A Natural Phenomenon on St. John

I’m sure you all have seen the photos and news reports about the MASSIVE Sahara dust cloud moving across the Atlantic.  Right now, on St. John, the air is heavy.  The sky is invisible behind the layer of beige haze.

This is not an uncommon occurrence here for this time of year.  But this one is the largest and most noteworthy dust plume in over 50 years according to The Weather Channel.

A hazy Cruz Bay – Photo cred: Brent Porter Portney

The light haze is usually a welcome sight to Islanders.  Beautiful sunsets generally precede or follow the peak impact, bringing hope that the dryness of the air will suffocate tropical storms that are stifled by this natural phenomenon.

However this Father’s day, St John woke up to beige skies.  St Thomas was barely visible from overlooks.  Long-time residents are saying they have never seen anything like this.

Read moreA Natural Phenomenon on St. John

When You Can’t Make it to St. John…

st john party

What do you do when you simply cannot make a trip down to the most fabulous island in the world? You bring the island to you! Well that’s what a group of people did in Pennsylvania recently.

News of St. John readers and St. John lovers Carol A. and Flo W. live in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The ladies recently threw a St. John party with some friends, and we have to admit, it looked like a lot of fun.

According to Carol, the group held its first St. John party back in 2012. At that time, the party was an homage to Woody’s, but in 2013 they decided to expand the party to include a few more of their favorite St. John spots. This year’s party featured The Beach Bar, Woody’s, Barefoot Cowboy Lounge, Across the Street, Joe’s Rum Hut, Castaway’s, 420 to Center, and of course some Cruzan and Blue Chair Bay Rum. Here’s what Carol had to say about the party:

“All the food selections have to come from a St. John bar menu. We had artichoke dip from the Beach Bar, wings and shark bites from Woody’s, pulled pork and smoked ribs from The Barefoot Cowboy and southwest egg rolls from the Across The Street Bar. We had Kenny Chesney’s St. John tunes playing and of course there was a lot of rum too … This year we also added a St. Johnopoly area away from the small kids.”

“I think everyone had a great time,” Carol continued. “The only problem is that the party makes us miss being on St. John!!!”

bcl st john party

st johnopoly st john party

group pic st john party

How many of you have thrown a St. John party? If so, feel free to send us some pics at [email protected]

Good News From the East End!

hansen 2

So lately we’ve had a lot of negative news about the East End – beaches being blocked, barbed wire being put up, trespassing signs, etc. Well we’re happy today to tell you about some good news coming out of the East End.

One group of property owners along Hansen Bay beach are opening up their land for public use. Most notably, they’ve invited Captain Peter of Angels Rest to anchor offshore. (Not sure what Angels Rest is? Click here to read about our Easter jaunt on the floating bar.) This stretch of beach along Hansen Bay will now be Angels Rest’s primary destination. Here’s what Captain Peter said about it on his Facebook page:

“(The owners of that stretch of beach) are so nice to me and are planning to make a fun beach to visit,” Captain Peter wrote. “They will be offering a lot of beach toys, such as paddleboards, kayaks, tri sailboats … There will also be a snack shop, cabanas and lots of free parking. And of course, Angels Rest bar (will be) a little closer to the beach.”

We reached out to the property owners Tuesday, and they are super excited to open their beach to the community.

“We want to enhance the community idea, to welcome businesses to a beautiful place,” one of the property owners said Tuesday. (She asked to keep her name out of today’s story, and we happily obliged.)” That is very difficult to do here on St. John, especially with the North Shore being mostly National Park. We’re opening up the shoreline as it should be opened, to those people who want to participate in that beach. We want to help the community. We are very community oriented.”

While they could not confirm Captain Peter’s statement about a possible snack shack, they did say they are welcoming Angels Rest with open arms. The owners are working on installing signs to let people know that Angels Rest is in the area and also to direct them where to park (across the street from the beach).

They did stress, however, that they do not want the beach to get overrun. They simply want people to come out, experience the beach and enjoy themselves while being respectful of the neighbors of course. They’ve also asked that all visitors pick up after themselves.

I’m not sure about you all, but I think this is amazing news! Kudos to these ladies!!

Something “Amazing” Just Happened…

Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters
Boats waiting to transport the racers – Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters

Anyone see an abnormally high number of seaplanes flying near Lovango and Congo cays yesterday? Perhaps you saw a helicopter flying back and forth in the area? Want to know why???

CBS chose our happy little slice of heaven as a location in its latest season of The Amazing Race! How cool is that??!!

We got the call yesterday morning from Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters.  He mentioned how someone inquired a while back about booking a charter for yesterday. Seeing how Captain John typically takes weekends off, Island Sue [Captain John’s better half :)] turned down the request. Captain John did do a bit of snooping, however, and soon learned what was up.

It turns out that another boat captain friend of ours was tapped to help out. (Now we’re not sure if any confidentiality releases were signed, so we’re keeping his name out of today’s post.)  What we do know is that this second captain was out near Carval Rock for a good part of the day. It seems that they did some filming in a variety of places around St. Thomas and St. John.

Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters
Set up for The Amazing Race – Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters

Check out this mobile movie of the seaplane coming in courtesy of Captain John Brandi:

And here is a helicopter moving in, again courtesy of Captain John Brandi:

Once we heard that CBS was using helicopters, we knew Caribbean Buzz had to be involved. Here’s their super official statement (my guess is they signed something):

“We provided aerial support for filming of a CBS reality TV show. It included (Carval) rock, Hans Lollick, Magen’s Bay and downtown at Fort Christian.”

So cool!

Amazing Race Map

Laurie and Craig Crandall just happened to be passing through St. Thomas yesterday afternoon when they caught a glimpse of filming.

“We just came home from a week in Alaska and were coming to the waterfront. And there were all of these filming crews and teams,” Laurie said. “We asked what was happening and we were told it was The Amazing Race. The seaplane was at the waterfront, so I think it was whoever arrived first got on the plane … There were probably about six teams. I wish I was able to get out and talk to them because it looked really cool.”

Islands Magazine Highlights Caneel Bay

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

So I have to admit, I’ve always wanted to spend a few nights over at Caneel Bay but the accompanying price tag has always scared me off a bit. So instead, I’ve opted for day visits here and there where I’ve schlepped my cooler down to Honeymoon and Soloman before heading back up to the beach bar for a bite to eat and a delicious Bushwacker before making my way back home.

Well after reading the following article by Islands Magazine, I just may have to start saving a bit more. Here are their top 15 reasons to visit Caneel Bay.

15 Reasons to Vacation at Caneel Bay in the USVI

Caneel Bay is one-part luxury, one-part nature, one-part culinary heaven and all parts immersive. Here, life is simple, accented by to-die-for meals and the occasional roaming donkey. (Yes, donkeys.) Here are 15 more reasons to start packing your bags.

15. Nature Rules
As the yacht approached Caneel Bay Resort, I wasn’t sure we’d arrived at the right place. I squinted: No flashy entrance sign? Where are the rooms? Oh, there they are. Here, the natural beauty of the island takes precedence over pomp.

14. My Backyard
It’s no wonder nature takes top billing here … this is my “backyard” for the next few days.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

13. Underwater Havens
Snorkeling gear is complimentary — and you’re going to need it. All seven (!!!) beaches of Caneel Bay boast their own underwater world, from sea-turtle meccas to fish-filled reefs. I even hovered over a spotted eagle ray. My advice? Book for a week to spend a day at each one.

12. Surprising Dinners
Here, sugar-mill ruins are as prolific as palm trees, so I wasn’t surprised to find one on site at Caneel Bay. What surprised me was what lurked inside: ZoZo’s at the Sugar Mill, the flagship fine-dining go-to on St. John. And I can fully attest to its reputation — ruins or not, there was nothing ruined about the pistachio-crusted mahimahi with grilled polenta and sweet bell-pepper chutney that had me almost licking my plate.

11. The Freshest Ingredients
I had to ask: Why does everything taste so fresh? Turns out the secret to Caneel’s distinctive dinners at all the restaurants — ZoZo’s, Caneel Beach Bar & Grill and Turtle Bay Estate House (chef Anthony has perfected the art of simple yet creative pairings) — gets delivered every morning. Locally owned Josphine’s Greens has been the prime source for farm-fresh, organic greens for nearly 20 years.

10. Days Spent Like This
Those hearty meals every night meant I had to paddle board every day (rough life, I know).

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

9. Discovering History
A hike on the Reef Bay Trail burns calories too — once I made it to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins, my mind had already drifted back to lunch at the resort. (The food really is that good, OK?)

8. Fuel for Foodies
Finally! Lunch time. Chef Kim’s killer sushi at the Beach Bar & Grill made me pause and question whether I was at a swanky sushi restaurant in Manhattan. The beach view in front of me quickly squashed that theory.

7. Empty Beaches
Stuffed with sushi, I was glad to have this private bay (my backyard) all to myself. Which I did — until I spotted a baby deer gingerly manuevering across the shifting sand. I suppose I can share this piece of paradise today.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

6. The Cutest Neighbors Ever
I mean, how could I say no to this Disney-worthy face?

deer caneel
Image credit: Islands Magazine

5. Darling Donkeys
Or this face, for that matter. After some time in the sun, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a long-eared shadow pass by my beach chair. But turns out, the famous donkeys of Caneel Bay are a common sight, along with the deer. They roam freely througout the resort and often pose alongside wedding ceremonies — or for selfies. (Might be guilty of that one.)

caneelbay_donkey 1_high-res
Image credit: Islands Magazine

4. Impeccable Service … And Rum
Deer, donkeys and now pina coladas? Caneel Bay Resort specializes in beach days that I’ll never forget — albeit they may be hard to remember after a few of these.

3. Killer Views
Most of the time, rain has me reaching for an umbrella. Here, I was just reaching for my camera.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

2. Unique Touches
One of my favorite details was the hand-delivered breakfast … in a picnic basket. Being here is “glamping” at its finest.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

1. Snorkeling
Not wanting to miss any time underwater, I forgo an extra hour of sleep in my beach bungalow for a before-breakfast swim with the sea turtles (a sighting is pretty much guaranteed). Even better? They’re not shy at all — I even scored an accidental high-five. Breakfast — picnic basket or not — can wait.

Image credit: Islands Magazine
Image credit: Islands Magazine

Life on a Rock: Going Home.

roccos final

So this week we introduced you to Carol and David Rocco, a Midwestern couple who moved to the island for one year. We initially intended on running one story about their yearlong adventure, but we were so captivated by the couple and especially by Carol’s writing that we decided it was worth more than just one post.

Today we cap off their story as they prepare to leave the island. But before we do, we asked Carol a couple of simple questions about their journey. Here’s what she had to say:

Would you recommend that anyone else do this?
Island life is not for everyone. I have found that there are 3 kinds of people who aren’t happy here: 1) Those who did not have a realistic expectation of what they were getting into, 2) Those who get here and think they can change the system, and 3) those without a sense of humor. This may be a U.S. territory but it’s not America. For those considering a move, read everything you can find on the subject and talk to people who have already done it. That’s one of the things I love about the STJ expat community — most of them are happy to share what they know and lend a hand to open-minded newcomers. We have met people here that have changed our lives and will remain lifelong friends.

Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat.

And here is Carol’s last post in its entirety:

Arrested Development

The countdown app on my iPhone says we depart for America in 1 day, 23 hours, 9 minutes and 14 seconds … but who’s counting.

Our last days are filled with the things we love the most about the islands ~ roaming barefoot along the sandy streets of Great Harbour (Jost Van Dyke), hiking the trails, sitting under the leaning palm on Salomon, camping out at the Beach Bar awaiting the most spectacular sunset on earth, laughing with dear friends ~ and you know me, I’m snapping up pictures like paparazzi stalking Lindsay Lohan.

I could sugarcoat the story and tell you everything’s perfect but that negates the purpose of sharing the reality of the roller coaster ride. Truth is, emotions have been on red alert this week largely because we haven’t sold our two high dollar items: the boat and the vehicle. Did I mention we leave in 1 day, 23 hours, 9 minutes and 14 seconds? Given that every little detail fell so beautifully into place to get us here, I am thoroughly confused by the about-face. In fact, I am not the least bit amused.

While contemplating the Universe’s stalling tactics this morning, I get a message in my inbox:

No matter what happens or doesn’t happen this week, Carol, this entire week will already be looked back upon with the greatest fondness because of the miracles you’ve already performed, which will become more and more evident as time passes.

That’s how I see it now, The Universe.

I’m convinced that the Universe speaks directly to me so if you got the same message, don’t tell me (www.tut.com).

Incredible Aerial Views of the East End

This video doesn’t need much of an introduction. Simply put – it’s an incredible, three-minute video that captures aerial views of the East End. It was filmed using a GoPro camera and a DJI Phantom, which is a radio-controlled helicopter. IrixGuy filmed it and we thank him for sharing it with us.

Check it out and turn on your sound:

Cool People You Meet On Island…

Geoff Bodine

I was wandering around Cruz Bay yesterday when a woman named Sherry stopped me near the National Park dock. She had just hopped off Seadream, a small cruise ship that was docked off of Cruz Bay. She only had a few hours on island, so she wanted to know what she should do.

The two of us starting chatting while Mr. News of St. John chatted up the two gentlemen that had accompanied her onshore. It turns out that Sherry was visiting with a few friends, including a man named Geoff Bodine. Does that name ring a bell for any of you? Any NASCAR fans out there?

It turns out Geoff, who was super nice by the way, is a pretty decorated race car driver. He’s driven in the top three series and won 18 Sprint Cup races in the 80s and 90s. He even won the Daytona 500 in 1986. Pretty cool huh. (And yes, I totally Googled that.)

Geoff retired back in 2012 after racing for more than 27 years. He now owns a Honda motorsport dealership in Melbourne, Florida and makes bobsleds for the US Olympic Team.

As I mentioned, he was a very nice guy. He even gave us the autographed picture above. Good to meet you Geoff. Hope you enjoyed the island.

Easter with the Angels – Angels Rest

Angels Rest

Hi everyone, happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter yesterday for those of you who celebrate. I had one of the best holidays ever, and I wanted to tell you all about it.

So a friend and I were taking a nice cruise out east yesterday when we happened upon Angels Rest in Haulover Bay. For years, I’ve been trying to catch up with Captain Peter and the Angels Rest, but our paths never officially crossed until yesterday. So naturally the second I saw him, all of our other Easter plans got put on the back burner. We parked the Jeep, grabbed some cash and hopped in the water.

For those of you unfamiliar with Angel’s Rest, it’s a very cool floating bar. But what makes it even cooler is Captain Peter himself. Captain Peter built Angels Rest a few years back and it’s the only boat on St. John that has a liquor license. It’s a comfy little spot with a bar with seating for about seven or so people , a glass table with chairs for those looking to relax while watching the critters swim by through the circle cut out in the floor below, two beds in the event that you need a little catnap and a very comfortable rooftop sun deck for those looking to chill or work on their tans.

You need to see this for yourself. Check it out this little video we took:

Angels Rest goes out a few times a week (when Peter feels like it) and it can be found either at Haluover or Vie’s. If you’re on island and looking to find him, give him a ring. You can see his number on his “business cards” below:

Peter Angels RestAnd an added bonus, the head at Angels Rest has probably the best restroom view on island.

angels rest bath