St. John Virgin Islands – Heard around Town

Singing the blues on St. John VI
In my travels around St. John yesterday, I asked several people how they were doing economically. The feedback was generally rather grim.

A real estate agent let me know that since the beginning of the year, that is in the month of January 2009 not a single property on St. John has been contracted.

A salesperson at a Mongoose Junction shop told me that business was very slow. The shop had cut its hours and consequently her salary was diminished. She said as far as she knew the other shops in the complex were also experiencing hard times.

A business owner shrugged of the bad economic news. She greeted the slowdown as an opportunity to slow down herself and enjoy a more laid back St. John USVI.

On the radio there was a interview of a bail bondsman, not from the Virgin Islands. He was happy. He said that during these tough economic times people had been stealing more and domestic violence was way up in his area. His business was booming. He had to hire more staff and wants to expand his operation into neighboring towns. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

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St. John Virgin islands: Caribbean Travel News

USVI to Receive Economic Aid from the President’s Stimulus Package
President Obama’s economic stimulus package, which has been passed by the US House of Representatives, includes funding for the USVI.

The package includes significant tax cuts for the middle class and working families. As these tax cuts would negatively impact the Virgin Islands’ revenues, a provision has been included in the bill to reimburse the Virgin Islands for this loss.

Read article in Caribbean Net News

Largest Cruise Ship Ever will Include the Virgin Islands in its Itinerary

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic will sail to St. Thomas beginning in 2010. Read article…

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St. John Life: A Beautiful Weekend for Photos on St. John USVI

The weather on St. John and in the Virgin Islands is normally very agreeable. The tropical heat is mitigated by the cooling tradewinds and rainy days are rare. But for those of living here, there are actually nuances of “beautiful” and last weekend was that, exceptionally beautiful with white puffy clouds in a clear blue sky and little to no dust from the desserts of Africa or volcanic ash from the island of Montserrat lying to our east across the Anegada Passage to whiten the horizon and obscure the crispness of the view.

The Caneel Hill Spur Trail
The Caneel Hill Spur Trail
Bench on the Caneel Hill Trail
Bench on the Caneel Hill Trail

It was a good day for photography and I decided to take some photos from a few popular overlooks on the North Shore. The first location I wanted to try was the viewing tower at the summit of Caneel Hill some 900 feet above the blue Caribbean below.

I began my hike on the Caneel Hill Spur Trail at the top of the hill leading out of Cruz Bay, just past the Asolare Restaurant and across the North Shore Road from the National Park housing complex. Heading up and south that trail connects to the Caneel Hill Trail, which leads to the summit of Caneel Hill and onward to Margaret Hill and ending at Caneel Bay. By beginning here instead of at Cruz Bay where the Caneel Hill Trail begins, I saved myself a bit of climbing and gained more time for more photos. As you near the summit there’s a rustic wooden bench from where I took my first photos:

view from the bench near the summit of Caneel Hill
view from the bench near the summit of Caneel Hill

From the bench, it’s only a short distance more to the summit of Caneel Hill, where volunteers constructed a wonderful viewing tower after the first one was destroyed by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.

From the tower there’s sweeping views of the north shore with all the islands and cays from St. Thomas to the British Virgin Islands.

On the south you can see into Cruz Bay and get a view of the southern coastline. On a good day, one a bit better than Saturday’s beautiful day, you can see the island of St. Croix in the south some forty miles away.

The following photos were taken from the tower:

view of St. Thomas from the tower atop Caneel Hill
View of St. Thomas from the tower atop Caneel Hill
View from Tower on Caneel Hill
View of Lovango Cay from the tower atop Caneel Hill
View from the tower on the Caneel Hill Trail
View of Jost Van Dyke from the tower atop Caneel Hill
View from the tower on the Caneel Hill Trail
View of Cruz Bay from the tower atop Caneel Hill

Finishing up my photography atop the tower, I headed back down the trail. On the way down I saw a turpentine tree with the sun shining through a piece of its peeling bark. I shot that photo and continued on down the trail.

The next stop was the Caneel Bay Overlook on the North Shore Road and then on to the most popular overlook – the Trunk Bay Overlook

Turpentine Tree on Caneel Hill Trail
Turpentine Tree on Caneel Hill Trail
Caneel Bay Overlook
Caneel Bay Overlook
Trunk Bay Overlook
Trunk Bay Overlook
View of Johnson's Reef From the Trunk Bay Overlook
View of Johnson's Reef From the Trunk Bay Overlook
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Caribbean Travel: Caribbean Resorts Ready to Deal

The economic recession has been hitting the Caribbean rather hard. After all, when times are tough and people feel they need to tighten their financial belt, I would think that travel and vacation spending would be one of the first things to go. Statistics from the Virgin Islands for October visits are down some 39% and in order to mitigate this trend, the Virgin Islands, like other Caribbean destinations are offering deals, discounts and incentives.

On St. John, the Westin Resort and the Estate Concordia Campground are participating in the USVI’s Winter Escape incentive, which includes $300.00 in Travelers Checks, $50 credit on meals and attractions, $1500.00 worth of discount coupons, a fifth night free and the SPF100 Sunshine Protection Plan, which reads : If it rains on your vacation, we’ll give you $100.

You’ll have to book before January 31,  for travel until March 31, 2009

New York Time, Sunday Travel Section

Published: January 25, 2009

“…Entire islands are on sale. The United States Virgin Islands, where visitors dropped 39 percent to 104,969 for the month of October, has an Extended Winter Escape promotion for travel through March that includes $300 in American Express traveler’s checks, $100 in vouchers toward island attractions and restaurants and a fifth night free at various hotels including the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott on St. Thomas and the Westin on St. John…”

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St. John Life: Carval Rock Revisited

My friend Ed Gibney, just sent me some photos he took on Carval Rock. I had mentioned in a previous blog how the balanced rock on top of the cay was not as precariously balanced as it might seem at first glance. Seeing is believing and here’s the photos to illustrate how firmly planted the balanced rock is.

In another blog I expressed my disbelief about the popular legend that the rock was mistaken for a Spanish caravel by British sailors who shelled it over the course of a night. A “caravel” being a class of sailing ship often used by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 15th and 16th century.

A video by Captain Brandi in an blog presents  another, more plausible, explanation for the name is given to the cay. He says that Sir Francis Drake used the rock for target practice on his way to attack San Juan.

Ed and Radha approached the seemingly inaccessible cay in kayaks and climbed up on a low small ledge on the south side. Radha made it as far as the balanced rock on the west side, while Ed, a veritable mountain goat, climbed to the higher east side from where he took these remarkable photos.

Carval Rock as seen from afar
Carval Rock as seen from afar
Photo by Ed Gibney
Balanced Rock - Photo by Ed Gibney
Photo by Ed Gibney
Radha on Carval Rock - Photo by Ed Gibney
View from Summit of Carval Rock - Photo by Ed Gibney
View from the Summit of Carval Rock - Photo by Ed Gibney
Another View from the Summit of Carval Rock - Photo by Ed Gibney
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St. John Film Society presents: Free Movie Night

7:30 pm
Thursday February 5th
Miss Lucy’s Restaurant in Coral Bay, St. John (693-5244)

For more information contact Rea:
Phone: 340-715-9899

Feature film presentation:
A documentary – cum- concert tribute to Bob Marley by director Stephanie Black.
89 minutes, 2008 release.

On the occasion of Africa Unite in 2005, Marley’s family visited Ethiopia to present a live musical tribute to honor the reggae legend on what would have been his 60th birthday. Along with clips of Africa Unite symposiums, the film focuses on the roots of Rastafarianism and the significance of Marley’s life to its movement. Includes performances by widow Rita and sons Ziggy, Stephen, Julian, Damian, and Ky-Mani, along with a few vintage clips of Marley himself in action.

Short video prior to feature presented by local artist:
William Stelzer will present a short video compilation created for the Waveplace project, a partnering effort with the One Laptop per Child Foundation. The venture brought children’s laptops to schoolchildren in Haiti, Nicaragua, Florida and St John. The video features the children as they learned digital art, programming and storytelling skills over the course of this extraordinary adventure.

William Stelzer, a St. John resident, was Graphics Director for the ABC-TV affiliate in Austin, TX during the First Gulf War and has worked as an independent consultant on a wide variety of art, film, video, print, web, education and computer graphic projects.

The mission of the St John Film Society is to inspire a positive appreciation for the history, culture and environment of our US Virgin Islands by establishing a free monthly film series open to and for the benefit of our local community. We will present high quality fiction and non-fiction independent films that celebrate the human spirit with a focus on the Caribbean.  Our intent is to increase cross-cultural awareness of the many communities throughout the Virgin Islands and beyond.

Each month we will invite a local Virgin Island filmmaker, video installation artist, or visual artist to present their work prior to the feature film presentation.  Our goal is to develop public awareness of our local talent by creating an environment in which filmmakers / artists introduce and discuss their work and their artistic process with audiences of all ages.
St. John Film Society is comprised of a small group of local volunteers.  We invite film enthusiasts to come and enjoy the films and help plan monthly programs.  We also invite filmmakers / artists to submit their work for consideration.  Email your suggestions to or submit preview DVD’s to:

St. John Film Society
5000 Estate Enighed PMB 98
St. John, USVI 00830

Founding members of the St. John Film Society:
Andrea E. Leland, artist and filmmaker, has produced and directed a number of award winning documentaries focusing on Caribbean and Latin American cultures. She is the co-founder of REELTIME, a highly successful monthly film series in the Chicago area ( now in it’s 10 year.   She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Rea McQueen Roberts has a background in advertising, public relations and marketing. Her expertise includes special event planning and fundraising.
Martha Hills is a writer and an avid film enthusiast. She is active in the St John community and a volunteer in several local endeavors.

Sigi Torinus, a native Virgin Islander, is an artist who creates hybrid, new media works with an emphasis on video, performance and site-specific installation. Her works have been exhibited in the US, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia and Canada. She holds an MFA from the Braunschweig Art Institute, Germany, and San Francisco State University in California. Ms. Torinus is a founder of “Berlin and Beyond Film Festival” in San Francisco, now in its 14th year.

ST. JOHN COMMUNITY FOUNDATION acts as fiscal agent or fiduciary for the St. John Film Society. It is non-profit and maintains 501(c)(3) status. SJCF’s executive director is Paul Devine. Donations to the St. John Film Society are encouraged and should be sent directly to Paul Devine at SJCF.

Name: St. John film society
Phone: 715-9899

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Caribbean Travel News: Two Ships to Sail from NYC to the Virgin Islands

Norwegian JewelNorwegian Cruise Line plans more voyages out of New York City
From the USA Today Cruise Log with Gene Sloan

The mass-market line today announced it will place a second ship, the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel, in the Big Apple during the winter of 2010-2011, doubling its winter capacity out of the growing cruise hub. The Jewel will join the 2,380-passenger Norwegian Gem, which already sails out of New York during winters.

NCL says both ships will sail a series of 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruises from New York that will call in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten and Tortola, British Virgin Islands… read article

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St. John Life: Two African American Firsts for the Virgin Islands

As we are now celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States, I thought it might be a good time to honor two of the Virgin islands African American first’s, William Hastie and Melvin Evans.

William Hastie
William Hastie

Dr. William H. Hastie
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1904, William Hastie became the first African American Governor of the United States Virgin Islands in 1946 and served until to 1949. He later became the first African American judge on a US Federal appeals court and became Chief Judge of that court in 1968.

Hastie graduated magna cum laude at Amherst College and attended Harvard Law School receiving his doctorate there. He became a law professor at Howard University where one of his students, Thurgood Marshall,  went on to become the first African American Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Melvin Evans
Melvin Evans

Melvin Herbert Evans
Born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands in 1917, Melvin Evans became the first popularly elected governor of the Virgin Islands (1970 -1975). Evans went on to become the first black delegate to represent the Virgin Islands in the US House of Representatives (1979–1981). He later served as US Ambassador to Triniad and Tobago until his death in 1984.

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