Tag Archives: tortola

A Virgin Islands Story

Children playing, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

The following events took place some years back and illustrates a unique Virgin Islands experience.

Macy’s in NYC, that is, THE Macys on 34th Street, the one where the REAL Santa Claus comes to greet children at Christmas time, was a great place to shop for housewares back then, when St. John housewares shopping was just about non-existent and St. Thomas offered only limited (and expensive) options. Additionally Macy’s was offering a special shopping service in which they would consolidate shopping from various departments and arrange for shipping. So being that I had a newly built villa to furnish, I choose to avail myself of this convenient and affordable offer.

After spending a couple of hours, going from department to department choosing items for the villa, I proceeded to the check out counter to pay up and arrange for shipping. But when the shipping destination came up and proved to be the Virgin Islands, the lady at the counter informed us that Macy’s only shipped with UPS, which had only very expensive options for the Virgin Islands. When I asked if it would be possible to ship through the US Postal service, I was told that it couldn’t be done.

Why not? I asked.

“That’s just our policy,” she explained.

Meanwhile this pretty young black lady, also working for Macy’s, apparently overheard a snippet of our conversation.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“The Caribbean,” I answered.

“Me too,” she replied.

“Where?” I asked

“Oh, an island in the British Virgin Islands. You probably never heard of it,” she answered.

At this point, I noticed her name-tag that displayed the last name Parsons.

“Let me guess, I ventured. “I would say you’re from Tortola, probably Brewers Bay.”

“Oh, my God!’ she exclaimed. “How did you know?”

“Well, I have this friend from there, Delbert, and I know that the Parsons name is an important one on Brewers Bay.”

“Oh, my God!” she repeated, “Uncle Delbert!”

She then turned to the lady that was attending to us and said that she would take care of us. When we explained our situation, she told us not to worry.

“There’s a post office right on the fourth floor. Tony, a Jamaican who works here, can take your things up there and we’ll arrange everything, no problem a’tahl.”

St. John and Virgin Islands News

Whales Sighted Off of Cruz Bay

Beach-to-Beach Power Swim Ranked No. 19 in World’s Best 100 Open Water Swims
By Source Staff — February 25, 2014

Openwaterswimming.com, the leading Web site dedicated to open water swimming, ranked the Friends’ Beach-to-Beach Power Swim number 19 on their list of the World’s 100 Best Open Water Swims. This is an international list, and it also placed third among the 17 U.S. open water swims that made the list…. read more

Strong Cruise Growth in US Virgin Islands
By the Caribbean Journal staff

The United States Virgin Islands saw strong growth in cruise tourism in 2013, according to data from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Cruise passenger visits to the USVI grew by 4.9 percent last year, with a total of 1,998,579 cruise passengers.

That was among the largest improvements of any Caribbean destination with complete annual reporting from 2013.

It was also a marked improvement over the previous year, when the US Virgin Islands experienced a 5.2 percent reduction in cruise tourism compared to 2011.

In 2012, the USVI welcomed 1,904,468 cruise passengers, according to CTO data.

V.I. AG’s office reviewing federal cockfighting law
By JENNY KANE (Daily News Staff)
Published: February 24, 2014

ST. THOMAS – The rules on cockfighting have changed in the United States, and V.I. officials are seeking clarification on what effect the changes to federal law will have on the lack of any laws in the Virgin Islands that prohibit cockfighting.

The only law pertaining to cockfighting in the V.I. Code pertains to taxing it as an entertainment when admission is charged, which up until now has implicitly made it legal in the territory.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, also known as the Agricultural Act of 2014. As of last week, a provision in the bill makes it a federal crime to attend an animal fight, including a cockfight, and a separate crime to bring a child under the age of 16 to an animal fight.

The former could be punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, and the latter by up to three years and a $250,00 fine. During a cockfight, roosters are placed in pen and left to fight each other until one of the two dies. By themselves, their fighting generally is not enough to be fatal, so those who own the roosters often place razor blades on the legs of the animals, according to the website of the Humane Society of the United States.

Though most states in the nation outlawed the practice years ago, several of the country’s territories, including the Virgin Islands, maintain laws that allow cockfights to take place.

Under the V.I. Code, cockfighting is considered entertainment – along with circuses, horse races, theatrical performances, boxing matches and concerts – that is taxable when an admission is charged to attend…. read more

St. John USVI Live Music Schedule

Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Erin Hart
7:00 – 9:00
201-1236

Castaways
Karaoke Night
9:00
777-3316

High Tide
Chris Carsel
6:00 8:00
714-6169

Inn at Tamarind Court
Steel Pan
6:30
776-6378

Island Blues
Karaoke
8:00
776-6800

La Tapa
Sambacombo
6:30 – 9:30
693-7755

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

Ocean Grill
Lauren Jones
6:30 – 9:30
693-3304

See Weekly Schedule

St. John Weather

Scattered showers, mainly before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. East wind 13 to 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

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St. John History: Flat Calm Morning

Moonrise over Chocolate Hole
Moonrise over Chocolate Hole
Another full moonrise tonight at 7:58 PM AST

Flat Calm

On a morning like this one, “an enslaved worker on St. John, whose last name was Benjamin, took advantage of the coinciding opportunities presented by a perfectly calm sea and a new law abolishing slavery on the island of Tortola.

While walking by himself on the coast near Brown Bay, Mr. Benjamin noticed one of the large iron cauldrons used to boil cane juice into sugar called a “copper,” lying just off the shoreline and it gave him an idea. Using his machete, he carved a piece of driftwood into a rudimentary paddle and then using the mechanical advantage provided by convenient sturdy boards he found abandoned in the bush, he maneuvered the heavy copper into the water, climbed in and started to paddle across this narrow section of the Sir Francis Drake Channel heading for Tortola and freedom…..” read entire story

St. John Weather

Weather on the ground – Chocolate Hole Sunrise
The sea is flat calm this morning. Both air and sea temperatures are warming. Beautiful blue skies with puffy white clouds. Perfect beach day.

Official Forecast
Clear with rain showers in the morning, then partly cloudy with rain showers
High of 90 degrees F
Winds from the SSE at 5 to 10 mph
Chance of rain 20%
Water Temperature (Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas): 87.1 degrees F
Sunset: 6:31 PM AST
Full Moonrise: 7:58 PM AST

St. John Live Music Schedule

Banana Deck
Steel Pan by Lemuel Samuels
6:00 – 9:00
693-5055

Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Erin Hart
7:00 – 9:00
201-1236

Beach Bar
John Sutton
9:00
777-4220

Castaways
James
9:00
777-3316

High Tide
Inner Vision
8:30
714-6169

Miss Lucy’s
Jazz with Rich and Greg
6:00 – 9:00

Morgan’s Mango
Mark Wallace
6:00 – 9:30
693-8141

Ocean Grill
Chris Carsel
6:30 – 9:00
693-3304

Rhumblines
Erin Hart
7:00 – 10:00

Skinny Legs
Lauren Jones Magnie
6:00
779 4982

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

See Weekly Schedule

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St. John Stories: The Queen’s First Step at Soper’s Hole, BVI

West End Tortola
West End Tortola, circa 1967
Photo of West End Customs 2001

My first visit to West End (Sopers Hole) was in the 1970s. I was tied up along the seawall at Charlotte Amalie and approached by an agent from St. Thomas Dairies who hired me to deliver a load of milk to West End on Tortola. For some reason they couldn’t do it themselves that day, presumably due to one of the many contingencies that was, and still is, likely to occur here in the islands.

Arriving at customs at West End, I noticed a monument dedicated to the arrival of the Queen of England on her first visit to Tortola. A brass plaque read something like “where the Queen first stepped foot on the BVI.” Interestingly enough, the dedication was located far enough away from the edge of the dock that the Queen would have to have a have taken a mighty leap to set her royal foot down that far away from whatever vessel she was on that tied up to the dock.

Commenting on this to a BVI local, it was explained that the original monument was indeed erected at the exact spot where the Queen actually stepped foot. (see above photo) In actual practice, however, this was an inconvenient place for the monument as it interfered with the loading and offloading of cargo on the dock.

It was in response to this difficulty the dedication was moved away from the loading area, explaining the British monarch’s seemingly extraordinary disembarkation at Soper’s Hole on the island of Tortola, BVI.

St. John Live Music – Friday April 13

Aqua Bistro – Steve Sloan – 5:30 – 8:30 – 776-5336
Beach Bar – Jon Beninghof Band – 9:00 – 777-4220
Castaways – Mikey P – 9:00 – 777-3316
Cinnamon Bay – Eddie Bruce Drum Circle – 6:30 – 8:00
Cruz Bay Prime – James Cobb – 7:00 – 10:00 – 693 -8000
Driftwood Dave’s – John W Lee -7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Island Blues – Slammin – 776 6800
Morgan’s Mango – Lauren – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Grill – T-Bird – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304
Rhumblines – Erin Hart – 7:00 – 10:00
Spyglass – James – 5:00 – 8:00 – 776-1100

See Weekly Schedule

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St. John Tuesday

Surfers at Apple Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Winds out of the ENE have brought some waves to the Virgin islands for the last week. In this photo, surfers at Tortola’s Apple Bay enjoy the relatively small swells in the late afternoon.

St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Tuesday, March 13

Castaways – Karaoke Night – 9:00 – 777-3316
Beach Bar – Van Gordon Martin Band – 9:00 – 777-4220
Driftwood Dave’s – Michael Beason – 8:00 – 777-4015
High Tide – Erin Hart – 6:00 – 9:00 – 714-6169
Island Blues – Karaoke & Open Mic – 8:00 – 11:00 – 776-6800
Morgan’s Mango – Greg Kinslow – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Grill – Rascio on Steel Pan – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-3304
Shipwreck Landing – Chris Carsel – 6:30 – 9:30
Spyglass – T-Bird – 5:00 – 8:00 – 776-1100

See the weekly St. John live music schedule

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St. John Stories: Scotland Yard Comes to St. John

I have an uncanny way of being able to find the Ghost. Case in point the “Scotland Yard Incident.”

It all started one day in 2002 when I came home to find a rather unsettling message on my answering machine. It was from a Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin from Scotland Yard asking me to please give him a call. He left a phone number from the BVI.

I immediately ask myself what I possibly might have done to incur the interest of this  venerable law enforcement agency.

I rack my brain. What could they want? What did I do? Should I call? I can’t think of anything and so I decide to call.

“Hello, Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin Scotland Yard, who’s calling?”

“Gerald Singer from St. John”

“Oh good, Mr. Singer. I’m glad you called. We’re coming to St. John in  a few days and we’d like to talk to you.”

“What’s this about?” I ask.

“We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he answers, “we’ll call,” and he hangs up.

Mystery still not solved.

Three days later the phone rings.

“Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin, we’re at Cap’s Place in Cruz Bay. Can you come down and talk to us?”

“OK,”

So I go down to Cap’s along with my then girlfriend and there sitting at one of the tables are two casually dressed agents along with their wives.

I identify myself, join them and take a seat looking out at the street.

“So what’s the story?” I ask.

Well, the story goes like this:

The two agents are on Tortola investigating a murder, in which the local BVI police department are getting nowhere. The Scotland yard boys, however are pretty sharp and they have a good lead, a witness or a suspect who was in jail and there was this guy sharing a cell with him that they felt had some information. They didn’t want to approach the guy directly or ask too many questions locally, because they were afraid that the guy would be suspicious and hide or run. In their investigation they find that this fellow with the information has a friend on St. John that could act as an intermediary and that friend is me, and the individual they’re looking for is Curtney Chinnery, the Ghost.

“Would you talk to him,” they ask.

Before I can even answer the question I look out onto the street and who is walking by but none other than the Ghost himself.

“Excuse me a moment,” I say to the agents and walk out onto the street.

I walk over to Ghost and explain the situation and ask him if he wants to talk to the agents. He says, OK and we walk over to Cap’s.

The agents deputize the Ghost on the spot and the information that they gather from him proves to be helpful in the ultimate solving of the case.

Scotland Yard agents at Cap's Place
Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen from Scotland yard, their wives (left), Habiba, the ex girlfriend (between the two agents) and the Ghost (front)

Island Sun August 2, 2002
“Man charged in Bally Murder Case”

On 30 July, Darren Hodge, age 25, a serving prisoner at Balsam Ghut was charged with the murder of Jason Bally. A police sources stated that this case has been unsolved since October 1999. Ag. Commissioner Barry Webb reviewed the case last year and recommended a renewed investigation.

His Excellency Governor Frank Savage agreed to two officers from New Scotland Yard being attached to the investigation team which has been led by Inspector Alexis Charles. The Scotland Yard officers are Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen. Experienced RVIPF officers and Attorney General’s office have worked closely with the  officers from London for the past six weeks to bring this investigation forward.

Bally, 25, was shot in the street outside the Domino Gas Station in Sea Cows Bay on 15 October 1999. A native of Trinidad, the victim had been employed at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke.According to police, investigations revealed that Bally and a male companion were walking along the Sea Cows Bay Public Road in the vicinity of Domino Gas Station when a black male approached them from the gas station area. A loud blast was heard and Bally fell to the ground while his companion escaped unharmed and alerted residents of the area. On examining the gas station police found that an attempted burglary had taken place and recovered items used in that attempt.

While police have gathered enough evidence to bring a murder charge against Darren Hodge, the investigation is still ongoing. There were a number of suspects involved in the attempted break-in of the gas station and efforts continue to collect evidence to prosecute them for burglary and to determine what part, if any, they played in the murder.

The investigation team is still keen to hear from anybody with information about the case. In particular, assistance is sought regarding two gas tanks left at Domino Gas Station by the suspects. It has never been established where these came from, but it is suspected that they were stolen from someone on Tortola.  Additionally, the weapon used in the murder is believed to have been a handgun that has not yet been recovered.

Police sources further noted that on 16 December 2001, Darren Hodge who was remanded to H.M. Prison for burglary escaped but later turned himself into police on 17 December. Hodge was due to be released on 19 August 2002, however due to the present matter he will have to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on 23 October.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the investigation team on a dedicated telephone number: 468-9136. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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St. John Day Trips: Cane Garden Bay, BVI

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

But women and water are in short supply
There’s not enough dope for us all to get high
I hear it gets better, that’s what they say
As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay
From Mañana by Jimmy Buffet

Callwood Rum Distillery, Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin islands
Callwood Rum Distillery, Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Getting there is half the fun
The weekend get-off-the-rock excursion brought our little gang, Max, Michelle, Ezius and I to Cane Garden Bay on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We left Great Cruz Bay in what’s been dubbed by my brother, Mario, “The Volvo,” a 15-foot Carib hard bottom inflatable powered by that trusty product of Japanese technology, a 60 horsepower Yamaha four stroke. I love this boat!

Being out at sea in the Virgin Islands never gets old for me. I’m getting kind of tired of all those adjectives to describe our islands, so let me just say that its unbelievably beautiful.

Leaving Great Cruz Bay we head north past the barge landing and Frank Bay and Gallows Point and out little town of Cruz Bay. Rounding Lind Point we run along St. John’s north shore passing beach after beach of the best beaches in the whole world, Salomon, Caneel, Hawksnest, Trunk, Cinnamon, Maho while on our left dozens of cays and rocks enhance the amazing seascape backdropped by the big island of St. Thomas in the west. Next we pass through the Fungi Passage separating Whistling Cay and Mary Point, the rocky cliff side on St. John where it is rumored that the last holdout of rebellious slaves from the 1733 St. John Slave Rebellion committed suicide rather than surrender.

National Park Service Ranger, Denise George. once told me that Fungi Passage got it’s name because like traditional Virgin Islands Fungi, (a dish made with cornmeal and okra and often served with fish as in “fish ‘n’ fungi”) It’s smooth! Maybe she made up that story, but it’s a good one and the passage is invariably calm.

Next we run up the Narrows with the dramatic cliffs and steep hillsides with their stands of tall elegant tyre palms on the St. John side and the island of Great Thatch, named after Edward Teach, or better known as Blackbeard, on the other.  And then we cross the channel to Tortola, passing Belmont Bay, also known as Smugglers Cove, then we continue on Tortola’s north coast passing Long Bay and the surfing Meccas of Apple and Carrot Bays and on to out destination fro the day, Cane Garden Bay.

Cane Garden Bay
I remember sailing into Cane Garden Bay some thirty years ago for the first time. The long stretch of white coral sand beach, protected practically it’s whole length by a reef lying about 50 yards offshore was practically deserted. Two commercial establishments offered amenities to locals, tourists and visiting yachtsmen (or to be politically correct should I say yatchtspersons or perhaps yachts men-and-women?) Towards the center of the bay was Stanley’s Welcome Bar with the iconic tire swing hanging from a palm tree and serving fresh Caribbean lobster nightly and on some nights offering music and dancing. Rhymers on the east also had a restaurant, plus there were showers a general store, and rooms available for rent.

Over the years the beach became more and more developed, but notwithstanding it by and large kept its Virgin Islands’ flavor and ambiance. I always thought that the development there was a good thing. A place where you had the opportunity to experience something more than just the normal beach stuff like swimming, sunning and snorkeling. at Cane Garden Bay you could also find real native restaurants, water sports rentals and live music even  big concerts with well known artists every once and a while.

We on St. Thomas and St. John didn’t have anything like it. Development of the beaches on St. Thomas was quite another matter. Big condominium projects and hotels bought up the beach fronts, which became their exclusive property. On St. John, the best beaches had become the property of the Virgin Islands National Park with only carefully controlled park concessions on Trunk and Cinnamon Bays, protected but lacking any semblance of Virgin islands native culture. So the moderately developed beaches on Tortola offered a pleasant change and positive addition to the beach experience.

Now, however, a new dynamic has come to play on Cane Garden Bay, as well as some other popular beaches, namely White Bay on Jost Van Dyke and the Baths on Virgin Gorda. We’re talking cruise ships!

On this visit to Cane Garden Bay, when I saw the line of beach lounges three rows deep from one end of the beach to the other, I guess, for me, the development I had once appreciated had become a bit too much.

Talking to some locals, I was given to understand that there is a certain appreciation for the cruise industry as far as the boost it gives to the BVI economy.

On the other hand, many locals worry about the stress cruise ships have on the infrastructure, the environment, the culture and the people of the British Virgin Islands.

Meanwhile for those of us who care, there is no shortage of undeveloped beaches, forests and mountainsides to enjoy not only on Tortola, but also throughout both the British and American Virgin Islands.

What a cool place to call home!!!

G

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Jost Van Dyke – The Bubbly Pool – Christmas Day

Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Good friends at he Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

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

Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Michelle, Ezius and I at the bakery on the way to the Bubble Pool offering free ham for Christmas

Sage Mountain, Tortola, BVI
Clouds lie on top of Sage Mountain, the hight peak in the Virgin Islands, almost qualifying it as a rain forest

Bubbly Pool, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Mario, Boopy, Michelle and Ezius watch as a giant wave breaks over the rocks at the entrance to the Bubbly Pool

Bubbly Pool, JVD, BVI
the broken wave enters the pool

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin islands
the pool settles, the crew awaits the next swell

Abe's by the Sea, Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke BVI
Dinner at Abe's by the Sea, Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke BVI
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Tales of St. John & the Caribbean: The Queen’s Panties

From Tales of St. John & the Caribbean
“The Queen’s Panties” by Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery

In the mid-sixties, the Queen of England paid a visit to the island of Tortola. This particular story is one that probably should not be told. But what the hell, we were just children.

Let me start with the day before the Queen came to Roadtown, Tortola. There were four of us. We were called “Water Rats.” There were two police officers that were assigned to the waterfront area. One of the officers called out to us saying: “Hey! Come here. Tomorrow the Queen will be here, and we don’t want you Water Rats in the water. Don’t let us have to chase you guys around.”

Those officers were men we respected. Therefore, we promised not to be in the water. We had intentions of making good money that day from visiting tourists by diving for coins.  Being that our plans were changed because of our promise, we were left with nothing in mind to do for the day of the Queen’s visit. The eldest of our group, a fellow we called Hookadoe, who is no longer with us in life today, said, “I know what we can do tomorrow. Let’s come early in the morning and go up under the stage.”

My brother Abraham asked Hookadoe, “Why?”

“To see what color panty she’ll be wearing,” Hookadoe replied.

Suddenly, we all thought it was a great idea, for it meant to us that we would be the only ones who would have the   pleasure of seeing the Queen’s panty.

Early the following morning, Hookadoe, Abraham, our friend Blackbird and I met up at the Market Square near the waterfront. Slightly before daybreak, we made our way over the hill so that we would not be seen by anyone.

Directly above the Roadtown Post Office was an old pirates’ castle, which today is the Dr. Tattersol Hospital. Sticking out from various points of the castle were heavy iron cannons pointed out towards the Roadtown harbor. There was one particular cannon we kids used to descend downwards into one of the many genip trees to get to the street below on the side of the Post Office. As we got to the street level, which is the same narrow Main Street of today, I was sent out as a scout to see if anyone was in the street.

After seeing no one, I signaled to the others to follow.

In those days, we had a wooden dock that was for ferry and yacht discharge only. The dock directly across from the passenger dock was for cargo boats to unload. For the Queen’s comfort, they constructed a large stage between both docks using many strips of wood for the floor, which made us think we would be able to look up between the many single strips of board.

We all took turns inching our way out toward the customs building at the dock. Upon arrival, we went into the water, clothes and all. The back end of the stage that faced the water was open so that we Water Rats could climb out of the water and go up under the stage.

After we made it under the stage, we undressed and wrang out our clothes. We depended upon our body heat as a drying agent to dry our clothes.

It wasn’t long before people started to gather. Suddenly we heard the sound of an engine. A few moments later, two U-boats came and tied up at the end of both docks, which meant we were totally trapped. To keep from being seen we now had to move toward the front section of the stage and in our little peeping plot, there was no turning back.

That morning we had no breakfast, which was a big mistake. The crowd started to build, and beneath the stage started to get hot from the sun. There was nothing we could do but lay on the ground for a few hours. As time went by, we developed hunger. What made matters worse was the odor of fried chicken, which was causing a big problem for us.

As the  hours passed, the heat built up. Our wet clothes never got a chance to dry from our body heat, because our bodies were just pushing out more water from sweat. Therefore what we did was remove our clothes.

I can remember starting to say a prayer, a prayer asking God to send the Queen soon, so that we could get out of there. There were only two ways out. One was to give up our quest. The other was to wait it out until the Queen arrived, made her speech, and moved on up through Main Street to the schoolyard where many people were gathered to see her. The choice of giving up was out of the question, so we stuck it out.

As we lay upon our clothes, up under the hot darkened stage, we heard clapping through the cracks of the stage steps. I could see the crowd moving to the left side in front of the stage. This cheering, clapping, and movement of the crowd told us our big moment was about to come. We made our move to the center of the stage, so that we could have a clear view of the Queen. We all laid side by side in the area where the Queen was about to walk up on the stage.

I can remember that our hunger had intensified so much so that our stomachs were making noises. This was another problem, because the moving gas in our stomachs was loud enough to be heard from the outside. Then as we lay there trying to quiet our stomachs by squeezing them with our hands, it suddenly got very dark.

It seems that someone had just unrolled a three-foot-wide   red carpet for the Queen to walk on, which posed another problem. To combat this new dilemma, my brother and I moved to one side of the carpet and Blackbird and Hookadoe the other. That way we could still view the Queen from the sides of the carpet.

The white convertible carrying the Queen drove up in front and stopped directly at the beginning of the red carpet. The car door was opened by one of our local police officers. We could now clearly see her face. Her beauty glittered as the sunlight hit her overall structure. Her large white dress was whiter than white itself. But our viewing of her was just for a brief moment. Once she came to the first step we beneath lost visual of her face.

Our big moment had finally arrived. We moved back from under the step section in an attempt to follow her movements as she was being escorted to her area upon the stage. We tried to look and peep through the cracks of the strips of wood on the sides of the carpet, except that fate was not on our side. The panty we had tried to see, for us, did not exist. All that we saw from our angle was layers and layers of material. It seems that the Queen had on about 25 dresses, one dress on top of another. We did not even get to see her ankle. The only part of her skin we saw was what all had seen, which was from her elbow to below her shoulders and her face. All other parts of her body were covered.

Disappointed as we were, we had no choice but to re­­main under that stage with our hunger. Many people made speeches as we prayed for them to finish and to begin the parade that would lead everyone through town and away from us, which, in time, happened.

Tired and hungry at the end of our worthless quest, we left the stage in the same way we entered it.

Due to the fact that we were so hungry and no one seemed to be around, we walked about the waterfront area and picked up bits and pieces of chicken and anything else we found to eat that had been left on the ground. For drinks we drained old soda cans, and thus ended our worthless quest to see if we could view the Queen’s panty.

Now today as a man I wonder. If they had caught us then, what would have become of us? What type of charge would they have placed upon us? In any case we did what we did when we did it. Personally, I for one would like to apologize to the Queen. I was just a crazy little boy.

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Virgin Islands Stories: Bridge to Beef Island

Note: This article was written before the completion of the Beef Island Airport renovation. I liked the article the way it was written so I’ll present it in its original form.

The first and only toll bridge in the Virgin Islands runs between Tortola and Beef Island, the home of the BVI’s principal airport. The bridge is loaded with cultural charm, due primarily to the manner in which the toll is collected. The bridge operator sits in the shade of a small rustic tollbooth lying off one side of the road. When a vehicle comes to the tollgate, the collector extends a long stick with a tin can attached to the end. The driver places the toll in the can. The collector then retracts the stick, takes out the toll and opens the gate, allowing the vehicle to pass to the other side. The right to collect this toll was granted to the owners of the property where the bridge is located as a concession for the use of their land. The bridge, engineered and designed to last thirty years, is nearing the end of its days and, to the dismay of some and to the relief of others, this BVI cultural landmark will soon become just a memory of the past.

Before the bridge’s completion in 1966, vehicles traveling from Tortola to Beef Island used a do-it-yourself pontoon barge which could cross the narrow channel with one vehicle only, but with as many passengers as could squeeze aboard. A steel cable connected the barge to each shore serving to secure the barge to land and to control the sideways motion of the craft.

This is how the system worked:

If you were lucky, when you drove up to the shoreline, the barge would be on your side of the channel. In this case, you would haul the barge close to the shore with a special line designed for that purpose. Then you had to tie it tight to the large metal cleat, so that you could drive your vehicle aboard. Next, you would untie that line and manually pull the barge to the other shore. This was accomplished by hauling on a thick hemp line that was run through a series of pulleys to provide the mechanical advantage necessary for a single person to handle the large, heavy and unwieldy barge. Nonetheless, it was said to be quite a workout that normally produced copious amounts of perspiration, some huffing and puffing, and possibly grunts, groans or curses.

An alternative would be to hire some of the children from East End who would hang around the barge looking for a chance to earn a little money. When you reached the other side, you would tie the barge off tight so that you could exit the craft without your vehicle falling into the water. Then you were supposed to untie that line from the cleat, so that someone else on the opposite side could retrieve the barge.

If the barge was on the other side when you arrived, and the last person to use the barge had been thoughtful enough to untie it from the shore cleat, you could pull it to your side and then follow the previously mentioned procedure.

If, on the other hand, the barge was on the opposite side, but the last person had thoughtlessly left it tied, you would then have a problem. If you couldn’t attract the attention of someone on the far shore to untie the line, someone, probably you, had to swim over and untie it, after which the barge could be hauled over to the shore where your vehicle was left waiting.

In 1966, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge replaced the do-it-yourself pontoon barge. The dedication ceremony included Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself. This occasion also marked the first time a reigning monarch had ever visited the British Virgin Islands.

Queen Elizabeth arrived at West End, Tortola on the Royal Yacht Britannia. A bronze plaque was placed on the dock at the exact spot where “Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II first stepped foot in the BVI.” The monument has since been moved as it presented an obstruction to the efficient loading and unloading of cargo on the dock. The plaque indicating the exact spot where Her Majesty first stepped foot on BVI territory is now enigmatically located on the wall of the customs building.

The royal visit began with a brief ceremony, during which West End was renamed, Sopers Hole. The Queen then proceeded by motorcar to Roadtown for a further ceremony and then continued on to the eastern end of the island in order to dedicate the newly constructed bridge, which would bear her name.

The plan was for the Queen to arrive at the bridge, whereupon she would receive a demonstration of its opening and closing and then make her official dedication.

But things don’t normally proceed on schedule in the Virgin Islands. As could be predicted with a high degree of accuracy, none of the planned events occurred when they were supposed to, which resulted in the Queen arriving at the bridge hours later than expected. Because of the long delay, the bridge operator assumed that the visit had been cancelled, and went home for lunch, after which he took a nap, as was his custom.

When the Queen arrived, not only was the operator not present, but he had also taken along the crank that served to operate the bridge. Without that custom-made instrument, no one else could perform the demonstration either.

Someone went to fetch the operator, but after a while, the Prince, who had accompanied the Queen, got tired of waiting and suggested they dedicated the bridge without the demonstration.

The dedication was performed with all the proper pomp and ceremony and the one and only toll bridge in all of the Virgin Islands was officially christened the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. The royal procession then turned around and the Queen and her retinue returned to Sopers Hole and the Yacht, Britannia.

Over the years, the combination of salt air and increased and heavier vehicular traffic has taken their toll on the physical integrity of the bridge. Additionally, the completion of the new Beef Island International Airport and the large-scale commercial and residential development of Beef Island itself have rendered the old bridge inadequate to meet the new demands. For these reasons, a multimillion dollar project is underway to build an adequate replacement for the quaint and beloved Queen Elizabeth II Bridge that has delighted so many first time visitors to the British Virgin Islands.

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