otherwise, get it as close as humanly possible to when you leave the U.S.

Skelton CrewMarch 2, 2015 - 2:30 pm

I’ll have to look into an undated option, not sure if we can get that. I plan to send it off to the Bahamas before we leave MI so the certificate will be current (and the Bahamian pet permit is good for a year). We may have to get another while in FL but I really hope not! Thanks for the tips! :)

[…] A lot of the information out there is outdated or is specific to plane travel; however, we did find LahoWind’s blog posts to be current and exceptionally […]

Tuesday Tell-Tales.

Just your typical Tuesday.

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You know, where you feel like having a cannonball party? So why the heck not!

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It’s just so much more fun to get into the water by making a real splash! :)) Am I right or am I right?

And those jumps are seriously fun until you (read me) nearly lose a pair of sunglasses. Shhhh, but don’t tell anyone.

Unfortunately, the pair of shades I was wearing flew off my face immediately upon impact. But fortunately, I was able to recover them seconds after resurfacing as they were quickly sinking toward the bottom. Phew! Close call.

Let’s see, what else?

Ooooh, what’s everyone reading these days? I myself have been a reading machine lately. You know, with oodles of free time (and a rainy day or two) while hanging in Christmas Cove the past week and a half. I’ve finished The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things No One Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? by Mindy Kaling, and Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.

A total random mix of books and nothing heavy or scholastic, but I like what I like. No apologies for that.

Mindy Kaling’s book was funny, but not exactly what I expected so I’d grade it a B- to C. Steal Like An Artist was a super duper quickie read, but I definitely got a tiny spark of inspiration out of it. And the other two (Summer at Willow Lake and The Matchmaker) were both easy reads my mom recommended and I actually really really truly loved both.

If you’ve read something spectacular lately, pretty puhlease let me know. :))

And that’s that. A few cannonballs, an almost lost pair of shades, and some easy reading. Life does not suck.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

KateFebruary 24, 2015 - 4:17 am

I’m about 1/3rd of the way in to ‘The Husband’s Secret’ and LOVING it so far. I also heard great things about Amy Poehler’s book.

BrittanyFebruary 24, 2015 - 1:12 pm

Currently reading “Wild” and loving it. Another great book that is fantastic and so fun to read in these parts is Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Hesse. It is considered “literature” (so not super light) but still easy to read and one of my most favorite books. Love it.

Dawn DunkelbergerFebruary 24, 2015 - 6:02 pm

I just finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was a really nice read. Also, the Circle by Dave Egger was a good commentary on social media gone wrong.

Thanks again for blogging! I love being able to see and read about your adventures.

Lindsay MerkerFebruary 24, 2015 - 10:25 pm

Finished WILD by Cheryl Strayed a few weeks ago, LOVED it. Just bought UNBROKEN because everyone keeps telling me it’s so interesting. I read the LIFE LIST in December and thought it was really cute and certainly not scholastic.

Karen CookFebruary 25, 2015 - 2:19 am

I always enjoy your photos and light hearted writing. Keep it coming.

DebbyFebruary 26, 2015 - 4:34 am

I love all the Susan Wiggs books! I’m currently reading the latest of Catherine Coulter’s FBI series. And I love reading your posts, so much fun.

GUS CORTESFebruary 26, 2015 - 6:03 am

we’re planning to do something very similar to what you’re doing right now, but have so many questions about cost and permits and visas and everything else, how can we contact you , or what will be the best way to get some information from you and your experience

Manscaping Meets Cruising.

I find it kind of ironic that Jereme (and not I being the girly girl I am) has to partake in regular grooming sessions while living a simple no frills kind of lifestyle on a boat. Seriously, is it me or is it kind of hilarious to think that the man of the ship has to conduct regular beach barbershop sessions to keep a presentable, less than total salty sailor appearance?

I cannot imagine if the reverse were true and I had to drag Jereme to shore to help cut MY hair. Seriously, can you imagine the outcome? Scary!

Now, don’t let me fool you…I would certainly kill for an actual cut/color/and style from my fav stylist and great friend Dre back home, or a legit mani/pedi, or hell if I’m really dreaming big a professional massage, but on this here sailboat, it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Long hair and self-manicured toenails it is!

It does happen for Jereme, though. The haircut part at least.

We all know that beard of Jer’s can take on a life of it’s own and, if his mom had a say in the matter, would be trimmed much MUCH more frequently. ;)) I’m pretty sure his last beach haircut was just a few weeks ago back in St. John, but Jer was definitely already overdue for a trim so he spent some time just last week getting his hair and beard under control with a beach cut.

Now, haircuts on the beach are all kinds of interesting.

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They are hot for one.

Think sweaty, sticky, with hair flying everywhere. As if sand sticking all over you isn’t bad enough, why not throw in a million tiny shards of hair? ;)) So not totally ideal of a hair cutting locale, but we work with what we got.

For the obvious reasons of hair getting EVERYWHERE, we prefer not cutting Jer’s hair on the boat (or Oliver’s for that matter)! And since Jer’s clippers are battery-powered (we use this cheap set of clippers), they can be easily transported from the boat to the beach for this little chore.

It gets even worse if there are lots of other boats/people in the anchorage and you know somebody is clearly watching and wondering what the heck you are doing sitting way up on the shore with a mirror and some gadget in hand…desperately trying to find a tiny slice of shade to work within.

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Jer handles most of the cut himself (thank goodness he’s got the buzz style working for him) and I come in at the end to straighten out the back and around the ears, and clean up any loose ends.

And at the end of the cut, I get a real chuckle out of watching Jer wade into the water with his bottle of shampoo to do a quick rinse off before heading back to the boat. :)))

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And that’s just another peak at our typical boat life. Regular hair cuts on the beach! Sounds totally abnormal, I’m sure. ;))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

DaveMarch 6, 2015 - 11:19 pm

Good blog. For years I trimmed mine (and my boys, when they were younger and would let me) at the very aft end of our center-cockpit Morgan 41, preferably with a breeze and me leaning way over to keep the hair off the boat. When I was done I would jump in for the mandatory wash/rinse. Enjoy cruising, we did for 6 years.
Dave,
SV Liberty