Boat to culebra: How to Get to Vieques and Culebra – Ferry and Flight Info
Culebra Power Boat Snorkeling & Beach Tour
UsersAges: 6 and up
Hour GlassDuration: 6.5 hours
ClockCheck in: 30 minutes prior to tour
Cruise ShipTour Time: 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
GiftAmenities Aboard: Premium Sound System, Private Restroom, Shaded Cabin With Cushion Seats, Fresh Water Shower, and Easy Access for Snorkeling and Swimming
Map MarkerLocation: M-21 Villa Marina Yacht Harbor
CarParking: Free Street Parking Available
TagWhat to Bring: A great attitude and the love of the aquatic life, Reef Safe sunscreen, Towel, Swimwear, Cash.
Info*Due To Covid-19 Guidelines capacity may vary.
- Public Sail
Up to 40 People
- Private Charter
Includes 40 People
Set Sail on our Culebra Tours
Beat the crowds to Culebra Island on our new, custom Newton power boat, where you can enjoy a less crowded, more comfortable environment compared to other operators in our area that can carry up to 80 passengers.
Come and enjoy the gem island of Culebra, where snorkeling and beach exploration are unlike anywhere else in the world. We first visit one of Culebra’s beautiful reefs and moor for about an hour and a half over a living coral reef. Here, you have the opportunity to snorkel over the reef and view numerous tropical fish, sea turtles, and live coral formations.
Depending on weather and sea conditions our captain may take you to Luis Peña, Carlos Rosario, Melones or Punta Soldado. We then move on to our beach stop. Our usual destination is the world-famous Flamenco Beach (rated among the world’s top 10 beaches).
Occasionally, due to sea conditions and your safety, we may choose Playa Tortuga on Culebrita Cay or another beautiful beach that’s best to enjoy for the rest of the afternoon. Guests can swim, walk along the white sand beach, or just relax and sunbathe at their own leisure.
Food Food: Due to Covid-19 guidelines we will be implementing a new light lunch which consist of a choice of three pre packed sandwiches, bag of chips and a whole fruit
Coffee Drinks: Unlimited water, soda, fruit juice & tropical rum beverages served during & after lunch
Scuba Mask Gear: Quality snorkeling gear and flotation devices. We will be disinfecting all snorkel equipment following each use, but we encourage guests to bring their own snorkel gear when possible
- This snorkeling beach trip travels by high-speed boat in open waters and is not appropriate for pregnant women, those with recent surgeries, back injuries, and children under six
- For your safety, destinations are at the captain’s discretion and may change depending on weather and sea conditions. If the crossing to Culebra is not appropriate, we head to better protected alternate reefs, beaches, and cays which include Diablos, Lobos, Icacos, Tortugas, Palomino, and/or Palominitos within the Spanish Virgin Islands.
- All of our Vessels require a Minimum amount of passengers to operate.
- Please contact us at (787) 860-7327 if you have questions or concerns
Caribe Bliss | Ocean Tours & Boat Rental
Ocean Tours & Boat Rentals • Puerto Rico
Ocean Tours & Boat Rental • Puerto Rico
Ocean Tours & Boat Rental • Puerto Rico
On our all-inclusive beach & snorkel day tours you will be able to explore the beautiful and diverse marine life, clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches around the island while being pampered by our amazing crew.
Click here to Learn More
Duration 4.5 Hours
Ages Ages 3+
ENJOY THE MOST BLISSFUL EXPERIENCE WHILE WE TAKE YOU TO THE BEST SPOTS!
At Caribe Bliss Ocean Tours & Boat Rental, we offer you the most blissful and adventurous boat tour experience in the east coast of Puerto Rico. Enjoy the turquoise, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches around Icacos, Palomino, Culebra or Vieques Island aboard our vessel, Tortuga. Explore the beautiful and diverse marine life around the islands, swim around the calm and clear waters or stay on board enjoying the music, sunbathing or just relaxing while our crew members pamper you with complimentary tropical drinks.
Caribe Bliss we are very thankful for our amazingly beautiful marine environment and we are committed to protecting it.
Marine conservation and preservation are paramount along with the safety and enjoyment of our guests. For these reasons we would like to remind our guests that most of the beautiful spots we visit in our tours are protected as well as all the marine life you will see and enjoy. We encourage each one of our visitors to enjoy this blissful experience, BUT please be mindful and respectful of our marine life and avoid touching, stepping on or removing anything from the sea (i.e. corals, starfish, seashells).
We would like remind our guest that these environmentally sensitive areas, while protected, are still exposed to many threats. In an effort to conserve and protect them, we encourage you to use long sleeve performance shirts or “rash guards” as well as ball caps or hats for sun protection rather than sunblock.
boat yatch rental private tours puerto rico cukebra vieques island snorkeling icacos palomino islandboat yatch rental private tours puerto rico cukebra vieques island snorkeling icacos palomino island
AMAZING PUERTO RICO BOAT TOUR EXPERIENCE
Absolutely amazing experience! The captain and his crew were fantastic. We looked for a while trying to find someone to book an excursion through, and we’re so glad we went with them. We would go back in a heartbeat! Thank you guys for the awesome time!
– Kelsey N. | Tripadvisor
Private Boat Tour
My group traveled to Puerto Rico & booked the private all inclusive boat tour to Icacos. I would recommend booking the private tour if you have a large group like myself. Tito and his crew were great! They were nice & very accommodating. They were on time and gave great directions to get to the dock. They gave us drinks, snacks, and lunch. I would 100% rebook with them the next time I’m in the area. No complaints!
– D’Lacia M. | Tripadvisor
Would do it every trip to PR!
The staff was excellent and the trip was everything we were hoping for… drinks, sun, snorkeling, and the most beautiful beach! I have been on many boat trips in the Caribbean and this was one of the best. Would definitely do it again!
– Cassie F. | Tripadvisor
Awesome private boat tour!
My husband and I had an awesome private boat tour on the Tortuguita, their 28 foot power catamaran. The captain, who was also the owner, was very attentive. It was SO great being able to be on our own schedule, back right up to the beach, and go to his «secret spot.» We came back from a walk on the beach to find an umbrella and our towels waiting for us, followed by refills of our drinks! It was fantastic!
– Amelia S. | Tripadvisor
5 pristine beautiful islands in the Caribbean
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Created on Jan 14, 2023
Jan 14, 2023
Boating in the Caribbean is the dream of many people. Comprising approximately 7,000 islands and islets, this exotic island community of 35 countries is unique for those looking to sail the tropical seas with its endless boat rental options and mooring possibilities.
Today, most of the Caribbean islands are filled with tourists from all over the world and resorts that want to offer them a pleasant holiday. A few smaller islands, far less man-made than others, still welcome those looking for a Caribbean holiday away from the crowds and their untouched nature. While getting to these islands by boat is a little tricky, the beauties that greet you when you arrive at your destination are worth the effort.
Nevis, one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean, has an area of only 93 square kilometers. It is mainly associated with the neighboring island of St. Kitts. That’s why it’s called Saint Kitts and Nevis on maps. Therefore, Nevis, which is an island that is relatively rarely visited by tourists who come to the Caribbean for seaside holidays, is unspoiled. Nevis is a real paradise for those who want to spend their Caribbean sailing holidays on pristine beaches covered with white sand. The island’s most famous and beautiful beach, Pinney, is located on the west coast. The beach, famous for its saffron-colored sand, welcomes its guests with shabby but cozy areas. Sailors on Nevis also stop at Wali, Lavers, Herberts and Cades Bay beaches. You can get to the island of St. Kitts and Nevis with a pleasant sail by renting a boat in Antigua, which is about 54 nautical miles away.
Ile de Sainte
Without going too far from Saint Kitts and Nevis, we drive a little further south and this time we reach the Ile de Sainte. Also accessible by boat from Antigua, this French island community deserves to be one of the Caribbean’s most unspoiled itineraries with its unspoilt tropical nature. Consisting of seven islands, only two of which are inhabited, the Île de Sainte offers much more than natural beaches for those who come to the Caribbean for a sailing holiday. Walking trails in the rainforest, climbing routes for those who love a little more adventure, and villages where technology has not yet reached, the Île de Sainte welcomes its guests with the warmth of the Caribbean. The islands are so small and cute that once you moor your boat on the beautiful beach, you can explore them all just by walking around.
Located between the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica (not the Dominican Republic) is a country of 47 kilometers. This small island nation is not much preferred by tourists who seek out the bustling islands during their Caribbean boating holiday. Sea holidays in Dominica are a very good option, because nature is protected by very strict rules. Dominica, the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has three distinct protected natural areas covered in rainforest. Although Dominica is an island, it has two anchorages: Roseau on the south coast and Portsmouth in the north. Those who come to Dominica for a boat trip can moor their boats at these two bays and travel around the already very small island, enjoying the beaches. You can get to Dominica in a short time by renting a boat from La Marine in Martinique or Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe.
Andros, located in the Bahamas, is an archipelago that even those traveling in the Caribbean have never heard of. Andros, which is part of the Bahamas, which is a favorite holiday destination, especially for American tourists, but has an autonomous administration, is very close to Miami, about 170 nautical miles. Andros, which can be easily reached by chartering a boat from Nassau, is far less developed than the other luxury islands in the Bahamas. Andros Island is especially popular with those who want to explore the underwater world while on vacation in the Caribbean. This is a diving paradise. The tongue of the sea, located on the island, is the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, with a length of 140 miles. Tiamo, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, is one of the most attractive boating spots on Andros with its coconut trees and white sand. On Andros Island, you can hike through mangrove-covered rainforests, cool off at waterfalls hidden in the forests, and drink in a thousand and one shades of green as you sail around the island by boat.
Just 18 nautical miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra is like an oasis for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of their neighbor. The easiest way to get to Culebra with its breathtaking beaches is to rent a boat from Philipsburg on Sint Maarten. Departing from here, you can enjoy a sailing holiday in Culebra, sailing about 150 nautical miles. The most important reason Culebra remains more untouched than other Caribbean islands is that almost a quarter of the island is a protected area called the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.
Share your story!
If you have any story, ideas, tips, tips or experiences to share with your fellow sailors, please send it to [email protected]. We will publish it on our website under your name!
The Great Cocaine Hunt | GQ Russia
How deliciously Julian poisoned his bike! It was one of those stories, the details of which the brain absorbs tightly, like a woolen sweater absorbs the smell of a fire. But the point was not even in these details — where and how Julian buried the treasure thrown ashore by the Caribbean wave — but in the aplomb with which he served them. Wobbly South Carolina accent, whistling chuckles in the most interesting places. Well, the narrator himself — a gray waterfall of shoulder-length hair, a beard like Gandalf, bare feet and an invariable glass jar of red wine with a handle. Empty and immediately filled again.
On Friday evenings, the whole honest company — eight or ten people who divided among themselves a godforsaken corner of land in the forests of North Florida on the outskirts of the town of Archer — gathered around a fire on the banks of Melon Pond. They grilled meat, listened to rock, emptied beer bottles or, in Julian’s case, cans of wine. The beer drinkers were touched by Julian’s wine addiction. And in the way he sucked on the wine, there was something that made them look at the red, not without lust.
The first time Rodney Hayden, then a prosperous middle-aged building contractor, heard the «coconut treasure» story was on a Friday in July 2004. From the reaction of the listeners, Rodney guessed that the story, like the narrator himself, had a beard. It turned out that Julian had been poisoning her for the last twenty years; with particular enthusiasm — when a newcomer like Rodney appears in the company. And not without reason, he always begins with turtles.
Julian Howell moved with his wife to Culebra — one of the islands of the Puerto Rico archipelago — at 1986 to work on a project for the conservation of sea turtles. For the next ten years, for several hours a day, Julian combed the beaches of Culebra for signs of the presence of turtles. Most of the time, the beaches were empty, but one day he spotted something unusual — a plastic-wrapped bale of impressive size, washed ashore by the tide. Julian, cautious, as if afraid to wake the sleeping beast, stepped closer. He looked around, looking for someone who might be the owner of the find. But for miles around there was not a soul, tortoise or human.
Julian knew that this sometimes happens on Culebra — drugs are thrown overboard, dropped from planes, missed, and later it floats on the coast. It’s funny: for nine years he wandered around the island in search of something to smoke, saying: «When will a bag of grass finally fall on me?» And then he fell off. A kipa tightly wrapped in polyethylene and tied with rubber, so it’s not immediately clear what’s there. Fine if weed, but maybe cocaine or something. Julian decided to postpone the clarification until better times; dragged the bale ashore, dug a hole near the rock, disguised the find with leaves and debris.
Several weeks of hesitation ended with curiosity getting the better of him. After working the evening shift at the bar — saving the turtles was not enough to feed the family — Julian plucked up courage and rushed to the beach at night. Moonlight helped to find prey. The lucky American took the find home and hid it in a barn, where it lay for another couple of weeks. Eventually, one morning, Julian took a knife from the kitchen and plunged it into the bale. A pink-white powder spilled out. Cocaine. Julian weighed the weight on the scales in the bathroom: 32 kilograms, packed in 16 packs of two kilos each. The retail price per kilo is $16,000-20,000, depending on the outlet. Julian, however, did not think about numbers. «Damn, now I’m a millionaire, but not a dollar one …» — that’s what he thought.
32 kilograms, packed in 16 packs of two kilos each. The retail price per kilo is $16,000-20,000, depending on the outlet. «Damn, now I’m a millionaire, but not a dollar one …» — that’s what he thought.
Julian wasn’t a drug dealer, and he didn’t like coke either, although he did put a little bit in a jar, like those thrifty mothers who keep paprika in the kitchen in case they have to cook goulash. I dug the rest: I dug a hole in the yard, next to the cistern, and put the treasure there.
That was 15 years ago. The Howells continued to search for turtles, but not for long. After divorcing his wife, Julian returned to the States and settled in a trailer on a large plot of land in North Florida, surrounded by a dozen new neighbors who enjoyed listening to his Caribbean stories. Cocaine, Julian said, is still there. A million bucks buried in the ground, just waiting for someone with hard enough balls to come and get him out of the hole.
A couple of years after Rodney Hayden first heard about the cocaine treasure, he bought forty acres of land on the outskirts of Archer next to Julian’s property. Rodney’s hometown of Gainesville was only half an hour away by car, but on a completely beat-up road that Archer’s settlers blamed for at least four divorces.
Rodney grew up in Gainesville, worked as a teenager on his father’s construction sites, then graduated from the civil engineering course at the University of Florida and started his own business in 2000. At the beginning of the 2000s, the construction company B&H Builders was doing great — Rodney built hotels, airports: projects for $ 10-20 million. The company’s staff consisted of 80 people. Hayden got married, had a daughter, built a house for the family in Gainesville and another one on the banks of the river — in Crystal River.
And then the 2008 crisis hit. The B&H Builders staff was reduced to six people, the bank took away Rodney’s office and house by the river. By that time, he had become close to the inhabitants of Archer — and decided to move there. Friday gatherings around the fire turned into a favorite ritual: after drinking wine, Julian began to broadcast about the Caribbean. “If the former had not lived there until now,” Julian grinned, “I would go and dig up the treasure.” The cocaine story was an open secret—Julian had long since dished it out to everyone, but Archer’s hermetic atmosphere seemed to rule out the possibility of anyone else finding out about it. All the greater was Rodney’s surprise when, one morning, a man he barely knew approached him and said firmly: «I can help get the coke out of Puerto Rico. »
The man’s name was Danny Jimenez. He rented a place with a guy named Andy Culpepper who did all the chores for Rodney in the office. He found out about the story with the treasure, and since he liked to dream aloud, having smoked, Jimenez soon found out about it. When Danny leaned over Rodney’s driver’s window that morning, he hinted that he knew someone who could smuggle drugs to Florida. And another one who can sell it. Although Rodney did not doubt the veracity of Julian’s stories, he did not even think about the very possibility of digging up the treasure. So that conversation with Jimenez did not end with anything.
Fast forward to January 2012. The construction business in Florida is still in crisis. Rodney’s company has shrunk to two people, including himself, and brings in no more than $600,000 a year. Prospects for development are zero. That morning, when Danny Jimenez first brought up the case, Rodney laughed it off, but he kept dropping by from time to time.
Danny knew a dealer in Jacksonville who had his own pilot, who hauls coke from Columbia. They will do anything if they share the goods, he told Rodney. The rest can be sold to a dealer in Tampa nicknamed El Neg. “Or better yet,” Danny said, “I mix it up and double the amount. El Neg will pay and everyone is happy.” The deal seemed real to Rodney—he didn’t even have to touch the powder. But still he hesitated.
In March, Jiménez returned to the office. Something had changed in Rodney: he sat with his arms folded over his chest in an authoritative manner, fidgeting with impatience. After months of brainstorming, he seemed ready to take on the task. Take the treasure from Puerto Rico to Gainesville, drop it into your yard from the plane, so that it will land on the soft lawn right on Rodney’s porch. “This is the chance of a lifetime,” he repeated. «I’ll fucking do it!»
And three months later he fucking did it. In June, Rodney went to Mexican restaurant Casa Maria in Jacksonville and ordered a shot of tequila without salt. «Couldn’t they find a better place?» Rodney grumbled, squeezing his way over to the table where Danny and his familiar dealers were already seated. (Rodney weighs 140 kilos, and his torso is like the brackets in this sentence.) During previous meetings, he had made it clear to Jimenez that he was ready to work only with a pilot he knew personally, but Danny managed to persuade him to trust the professionals — Puerto Rican Carlos and his pilot Grant. “We have a lot of debtors there,” Carlos explained. “We can land in places where others can’t and do our own thing.”
Carlos made another appointment to check on Rodney and his information. Tried everything about Julian, El Nega, Rodney’s dealer experience (which was not). Rodney asked how much they planned to make in the end. Carlos began to count: thirty pieces a kilogram, thirty-two kilos, that’s a million, especially if he could sell some of the goods in New York, and not in Florida. Danny’s job is to find a buyer (alternatively, El Neg). Rodney will pay Carlos and Grant in goods — four packs or more, depending on the total. “Just take your cut while moving,” Rodney suggested. Then he stressed that he would like to personally dig up the treasure — for the sake of Julian. “Puerto Rico is a US territory,” Grant put in, “that makes things a lot easier.” “Don’t we even need passports?” Rodney was surprised. «Nope,» Grant replied. “And in the 20 years that I have been flying there, I have never been checked.”
At the end of June 2012, Rodney flew to Puerto Rico, taking Andy Culpepper with him. Yes, he «constantly opens his mitten», but he could be useful on the spot. Rodney’s wife and daughter went to Daytona for a week; he told them that he would go fishing with a friend. Having flown to Puerto Rico, Rodney and Andy moved to the cornfield to Culebra. Before the trip, Julian provided Rodney with the coordinates of his former home; he googled them and made a printout.
On the way to Culebra, Rodney nearly crap himself. The wind was blowing from all sides, flying close to the rocks. “We won’t make it, damn it,” Rodney kept repeating. But they flew — and immediately went to the hotel. Andy went to a bar, had a word with a kid on a skateboard, came back with weed. «Julian couldn’t find a place to smoke for ten years, and it took you an hour,» Rodney whinnied. It was already too late to go looking for the treasure, and they went to the tiki bar to have dinner and make plans.
The next morning, Culpepper became ill — stoned or poisoned. After yelling at a negligent fellow traveler, Rodney went on a search alone, following Julian’s instructions — through the turtle reserve to the place where his house once stood. Rodney managed to find the cistern where the treasure was buried. Two bad news awaited him: over the past years, water, sand and corals, having combined, formed an outer layer on the surface of the soil — hard as concrete. In addition, two hundred meters away was a government building, where the military constantly scurried around. Rodney was about to abandon the plan, but Andy convinced him to return when he was fit and able to help.
Two weeks later they came again, this time with a shovel. Immediately went to the place; two blows were enough to understand that the coral crust could not be broken. Rodney was struck by the thought that now, perhaps, no one will be able to open this fucking coke. On the way home, during a transfer in San Juan, border guards with dogs ransacked their bags. They had nothing to be afraid of, but Rodney decided that everything, he would never call Jimenez or Carlos again and his feet would not be in this coconut paradise.
It occurred to Rodney that no one would ever be able to dig up that fucking coke. He decided that everything, he would never call Jimenez or Carlos again and his feet would not be in this coconut paradise.
Rodney informed his accomplices that he intended to withdraw from the game. Carlos did not like this, he immediately proposed a new plan: they fly for the treasure, and Rodney will give them not four bricks, but, say, eight. Rodney was willing to listen, and they met again at the Casa Maria, this time alone. “I’ll be honest,” Rodney began, “I didn’t plan to come here, but you’re persistent. I flew there twice, spent five grand. I have options, but I’m betting on you. You are a Puerto Rican, you can do things in your homeland that gringos are not allowed to do.” Then they discussed the upcoming trip of Carlos: they decided that, after going through customs, he would go to the island by boat. «On a ferryboat?» Rodney stated. «What a ferry! I’ll swim on a twenty-meter yacht with the girls. I’ll send the guys ashore, and I’ll drink tequila myself.”
Lulled by the problem-free new plan, Rodney breathed a sigh of relief. “Before I met you, I only thought about how much it costs to rent a plane; where to fly, where to land, where to take off. Then you appear, and, therefore, God exists!” Before parting, Rodney handed Carlos a printout of a Google map with his own annotations — pointers, arrows, and other clues. «I’m going to find a treasure! exclaimed Carlos. “Like in Pirates of the Caribbean!”
From Puerto Rico, Carlos kept in touch with Rodney via text message. On day X, Rodney began to panic: “Well, did you find it, did you find it?” In response, I received a photograph: bricks wrapped in rubber and plastic — everything, as Julian described. Only 18 packs of two kilos each. Treasure found! It seemed to Rodney that time had spoiled the goods: Julian talked about sparkling whiteness, and this coke was somehow dirty. On the other hand, what does he, Rodney, know about coke colors? He couldn’t believe that after all the doubt and chatter, there were big bucks on the horizon.
Julian was talking about sparkling whiteness, and this coke was kind of dirty. On the other hand, what does he, Rodney, know about coke colors? He couldn’t believe that after all the doubt and chatter, there were big bucks on the horizon.
A few days later, Carlos called to say that he and Grant had managed to get the coke to the States without incident. In addition, he wanted to deliver the goods immediately. “Wait,” said Rodney. “I can’t do this, I have to meet Danny first.” But Carlos was adamant. First he offered to hit the Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, then he changed his place: “In the parking lot of the sporting goods store in half an hour, or the deal is canceled.”
Rodney got into the car and drove to the meeting, texting Danny Jimenez along the way: “Pick up the phone. He said he wouldn’t wait long.» «You’re a complete asshole for not picking up the phone.» Finally, Danny said that he had punctured a tire and was not in time.
When Rodney arrived, he called Carlos; he replied that in the store he was buying a fishing rod for his son. Like, come inside, I’ll give you the keys to the car. Rodney went inside, saw Carlos, took the keys; he assured me that he would be out in a minute. The veins in Rodney’s neck bulged with adrenaline; beside himself, five minutes before the rich man floated out through the revolving doors into the cottony August heat.
Carlos’ Golden Cavalier was parked on the other side of the entrance, the rest of the parking lot was almost empty. Rodney got into his car, cut a couple of laps on the pavement. Then he stood near Carlos’s car, not noticing anything but the highway ahead and the emptiness around. He got out of the car, opened the Cavalier, took the bag. The weight seemed to match. He threw the bag into his car. Here he is, the result of countless arrows, conversations, and two trips to Culebra — an empty parking lot and a bag of coke in his car. Rodney took a step back to savor this moment for the last time — and, absorbed in contemplation, did not hear the clatter behind him. And then red laser dots danced across his chest like mosquitoes on Melon Pond.
The first thing that went through Rodney’s head when he heard «Down!» was, «Put your finger off the trigger, man!» Then, out of the corner of his eye, he grabbed the local sheriff’s uniform and the words Homeland Security in big letters. Where did they come from, their mother? Then he began to rewind everything that had happened in recent months, until the imaginary movie stalled on a single frame from a year ago: Danny Jimenez leaning into his driver’s window.
Here he is, the result is an empty parking lot and a bag of coke in his car.
In the winter of 2012, Danny was stopped by the cops: they found 130 oxycodone pills in the car. He shone a speck. A sheriff named Joe Rowley offered to share some valuable information to make things easier for himself. Jimenez had nothing better to offer than Andy’s story.
In March 2012, Rowley put a microphone and camera on Danny so the Alachua County sheriffs could see and hear everything Rodney Hayden was up to about the Culebra cocaine hoard. That was enough to get the Department of Homeland Security involved. Sheriff Rowley has partnered with an agent named Ryan McEnany. Together they recruited Carlos and Grant, two undercover agents who were to pose as dealers.
Although Carlos spoke the text of the wiring script, McEnany was the author of the lines, he also determined the geography of meetings and the terms of the deal. He also led the operation in Puerto Rico, Carlos did not fly to Culebra — local agents dug up the coke. On X-Day, McEnany and Rowley purposely prevented Danny from seeing Rodney. “It was important that we didn’t give the impression that we had trapped him,” says McEnany. “We’ve been watching you for months,” McEnany said as he arrested Rodney in the parking lot. «Do you have something to say?» Rodney asked for a lawyer.
Six months of surveillance, six undercover agents, excavations in Puerto Rico. Was the game worth the candle or was the success of the operation another Pyrrhic victory for the law? After all, Rodney Hayden is not a drug lord. But McEnany and Rowley are sure: it’s a matter of principle. Rodney was charged with attempting to possess five kilograms of cocaine, a minimum of ten years. The cocaine in the bag wasn’t a Culebra treasure; it was a mix of a real product with a fawn from agency stock. The real «treasure» found by Puerto Rican colleagues was a maximum of a couple of kilograms of an illiquid mixture of sea water, sand and cocaine puree. Rodney thus received a sentence not for possession of the cocaine with which he was swept up, but for the fact that he was supposed to own it. It’s called the crime of prejudice, a fact not lost on Rodney’s defense lawyer Mark Rosenblum. The legal snag, according to Rosenblum, is that Rodney still fell victim to a prank. He’s not a drug dealer, he doesn’t even know the price of a kilo of coke or that Americans can fly to Puerto Rico without a passport. He wouldn’t have signed up for this scam if it wasn’t for Danny Jimenez, the whistleblower. Other than Danny and the pseudo-agents he dealt with, he didn’t have any connections to the drug business at all.
In July 2013, Rowley and McEnany were called to testify by Julian Howell, Andy Culpepper and Danny Jimenez. When Andy was asked what he did in Puerto Rico, he lied under oath: «He built sandcastles», making the judge and jury laugh. Rodney, on the contrary, tried to give the impression of a serious person who was scammed. However, the scene from the office, captured by Danny on a hidden camera, showed the jury another Rodney — a bulky man with the habits of a mafia don, spitting tobacco and ranting about some kind of weed stash, about having a gun and how to smuggle cocaine with islands is «what the hell to do.»
Before embarking on a case that would cost him his freedom, Rodney Hayden said, “I worked my whole life at my company. Then the market closed, I didn’t earn a penny in two years. What is left for me? Waiting for a pension? I’m not going to become a drug dealer, but it’s also a sin to miss such a chance. For some reason this information came to me. Maybe the Lord himself sent, who knows?
The jury returned a guilty verdict. “They just didn’t like me,” Rodney complains. As the judge mulled over the time limit, Rodney and Mark filed an appeal, citing the DOJ’s recommendation for lighter sentences in non-violent drug cases. The prosecution requested thirty months in prison; Rosenblum countered that Rodney’s experience as a building contractor would be more useful in the wild.
The judge gave two months in prison and five years of community service. The government’s aggressive role in Rodney’s capture did not sit well with the court. But Rowley and McEnany were satisfied. “There’s no better sentence,” MacEnany rejoices. “Let him build houses rather than sit behind bars. Five years of community service, 20 hours a week is a pretty harsh sentence.”
Rodney spent his two months in federal prison in Georgia. Among the white-collar workers with whom he sat, there were serious guys — one of Pablo Escobar’s accomplices, who shook a thirty-year sentence, and a kid who hacked Scarlett Johansson’s mobile phone. “In prison, I realized that once you got hooked, whatever you do next can be interpreted as a crime.”
He was in prison with a guy who hacked Scarlett Johansson’s cell phone.
Rodney and I kept in touch for eight months before we met. He wanted to give his version of events—but not before the trial was over, not before he filed an appeal, and not before he had served time and was released. A week after his release from prison, Rodney offered to meet at Rosenblum’s office so that he «wouldn’t be taken away from the main thing.» “For a long time I was angry with myself,” Rodney confessed. “At my age, buy into such a wiring.” He remembered the times when Carlos suggested that he go alone to the car for a bag or when Grant did not let him know the number of the plane. Fat hints! “Lohanulsya, no words. But the judge correctly said: their fault in all this is also there. Personally, I think taxpayer dollars have been wasted.»
I thought Rodney was missing something. The day before, I booked a room in Gainesville, assuming that this is where I would be interviewing. The next day I decided to go there, telling Rodney that maybe I would go to his office. Suddenly a call. «Dan, I can’t believe you’re here!» There was no trace of yesterday’s — cautious — Rodney. «Do you want to meet Julian?»
Less than 30 kilometers from Gainesville to Archer, but the main thing here is the geography of the interior. When the well-maintained highway, lined with pines, ends, you find yourself on the very four-mile strip of dirt that the locals love to talk about. In addition to the people I know—Rodney with his wife and daughter, Julian in his trailer, the dude with the grill by the pond—a few other people live here: a Vietnam veteran who moonlights as a vigilante, and also the owner of a pair of pet elephants. We drive past Rodney’s house; in the back yard is a garden with a brown dog named Brown Dog and a featherless cockatoo, black as a garbage bag. Sometimes, sitting on the porch, Rodney watches the elephants stomp to the Melon Pond to drink.
We go further inland; the road becomes softer, sandier, the vegetation becomes completely wild and impassable. There is a sign on the border of Julian’s property that reads «Turtle Crossing» and there are skulls lying around — cow (real) and one human (fake).
The engine stalled, the air filled with the buzzing of insects. Julian stuck his head out of his trailer and walked out to meet him, white T-shirt, shorts, ponytail, stubble trimmed. I recently shaved off my beard. Upon learning that I had come here for his tale, Julian grinned. Then he offered to show his collection of old cars, buses and boats; on the way, I noticed a huge pit with hundreds of empty wine bottles.
By the time of our visit, two years had passed since Rodney’s arrest. His act was not just explained: greed (version of the law), recession (version of small business), the desire to leave an inheritance to his wife and daughter (fans of the Breaking Bad series), stupidity, pride and a midlife crisis (newspapers). But in all these versions, Rodney appeared as the author of his own life story, but not a victim of circumstances due to a strange place where unusual people live. You can blame everything, for example, on this dirty four-mile road, as well as Julian’s trailer and the fantastic isolation of this place. Here, any pirate tale will seem like a holy truth.
So who is to blame for what happened to Rodney? Although it is better to ask not “who?”, But “what?”. And here’s the thing — this story itself is to blame; Julian’s tale, told in a place where it’s all worth telling, by the only person who could tell it. South Carolina accent and storyteller’s beard, crackling brushwood and warm wine. They are all to blame.
In Archer, meanwhile, it was getting late, midges and rain vapor soared to the heavens. It was time to move back to civilization, but I couldn’t leave without asking Julian for a favor. “Stupid, of course, but can you tell me a story?” “It will only contain what Rodney told you.” «But it’s not about the facts.» Julian smiled, sat down by the fire and began to speak.
Well, the bike really turned out to be colorful. Rodney laughed out loud, occasionally demanding that Julian repeat certain details. I could only sincerely confess that I would have believed it too.
We’re walking back to Rodney’s jeep when Julian adds the last note to our farewell nocturne: “I sometimes think: what would happen if someone else found this bale? It’s a completely different story.»
GEOGRAPHY OF COCAINE BEACHES
Do you know how much coke the oceans throw ashore every year? We don’t know either, but judging by this compilation, the number would impress even Charlie Sheen.
35 to 45 kg per week. Drug dealers habitually dump goods to avoid being caught.
they say you can buy cocaine here at the grocery store.
Weight and local price:
25 kg, $2 million
the body will be thrown ashore.
Trinidad and Tobago
Weight and local price:
90 kg, $15 million
Also found nearby:
Dunloe Bay, West Cork,
Weight and local price:
1485 kg, $610 million lost.