"St. John Beach Guide" a guide to St. John's world class National Park beaches
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Caneel Bay

Important!

Forwarded letter from Miles and Susan Stair concerning the future of the Caneel Bay Resort post Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

March 2018

Miles & I are reaching out to you to help save the future of Caneel Bay. The resort was badly damaged in the Hurricanes of September and has not reopened. Our Delegate to Congress has put Bill HR4731 before the House that will give the small company that now has the lease (CBI Acquisitions) unrestricted rights to all the Caneel Property for 60 more years. The Bill has been passed in the sub-committee and is now before the House. We, on St. John, are extremely upset, and feel that we have no means to counter this bill. We hope you will speak to your Congressmen and Senators and explain why this bill should not be passed.

Caneel Bay and its beaches and historic ruins are truly the “jewel in the crown” of our Virgin Islands National Park. It scares us to think about what could happen to this very special spot if this bill is passed. There need to be many decisions made about the future of Caneel Bay. We are not supporting any ideas or plans or schemes. We just do not want a major bill to go into effect, which will tie up this beautiful site for 60 years, without any restrictions as to the use of the property.

When Mr. Laurance Rockefeller created Caneel Bay & donated it (and other lands) to the National Park Service, a RUE (Retained Use Estate) was granted for the operation of Caneel Bay for 40 years. This RUE expires in 2023… 5 years from now. This RUE is incredibly favorable and there is nothing like it in ANY of the other National Parks. The new Bill before congress is even more favorable.

A few details of Bill HR4731:

  1. A 60-year agreement that CBI would have control of all 170 acres of Caneel Bay and improvements. Nothing like this is in place in Yellowstone or Yosemite or the Grand Canyon.
  2. The Federal Government (not the National Park Service) would receive 1.2% of gross revenues for 15 years. But, any monies spent on reconstruction, rebuilding, and improvements, would be deducted from this percentage. Basically, the Park Service would not receive anything for the lease of Caneel Bay.
  3. Caneel Bay is part of the Virgin Islands EDC (Economic Development Act) and therefore would not pay any significant taxes to the Virgin Islands.
  4. There are NO restrictions in this bill as to use of the lands. High rise condos? Time share? Yurts? Trailers?       And NO historical conservation or ecological measures are included. Tearing down the ruins? Dumping sewage in the bays? This is what concerns us the most.
  5. There are also no guidelines for hiring, staffing, employment, type of operation or details of businesses.

We know that our Delegate put forth this bill because she felt that it was important for St. John and all the VI to have Caneel Bay back in operation. But the terms of this are so outrageous that we feel we must get some help to stop this bill. While we realize that this is a complicated issue and will take time to resolve, the current Bill is not the answer.

All of us have reasons for loving Caneel Bay. It holds special memories for so many for over 50 years. The dream of Mr. Laurance Rockefeller was to have a special place within the National Park that preserved the historical and natural treasures, while providing a healthy business model for the Virgin Islands. This Bill HR4731 goes against those dreams.

Please do whatever you can do from your level to stop this bill from passing in Congress. Forward this letter, call influential friends, sign petitions, talk to your politicians. Many thanks for helping St. John and our lovely Caneel Bay.

Miles and Susan Stair

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Lind Point Trail Update

Hurricanes Irma and Maria have changed the land and seascapes of St. John and therefore I will need to make the appropriate revisions to my books, St. John Off The Beaten Track and St. John Beach Guide.

I began that task yesterday by hiking the Lind Point Trail along with my good friend, Maybank. We soon discovered that thanks to the efforts of Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park volunteers, the trail looks great.

We took the upper trail route just in time to see the hardworking volunteers finishing the trail cleanup by hauling away debris. The Lind Point Overlook was cleared with and the beautiful view from there is as fine as it ever was.

Lind Point Trail St. John USVI
View of Cruz Bay from the Lind Point Trail Overlook

The overall conclusion from the hike is that, for the most part, the Lind Point Trail is now in every bit as good condition as it was before the hurricanes.

There are, however, some major changes. Salomon Bay, which was a popular destination for hikers using the trail, is no longer anywhere near as beautiful as it was before the hurricanes. Most of the sand has been washed away, possibly carried east to Honeymoon Bay and the iconic leaning palms are no more. There is, however, a small stretch of sand left where swimmers can enter the water comfortably and Salomon still offers a place to get away from the crowd if you like.

Also, the Caneel Bay resort has been devastated and for the present time, the trail, may not be accessed from that side and the Caneel Bay beaches can only be accessed by sea.

On the positive side, though, the facilities at Honeymoon Beach survived unscathed and the operation run by Virgin Island Ecotours is up and running and promising to be better than ever.

I really believe that this is one of the best things to do on St. John. There’s really no place like it on St. John. You’re on a beautiful north shore beach and can enjoy all the activities offered there.

Honeymoon Beach St. John Virgin Islands
Honeymoon Beach

Although driving out to the Caneel Bay Resort and taking the dirt track to the beach is no longer an option, there are other (very enjoyable) ways get to Honeymoon Beach

There’s now a free boat ride to the beach from the National Park dock to the beach. If you don’t see the boat there, call (340) 779-2155 for a pickup. The boat ride is offered between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Secondly, you can do as Maybank and I did; take the Lind Point Trail from Cruz Bay or drive up the hill and park by the Virgin Islands National Park sign and take the Caneel Hill Spur Trail downhill meet the Lind Point Trail and continue down to Honeymoon Beach.

Thirdly, if arriving by boat, pick up a mooring and swim, snorkel or dinghy to the beach. There is a special dinghy mooring line close to the beach, which you can use. Anchoring is forbidden.

Once on the beach you’ll be able to rent beach chairs, lockers, snorkel gear, floats, kayaks and paddle boards. Use of the hammocks and dining tables are complimentary. Bathrooms, showers and changing rooms are also available.

Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are for sale. You can bring your own beer and put it in the refrigerator. Soon come, beer, cocktails and barbeque.

So, don’t be afraid. The Lind Point Trail and its convenient access to the beach is up and running. Enjoy!

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Agaves and Aloes, Don’t Eat the Former

On July 3, the London Evening Telegraph published an article bearing the headline, “Chinese vlogger accidentally poisons herself while biting plant on live stream.”

The a popular Chinese YouTube star, who goes by her surname Zhang, was trying to dramatize the health benefits of the plant Aloe Vera. With video camera rolling live stream on YouYube, Zhang bit into what she thought was an aloe. Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t an Aloe Vera she was eating, but the leaf of an Agave Americana, what we in the Virgin Islands call century plant, which happens to be poisonous.

Agave Americana, Century Plant
Agave (Century Plant)
Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera

Zhang first says “yum” and “this is great,” but seconds later says“Oh, that tastes bitter. Really bitter” She then cut the Live Stream. She reported that her mouth went numb and her throat felt like it was on fire. She was taken to the hospital suffering from rashes and blisters and needed to have her stomach pumped, but survived the encounter.

It turns out that Zhang was not the first person to publically make the two plants. Christopher Columbus, who considered himself to be among other skills, an accomplished botanist, came across the agave on his first voyage to what he thought to be the China and the East Indies. He identified the plant as a giant aloe. With Aloe Vera being a valuable medicine in Europe in those days, Columbus thought he was on to something big. The next day he sent his men to bring back 1,000 pounds of agave americana to be brought back to Spain for the emperor.

Apparently, and luckily for Columbus, the “aloe” never made it to Spain. The manifest for cargo taken off the vessel Santa Maria, that sunk off of Hispaniola did not mention aloe. It might very well have molded in the ship’s hold and had to be thrown away. I say luckily because it would not have gone well for Columbus if the emperor ate that particular aloe.

Anyone who has ever needed to cut back or remove a century plant will testify that it can be a rather nasty and unfriendly beast. The leaves are thorny and once cut the agave emits a caustic sap that can easily blister the skin if not washed off quickly.

The sailors entrusted with the task of cutting up and bringing the “aloes” to the ship must have had a hard time of it, but not quite as tough a time as was experienced by the modern day vlogger, Zhang.

Read more about aloes and agaves at SeeStJohn.com

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Cas Cay Hike

Cas Cay is located in the St. Thomas Mangrove Lagoon, in Jersey Bay. The hike takes you along the dramatic clifftops of Cas Cay with spectacular views of the Caribbean to the south and St. Thomas and the Mangrove Lagoon to the north.

 

 

Cas Cay Mangrove Lagoon

Mangrove Lagoon

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Barracuda at Maho Bay

Snorkeling at Maho Bay yesterday, I noticed this large barracuda apparently enjoying the shade under my boat. He or she, I wonder how one determines the gender of these creatures, had a good-sized fish in its mouth with the tail portion sticking out. Then a big bite, the tail went in, another bite and the fish was gone. Unfortunately, having just entered the water, my camera wasn’t ready and I didn’t get to record the event.

I did, however, get some other photos and a cool video:

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Beverhoutsberg Revisited

Valentine and I accompanied the photographer, Shaun O’Boyle, to Beverhoutsberg last Monday.

Shaun has a great collection of “off the beaten track” places – well worth a look. Check is photos out at off the beaten track” places at http://www.new.oboylephoto.com/

The last time I visited Beverhautsberg was three years ago. To get there you can access the Battery Gut just south of the Gifft Hill lower school in the narrow gut formed by a culvert. This approximately 50-foot section had sections where overgrown catch and keep vines made it challenging to get through. If you intend do this hike, I recommend you bring clippers (which I forgot to bring) and spend a little time clearing the way.

St. John Off the Beaten Track App
St. John Off the Beaten Track App

Once down to the gut the going was easy enough. I recommend bringing a smart phone loaded with the St. John Off The Beaten Track App to help find where the trail leaves the gut on the west side that leads to the Beverhoutsberg ruins.

 See 12/21/2013 Beverhoutsberg Blog

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