Tag Archives: great thatch

St. John Excursions: Abe’s By The Sea

Virgin Islands Photo of the Day

Dock at Abe's by the Sea, Jost Van Dyke British Virgin Islands. That's Great Thatch and St. John seen across the channel.

The above photo was taken from one of my favorite restaurant in the world (and I’ve been to my share over the years), Abes By the Sea. It’s rather remote, located at Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke in our neighboring British Virgin Islands. It was even more remote years ago. Now you can take a ferry to Jost Van Dyke and a taxi to Abe’s, but when he first opened, there was no ferry and no roads. You had to get there by boat.

Abe is a native Jost Van Dyke fisherman who decided to open a restaurant to serve the growing number of yachtsmen visiting the island. If you like big portions of fresh lobster, conch, or fish, deliciously prepared this is the place.

Abe's at Night

Chin & Boopy Enjoy Lobster & Conch

View from Window

St. John Weather

High Surf Advisory!

High Temperature: 85 degrees

Water Temperature: 80 degrees

Winds: From the east at 10 – 15 mph with gust of 25 mph or more

Sunset: 6:27

Moon Rise: Full Moon rises at 6:55

St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Thursday, March 8

Banana Deck – Steel Pan by Lemuel Samuels – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5055
Castaways – Dance Party – 11:00 – 777-3316
Driftwood Dave’s – Just Mike – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
High Tide – Inner Vision – 8:00-11:00 – 714-6169
Island Blues -Ike – 7:00 – 10:00 – 776-6800
Miss Lucy’s – David Reed – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5354
Morgan’s Mango – Mark Wallace – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Grill – Chris Carsel – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304
Shipwreck Landing – Slammin – 7:00 – 10:00
Skinny Legs – Lauren  – 6:00 – 9:00 – 779-4982
The Tap Room – Van Gordon Martin Band – 9:00 – 998-1333

See the weekly St. John live music schedule

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White Bay & The Virgin Islands Photo of the Day


great thatch british virgin islands bvi
Rounding the east end of Great Thatch en route to White Bay

White Bay Jost Van Dyke BVI
White Bay was jumping yesterday, and will be probably even more so today. It certainly has become one of the biggest party places in the Virgin Islands. Big  power boats from Puerto Rico joined those from the US and British Virgin Islands, music blasting, people dancing, a real happening spot…

St. John Music Schedule Sunday April 24

Aqua Bistro – Lauren Jones – 3:30 – 6:30 – 776-5336
Concordia – Bo – 4:00 – 8:00 – 693 5855
Miss Lucy’sSambacombo – 10:00 am – 2:00 pm – 693-5244
Ocean Grill – David Laabs – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693 3304
Rhumb Lines – T-Bird – 7:00 – 10:00
Shipwreck – Hot Club of Coral Bay – 7:00 – 10:00 – 693-5640

See Weekly Music Schedule

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Great Thatch Photos

Summit of Great Thatch BVI
photo taken from the summit of Great Thatch's highest mountaintop

A team consisting of two St. Johnians succeeded in scaling the steep mountaintop on the island of great Thatch in the British Virgin Islands bringing back some absolutely awesome photos taken from their perch atop the summit, a feat not likely to be duplicated anytime soon.

photo of Great Thatch taken from the Narrows

Approach to Great Thatch

Mountain seen from the shore

Hilltop as seen from the ruins

close up view of the south coast from the summit

view of the south coast from the summit
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The Ruins of Great Thatch

Ruin on Great Thatch British Virgin Islands
Ruin on Great Thatch, British Virgin Islands
Great Thatch BVI
Great Thatch

Great Thatch Island lies just to the north of St. John.  The approximately half-mile passage between Great Thatch and the St. John coast from the rocky cliffs of Mary Point and the steep tyre palm covered hillsides between there and Leinster Bay form “the Narrows,” characterized by gusty winds and strong tidal currents.

I’ve snorkeled there and once camped out on the beach, but I always thought of the interior of the island to be impenetrable bush on cliff-like hillsides, maybe suitable for goats, but not people. I was wrong.

Guided by a good friend and knowledgeable Virgin Islander, I took the opportunity to explore for the first time, the island’s interior.

Unfinished Building on Great Thatch, British Virgin IslandsWe began our adventure at the site of an unfinished building on the far eastern corner of the long beach on the southern coast. Rumor has it that this was to be a built as a restaurant. Work started about 1997, but was plagued by misfortune. Supposedly a dump truck full of gravel arriving by barge got stuck in the sand and remained stuck for quite some time. It was eventually removed, but I never heard how. The same sand that the truck got stuck in, made the site look like a desirable beach location, but that was an anomaly, the natural state of that section of beach is gravel, to which it returned and is to this day. So much for rumor.

old road on Great Thatch, British Virgin islands
stone retaining wall on lower side of road

We headed straight up the hill in back of the building through a forest of mostly genip trees growing very close together. The vegetation was thick, but passable and we soon came to an old road bed running gradually up along the hillside. We followed the road until my friend inexplicably decided that we should leave the road and continue straight up again towards the ridge, which we did, and which led us to the first of a series of ruins.

Great Thatch, British Virgin Islands

outbuilding above the road

cook house great thatch bvi
cook house

animal corral, great thatch, british virgin islands
animal corral


cookhouse doorway
cookhouse doorway

view from great thatch
view from ruin

Smuggling and Great Thatch
I came across this little tidbit of historical information, which gives, among other things, a little picture of life on this island that I always thought to be either uninhabited or at least sparsely so.

“On being informed on November 24 (1856) that a boat belonging to an inhabitant of (Great) Thatch Island was trading without a license, the sub-treasurer of Tortola proceeded to seize it. He soon had to abandon the seizure, however, when he was assaulted and the crew of his boat badly beaten. Two days later, a force consisting of four constables was dispatched by the stipendiary magistrate to arrest the offenders. On landing they were obstructed by 40 or 50 people, and when the persevered and made their arrest were also severely beaten. On the following day, a larger force comprising 30 men, principally rural constables, 12 of whom were armed, was dispatched to quell the spirit of insubordination and to apprehend the offenders. Despite this show of force, it was only the assistance of the Wesleyan missionaries who were influential among the inhabitants, which enabled 16 arrests to be made without active opposition.” From “A History of the British Virgin islands” by Issac Dookhan

Great Thatch’s connection with smuggling may not be confined to the nineteenth century as rumors abound about bales of illicit drugs being found washed up on the shoreline there.

The name of the island itself suggests something nefarious. It is said that Thatch is a corruption of the name Teach and that the islands given the Thatch name, Thatch Cay in the US Virgins, and Great and Little Thatch in the British were named after the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

On our walk we encountered many old bottles as well as other artifacts. It seems that this might help to date how recently people were still living on the island. Many of the bottles it turns out were manufactured by the Portobello bottle company in Edinburgh, Scotland after 1907.

One More T’ing
All during our walk we could hear the bleating of a goat, but we could never see him. Just as I was leaving a spotted him…

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Fungi Passage, St. John Virgin US Islands

St John Virgin Islands: Fungi Passage
Fungi Passage

The passage between Whistling Cay and Mary Point on St. John is called the Fungi Passage. Virgin Islands National Park Ranger Denise George once offered to tell me the origin of the name. She said that no matter how hard the wind blows,  how big the ground sea or how strong the tide, the Fungi Passage is always calm. She also explained that fungi is a Virgin Islands staple dish made from okra and cornmeal, often served with fish, like in “fish ‘n’ fungi.”

“In the Virgin Islands,” Denise said, “a good fungi, like the waters in the Fungi Passage, is always very smooth.”

Denise likes to make stories and this one is a good one so lets just say that maybe she’s right.

The island just to the north of the Fungi Passage is Great Thatch one of the British Virgin Islands and the passage between it and St. John is called the Narrows. In the photograph you can see the opening into that stretch of water notorious for a strong winds and currents.

The big island further to the north is Jost Van Dyke, also in the British Virgin Islands. The bay on the east is the main town, Great Harbor and the one on the west behind the four masted schooner under full sail is White Bay.

The photograph was taken from the overlook on Centerline Road at about 9:00 AM on Sunday.

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St John Virgin Islands Memories: Great Thatch Scorpion

Soon after coming to the Virgin Islands in 1969, I made two major purchases, a 1954 Mercedes Benz with running boards and a four speed shift on the steering column and a 16-foot fiberglass runabout with a 35-horsepower Johnson engine.

I have loved boats for as long as I can remember, which goes back to being about four years old, with my mom and dad, who had a small boat named after me, which they kept on City Island in the Bronx.

But now, I was in boat heaven, the Virgin Islands, venturing farther and farther from the home port, Charlotte Amalie Harbor on St. Thomas.

One day I met a nice young couple who suggested a camping trip to one of the many “deserted tropical islands,” which beckoned to be savored and explored. Sounded like a great idea to me!

Let me say, that although I had a great deal of experience with small boats, it was all on the American mainland. Tropical-island-wise and camping-wise, I was a complete novice. However, my new friends expressed a proficiency with camping out, needing only bare bones equipment and supplies, and we soon resolved to put together an overnight camp on a deserted tropical Virgin Island.

We headed out one morning not long afterward. For a reason that I can’t remember, probably no real reason at all, we chose the island of Great Thatch as our camping venue, ignorant of the fact that it was in the British and not the American Virgins, but in those days it hardly mattered.

We made it in to the beach through the shallow reef that extends the full length of the beach on the island’s south coast without incident (to this day I don’t know how) and set up a rudimentary camp, which consisted of a lean-to covered by a piece of canvas. We spent the day snorkeling, fishing, picnicking and walking around the beach, the interior of the island being for the most part inaccessible to us either because of the thick bush or the steep hillsides. At night we made a fire, cooked up a fish and some potatoes and retired for a night that I remember as being somewhat uncomfortable, due to lack of a soft mattress, the occasional rats that boldly approached wherever there was any food and the not so occasional mosquitoes and sand flies against which chemical warfare was declared.

On the positive side, the night sky on that moonless night, which in those days was almost completely unchallenged by the loom of electric lights from Tortola, St. John, or the east end of St. Thomas, provided us with a sky that contained more stars than I had ever seen before or have ever seen since.

Virgin Islands Scorpion
Virgin Islands Scorpion

I awoke early in the morning to a powerful stinging sensation on my leg. Looking down I saw that I had been stung by a rather large and evil-looking scorpion. I had never even seen a scorpion before and I was, shall we say, “concerned.”

I didn’t know what to do, if anything, and I woke up my new friends hoping that they would know something.

The guy was like me, clueless, but his girlfriend seemed to know something about scorpions.

“They’re poisonous,” she explained, “very poisonous!

“Are you sure?” I asked the girl.

“Absolutely,” she answered.

“Oh great,” I thought to myself. “This is one hell of a place to get stung by a poisonous scorpion.

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You need to get to a hospital right away or you’ll die,” she answered.

On the one hand, I don’t feel like I’m dying, but on the other, I’m staring to feel panicky.

“OK, lets go!” I say.

We loaded the boat and hastily head back to St. Thomas where supposedly, doctors would give me some rare anti venom and save my life. But by the time we reach Caneel Bay on the north shore of St. John, I’m feeling fine. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m not poisoned and “every little thing is gonna be all right.”

“Let’s stop on St. John,” I announce, “I really feel fine. I want to talk with someone there, someone who knows what to do.”

Well on St. John, I found out a bit about scorpions, which is that unlike some other varieties found in the desserts, Virgin Islands scorpions, do sting, (haa’d me son) but, unless you are allergic to them, don’t cause much harm, let alone kill you.

That was that. I was out of the woods. Nonetheless, even though it was still morning, I knocked down a shot of rum, to cool out.

We hung around Cruz Bay for the rest of the morning, had lunch at Eric’s Hilltop (now the Virgin Islands legislature offices) and returned to St. Thomas in the afternoon, my supposedly fatal scorpion sting reduced to a small red bump on my leg that maybe itched a little.

And so ended my first experience with camping out. All in all, good memories.

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