"St. John Off The Beaten Track" our top selling St. John guidebook
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Archive for August, 2009

The following is a press release from the St John Film Society. I’d just like to add a little note of local interest about one of the film:

The Denis Bay Connection
Some illustrious St. Johnians have lived at Denis Bay either as renters or caretakers. St. Johnian, Thomas Thomas, served as one of the first caretakers and Robert and Nancy Gibney were among the first renters, having leased the property in 1947. The late Carl Frank, the founder of Holiday Homes was also a caretaker. He passed on the enviable job to Peter Griffith and family. One of the Griffith’s daughters, Melanie Griffith, who is one of the stars in the Milagro Beanfield Wars, spent much of her childhood at Denis Bay.
Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track

Press Release:

St John Film Society Presents:

Free Movie

7:00 pm Tuesday, September 1
Sputnik Bar
Coral Bay, St John

“Milagro” is the Spanish word for “miracle”
THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR
by Robert Redford (117 min) 1988
“Whimsical, yet credible”

This enjoyable tale of a small village’s fight over water rights is told with magical realism and humor. The residents of a small humble New Mexican agricultural community are threatened when big business appropriates their water rights to supply a posh housing development, thus depriving them of their one source of livelihood, crop raising. One man courageously stands up to fight the usurpers and causes division within the community.

Stars Ruben Blades, Sonia Braga, Melanie Griffith, Daniel Stern and John Heard.
” … a populist fable set in some beautiful New Mexican landscapes about one stubborn Chicano’s battle against an uncaring system.” The New York Times

Come early for Julietta’s famous rotis!

Seating is limited, so bring a beach chair if you’ll be late.  See You There!

COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Allawees AfterSchool Program
(Safe, Drug & Violence-Free Youth Activity)

St John Youth, ages 10 – 15, are invited to enroll now in an exciting 10 week program, sponsored by the St John Community Foundation and the V.I. Department of Human Services.
Sept. 14 – Nov. 19 Tues/Thurs 3-5:30 p.m.

Parents, Sponsors & Community Volunteers:
For more info contact Paul Devine at St John Community Foundation
(340) 693-9410, E-mail: allawe@sjcf.org


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St. John US Virgin Islands
Press Relase

Steve Simon Presents:

Bluzapalooza

Bluzapalooza

BLUZAPALOOZA V

The Pizza & Pyramid Tour
October 21 through November 1, 2010

Starring Zac Harmon with Special Guests Deanna Bogart, Terry “Harmonica” Bean and Steve Simon, this 10 day tour includes a show at the U.S. Naval Base in Sicily, Italy and then on to Cairo, Egypt for command performances at the Pyramids, The  Cairo Opera House and the Cairo – American University.

For further information contact Steve Simon at 340-643-6475 or at stevesimonlive@yahoo.com
Check out www.myspace.com/bluzapalooza

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The Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park have just completed their project of a handicap accessible boardwalk running along the salt pond at Francis Bay. It’s really a great thing, not just for the handicapped, but also for the general public and the environment.

Now people in wheelchairs can have the opportunity to go “off road” on St. John, to experience the mangrove forest and salt pond environment and to be able to engage in bird watching, safely and comfortably.

The boardwalk, which runs above ground eases the problem that often plagued this particular section of the trail, which was that after strong rains the trail would become flooded and  muddy. The elevation of the boardwalk is also sound environmentally as it allows wildlife to be able to pass underneath naturally, unrestricted by the trail.

An early morning trail walk
Wanting to check out the new project, I took a walk on the trail early in the morning. I parked the car near the stone building at the intersection of the Leinster Bay Road and the Maho Bay Campground access road and began my walk.

The Francis Bay Trail is probably the easiest trail  walk on St. John. It’s only a little more than a quarter mile long, there’s only one small hill to climb and the trail itself is in excellent condition, cleared and smoothed.

At the top of the trail’s only hill are two benches where you can sit and observe the activity in the salt pond below. There’s also a great view of the St. John coast and the islands and cays looking to the west. The trail descends from there to the beach at Francis Bay. Here you’ll come across some tall tamarind trees and the footing for what must have been a dock sometime ago. You can access the beach from here or continue along the trail which now runs through the mangrove forest right alongside the Francis Bay Salt Pond.

After about twenty yards or so you’ll come across a wooden bench strategically placed to observe the pond. Continuing along the trail you come to the new boardwalk, which runs from there to where the trail exits near the Francis Bay Beach. The boardwalk includes a bench  and a pier that juts out into the pond from where you can have an excellent view of the birds and ducks and crabs that frequent this environment.

So if you suffer from a handicap that limits your ability to walk, if you like bird watching, if you want to experience a salt pond or would just like to see some of the off the beaten track areas of St. John with a minimum of exertion, this is the trail for you.

An old residence on the trail

an old residence on the trail

Benches on hilltop overlooking the pond

benches on hilltop overlooking the pond

a nicely cleared mostly level trail

a nicely cleared mostly level trail

Francis Bay Beach

Francis Bay Beach

Bench overlooking the Francis Bay Salt Pond

bench overlooking the Francis Bay Salt Pond

Handicap access boardwalk

handicap access boardwalk

Handicap access bench

handicap access bench

handicap access pier

handicap access pier

doves at pond

doves at pond

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Chelsea at Maho Bay

Maho Bay

St. John Sunday Swim
Chelsea O’Brien and I have re instituted  our “St. John Sunday Morning Long Distance Swim.” Next week we’ll be at Maho Bay at 8:30 AM and the course will be from the Green Building on the west end of the beach along the Maho Bay shoreline to the end, then around the point to Little Maho and on to the northern extreme of Francis Bay and back. We believe the course is about a mile and half or maybe a little more. Today we were joined by Sam from Pond Bay. Anyone who wants to join us is welcome and can do as little or as much of the course as they want.

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

Maho Bay: The Place to Find Sea Turtles
On the first leg of the swim along the Maho Bay shoreline, we saw turtles, just like last week and the week before. And I mean lots of turtles, I counted twelve today. There are several small ones some medium sized and one big mama turtle. I believe she’s a mama because she has two little ones following after her most of the time. They are Green Sea Turtles and are most commonly are around the grassy areas just about ten yards off shore.

Anyway, I know a lot of visitors like to see turtles. If you do, Maho Bay is the place to find them know. You can’t miss. Just snorkel around the grassy areas around the middle of the beach and look around.

The Rocky Point Between Big and Little Maho
The large rocks around the point between the two Mahos are a good place to see fish, especially these large schools of bright yellow French Grunts. There’s also some nice sponges, sea fans and some coral.

Francis Bay

Francis Bay

Francis Bay: An Active Hunting Ground
At the northern end of Francis Bay we are seeing a lot of activity. Fry of different sizes, some rather tiny, some sardine size and some larger sprat sized ones abound and all the usual suspects are ready for the feast. Lurking on the outskirts of the schools of fry are the predators, jacks, Spanish mackerel, barracudas and tarpons darting into the masses of fry while from the air pelicans swoop down grabbing mouthfuls of fish. None of these guys seem to pay any attention at all to the two big fish, Chelsea and I, swimming in the middle of all of this commotion.

Back to Maho
We return to Maho Bay good and tired after the swim. Feels good!

Strange Maho Bay Fauna
Sunday morning Maho Bay fauna almost always includes a sub species of human beings called physical fitness fanatics. Today, of course there were Sam, Chelsea and I and we saw Miles Stair taking a swim after his morning run. Last Saturday we bumbed into Hank Sloddin who does a cross country Sunday run starting at Maho, on to the Leinster Bay Trail, the Johnny Horn Trail over to Coral Bay and then up Kings Hill Road and back down to Maho. Talk about eight tough miles! Also last week we say Pat Mahoney, who was finishing up a twelve mile run. There’s always someone we know. Something about Maho Bay Sundays.

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Little Cinnamon

Little Cinnamon, a beach for small boats

On St. John, we have a lot of options when it comes to going to the beach. Some have facilities and some don’t. Some attract tourists in taxi-vans and some are rarely visited except by locals. Some can be reached by walking just a few yards from your vehicle and some can only be reached by walking trail.

That is, if you’re coming by land, but what about those that arrive by sea?.

In order to protect the undersea grasslands that have been decimated by anchors over the years, the National Park has instituted rules concerning anchoring at National Park park beaches. Generally speaking, anchoring is prohibited within the boundaries marked off by the white swim swim buoys that can be found at almost all the beaches. Small craft may enter these bays through the channel marked by the red and green buoys to pick up or discharge passengers, but cannot anchor within that area. Boats must either be hauled up onto the beach or moored or anchored outside the protected area, in which case you’ll either have to swim in or catch a ride. (leaving the dinghy operator with no other choice but to swim or stay aboard)

But hauling a boat up on the beach is problematic for all but the smallest dinghies. Most dinghies are simply too heavy to pull up to a safe distance on the beach where waves and tides will not threaten to take the craft back out to sea, minus captain and crew.

It used to be so convenient. If you had a small boat you could anchor in sand near the beach and have easy safe access. But boaters who would lay their anchors in the seagrass beds, ruined it for the rest and now no one can anchor right off the beach.

One Exception
A little known fact is that there is one National Park beach where you can still anchor close in. And its a beautiful coral sand, north shore, palm tree lined beach to boot. That beach is Little Cinnamon and it’s the only one of its kind on the north shore. Pull right up to beach and set your anchor, but be sure to watch out for patches of reef lying near the shore.

Click for more information about Little Cinnamon Beach

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It’s Monday morning and we on St. John are just about in the middle of the clusters of clouds and thunderstorms that are making up what was once Tropical Storm Ana; downgraded yesterday, she now has a case of tropical depression.

Nonetheless, it’s windy and stormy.  It’s a nice day to stay at home and cool out.

Meanwhile, Bill is now a hurricane and the forecast is for him to continue strengthening.  Bill appears to be taking a northerly turn and hopefully he’ll pass our longitude at a significantly safe latitude sometime Friday morning.

GOOD T’ING!!!

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St. John Virgin Islands: TS Ana Update 5:00 AM Sunday 8/16/2009
St. John is now officially under a tropical storm watch as are the rest of the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the islands of the northern Lesser Antilles, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, St. .Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.

A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 36 hours.

The 5:00 update from the National Hurricane Center places the center of Tropical Storm Ana about 43 miles south of St. Croix at 5:00 PM on Monday with sustained winds of about 40 mph with higher gusts.

TS Bill
The 5:00 five day forecast from the National Hurricane Center places the center of Tropical Storm Bill about 200 miles north of us early Friday morning as a category three hurricane (winds 111 to 130 mph). Keep in mind that five day forecasts are fairly unreliable, so stay tuned.

Tropical Wave Invest 90
Just so we have something else to worry about an area of disturbed weather with the potential for tropical development is lurking in the Atlantic off the African Coast with computer models predicting a track towards we.

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The Fun Begins

TS Ana
Tropical Depression Two has intensified to become Tropical Storm Ana, the first named storm f the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The none to accurate five day forecast places the storm near St. John and the Virgin Islands sometime Monday night at tropical storm strength (winds 39 -73 mph) Ana now packs sustained winds of 40 mph with gust up to 50 mph. The public advisory as of 11:00 AM today reads, “…interests in the Leeward Islands…the Virgin Islands…and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of Ana. A tropical storm watch may be required for portions of the Leeward Islands later today.”

Tropical Depression Three (Bill?)

Now right behind Ana is Tropical Depression Three, which should become Tropical Storm Bill later today or early tomorrow is presently forecast to be in our vicinity as a category two hurricane (winds 96 -100 mph) on Thursday morning.

Invest 90 (Claudette?)
And if this isn’t bad enough for you, right behind these to villains lies Invest 90,an area of disturbed weather that has the potential for tropical development and whose forecast track also places it near the Virgin Islands.

Keep a weather eye!

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St. John, Virgin Islands
Being that its hurricane season here in the Virgin Islands, I’ve been monitoring several internet weather sites to keep abreast of any developing adverse atmospheric conditions. In pursuing this, I learned of the role played by Sahara dust in the formation of hurricanes.

Hurricanes
The area affected by this hot, dry and dusty air coming off the Sahara Dessert on the continent of Africa even has a name. Its called the Sahara Air Layer or (SAL).

It seems that the SAL impedes the development of tropical storms. This is what happened to Tropical Depression Two, which never (yet) turned into the expected first named storm of the season. However, the absence of Sahara dust in the vicinity of the extensive tropical wave now off the coast of Africa (90L) is what makes this gathering of thunderstorms more likely to experience organization and to perhaps threaten us next week.

The Birds and The Bees
I have also observed how the dryness in the air and lack of rain which has characterized our weather here on St. John for the last several weeks has affected the behavior of some of our more common tropical fauna. My old enemies, the thrushies, seem to be more aggressive in stealing my mangoes

The dry air has also made bees more creative in searching for water as can be witnessed by anyone daring enough to bathe in our outdoor shower. The second the water is turned on, dozens of bees swarm about attracted to the water, even if steaming hot. They’re not aggressive, have never stung anyone (yet), but it is rather unnerving to be standing naked taking a shower closely surrounded by swarms of buzzing bees.

Another plus for the Sahara dust and its resultant dryness is the relative absence of mosquitos. These pesky insects depend on standing water to breed and without it, their numbers decrease dramatically.

Tropical Depression
My friend, John Gibney, who spent most of his life on St. John, once remarked that the Sahara dust affected his mood and when the condition broke followed by a hard rain he would feel noticeably better. Thinking about it, I believe I feel the same way.

This is not too far-fetched, as certain weather conditions in the world are commonly known to effect peoples mood. This has often been said about the Santa Anna winds over California, the Kona winds over Hawaii and the The Tramontana winds over Spain, France and Italy. This tendency for certain winds to influence mood has been attributed to the production of positively charged ions by certain wind conditons.

Referring to the Tramontama, the principal character in Victor Hugo’s poem, Gastibelza, says: “Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne me rendra fou..” (“the wind which comes across the mountains would drive me mad.” And he Colombian writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, wrote about the Tramontana bearing the seeds of madness.

All in all, however, I would venture to guess that hurricanes and mosquitos would depress me way more than positive ions.

I hear the thrushies screeching. Better go check my mangoes.

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Hello Film Society Friends

We hope you’ve been enjoying your summer. For those of you still on island, there are some exciting activities and events to partake in; the kind that make you feel good about living on St. John!

This week, we are delighted to share some additional information with you (below) about these events happening right here in your community. But first…

The St John Film Society would like to announce our first “Double Feature Delight!” Please join us in Cruz Bay next Tuesday at 7 pm, for two fantastic short films about recycling and the “stuff” we consume.

Tuesday, Aug. 18
7:00 PM
Marketplace, 3rd Floor
Cruz Bay

Featuring:

THE RECYCLERGY
by Jeremy Kaller (33 min) 2006

The history of the recycling movement in the San Francisco area, starting with the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.

And

THE STORY OF STUFF
by Annie Leonard (20 min) 2007

The way you look at all the stuff you accumulate may change forever. Lighthearted and educational.

***And special guests from St John’s Recycling Forum!***
Please visit our website for details.
www.stjohnfilm.com

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