Christmas Day 2009 – Chin, Boopy, Michelle, Zi and G take off to Jost Van Dyke somewhat crowded into the 15-foot inflatable. Although the morning started off with heavy rains, flash flood warnings and a rain probability of 90%, the seas are calm. We make a straight shot to Jost, leaving two heavy squalls one on the port the other on the starboard. We arrive fairly dry.
Jost Van Dyke, BVI: Bubbly Pool Christmas Day 2009
Watching one of the last of the undeveloped sandy southwestern beaches go the way of the big money seems to have drawn me there lately; getting there while the getting is good, so to speak. Made me think of the archived photos I have of those pre-development days. when a rugged trail lead to the point and the eastern and western beaches.
This photo was on the cover of old editions of St. John Off the Beaten Track. To get here walk south along the coast from Ditleff beach.
Native fishermen used to use Ditleff Beach for picking whelk, diving conch and inshore fishing. Before that the Tainos had established a settlement there.
Ditleff Beach is a sand and coral rubble beach. Even if land access is closed the beach remains public and can be accessed by boat or by swimming or snorkeling from Klein Bay.
The previous owners, Dow Chemical heirs, I’m told, wanted to keep the Point as it was save for bulldozing a dirt track over the old narrow trail. When they passed the new owners decided to develop.
The Point as seen from the Fish Bay Road before development.
Yesterday I was out early in the morning checking out the south side for some photos and when I came to Ditleff Point I noticed that although the gate controlling the vehicle traffic was closed a walk through gate remained open. Taking advantage of this access were dog walkers and joggers all of whom were familiar to me.
Passing through the open gate, I began to walk down the now bulldozed and paved road, which not long ago was a rugged dirt track. Along the way I met Miles Stair of Holiday Homes fame. He slowed his pace and waled with me.
On our way back to the main road a squall blew in from the east. The mist from the squall produced a beautiful rainbow that arched over the Point from east to west. I’m excited to come back here, shoot some photos, and take a few jogs, before, and hopefully this never happens, that access is closed off to St. John residents and visitors.
About Beach Access
“…While the coastlines and beaches of of the Virgin Islands are public domain the question of access has nor been formalized. In most jurisdictions which have public beach access laws the owners of properties adjacent to beaches are required to provide public access through the land. Here in the Virgin islands developers and landowners have taken the position that access is only necessary via the sea and providing land access is optional. This interpretation is not always so. For example, the Pond Bay Club on Chocolate Hole was required to provide land access to the beach, Ditleff point apparently not as the gate suggests.
“Historically, land access to Ditleff Point goes back to the first inhabitants of indigenous peoples who had a settlement there some two thousand years ago.
Poor whites abnd freed slaves lived there during colonial times. During substance farming days, a family lived in a house whose foundation still exists, lying just inland from the southern end of the beach.
After that Ditleff Beach was used primarily as access to the sea for fishing and the gathering of whelk and conch as well as recreationally for swimming, snorkeling, diving and fishing. Original trails were replaced by a bulldozed road when a group of mainlanders purchased the point declaring that they had no intention of developing it. For many years St. Johnians and visitors used this road as access to the beaches. When the mainlanders passed away and the property passed to their heirs, the land was cut up into parcels, developed and put on the market, with a gate at the entrance to control access.
I found a message on my cell phone today that arrived quite late for some unknown reason. It was from a friend in New York who mentioned having read my name in the New York Times and that surely I already knew about it. But, in fact, I didn’t. So I looked up the Times on the internet; checked it out and sure enough there I was:
From an article by By BENJI LANYADO, Published: December 6, 2009, Sunday Travel Edition
“…Guests here (Maho Bay Campground on Little Maho Bay, St. John US Virgin Islands) often compare notes on what they’ve done. Have you seen the glass-blowing room yet? Did you try a ceramics lesson? Or make jewelry in the workshop? But on our first day, we decided to do very little. Down on Little Maho Bay, reached by a cascade of steps from the camp’s main walkway, we watched as a beachcomber trotted up and down the sand, pecking at the tiny fish that washed up in the surf.
“Little Maho Bay, reached by a cascade of steps from the camp’s main walkway, we watched as a beachcomber trotted up and down the sand, pecking at the tiny fish that washed up in the surf.
“Lying stationary on sarongs pinned down with driftwood on a brochure-perfect strip of Caribbean beach, we couldn’t believe our luck. In a guidebook I purchased at the port, the excellent “St. John Off the Beaten Track” (Sombrero Publishing Company) by Gerald Singer, I read of another visitor who was equally captivated by the bay. Sailing past the beach on a sloop bound for Tortola in 1947, Ethel McCully, a secretary vacationing from New York City, leapt from the deck to swim to the “small, perfect beach backdropped by emerald green mountain valleys.”
“She eventually bought some land, which would abut the campground when it arrived three decades later, and built a small house primarily through the labor of six donkeys. She wrote a book about her experience, which was eventually published as “Grandma Raised the Roof” in 1954, after the publishers insisted that she change her original title from “I Did It With Donkeys.”… read NYT Maho Bay article
This morning I awoke to some distinctly unmelodious screeches. Checking out the source I found three parrots up in the telephone pole. They seemed to be playing with or perhaps talking to each other. Although there is species of parrots that is native to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, these birds are not that. They’re most likely visitors or escapees from some cage somewhere. Anyway they put on quite a show for me this morning and I was able to get a few good photos.
All about St John in the beautiful US Virgin Islands (USVI) American Paradise