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Archive for April, 2009

Note: This article was written before the completion of the Beef Island Airport renovation. I liked the article the way it was written so I’ll present it in its original form.

The first and only toll bridge in the Virgin Islands runs between Tortola and Beef Island, the home of the BVI’s principal airport. The bridge is loaded with cultural charm, due primarily to the manner in which the toll is collected. The bridge operator sits in the shade of a small rustic tollbooth lying off one side of the road. When a vehicle comes to the tollgate, the collector extends a long stick with a tin can attached to the end. The driver places the toll in the can. The collector then retracts the stick, takes out the toll and opens the gate, allowing the vehicle to pass to the other side. The right to collect this toll was granted to the owners of the property where the bridge is located as a concession for the use of their land. The bridge, engineered and designed to last thirty years, is nearing the end of its days and, to the dismay of some and to the relief of others, this BVI cultural landmark will soon become just a memory of the past.

Before the bridge’s completion in 1966, vehicles traveling from Tortola to Beef Island used a do-it-yourself pontoon barge which could cross the narrow channel with one vehicle only, but with as many passengers as could squeeze aboard. A steel cable connected the barge to each shore serving to secure the barge to land and to control the sideways motion of the craft.

This is how the system worked:

If you were lucky, when you drove up to the shoreline, the barge would be on your side of the channel. In this case, you would haul the barge close to the shore with a special line designed for that purpose. Then you had to tie it tight to the large metal cleat, so that you could drive your vehicle aboard. Next, you would untie that line and manually pull the barge to the other shore. This was accomplished by hauling on a thick hemp line that was run through a series of pulleys to provide the mechanical advantage necessary for a single person to handle the large, heavy and unwieldy barge. Nonetheless, it was said to be quite a workout that normally produced copious amounts of perspiration, some huffing and puffing, and possibly grunts, groans or curses.

An alternative would be to hire some of the children from East End who would hang around the barge looking for a chance to earn a little money. When you reached the other side, you would tie the barge off tight so that you could exit the craft without your vehicle falling into the water. Then you were supposed to untie that line from the cleat, so that someone else on the opposite side could retrieve the barge.

If the barge was on the other side when you arrived, and the last person to use the barge had been thoughtful enough to untie it from the shore cleat, you could pull it to your side and then follow the previously mentioned procedure.

If, on the other hand, the barge was on the opposite side, but the last person had thoughtlessly left it tied, you would then have a problem. If you couldn’t attract the attention of someone on the far shore to untie the line, someone, probably you, had to swim over and untie it, after which the barge could be hauled over to the shore where your vehicle was left waiting.

In 1966, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge replaced the do-it-yourself pontoon barge. The dedication ceremony included Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself. This occasion also marked the first time a reigning monarch had ever visited the British Virgin Islands.

Queen Elizabeth arrived at West End, Tortola on the Royal Yacht Britannia. A bronze plaque was placed on the dock at the exact spot where “Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II first stepped foot in the BVI.” The monument has since been moved as it presented an obstruction to the efficient loading and unloading of cargo on the dock. The plaque indicating the exact spot where Her Majesty first stepped foot on BVI territory is now enigmatically located on the wall of the customs building.

The royal visit began with a brief ceremony, during which West End was renamed, Sopers Hole. The Queen then proceeded by motorcar to Roadtown for a further ceremony and then continued on to the eastern end of the island in order to dedicate the newly constructed bridge, which would bear her name.

The plan was for the Queen to arrive at the bridge, whereupon she would receive a demonstration of its opening and closing and then make her official dedication.

But things don’t normally proceed on schedule in the Virgin Islands. As could be predicted with a high degree of accuracy, none of the planned events occurred when they were supposed to, which resulted in the Queen arriving at the bridge hours later than expected. Because of the long delay, the bridge operator assumed that the visit had been cancelled, and went home for lunch, after which he took a nap, as was his custom.

When the Queen arrived, not only was the operator not present, but he had also taken along the crank that served to operate the bridge. Without that custom-made instrument, no one else could perform the demonstration either.

Someone went to fetch the operator, but after a while, the Prince, who had accompanied the Queen, got tired of waiting and suggested they dedicated the bridge without the demonstration.

The dedication was performed with all the proper pomp and ceremony and the one and only toll bridge in all of the Virgin Islands was officially christened the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. The royal procession then turned around and the Queen and her retinue returned to Sopers Hole and the Yacht, Britannia.

Over the years, the combination of salt air and increased and heavier vehicular traffic has taken their toll on the physical integrity of the bridge. Additionally, the completion of the new Beef Island International Airport and the large-scale commercial and residential development of Beef Island itself have rendered the old bridge inadequate to meet the new demands. For these reasons, a multimillion dollar project is underway to build an adequate replacement for the quaint and beloved Queen Elizabeth II Bridge that has delighted so many first time visitors to the British Virgin Islands.

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Caneel Hill Spur Trail, St. John USVI

Caneel Hill Spur Trail, St. John USVI

Trailheads at the intersection of Route 20

Trail down to Honeymoon Bay. The spur to the Caneel Hill Trail is across the road and up

Special Features

The Caneel Hill Spur, as its name implies is a spur trail off the Caneel Hill Trail. It runs between the Upper Lind Point Trail and the Caneel Hill Trail crossing the Northshore Road (Route (20) in between.

There are two good reasons to utilize this trail.

For hikers on the Caneel Hill Trail whose destination is the viewing platform at the Caneel Hill summit (elevation: 719 feet), the Caneel Hill Spur offers a somewhat easier access, because beginning your hike from the point where the Caneel Hill Spur crosses the Northshore Road will cut 200 feet of elevation off the arduous climb as opposed  to beginning the walk at the Caneel Hill trailhead in Cruz Bay which begins at sea level.

For hikers whose destination is Honeymoon or Salomon Bays and who have a vehicle, the Caneel Hill Spur provides a shorter, although steeper walk to the beach.

Spur trail leading to Caneel Hill Trail

Spur trail leading to Caneel Hill Trail

Distance: 0.4 mile

Elevations
Caneel Hill Trail intersection: 360 feet.
Northshore Road (Route 20): 200 feet
Upper Lind Point Trail: 120 feet

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The following story was told to me by a young doctor who used to practice in St. John here in the Virgin Islands:

One fine afternoon a man was taking a swim at Trunk Bay when, all of a sudden, he felt something go inside his ear. He swam to shore, stood on the sandy beach and tried to get it out.

He used all the everyday remedies that people use for this sort of problem. He tapped on the opposite side of his head with his hand. He jumped up and down while tilting his head to one side. He put his finger in his ear. All to no avail.

The feeling that the man had in his ear was causing him a great deal of discomfort. He could hear a kind of buzzing or scratching, and he had the distinct feeling that something was moving about in his inner ear.  He felt dizzy and nauseous. The man decided to seek medical attention and drove himself to the clinic.

The sensation the man was feeling became more and more disturbing, and by the time he was finally able to see the doctor, he was beside himself with nervousness and worry. His agitation had increased to such a degree that the attending physician was inwardly debating whether or not to sedate his nervous patient. He decided not to, and began his examination which quickly revealed the source of the problem; a small crab had taken refuge in the patient’s ear.

Now  those of you that like to swim at our  beautiful beaches must understand  that crabs don’t usually swim in people’s ears. It is, in fact, extremely rare, but this is exactly what happened to this unfortunate individual.

The knowledge of what was causing the problem did not serve to alleviate the man’s anxiety; it actually increased it. He began to plead with the doctor to “Please, please, hurry up and GET THAT CRAB OUT OF MY EAR!!!”

The doctor got to work. Armed with magnifying glasses, a special light and a medical tweezers he fished about in the man’s ear for the little crab. The patient squirmed, and the doctor exhorted him to “SIT?STILL!!” and, after what seemed like an eternity to the patient, the doctor was successful in removing the crustacean intruder.

“I’ve got it!” said the doctor.

“THANK GOD!” exclaimed his grateful patient.

“And here’s the culprit” said the doctor, as he put the captured crab on his hand and brought it into view for the man to see.

At this point something quite unexpected occurred. The crab did not hesitate for one moment. Just as soon as it was released from the grip of the tweezers, it jumped off the doctors hand, scurried up the man’s arm and leapt right back into his ear!

“What happened?”cried the man.

“OH NO!!! IT’S BACK IN MY EAR!!! GET IT OUT, PLEASE!!!”

After another fifteen minutes of crab hunting, and apologizing profusely to an extremely upset man, the doctor was finally able to recapture the crab.

This time he did not give it a second opportunity to escape.

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Romanticized tales of pirates and buried treasures have become an important part of West Indian lore, capturing the imaginations of both young and old. Former St. John residents, John and Jennifer Campbell and their children, were no exceptions. They loved to read and listen to stories about the pirates that haunted the Caribbean in the old colonial days.

Some years ago when Ross, one of the Campbell children, was about to celebrate his birthday, John and Jennifer organized a party at the public beach at Hawksnest Bay. The theme of the party was pirates.

The “adult” Campbells hatched up an elaborate scheme. An authentic-looking treasure chest was made out of an old wooden box and filled with “silver and gold” (pennies and nickels) and rare spices (candies and cookies) garnered from the four corners of the globe. The pirate chest was then buried just under the surface of the sand alongside a sea grape tree at Hawksnest Beach.

Next a treasure map was drawn using paper which had been burned on the edges to make it look old and mysterious. The map contained easy and explicit instructions as to the whereabouts of the fabulous pirate treasure.

The pirates were recruited from among John’s friends and colleagues. They wore eye patches and bandanas and carried pirate swords (machetes). A black 19-foot Zodiac served as “the pirate ship” which flew a large Jolly Roger so everyone would know that those on board were genuine buccaneers.

When the children arrived at the beach for the birthday party, they were informed that pirates had been seen in the vicinity. If any pirates should come even near the beach, the children were instructed to run and hide as quickly as possible because pirates were, after all, dangerous fellows.

Just about an hour after the start of the party, while the children were playing on the beach, a strange craft was seen approaching Hawksnest from the north. As it came closer one of the children recognized the skull and cross bones of the Jolly Roger flag and correctly identified the vessel. “Pirates!” he shouted, “Hide!”

The children ran for cover under the sea grape and maho trees.

The ominous pirate boat landed on the beach and the motley crew stepped ashore. A mean and nasty looking swashbuckler gazed up and down the beach. “Do you see kids around?” he growled, staring at the sea grape tree under which four or five children were hiding (and spying). This was obviously too much for one little boy who darted out from under the branches and ran, screaming at the top of his lungs, to his mother who did her best to calm the young lad.

“No, no sign of kids around here”, replied another pirate, ignoring the sobs of the frightened child.

“Who has the map?” queried a one-eyed buccaneer. “It’s right here”, answered the pirate captain, who looked a little like John Campbell, but more fierce. “Let’s bury it where no one will EVER find it”, he said, as he hid the map under a few inches of sand, seeming to be unaware that the eyes of more than a dozen children were following his every move.

With the map and treasure well hidden and the day’s mission accomplished, the brigands boarded their craft and headed out to the blue Caribbean.

As the pirates sped off they could a hear a tourist kid, who had been watching the drama unfold from down the beach, ask his mother “Were those real pirates, mom?” Meanwhile, with the buccaneers only a short distance offshore, one of the braver birthday party kids came out of hiding and ran to the sandy area where he had seen the pirates stash their secret treasure map.

The pirates returned to Cruz Bay, washed off their pirate makeup, removed their eye patches and put away their swords. They secured the pirate launch, boarded a Nissan pickup and drove back to Hawksnest to join the birthday party.

Upon their arrival at the beach, a gaggle of excited kids surrounded the newcomers and told them all about their recent encounter with real Caribbean pirates, their narrow escape and their recovery of a fabulous buried treasure.

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Many visitors and even some guidebooks talk about the wild horses of Vieques. In fact, these horses are not wild. They all have owners. Well, sort of.

The way it was explained to me was that if a horse upsets your garden or damages your car, that horse may very well not have an owner. On the other hand, if instead you were to take that same horse home, you can bet that its rightful owners would show up at your door demanding that you give them back their horse.

A Horse Story

A longtime resident of Vieques told me an interesting anecdote about horses and their owners.

Once upon a time, when the Marines were in Vieques, they decided that the horses grazing the fields inside the Camp Garcia gate were trespassing on government land.

The horses were rounded up, arrested, so to speak, and then put in a corral to be used for the horseback riding pleasure of the Marine brass.

One day, during a visit by the British Marines to Camp Garcia, a British Sergeant Major, passing by the corral, asked an American Sergeant Major about the horses in the camp. It was soon discovered that they both loved riding and the American Sergeant Major invited the British Sergeant Major out for a ride.

Late that afternoon the two Sergeant Majors saddled up two of the finest horses in the camp and rode out towards Esperanza. When they passed the Don Q Bar on the way into town, the two Sergeant Majors developed a keen thirst and decided to go into the bar for a few drinks.

The two officers tied up the horses to a tree and walked into the bar where they sat down and very knowledgeably discussed horses, horsemanship and their favorite places to ride.

The American Sergeant Major described to the British Sergeant Major every detail of the trail that the two men would take as soon as they had satiated their thirst. This being accomplished, they got off of their barstools and walked out onto the street.

When the two Sergeant Majors looked over at the tree where they had left the horses tied, they saw a pair of fancy saddles, a pair of bridles, and a pair of saddle blankets, in effect, all their riding paraphernalia, but there were no horses. The owner of the horses had recognized them and had taken them back.

There was too much gear to walk back to the camp. So they sat down at the bar and tossed down a series of stiff drinks, while they waited for transportation to take them and their equipment back to the base.

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Introduction
This story has nothing to do about St. John, but I will now justify it’s relevance for a St. John blog. Like I write, St. John, the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. This broadens the topic base quite a bit. Now please allow me to stretch this a little bit. Here’s a story about a man from the Caribbean.

Really I just like stories, and I’d like to share this one….

The Story
Many people from the Caribbean have migrated to the big cities of the United States and Europe in search of better jobs. The following story concerns one such immigrant who settled in the Washington DC area.

Upon arriving in his new homeland a young man, a recent immigrant from the Caribbean, applied for a job with the Washington DC Fire Department. He passed through the screening process and underwent training as a fireman and EMT. Appreciative of the opportunities that had been presented to him, he became a gung-ho and dedicated employee.

On March 30, 1981, he happened to be at the George Washington University Hospital where he had just brought in an accident victim. While he was there, a call came in alerting the staff that a high priority trauma would soon be arriving at the emergency room.

Hearing the screech of tires outside, he proceeded to the front doors and saw a black limousine out of which emerged a swarm of gentlemen in suits and sunglasses surrounding older man who appeared to be injured. The older man, refusing to accept the help offered by his companions, walked unsteadily toward the emergency room doors. Just inside, he collapsed and fell into the arms of the Caribbean paramedic.

To the fireman’s amazement the man in his arms turned out to be none other than the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. The President had just been shot by John Hinckley Jr. who, emulating Robert De Niro’s character, Travis Bickle in the movie Taxi Driver, had attempted the assassination in order to impress actress Jodie Foster.

The astonished fireman carried Reagan to a gurney and took him to the triage room where he helped tend to the President as doctors, nurses and technicians quickly arrived on the scene.

Meanwhile, secret service agents fanned out through the emergency room complex and saw to it that the area was secured. This meant that any non-essential personnel needed to be removed from the area, as the secret service had no way of knowing whether any of the patients might pose a security risk.

“What’s wrong with that guy?” barked a secret serviceman.

“Broken leg,” answered one of the hospital attendants.

“Get him out of here!”

“And what about that guy?”

“Heart attack”

“Get him out of here!”

And so it went until the room was cleared and other accommodations were found for the sick and wounded waiting to be attended to that day.

In the triage room, Reagan was stripped and examined. Doctors discovered a gunshot wound to the President’s chest, which had punctured one his lungs. The Chief Executive was rushed to the operating room where he underwent two hours of surgery to remove the .22 caliber explosive “devastator” bullet and to repair his collapsed lung.

When his shift was over, the Caribbean EMT and fireman went home where told his wife what had happened that night. “Oh, I’m so very proud of you, my dear, you’re a real hero” she exclaimed as she gave her husband a big hug.

That night, while laying in bed, the fireman also could not help but be proud of himself thinking how few people could say that they had played a part in saving the life of the President of the United States.

Two days later the fireman was summoned by his supervisor and told to report to the Secret Service office the next day. “Why do they want to see me?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” replied the supervisor, “maybe they want to give you a medal.”

That night he returned home and shared this new development with his wife. She agreed with the lighthearted speculation of the supervisor and told her husband that surely he was to receive some sort of reward or commendation for what he had done for the President on the night that he was shot.

The morning of his scheduled appointment, the fireman put on his best dress uniform and reported to the office of the Secret Service prepared to be recognized for the part that he had played in the drama at the hospital. His reception at the office, however, was icy, and he began to suspect that something was wrong. A receptionist told him to proceed to room 224, an office down the hall. Inside the sparsely furnished room he found a desk, a chair and two decidedly unfriendly and stern-faced men, who, without any exchange of pleasantries, instructed him to sit down in the wooden chair alongside the desk. The two secret servicemen remained standing.

“Where is it?” demanded one of the men, pointing a finger in the fireman’s chest. “We know you have it and you better give it up now.”

“What! What are you talking about? Where is what?” the fireman stammered.

“Don’t play dumb with us. Let us make this clear. If you don’t cooperate your career and your life will never be the same. You better come clean and tell us the truth.

The questioning continued in this manner for over an hour with the professional interrogators never revealing what it was they were talking about. Finally, he was summarily dismissed. As he reached the door, however, one of the agents added, “And, I wouldn’t talk about this to anyone if I were you, do you understand? This is not over. We’ll be speaking to you again”

Intimidated and bewildered, the fireman returned home and to his dismay found his house full of friends and family invited by his wife to celebrate her husband’s recognition. Totally chagrined, he was forced to explain to the well-wishers that far from being commended he was the subject of some sort of investigation the subject of which he did not know.

Several weeks after the shooting, during a meeting with his supervisor, the supervisor told him confidentially what happened. Sometime during the triage process, a pair of gold and diamond cufflinks and a tie clasp worn by President Reagan were stolen. They were a gift from the first lady, Nancy Reagan, on his inauguration and were worth $30,000.

It turned out that almost everyone in the emergency, triage and operating rooms were considered suspects and were questioned in the same manner as the fireman. Then, a week after the interrogations, the missing items miraculously appeared behind a file cabinet in the triage room stuffed in an envelope. As the room was cleaned and sterilized on a daily basis, it was unlikely that the jewelry had simply been misplaced. The most plausible explanation was that someone committed a crime of opportunity and then, fearful of the ruthless perseverance of the secret service investigators returned it to take the heat off themselves.

The fireman was relieved to finally learn the reason for his interrogation and to know that his ordeal was most likely over. Yet, he was disappointed the thief was never identified and that there might be some lingering suspicion about him. He felt like he had been put through the wringer. Having experienced the elation of having helped the President of the United States in a moment of need that so quickly yielded to the harrowing experience of being treated as a suspect in a crime he did not commit. And so it was that this son of the Caribbean found that life in the land of opportunity is not without some trying moments.

Note:
Some years later, after being promoted to the position of supervisor, the fireman from the Caribbean accompanied a friend of mine who was the producer for the TV show Emergency Call. It was during the making of one of the episodes that the fireman shared this story with my friend.

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Anyone familiar with the Caribbean has certainly heard lurid tales about the fearsome natives of the Lesser Antilles, the Caribs. They have been described as bloodthirsty savages; cannibals who attacked the peace-loving Tainos, killing the men, kidnapping the women, and capturing young boys who were kept in pens to be castrated, fattened and eaten. The very word “cannibal” comes from “Caribal,” referring to the Carib tribe.

Who are these people, and what is behind the Carib myth?

The Carib’s savage reputation preceded actual European contact. Columbus first learned about them from the Lucayos, the Tainos of the Bahamas, whom he encountered on his first voyage. According to the Lucayos, a fierce and warlike people ruled many islands to the east.

Peter Martyr, who interviewed sailors returning from the first transatlantic voyages, documented: “The Caribs emasculated the boys whom they seized and those who were born of the captives, fed them fat and, at their festivals, and devoured them.”

Columbus did not personally encounter the Caribs until his second voyage, when the fleet came ashore on the island of Guadeloupe. Entering the Caribs’ homes, shore parties found “man’s flesh, duck’s flesh and goose flesh, all in one pot, and others on the spits ready to be laid to the fire. Entering into their inner lodgings, they found faggots of the bones of men’s arms and legs, which they reserve to head arrows, because they lack iron; the other bones they cast away when they have eaten the flesh. They found likewise the head of a young  man, fastened to a post, and yet bleeding and drinking vessels made of skulls,” wrote Martyr.

On Guadeloupe, Columbus found six women, two children and a young man – Tainos from Boriken (Puerto Rico) – who had been captured by the Caribs. According to Columbus’s son Ferdinand, the Tainos begged the Spaniards to help them escape. “They elected to give themselves over to an unknown people so alien to their own, rather than remain amongst those who were so manifestly horrible and cruel and who had eaten their husbands and children.”

On his next stop, which was St. Croix, Columbus rescued more Taino captives. “Two slaves had so recently been castrated that they were still sore,” reported the leader of the St. Croix shore party, Michele de Cuneo.

Later on, rumors and tall tales of cannibalism circulated throughout the West Indies.

“The Caribbeans [Caribs] have tasted of all the nations that frequented them, and affirm that the French are the most   delicate, and the Spaniards are hardest of digestion,” reads a passage in the book, History of the Carribby Islands.

A Frenchman named Laborde reported that he had had occasion to speak with a Carib whom he encountered on the island of St. Vincent eating a boiled human foot. The Carib explained to Laborde that he ate only Arawaks [Tainos] because “Christians gave him the belly-ache.”

On a similar note, there is the story that was told around the Caribbean of a Carib tribe in Dominica that became so ill, upon eating a Franciscan friar, that they vowed never to eat that variety of European again.

Knowing about this, when a crew of Spaniards sailing past Dominica needed to come ashore to reprovision, they shaved the head of a sailor like a Franciscan monk, put him in a gunny sack, tied a rope around his waist and sent him safely on his way. The Caribs, fearing indigestion, gave him a wide berth.

Tales such as these inspired Daniel Defoe’s famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, which supposedly took place on the island of Tobago. Crusoe’s “Man Friday” was an Arawak who had been captured in a raid. He had escaped and was hiding from the Caribs when Crusoe found him.

In all probability, these accounts of the Caribs’ taste for human flesh were exaggerated. The Caribs did not hunt humans for the purpose of providing food for their tribe. What they did was practice ritual cannibalism: They ate people or body parts ceremonially in order to absorb their spiritual and physical powers.

Certain human parts, such as the testicles, were considered to be especially empowering. Having nothing comparable to this in their own culture, Europeans jumped to the conclusion that the Caribs ate people for sustenance.

When they observed the two recently castrated captives in  St. Croix,* they again explained the phenomenon through the experience of their own culture, in which food animals were tenderized and fattened in this manner.

The European fascination with cannibalism had another unexpected result. At the time of the discovery of the New World, the Caribs were far fewer in number, inhabited far less territory, and had a less-advanced culture than the Tainos. Nonetheless, this preoccupation with the consumption of human beings was responsible, to a great extent, for the fact that the islands of the West Indies and the sea that they define were ultimately named the Caribbean.

More importantly, the European revulsion of cannibalism was used as propaganda to justify the enslavement of the native islanders. In many cases, when laws were passed to protect the Tainos, slavers simply reclassified their captives as Caribs.

* My research shows that the island in question was in fact St. Martin, not St. Croix…read article
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The Roseway  sailing west out of Francis Bay under full sail 4/19/2009

The Roseway sailing west out of Francis Bay under full sail 4/19/2009

This beautiful schooner, the Roseway out of St. Croix, USVI, was sure to capture the attention of anyone out at sea or on the beach along St. John’s north shore as she passed by under full sail Sunday morning, 4/19/2009, heading west out of Francis Bay.

The schooner, Roseway, belongs to the World Ocean School, “an internationally focused nonprofit, nonsectarian organization dedicated to providing challenging educational programs aboard the schooner Roseway.”

The Roseway is a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark operating in Boston and St. Croix, USVI.

History of the Schooner, Roseway
In the fall of 1920 a Halifax, Nova Scotia, newspaper challenged the fisherman of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to a race between the Halifax fishing schooners and the Gloucester fleet…. read more

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I took a look at my book inventory and, lo and behold, it’s time for a reprinting of our most popular book, “St. John Off the Beaten Track.” It’s in pretty good shape now and not a whole lot has changed in the last few years on the beaches and trails, but nonetheless, there’s always room for improvement, so it looks like a rewrite.

My method of forced discipline for these tasks has always been to begin with a web presentation of the various chapters. That gets it written, allows for changes, organizes images and more importantly, makes the process seem less huge. Readers of the blog will get a preview of the new book and can avail themselves of the information. They can even follow me around the island checking out the beautiful trails and beaches one by one.

I’ll be starting from Cruz Bay and going around the north shore, so our first entry will be the Lind Point Trail.

Lind Point Trail

Lind Point Trail

Lind Point Trail

Lind Point Trail

Lind Point Trail

Special Features
As the trail begins just a short walk from the ferry dock in downtown Cruz Bay, this is THE trail to take for day trippers to St. John, who would like to either take a hike on one of the national Park Trails or enjoy one of St. John’s world famous north shore beaches without the necessity of renting a car or hiring a taxi.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distances
From the National Park Service Visitors Center to Honeymoon Bay (1.1 miles)
From the National Park Service Visitors Center to Salomon Bay (0.75 mile)
From the National Park Service Visitors Center to the Lind Point Overlook (0.4 mile)

Hiking Time: About 45 minutes (Cruz Bay to Honeymoon Bay- taking it slow)

Elevation
Sea level at Cruz Bay, Salomon and Honeymoon trail heads and 140 feet at the Lind Point Battery Overlook

Environment
The Lind Point Trail passes through the inland environments of cactus scrub between Cruz Bay and Lind Point and dry forest on the wooded slopes of Caneel Hill east of Lind Point.

The Route
The Lind Point Trail runs between the parking area behind the National Park Visitors Center and the beaches at Salomon and Honeymoon Bays passing by the Lind Point Battery Overlook from where the hiker can enjoy unobstructed views of downtown Cruz Bay, the main harbor, the Battery, the Creek and many of the islands and cays of Pillsbury Sound.

Cruz Bay to Lind Point
From the Cruz Bay trail head to Lind Point the trail passes through an area once known as Estate Lindholm, which in colonial days was dedicated to the cultivation of cotton.

The trail crosses the road to the old seaplane ramp

The trail crosses the road to the old seaplane ramp

Night Blooming Cerius

Night Blooming Cerius

After crossing a dirt road, the trail rises gradually in elevation and follows the eastern shoreline of Cruz Bay. Here the track is lined by tangles of night blooming cerius, a cactus-like plant that once a year produces a magnificent white flower that opens at night and closes before sunrise the next morning. The flower is followed by the production of a delicious red fruit that tastes something like a kiwi.

About a quarter mile from the trailhead, the path splits into upper and lower branches. The upper trail will be to your right while the lower trail continues straight ahead. Both trails access the Salomon and Honeymoon Bays, but only the upper trail passes by the Lind Point Battery Overlook.

Intersection of upper and lower trails

Intersection of upper and lower trails

Lower Trail
The lower trail is slightly shorter and less hilly, than the upper trail and would be the preferred route for those who are not interested in the Lind Point Battery Overlook and are using the trail solely as a means of getting to the Salomon or Honeymoon beaches.

Upper Trail
The upper trail gains elevation through a series of switchbacks and then continues north toward Lind Point, the headland that defines the northern extremity of Cruz Bay and the northwestern corner of the island.

Lind Point
When you get to Lind Point, a loop trail on your left leads to the Lind Point Battery Overlook.

Lind Point Battery Overlook

Lind Point Battery Overlook

Lind Point Battery Overlook
During the era of the Napoleonic wars, England, along with most of Europe, had united against Napoleon and his revolutionary government in France. Fearing for the security of her West Indian colonies, Britain turned her attention to the Danish West Indian islands of St. Thomas and St. John. If the French took control of these islands, they would undoubtedly use the strategic harbors of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas and Coral Bay on St. John to set up bases from which Tortola and the rest of the British West Indian colonies could be attacked.

It was a likely scenario. Denmark never had a strong military presence in the Caribbean and St. Thomas and St. John could easily have fallen prey to the French. The British decided to make the first move. They sent a fleet of warships to St. Thomas, whereupon the Danes surrendered before a single shot was fired. British troops occupied the Danish West Indies on two separate occasions, once in 1801, for almost a year, and then again in 1807, this time remaining until 1815. In order to secure Cruz Bay harbor, the British built a battery (fortification) on Lind Point. The “English Fort” as it was called by the inhabitants of St. John at the time, was no more than a semicircular terrace supported by a stone retaining wall upon which cannons were placed to defend the harbor. The cannons are no longer there, but the retaining wall remains. In place of the weaponry, there is now a wooden bench where you can sit and enjoy a view of busy Cruz Bay Harbor backdropped by unspoiled tropical scenery.

From Lind Point to Salomon and Honeymoon Bays
From Lind Point, the trail turns right, or east, and follows the northwestern coastline though a dry forest environment. Many of the rock formations along the hillsides are covered by epiphytes (air plants), such as bromeliads and anthuriums. Other rocks bear intricate designs created by lichen growing on the surface of the stones.

Salomon Bay Spur Trail

Salomon Bay Spur Trail

Salomon Bay Spur

The Salomon Bay Spur Trail intersects both the upper and lower Lind Point trails about a quarter mile from Lind Point. For those going to Salomon Bay, take this trail down to the western end of Salomon Beach. The trail runs alongside the beach to eastern end of Salomon Bay and then leads up to meet the lower Lind Point Trail.

On to Honeymoon Bay
For those not going to Salomon Bay, both the lower and upper Lind Point Trails continue on towards Honeymoon Bay near a large tamarind tree. Cross over the dirt road to get to the beach. This road heads east towards the Caneel Bay Resort.

(East of the Salomon Bay Spur Trail, the Upper Lind Point Trail intersects the Caneel Hill Spur Trail just before its intersection with the lower trail.)

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When we first moved into this house some eight years ago, I bought a small mango tree from Cliff Bryan who has a nursery on St. Thomas. I’m sure I agonized over my choice of grafted trees, but I soon forgot the name of the one I choose.

Where we live in Chocolate Hole is not an ideal spot for a mango tree. The soil is clay. The rainfall here is less than on other parts of the island and the land, facing east,  is exposed to the drying effects of the trades.

To mitigate these adverse conditions, we dug a big hole, filled it with good soil and plenty of organic fertilizers and planted the little tree just below our deck.

Most mango trees bear at least one or two mangos fairly soon after they’re planted and become established. Ours, although it grew larger rapidly did not bear at all the first year or the second, or the third, or the forth or the fifth year. Not one flower, not one mango. I became angry at the tree. It was so big and lush, but no mangoes.

On the sixth year we harvested a giant crop of five mangoes. What that tree lacked in quantity, however, it made up in quality; the mangoes were delicious, big, juicy and without a hint of fiber. The next year was better than that, but this year looks really promising.

Our mango tree with lots of flowers

Our mango tree with lots of flowers

One never knows with mangoes. Anything can happen. A strong wind can easily blow off all the flowers or small fruits before they set. Too much or too little rain at the wrong times can also decimate the harvest. Nonetheless, I want to document this years flowering our mango tree, so here a photo to remember it by. Hopefully it will be followed by more photos of a tree full of big ripe mangoes.

About the name
As I wrote before, I had forgotten the name of our variety. We had a mango book, but we couldn’t be sure and none of the names rung a bell. Various mango experts from around St. John offered their opinions, but I wasn’t convinced by anyone.

One day we met our friend Rajni at Honeymoon Bay. Her father, mother and sister from the Philippines were visiting and it turns out that her dad is an agronomist for the United Nations and is a big plant expert.

We took him to see our tree. One look and he had it – it is a malika – it came back to me – that was it! And we got a history and fact list to go along with it. Not bad. That’s St. John for you – somebody usually come along when you need them.

If we get enough mangoes this year, maybe I won’t be so selfish with them. Stay tuned…

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Brought to you by Gerald Singer, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)