Tag Archives: St Thomas USVI

Parking for the Lind Point Trail

sunset from lind point battery overlook
Yesterday’s sunset seen from the Lind Point Battery Overlook

Virgin Islands National Park SignThe Lind Point Trail is a favorite hike for people coming to St. John by ferry or for those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s because the trail is within easy walking distance of downtown Cruz Bay and offers not only a great trail experience such as the great views from the Lind Point Battery Overlook, but also access to the beautiful beaches and snorkeling at Salomon and Honeymoon Bays.

But day-trippers are not the only ones who choose to experience the Lind Point Trail and most of these hikers arrive by vehicle. This presents a problem. Finding a place to park near the trail can be difficult, to say the least.

Now the Virgin Islands National Park offers a solution, of sorts. Hikers bound for the Lind Point Trail can go to the National Park Visitors Center located just across the street from the trailhead and obtain a parking permit that allows them to park in spaces reserved for the park employees. You’ll need to show the attendant at the center your drivers license, which they will hold until you get back. They will then issue you a  sign for you to place on your windshield. Be aware that empty employee’s parking spaces are limited and are often unavailable, and that parking anywhere else on the street will put you in danger of being ticketed by enforcement rangers.

Park back wheels to the curb, windshield facing out towards the street and enjoy your hike.

St. John and Virgin Islands News

List of the Friendliest Islands in the Caribbean from the Huffington Post

St. John came in number six, with the annotation: “What’s even nicer than “soft sand beaches” and “water that’s clear like glass”? The “warm, kind locals,” according to our readers—they’re ‘”friendly and welcoming, without pestering you.”‘

St. John was topped by the British Virgin Islands, which came in number five.

Vieques was number nine, and the number one spot went to the island of Saba…. read article

In another list compiled by the Nassau Guardian the Virgin Islands came in fourth:

Report Ranks V.I. Homicide Rate Fourth in Caribbean
By John Baur — January 16, 2014

The U.S. Virgin Islands rated fourth in the Caribbean in 2013 in the number of homicides per 100,000 residents, according to a study by the Nassau Guardian in the Bahamas.

… the island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis had the highest homicide rate in the region…. Jamaica’s homicide rate was second highest in the region…. and the Bahamas ranked third

Bordeaux Farmers Rastafari Fair This Weekend
By Molly Morris — January 16, 2014

It’s time again to gather up family and friends and head out to the rolling green hills of Bordeaux for the 17th annual Bordeaux Farmers Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll have no trouble finding it; just head west on St. Thomas and follow your nose. The heady aromas of fresh food will lead you.

The fair bursts with fresh produce, herbs, vegetables, cook pots filled with pumpkin soup, kallaloo, homemade vegan and raw food, pumpkin fritters – it goes on as it has for years, the annual celebration of all that is right with the world. It runs from 10 a.m. to midnight or thereabouts each day.

The fair is the proud product of the Bordeaux Farmers Collective We Grow Food Inc., illustrating the group’s belief: “To lose agriculture is to lose our culture, integrity, self-worth and pride. Without these characteristics, we as a people fail to exist.”… read more

St. John Live Music Schedule

Aqua Bistro
Stephan Sloan
5:30 – 8:30
776-5336

Beach Bar
Get Right Band
9:00
777-4220

Castaway’s
Mikey P
9:00
Dance Party
11:00
777-3316

High Tide
Mikey P
7:00 ish
714-6169

Island Blues
Brother Nature
8:00
776-6800

Morgan’s Mango
Lauren
6:30 – 9:30
693-8141

Ocean Grill
Rascio on Steel Pan
6:30 – 9:30
693-3304

Shipwreck Landing
Tropical Sounds
6:30 – 9:30
693-5640

Skinny Legs
Chris Carsel
Plus Comedian Tim Hofmann!
6:00 – 9:00
779-4982

Spyglass
James Milne
5:00 – 8:00
776-1100

See Weekly Schedule

St. John Weather

Scattered showers, mainly before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 79. East wind around 18 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Update me when site is updated

Thoughts on Charter Yachts in the US Virgin Islands

The Charlotte Amalie waterfront in the 1970s presented a picturesque scene of native sloops, fishing boats and local cargo vessels tied up to the seawall. On the paved walkway along the harbor front were numerous kiosks selling fruits and vegetables, meats and fish.

In those days, St. Thomas was a sailing Mecca. The harbor was full of yachts of all sizes and classes, some itinerant, some local and some there to take part in the charter industry. Experienced captains took adventurous tourists to the then sparsely developed British Virgin Islands or further away to the down island chain of the Lesser Antilles or west to Culebra, Vieques and Puerto Rico.

Yacht Haven Marina was the center of this industry and the center of the center was Fearless Fred’s Bar at the Marina where charter captains would pitch would be charters and old salts would spin tales of adventures and misadventures at sea.

This was before the popularity of the bare boat rental system in which charterers rent a boat for a week or more and sail it themselves.

By the 1980s the nature of  charter boat industry in the US Virgin Islands had changed with bare boats predominating over crewed charters. While the US Virgin Islands’ government imposed complicated restrictions, taxes and fees on charter yachts favoring instead the cruise ship industry, the British Virgin Islands actively courted the charter yacht companies and tried to make it as easy as possible for them. As a result many USVI companies changed their base of operations to the BVI whose government was more responsive to the needs of the industry and little by little most of the sailing yachts left the Charlotte Amalie Harbor setting up shop in places like Sopers Hole and Roadtown on the island of Tortola.

The Yacht Haven hotel and Marinaf closed down, went into a state of disrepair remained so for many years.

Recently the charter industry on St. Thomas has made a comeback of sorts. More and more you can see luxury mega yachts tied up stern-to along the waterfront seawall, at anchor in the harbor and alongside the docks at the Yacht Haven Grande, the new incarnation of the old Yacht Haven now featuring a modern marina, a high end shopping mall and a condominium complex. The operation was designed specifically to attract the mega yacht business and has had a limited degree of success, but not to the extent that was predicted.

Rumor has it that one of the big reasons that mega yachts are not stopping in the USVI as much as was previously expected is due to complications and red tape imposed by Homeland Security and Customs and Immigration regarding foreign registered vessels and non-US citizen charterers and crews. On Tortola in the neighboring British Virgin Islands and on nearby St. Martin, which have somewhat comparable facilities the governments have endeavored to make it as easy as possible for the Mega Yachts to enter and clear and captains, trying to avoid red tape and delays, will often opt for these foreign destinations instead of St. Thomas if they have a choice in the matter.

Notwithstanding the problems, it seems to me that Charlotte Amalie Harbor has been making a comeback as a sailing destination, especially in the realm of the super luxurious mega yachts.

Update me when site is updated

St. Thomas, Danish West Indies

St. Thomas Harbor (photo from Ron Lockhart collection)
St. Thomas Harbor (photo from Ron Lockhart collection)

The above photo is from the collection of Ron Lockhart of St. Thomas who has a veritable treasure chest of old post cards and photographs going back to the days when it wasn’t “St. Thomas USVI (United States Virgin Islands),” but rather, “St. Thomas, DWI “(Danish West Indies).”

If you look closely you can see that what is now Veterans Drive did not exist. It was built on fill in the 1950s. The long rectangular warehouses separated by narrow alleyways, now used as shops and pubs and restaurants, ran right into the harbor each with their own private wharf.

Charlotte Amalie Waterfront (Ron Lockhart collection)
Charlotte Amalie Waterfront (Ron Lockhart collection)

The following is excerpted from the book “St. Thomas, USVI”

The Waterfront

As the importance of St. Thomas and its maritime economy grew, so did the town. Harbor frontage became very expensive and as a result, building lots tended to be long and narrow with just enough exposure to the harbor as would permit the implementation of piers and boat slips.

For the same reason, wide streets were not employed to connect the waterfront to Main Street. Instead there were a series of narrow alleyways, which is evident to this day.

Private residences were built on the other, less expensive, landward side of the street and eventually on the valleys and hillsides adjacent to the harbor.

The 20th century brought automobiles to the island and soon traffic on the steep, narrow streets of Charlotte Amalie became so congested that beginning in the 1940s, the harbor was filled in in front of the commercial warehouses, and by 1950, a new modern  road, Veterans Highway, was constructed south of Main Street running alongside the waterfront.

Charlotte Amalie has maintained much of its old character, as both a bustling Caribbean seaport, hosting cruise ships, pleasure yachts and cargo vessels from all around the world, and as a shopping Mecca, offering millions of visitors every year a treasure trove of duty-free shopping delights.

Update me when site is updated

Virgin Islands Stories: Art & Janis

Art and Janis

By Bob Tis
© 2000
Excerpted from Tales of St. John and the Caribbean

Art the Painter
Art the Painter

I come for the stories. And, of course, for the companionship. Cartoon large blue eyes roll in acceptance, as Art fingers a slice of a mango I just picked from his jungle yard and sliced up with my Swiss Army knife. We are out in the bush. A steep dirt road winds downhill to a locked gate. Unlocked, the gate reveals a footpath through a jungle crowded with trash-picked treasures. The path leads to a living museum for the last remaining hippie.

Art’s museum is a home built partly in cooperation with Mother Nature, Robinson-Crusoe style, employing two large turpentine trees. It is constructed from thick beams salvaged from the wreckage of 30 years of hurricanes and boatloads of memories. The walls are strewn with block and tackle from long-sunk schooners and smuggling ships. Bad art and hurricane lamps are everywhere; giant candles, Mardi Gras beads, a collection of colorful shirts and the assorted claptrap of 30 years on St. John decorate this un-electrified museum.

The mango sliced, I set my sights on a bucket of congealed floor wax, which I cut loose and feed to a homemade tiki torch. In the gloaming, the first Cuban tree frogs start to croak and Art eggs them on.

“Rrrbiit, rrribbbit.” St. John’s first hippie is clearly amused with the idea of talking to the frogs and his eyes grow even wider, reflecting their seasoned madness in the candlelight. The frogs, mistakenly imported from Castro’s Cuba by some researchers in the 1970s, take up Art’s gauntlet. We are met with a thunderous cacophony of croaks in the Caribbean night.

I go for the transistor radio to tune out the frogs. I pop another warmish Heineken and get Art a non-alcoholic Budweiser. No electricity means no fridge and ice melts too quickly for it to be economical. There could be thousands of dollars buried on the property from various Caribbean adventures but Art makes do on beans and rice and maybe an O’Douls if I bring some up to his museum.

I like to get out of Cruz Bay, where the noisy beach bars have a way of filling up with sunburned tourists in the winter. Tonight I’ll camp out at the museum. Art and I will watch the still, moonless sky for satellites and rehash the business of the day.

The battery-powered rock ‘n’ roll radio brings us a nugget from the sixties and I coax Art into one of his favorite stories of how he met Janis Joplin in St. Thomas well over thirty years ago. It is a story I love. I am continually astounded by the attention to detail in my friend’s storytelling. In Art’s stories, the details never change, and I have learned first-hand that nothing varies from the original event.

“I missed the last bus,” Art explains, talking about a night over thirty years ago like it was last week. “I was drinking in the waterfront bars and my boat was on the other side of the island in Red Hook.

“In those days, there were no cars going in that direction in the middle of the night and bars stayed open all night. It was about three in the morning, so I had a few hours to kill before I could hitch a ride home.”

Art’s hands begin to move and his eyes widen as he launches into this memoir. I easily picture him thirty years ago sitting on a barstool in an empty Charlotte Amalie watering hole, sipping on a draft beer and waiting for the sun.

“She walked in and went right for the jukebox. It was only the bartender and I and maybe some other rummy in the whole place. She didn’t play her song, she played something else.

“She sat down next to me and ordered a shot of Southern Comfort. I was speechless. This was 1968 and Janis Joplin was a very big deal. I was trying hard to be cool and not to spook her.

“‘You look familiar,’ I told her.

“‘Oh yeah, well just who do you think I look like?’ Janis asked.

“‘Frank Zappa’ I told her.
“Janis loved it. She slapped me on the back and bought me a whiskey. Before I knew it she was gone, pushing her way out through the swinging doors just as fast as she came in. All of a sudden her music was playing on the jukebox.

“Word spread like wildfire that Janis was on St. Thomas. Two days later this guy I knew was telling me all about it. I didn’t let on that I had already seen her. He said Janis wanted to go for a sailboat ride, but she didn’t want to go with just anyone. She wanted to go with someone who was cool. I told the guy I would take Janis out the next day.

“At the time I had a nice wooden double-ender, about 30 feet long, with beautiful lines. The boat didn’t have an engine but I didn’t really need one. It was a nice sailing boat.

“There was a guy named Todd living on the boat with me. He was a real freak with hair down to his waist. He was a real ladies’ man, too. I remember telling him we were going to take Janis out sailing and I know he didn’t believe me.

“The day came and it was a little overcast and kind of blustery. It wasn’t the best day, but it was a good day for sailing. The morning went by and Janis never showed up. I kept telling Todd to watch the dock with the binoculars so he could row in and get Janis. He still thought I was kidding.

“She showed up around 3 p.m., with a whole entourage of record company hangers-on. I was yelling to Todd that she was at the dock. When he finally saw her through the glasses, his jaw dropped. It took Todd three trips to get Janis and all her groupies out to the boat. When Janis got on board, she recognized me immediately.
“‘I should have known it would be you,’ she told me.

“They brought all sorts of food, chips, dips, olives, booze, all sorts of stuff you couldn’t get in the Virgin Islands at the time. We put up the sails and it was obvious that most of them had never been on a boat before.

“Janis was scared at first, but after I explained to her the physics of the boat, the fact that the keel was so heavy it wouldn’t allow us to capsize, she felt better. She just didn’t want to tip over.

“Everybody else though, except Todd and myself, were ter­rified. We were slogging through some good chop, really sailing. Janis started to get into it and I let her hold the wheel. She took off her shirt and showed everybody her giant nipples.

“The guys in the record company crew were still griping. Some of them were throwing up. I think they had eaten some Quaaludes.

“After sailing for about twenty minutes, I came about and explained that everybody who wanted to go ashore had one chance, one chance only. I was sailing for the beach and when I said, ‘Jump,’ they could get off or spend the rest of the afternoon on the boat.

When I got to the beach, most everybody jumped off. A few guys wanted to stay but Todd and I just started tossing them into the ocean. After we pried the grip of the last guy off the starboard stay, we chucked him in the water and turned out to sea. Me, Todd and Janis.
“We slipped into a real nice reach and really started having fun. Janis loved sailing. Todd got naked and told Janis that he had always wanted to have sex with her, and how about now?

‘“No thanks,’ Janis said. ‘But if you want to have me after one of my shows, you can. After I’ve made love to the whole audience for two hours, then you can have me.’

Art’s wild eyes radiate when he gets to that part, his smile betraying just how vividly he remembers the day’s events.

Art goes on to explain how he got to be friends with Janis over the next few weeks. He retells the story of listening to the first recording of her new album on the hotel room bed at Bluebeard’s Castle Hotel. He retells the story of having dinner with Janis and a friend at Escargot, which was, at the time, the best restaurant in the Caribbean.

Art finishes this rock star story by retelling Janis’s very tempting invitation, which resulted from his missed bus ride.

‘“Janis said, you’re from New York, come to Woodstock with me this summer, you can be my guest, I’ll fly you up there.’

“I told her I had read in the paper that Woodstock wasn’t going to happen, that they couldn’t find a place for the concert.

“Janis said, ‘Baby, I’m going to Woodstock this summer and so are a lot other people, you can bet that it’s going to happen.’

“I didn’t want to go back to New York. I had just bought the boat, so I stayed in the Virgin Islands,” Art says ruefully.
So like time itself, Woodstock just sort of passed Art by in the Caribbean. In his museum, the cover from the very album that they listened to over three decades earlier is still tacked to a wall. In the photograph, you can see through Janis’s oversized spectacles and look into her equally wide eyes. When you stare at the picture closely you can’t help but think that Janis could have been Art’s sister.

The album cover is faded and wilting, but her wide eyes are still clear behind the Hollywood glasses.

© 2000 Bob Tis

Bob Tis is also the author of Down Island

Update me when site is updated

St. John in the 1970s: Jelly Nuts

Coconuts
I was first introduced to green coconuts when I arrived in the Virgin Islands in 1969. At that time there were always several vendors on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront who would set up alongside the seawall with their piles of coconuts, chopping block and sharp machete offering the general public this refreshing treat for the modest price of between 25 cents and a dollar each.

These were not the dark brown, fuzzy, three-eyed, hard-shelled coconuts that I was accustomed to seeing in stateside markets. These were the green slightly immature coconuts that were picked early, before they hardened, turned brown and fell to the ground.

There is a big difference between eating a hard-shelled coconut and a green one. When you crack open a fully mature coconut, you’ll find some concentrated coconut water and a hard white pulp adhering to the shell.

The green nut is quite different. The husk is softer and less fibrous. The water inside is less concentrated and and there is more of it and the meat is soft and sweet like jelly accounting for the popular name, “jelly nut.”

So for a small amount of money, you got a nice drink of coconut water and if you so desired a bit of coconut jelly to boot. Jelly nuts are a very popular item and vendors on St. Thomas had no problem selling out just about as fast as they could open them up and collect the money. Also, the commonly accepted notion that coconut water, especially when mixed with gin, has aphrodisiac qualities, certainly didn’t hurt sales.

Personally, I not only loved coconut water and coconut jelly, but I also loved the cultural experience; the coconut man wielding his sharp machete seemingly without effort, confidently and precisely while holding the coconut in his hand. (At first I was afraid to watch, for fear of the man cutting up more than the coconut if you know what I mean.)

The Process
The first cut would be to slice a thin piece of the outer green husk about two or three inches wide and four or five inches long, to make a spoon used later to eat the coconut jelly. Then the husk on the top of the nut would be cut away exposing the thin shell beneath. The next cut would expertly take off just the tip of the shell leaving only the coconut meat itself to close off the hole in the nut. At this point the coconut could be carried away and the drunk later by simply cutting off the top piece of pulp or this could be done on site and you could drink the coconut water right then and there.

After finishing the water, you could ask the coconut man to cut open the nut so you could eat the jelly. In which case he would either lay the nut on a chopping block or hold it in the palm of his hand, and in one swift motion pass the machete through the nut, chopping it in two. The spoon would be removed from the nut and used to scoop the jelly off of the shell.

Going into Business with John Gibney
I found the whole process to be quite impressive and one day, while eating jelly nuts with my friend John Gibney, I mentioned my fascination with coconuts as a business enterprise. John knew all about it, and said that we could easily do it ourselves and so was launched our one-day foray into the jelly nut business.

We started bright and  early one morning getting our coconuts from the coco palms growing along the beach on John’s property. They were full-size trees, not the dwarf variety that are so prevalent nowadays. This meant that the coconuts were high up above the ground and not so easy to get at.

I had heard that on the island of Dominica, they used trained monkeys to climb the tall coconut palms and throw them down to gatherers waiting safely below. Safe, that, is if one avoided getting hit by falling coconuts. We didn’t have access to trained monkeys, but this wasn’t a problem, because John could probably out-climb the ablest Dominican simian.

John tossed the coconuts down to me, and I chased them and gathered them up. We then brought my 16-foot fiberglass outboard-powered runabout close to the beach and started to load the coconuts aboard. We filled the boat as much as we could, and John and I had to climbed over the coconuts to take our positions aboard. We motored out of Hawksnest Bay headed east to Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.

I guess we may have let greed overcome common sense because we had put way too many coconuts inside this small craft. The boat was overloaded, we were left with only about twelve inches of free board. That is, the weight of the coconuts made the boat so heavy that we were riding way too low in the water. The run from St. John to St. Thomas can be a bit rough and between the big seas and the small free board we began to take on water. Luckily we were going downwind, so the effects of the waves were moderated, and we were able to control the situation by John baling out water with a calabash while I manned the wheel. We reached the St. Thomas waterfront safe and sound, with no more than a few good scares and a crash course in having respect for the sea.

We set up shop on the waterfront. John was the coconut man. I collected the money.

Now John, notwithstanding the lightness of his skin color, was every bit as good with a machete as any other West Indian. With his long blond hair and tall stature, many native St. Johnians referred to him as Tarzan. But, he was virtually unknown on St. Thomas and the sight of a white boy cutting open coconuts on the Charlotte Amalie harborfront was a little more than some local people were ready for. You could see the nervousness in their eyes as John, albeit skillfully, cut open the jelly nuts with his machete. Sometimes customers even refused to let him do his job, and instead insisted on opening their own coconuts. Nonetheless, we sold out our supply of jelly nuts in good time and motored back home to St. John with some good money in our pockets. But for me, much more than the money, the overall experience was something that to this day brings a big smile to my face when I think about that Virgin Islands morning some forty years ago.

Gerald Singer
www.SeeStJohn.com

Update me when site is updated

1970s Virgin Islands Stories: The Cygnus

by Gerald Singer SeeStJohn.com
As told to me by Tal Carter
The Cygnus was a 50-foot John Alden yawl. She belonged to Steve Boone, who claimed to be descended from Daniel Boone. Steve Boone was born and bred in Boone, North Carolina and is best known for being the bassist for the popular rock and roll group, “Loving Spoonful.”

Boone moved to St. Thomas around 1970 where he continued his musical career performing at a place called the Grass Shack in Charlotte Amalie. He bought the Cygnus shortly after arriving in the islands and docked her at the Yacht Haven Marina in the Charlotte Amalie harbor.

Boone lived aboard the yacht for a while, sailing around the islands, but never going too far from home. After a while, like many boat owners, he began to spend less and less time with his boat, which, like a lot of stuff in the Virgin Islands, gradually (maybe not so gradually) began to fall into a state of disrepair.

Taking advantage of the owner’s many absences and basically good nature, a series of somewhat disreputable hippie friends and hangers-on began to use the boat as a crash pad. As a result, the Cygnus got a bad reputation, which, in fact, was actually quite an accomplishment at the Yacht Haven Marina in 1971, a venue for a sizable compliment of questionable characters.

But the truth was that life aboard the Cygnus was getting pretty sleazy. One night, a young drifter was found dead in his cabin succumbing to an overdose of heroin. This was when the denizens of Yacht Haven’s, Fearless Freddie’s Bar gave the Cygnus a new name, the Sickness.

After this incident, Boone assigned a guy named Brad, who worked for Zora, the sandal-maker, when she had her shop on Main Street to take charge of the Cygnus.

Brad kicked the remaining druggies off the boat and, in return for maintaining the neglected craft, was given the use of the yacht. Brad sent for two of his friends from Michigan to come down to St. Thomas to help. They all stayed aboard the Cygnus at the dock at Yacht Haven Marina for a while, but eventually they decided that St. John would be a nicer place to be, so they sailed over and anchored in Cruz Bay.

Brad and the Michigan boys listened to a lot of music and smoked a lot of dope, but didn’t do a whole lot of maintenance or a whole lot of sailing.

One day there was talk about the Cygnus having a charter in Aruba and Brad, his two friends and a girl that had joined them made some hasty preparations for the voyage. Their plan was to sail to St. Croix, provision and then sail directly to Aruba.

It apparently was a hellacious trip from St. John to St. Croix. Rough seas opened up some serious leaks and the Cygnus just barely reached St. Croix with all pumps pumping in conjunction with some good old-fashioned bailing.

The girl who joined the crew at the last minute was so freaked by the ordeal that she bowed out of the adventure and flew back to St. John on the Antilles Airboat seaplane.

The girl came back to St. John with the story of the voyage. She said that there was no safety equipment aboard, no life preservers and no radio.

She relayed a message to a guy named Skip, telling him that Brad had asked if he would fly down to St. Croix, help them patch the leaking boat and sail with them to Aruba.

Skip was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He had crashed twice. Both times he was the only survivor of the craft. On four other flights, his tail gunners were killed. He came to St. John when his tour of duty was over, where he met Jackie, who became his girlfriend. Jackie had come to St. John from Maine with her girlfriend Allison, where they were living at Allison’s father’s campground.

Skip and Jackie hopped the seaplane to St. Croix and this was the last that anyone ever heard from them or any of the crew of the Cygnus. They vanished without a trace. Although there was all sorts of speculation as to what might have become of them, given the poor condition of the yacht, the lack of safety equipment and communication devices and the inexperience of captain and crew, the assumption had to be made that the boat sank and all hands presumed drowned.

Update me when site is updated