There are thousands of islands in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico that were used by pirates for many reasons. Careening, resupplying their ships with fresh food and water, hideouts, meeting places to distribute loot and plan raids. There are thousands of miles of coastline that are perfect for this. There are far fewer that offer not only seclusion, but pristine natural beauty to go along with it. One such place is Mosquito Bay. Located on the island of Vieques just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. There are many bays and inlets scattered across this island, but Mosquito Bay is special.
Vieques island is approximately 21 miles long and 4 miles wide. The island was probably discovered by Europeans when Columbus landed in Puerto Rico in 1493. The island had been inhabited by Taino Indians, who interacted peacefully at first with the new Spanish settlers. But that didn't last long and in the early 16'th century Spain sent an overwhelming armed force to quell the Taino resistance, killing most of the population and enslaving the rest. The Spanish didn't settle Vieques island at the time however, and for the next couple of hundred years it remained a haven for pirates and smugglers. In the mid 19'th century, the town and port of Isabel Segunda was founded on the north side of the island. The fort of Fort Conde De Mirasol holds the distinction of being the last fort built by the Spaniards in the New World.
One of the things that makes this bay unique are the Pyrodinium bahamense, a kind of bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton, that flourish in the nutrient rich waters. The fact that these small plankton are what caused the bioluminescent glow in these waters is of course a recent(1906) discovery. The indigenous Indians and early Spanish explorers and settlers attributed this to supernatural phenomenon, or black magic, and avoided the area completely.
The bay is surrounded by groves of Red Mangrove trees. The leaves from these trees fall in the waters of the bay, and as they decay, they help germinate the bacteria that the Pyrodinium bahamense thrive on. This abundance of bacteria and plankton make Mosquito Bay one the brightest and most vivid bioluminescent bays on the planet
This type of bioluminescence happens other places throughout the world, such as at the shores of Seal Beach, California.
These waves give off an eerie glow at night. It can also happen in isolated plumes in the open ocean, such as in this picture taken from the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. During the mid 20'th century, the island was devastated by the US Navy, who used the island for live fire exercises. The Navy left in 2003, and much of the island has since been designated a wildlife refuge.
The bay it's self is hidden and surrounded by low hills, and the inlet to the bay is narrow and easily defended. The bay was used by pirates for hundreds of years. One of the most famous to do so was a pirate named Roberto Cofresí in the early 19'th century. Cofresi was a contemporary and competitor of Jean Lafitte. Cofresi wasn't a typical pirate and didn't operate under the earlier pirate codes of the Golden Age. He was very popular among the locals because he had a very Robin Hood style of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. There are many stories about Cofresi, as boy, he spent most of his time selling vegetables and fish from his small boat, which he christened “ El Mosquito,” and listening to sea stories from mariners and fisherman. These stories planted the seeds of adventure and wanderlust in the young Cofresi.
As a young man, he became a privateer, officially sanctioned to bring in any foreign ships whose papers were not “in order.” This of course likely lead to him becoming a pirate and by 1818, he had dropped any pretext. The Spanish colonies of the Caribbean at the time were trying to break away and gain independence from Spain, and Cofresi supported this. He and his small crew of 15–20 men mainly attacked European and Amarican ships carrying valuable cargo to and from the Caribbean. Most of the population of Puerto Rico was poor and Cofresi quickly earned a reputation for spreading the wealth. This of course made him very popular ,and the people were known to protect and shelter him and his crew whenever they could.
In 1824, the Spanish governor of Puerto Rico had had enough of Cofresi; so he asked for help from the Americans. The fledgling US Navy sent the schooner USS Grampus and disguised it as a merchant frigate. Cofresi took the bait and attacked the naval schooner. The battle went bad for Cofresi quickly and he was wounded, his ship was badly damaged and most of his crew killed. Still, Cofresi managed somehow to escape, but his freedom was short lived. He was captured a short time later after landing by the Royal Spanish Army. He and his remaining 10 crew members were executed by firing squad on March 27, 1825.