The governor of the Virgin Islands, John deJongh, has proclaimed that Tuesday, January 20, 2009, will be celebrated as “President Barack Obama Day.”
Governor deJongh expressed the monumental significance that the inauguration of the first African American to become president of the United States will hold for residents of the Virgin Islands and, of course, for the nation at large and probably for the world, saying, “We made the proclamation and gave our government employees the day off because a truly historic event will take place on Tuesday, January 20 and I believe it will undoubtedly be the type event that people years from now will ask the question: ‘Where were you when Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President?’ and each of us will remember where we were at that exact moment” and that it was his “hope that the citizens of our Territory will take this opportunity to watch and share this historic moment with their families, especially with our children, to ensure that they understand what it means for them and the opportunities that this signifies for the next generation.”
The well known and well liked owner of Cap’s Place, Juan Ayala was shot to death at 8:00 this morning outside his home in the Pastory area of St. John. Mr. Ayala had been shot multiple times possibly with an automatic weapon. There has been speculation that robbery was the motive for the crime.
St. John police, National Park Rangers and DPNR enforcement officials are investigating the crime. A $10,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.
The Cuna people live on the San Blas Islands, just off the Caribbean coast of Panama and enjoy a limited self government within their traditional homeland. Most of them stay within their Cuna culture, but some have found temporary work on U.S. military bases. It is there that many Cuna young men learned the love of a typically North American sport, basketball.
Upon returning to their native villages, the Cuna wanted to continue playing and to teach the sport to their friends, but they faced a serious obstacle: Every square inch of land was accounted for — either for crop cultivation or for housing. There was simply no space to put a basketball court.
The Cuna, who had solved greater problems than this, soon came up with the obvious solution — make the island bigger.
There was a shallow coastal area adjacent to the island that could be filled with rocks and then covered in concrete to make a basketball court.
Needless to say, this would not be an easy task. Rocks would have to be transported by canoe from the mainland some five miles away. These canoes, called cayucos, are carved out of a tree trunk and their rounded bottom makes them unstable.
The rocks would have to be hand-gathered on the mainland, loaded onto the cayucos in quantities small enough to allow a marginally safe crossing, and unloaded at the future basketball court site. As vast quantities of stones would be needed, this would be a monumental task. Where would this intense amount of labor come from?
The problem was approached in typical Cuna fashion.
Many cultures throughout the world have established laws, rules and regulations that are routinely disobeyed. The Cuna had such a law. Unmarried people of the opposite sex were forbidden to have any contact with each other, even speaking to one another was prohibited.
As you may imagine, this was a law that was just about 100% sure to be broken, human nature being what it is, and Cuna teenagers would secretly meet their sweethearts after dark in prearranged locations. Actually it was not so secret, for the parents and elders of the village had broken the same law, in the same places and in the same manner.
The proponents of the basketball court construction decided to harness the reliable power of teenage sexual energy and use it for a means to accomplish an end. A strict enforcement of the law was called for, and a new punishment was established, which was to gather, transport and deposit one cayuco-load of rocks for the first offense, two for the second offense, three for the third and so on.
The idea was successful! Just one year after the passage and enforcement of the new law, the citizens of this tiny crowded island in the San Blas archipelago were able to enjoy spirited games of basketball on their very own, brand-new basketball court.
Like other Caribbean Islands, the Virgin Islands, has a considerable pirate history, which has left it’s legacy, at least in terms of the names of some of its islands and cays.
For example, think of the four islands containing the name Thatch, Thatch Cay, Great Thatch and Little Thatch. These islands are thought to be named after the notorious pirate, Edward Teach, or better known as Blackbeard and on St. Thomas we have Blackbeard’s Castle.
Bellamy Cay, he small island in Trellis Bay on the east end of Tortola in The British Virgin Islands is named after the pirate Black Sam Bellamy.
Although Sir Francis Drake was viewed as a heroic privateer to the English ,he was considered a vicious loathsome pirate by the Spanish. On St. Thomas there is a concrete seat overlooking a beautiful panorama of islands and cays, which is a popular tourist stop called Drake’s Seat. Here supposedly (but doubtfully) Sir Francis Drake would sit while looking for ships to plunder.
On the south side of the channel between Tortola and several smaller islands, named fter the aforementioned, Sir Francis Drake, lies a small rocky and scrubby island named Dead Chest. This island was once used by Blackbeard to punish disobedient pirates, who he would leave marooned on this desolate cay with only a bottle of rum in the way of provisions and little chance of survival.
It was Dead Chest Island that Robert Louis Stevenson in his book “Treasure Island, when he wrote the well known ditty :
“Fifteen Men on the dead man’s Chest,
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.”
Furthermore, the inspiration for “Treasure Island” itself was the Island just to the west of Dead Chest called Norman Island , which was named after the pirate, Norman, whose pirate lair was on the island of Anegada.
Today modern day pirates still inhabit the the Virgin Islands, but in the words of Bob Dylan, instead of a sword, they “rob you with a fountain pen.”
I’m new to the blog writing game, so I just discovered one of its benefits. It focuses you on a subject. Specifically in this case it focused me on the St. John Beach Guide and the relationship with the National Park, which has been stormy, starting with that ridiculous banning of the first edition.
The thing is that I wrote in the blog that subsequent editions of the St. John Beach Guide have been approved by the Park Officials and that the book was for sale at the St. John National Park Visitors Center. Well, I have to take that back.
The St. John Beach Guide was updated and reprinted in early 2006. At that time I submitted the book for approval to be sold by the National Park. In January it will be three years since I made that first request and the book has still not been approved.
Unlike the first edition, there was no official reason given for the lack of approval. All I’ve been told is that the approval process has not been completed and that it takes time.
But come on – three years! In my experience with other books sold at the park, including St. John Off the Beaten Track and Tales of St. John and the Caribbean, the approval process was completed in about one month.
The newest St. John Beach Guide is a combination coffee table book and guide book, which will certainly by helpful for visitors to the island as well as providing a great keepsake of their visit and one of the only ways of conveying to friends and family the beauty of the St. John experience. I promise that there’s nothing controversial printed anywhere in the book, not even any half naked ladies or good-natured donkeys.
We now have six titles, St. John Beach Guide, St. John Off the Beaten Track, Tales of St. John and the Caribbean, St. Thomas, Vieques and the translation of the Pedro Juan Soto Novel USMAIL. Sales are brisk and we have many outlets so a whole lot of attention has not been given to the approval of the St. John Beach Guide‘s by the park.
I can’t say I know what’s happening, only that writing about the first St. John Beach Guide jogged my memory about the situation of the newest edition and I intend to follow it up to see if I get some kind of definitive answer, which I’ll share with the blog readers.
So come on National Park. Please approve the St. John Beach Guide.
Sandy Cay has always been one of my favorite destinations in the BVI. It’s this picture-perfect icon of the deserted Caribbean Island. The white sand beach, the palm trees, the view – it’s no wonder that Sandy Cay has been featured in so many commercials and photo shoots.
The above photo is me in one of those photo shoots. A team of photographers were shooting in the Virgin Islands and had hired me to take them to Sandy Cay for a shoot. At the time, I needed some photos for my brochure for my boat charter business, so we traded services.
The male model didn’t show up. The shoot was for a “mature” couple on the beach. Now “mature” means “old” and old in that world means over 35. The qualification for the male model was simple – over 35 and “no paunch.” Luckily I fit the bill and I was asked to fill in for the absent model.
It wasn’t as easy as I thought. I looked nervous, I was nervous, I was walking funny. The “mature” female model helped me out and eventually, I kind of got the hang of it. Let me tell you though, I had a lot of fun!
About Sandy Cay
Sandy Cay is a six-acre island located just east of Jost Van Dyke. At one time the island was owned by Laurance S. Rockefeller, who kept it as a sort of private botanical garden. For many years, Nippy from Jost Van Dyke had the enviable job as caretaker of the island. Shortly before his death, Rockefeller donated Sandy Cay to the BVI and the island is now a nature preserve.
There is a nature trail that encircles the island from which you can enjoy dramatic views. The trail is relatively easy and the walk arount the entire island can be completed in about 20 minutes.
The following account of his childhood in Tortola in the 1960s was written by Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery. Who for several years lived on St. John and was known to recite poetry and tell stories.
Back in the 1960s in Roadtown, Tortola,myself and my companions would spend time at the waterfront. Reason being was what we, in the way we were, would call “the days of white action,” which meant the days the visiting tourist would come on tourist ships, battle ships, yachts and power boats which would anchor at Roadtown. Those were times when we would skip school to meet and hustle at the Roadtown dock.
Whatever antics we would have from our gatherings around the rocks and so on we would sell to the visitors. Another aspect of generating funds was using our swimming and diving skills. When the visitors come ashore, we would ask to clean and take care of their dinghies until they return from shopping or sightseeing.
Most of our money was earned by diving for coins. When the dock was busy with people we would get into the water around the dock. Once in the water our job was to convince the tourist to toss coins into the water. By doing so we would dive and obtain the coins.
An example with a clearer view is this. Picture crystal clear water with visibility of 30 to 40 feet and sand below without debris. Now picture anywhere from four to six kids from the ages of nine to fifteen all about in the water shouting:
“Coins in the water,
Coins in the water,
T’row a nickel, dime or quarter”
At the end of the afternoon, we’d gather and tally up our earnings. A good day would leave us with more money than our parents would make in a week or two.
This boulder which appears to be somewhat precariously balanced on top of Carval Rock has been there since anyone can remember. It has survived hurricanes and earthquakes.
My friend Ed Gibney tell me that he once climbed up to the rock and reports that it’s much more firmly placed than it would seem.
It always amazes me how life can find a way in even the most extreme circumstances. Here on Carval Rock are two small fig trees that have found a way to root themselves into whatever soil has found its way into the rock crevices, withstand the wind, sun and dry conditions and yet hang on to life.
I remember once seeing a tomato plant with ripe cherry tomatoes growing in the accumulated dirt on the edge of the West Side Highway in New York City. The fig tree on Carval Rock seems even more improbable.
For more information about Carval Rock see this earlier blog entry, The Shelling of Carval Rock.
This photo was taken on a beautiful day when we were preparing our book, St. Thomas. The photographer for the book, Don Hebert, called me and said that if I could make it over to the airport in one hour I could go up in the helicopter with him. He was shooting photos for a client of his and there was room for one more. Being that I had my trusty dinghy ready to go, and a dock space and a car on St. Thomas, this was a possibility. I dropped everything and ran out the door. With luck, and an intelligent route to avoid traffic, I made it to St. Thomas on time and rode with Don.
This photo was taken from Pettyklip Point, which juts out from Sapphire Beach, a popular wedding venue on St. Thomas. From the point you get incredible views of St. John, the islands of Pillsbury Sound and out to Jost Van Dyke and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
This photo was taken from the dock at Abe’s Restaurant in Little Harbour, Jost Van Dyke as the sun was setting in the west.
Guinea Gut runs from St. John’s main east-west mountain ridge (Centerline Road) in the vicinity of the dump, south (on the west side of Gifft Hill Road) to Great Cruz Bay in the vicinity of the Westin Hotel.
The above photo was taken where the gut passes through Trindad Charlie’s (of Trinidad Charlie’s Hot Sauce fame) property. Just down from here there is a government water monitoring station. Further down the gut passes by Power Boyd and then under the South Shore Road before emptying into Great Cruz Bay.
Years ago on St. John this gut (sometimes spelled “ghut”) which even today has running water most of the year and even more in days gone by, was a popular place for women to do their washing.
Fresh water shrimp and fish can be found in the pools. Large mango trees and other beautiful moist forest vegetation abound along the banks of the gut.
The bad part is that if you walk all the way up the gut as far as you can, you’ll come to a twenty foot high wall of garbage – the dump, which, I believe it’s safe to assume, leaches all kinds of yucky stuff into the water.
All about St John in the beautiful US Virgin Islands (USVI) American Paradise