2013: Year in Review

year in review 2013 final

A lot happened on St. John in 2013, so let’s take a trip down ole’ memory lane to see which stories stood out among the rest.

The first major story of the year happened within moments of the calendar switching over to 2013 when we all learned that the 13.8-acre Maho Bay parcel had been sold to a mysterious buyer. “Nobody Knows Nothin‘” were the words Frank Barnako used to describe the deal which remained a secret for a good part of the year. All we did know at the time was that Stanley Selengut was preparing to close Maho Bay Camps after 37 years of operation and set May 15 as the official closing date.

But on a positive note, we did in January learn that villa sales for 2012 were the highest in five years. The average price of a villa sold in 2012 was about $1.2 million. That number was increased a bit due to the impressive sale of a six bedroom Peter Bay villa. That home alone sold for $8.45. Wouldn’t it be nice folks, wouldn’t it be nice.

February was a pretty chill month with not too much happening. High season was in full swing and the weather was glorious as usual. The highlight of the month occurred on February 23 when the 17th annual 8 Tuff Miles race rolled through town. David Riddle, a 31-year-old from Cincinnati, took the top spot finishing the 8.3 mile course in 45 minutes and 46 seconds. Talk about impressive.

We were stunned in March when we all heard that not only was the Beach Bar sold, but Woody’s was too. That sale definitely made us turn our heads. But alas, it was true, Todd and Chad decided to sell the popular watering hole “with heavy hearts,” according to their Facebook page. Little did we know at the time that Todd and his wife Christy had something cool coming along just around the corner … literally.

An eco-resort was approved over in Coral Bay back in March, although no progress has been made thus far on that front. And lastly, a new House Hunters International episode debuted – Chez Shell over in Great Cruz Bay – and this time, they left the scenes of monkeys and horses on the beach on the cutting room floor. (Please give me a like if you know what I’m talking about.)

In April, we learned that Kenny Chesney was planning to donate a portion of the sales from his latest album Life on a Rock to the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. We also got our first listen to his new CD, which can be described as a love song to St. John. There isn’t a bad song on the album and if you haven’t bought it yet, we highly suggest you do. You gotta love Kenny. That guy’s a class act.

Some of us got a little ticked off later in the month when we learned that the powers that be had begun charging for parking at Wharfside. Long gone were the days of endless circling in an effort to grab a free spot. Parking now costs $3 an hour and as much as we hate to see free parking go, it hasn’t been that bad.

Our hearts here at News of St. John broke a little bit in April when a fire swept through Cafe Roma. It turns out something electrical was to blame. Something good came of this tragedy, however, when stories started to spread about the local businesses who quickly sprang into action, trying to douse the fire themselves in an attempt to save Roma. Kudos to all of you.

The month came to a close with Frank Barnako’s announcement that his days at the helm of News of St. John were nearing an end. Frank decided to offer the business for sale, which piqued the curiosity of one girl you’ve all come to know.

After months of rumors swirling about chickens being shot in front of patrons and people passing out in the dining room, the folks at the Donkey Diner decided to call it quits. Citing an off-island medical emergency, the owners listed the business for sale at $299k. The price was lowered to $50k, according to a post on their Facebook page, and as of today – well, we’re not quite sure what’s going on over there. We do know that it’s no longer listed in the MLS from what we see.

The month of May came to a close with Frank Barnako officially announcing his retirement from News of St. John on May 30. I took the reins on May 31 and have been having a blast ever since.

We tweaked things a bit in the beginning of June starting with the launch of News of St. John’s official Facebook page. Check us out of you haven’t already at www.Facebook.com/NewsofStJohn. We also launched a new daily feature – News of St. John’s Daily STJ image. This was our way of spreading the beauty that is St. John, Monday through Friday.

Early in the month, we also reported that someone was digging up the old Domino over in Coral Bay. The old fuel tanks were removed and the property was cleared. Nothing seems to be happening there since and the gas station in Cruz Bay remains the only one on the island for now.

A stretch of Centerline Road out near Coral Bay made headlines once again in June as it literally started crumbling before our eyes. Small band aids were put around it in the form of speed bumps and barriers, and repairs were promised to start. Well they never did. They’re supposedly going to start within the next week or so, but honestly, we’ll believe it when we see it.

House Hunters International returned to the island again in June to tape an episode about a couple searching for a home in Coral Bay. The episode has yet to air and details on an air date remain scarce. We’ll let you all know as soon as we know. I don’t know about you, but I love a good House Hunters episode.

Things took an ugly turn in July when we all learned that a property owner in Denis Bay had been accused of clearing and altering National Park land. It was a hot story and one that left people shaking their heads and voicing their opinions.

We also learned in July that Woody’s had one last well-known visitor before ownership changed hands. Kenny Chesney made a quick pit stop while filming his video for When I See This Bar. The video’s pretty cool and features a lot of familiar faces and places. Be sure to check that out too if you haven’t already.

Lastly, we had some big restaurant news back in July. ZoZo’s announced that it was ending its relationship with Gallows Point and was planning to move over to Caneel while Michael and Barbie Barry announced plans for a new restaurant at the old La Plancha location – Virgin Fire Bar & Grill.

In August, we learned that Todd and Christy Beaty (of Woody’s fame) were planning on opening a family friendly restaurant over at the recently closed JJ’s location. And from the few tidbits we knew at the time, we all knew it was going to be great.

We stayed on the Denis Bay story throughout August and showed our readers firsthand the damage that had been done to Park land, as well as the adjacent property owner’s land. This story was so huge that it was mentioned in the New York Daily News. We have to admit, that was pretty darn cool.

The super classy and super cute (sorry Mr. News of St. John!) Kenny Chesney wrapped up his No Shoes Nation tour and immediately flew to … where else but St. John. He let us all know by posting a series of pictures to his Facebook page. That guy’s got quite the life. Hey Kenny, can we be friends?

September marked the beginning of slow season, although big things were still happening on island. We first learned that Caneel had decided to part ways with the Rosewood Hotel Group, instead opting to be an independent boutique resort. We were also sad to hear the the Bones Rum store and bar just beside the ferry dock had closed its doors for good. We heard at the time that they were hunting for a new location, but nothing has popped up as of yet.

Now on to October … October was a big deal on the island. Two words: Government shutdown.

So the folks in Washington couldn’t make nice and agree on some things (that’s as political as we’ll ever get here) so a government shutdown went into effect. This in turn affected a huge part of St. John. Why, you ask? Well because the National Parks were closed as part of the shutdown and we all know that the majority of St. John is National Park. Government Shutdown: 1. St. John: 0.

But wait! Just like no one puts baby in the corner, no one shuts down St. John. There was a bit of controlled civil disobedience as people ignored the barriers at the beaches and removed the yellow tape that blocked the parking lots. But thankfully after six days, the National Park on St. John was reopened and things were mostly back in business.

We here at News of St. John shed another tear back in October as another one of our favorites burned to the ground. Pirate’s Bight over on Norman Island was completely destroyed in the early morning hours of October 1. They rebuilt a temporary bar and restaurant pretty quickly with operations resuming after less than two months. Phew.

Signs of high season began arriving in November as the annual trek of the megayachts began. The first sighting was Barry Diller’s impressive 305-foot sailing yacht – Eos – which sailed into town toward the end of the month. It was almost immediately followed by a sighting of Devid Geffen’s even more impressive yacht – The Rising Sun – which comes in at a whopping 453 feet. Again, wouldn’t it be nice folks. Wouldn’t it be nice.

The year wound down just as it started – with some pretty big news about Maho Bay. After sitting on the buyer’s identity for months, we finally decided to share with all of you the details we knew about the Maho Bay buyer. Prior to that, it was an open secret on the island that the buyer was Jon Stryker, a wealthy conservationist. Together we all hoped that what we heard was true – that Mr. Stryker would preserve the land and use it as a private residence. Only time will tell.

And again on the Maho front, we also learned earlier this month that the National Park acquired an additional 74 acres of land near Maho Bay bringing the entire land total acquired for that area to 225 acres. The 225-acre beach and the hillside above are the single largest land addition since Laurence Rockefeller’s generous land donation created the National Park back in 1956. What a great way to end the year.

So as one chapter closes, another one opens. Cliche? Yes. But oh so true. We can only wonder what 2014 will bring for our beloved St. John. I guess you’ll all have to stay tuned…

St. John 2013: A Look Back Through Images

If you love St. John, you’re going to want to watch this:

(Please turn your sound on)

Be sure to check out our new Daily STJ images posted Monday through Friday at www.NewsofStJohn.com/DailySTJ

Sunsets, Snorkeling & Sloppy Joes

BAREFOOT CRUZ image__1388028472_99.6.110.222

Sunsets, snorkeling and sloppy joes … doesn’t get much better than that!

Our friends over at the Sadie Sea and Barefoot Cowboy Lounge are about to launch something very cool, and we think you should all check it out. Starting tomorrow, December 27, they’re teaming up to offer an incredible sunset/snorkel deal.

For a mere $40 per person, you can hop aboard the Sadie Sea and enjoy two snorkel spots. Once you’ve had your fill of snorkeling St. John’s beautiful reefs, you can sit back and enjoy one of its spectacular sunsets. Once that’s done, it gets even better. You then head back to land and over on to the Barefoot Cowboy Lounge for a Sloppy Joe and drink of your choice. And this is all for only $40. Seriously, this is the best deal this side of Texas. (Ok, we stole that line from them but we felt it was worth repeating.)

The trip’s a BYOB so feel free to bring along any soft drinks, beer, etc. They’ll provide the ice and coolers to ensure that your beverages are drank at a proper temperature.

Again, the Barefoot Cruz at Sunset starts tomorrow so be sure to check it out. It leaves every Friday at 5 p.m. from the National Park dock. You must purchase tickets in advance at the Barefoot Cowboy Lounge, which is located in the second floor of the Lumberyard complex. Tickets will go on sale for each cruise the Monday prior and will be available until departure time. For more info or if you have any questions, call (340) 201-1236.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas … in Trunk Bay

Well we told you the other day that snow was in the forecast. Here’s the proof courtesy of IrixGuy.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Jenn & Mr. News of St. John

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through St. John,
Not a creature was stirring, even at Quiet Mon;
The stockings were hung by the Beach Bar with care,
In hopes that a Bushwacker soon would be there;
The tourists out to dinner, some at The Fish Trap,
Next head to The Tap Room for a little night cap,
When out on the dock there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my barstool to see what’s the matter.
Away to the beach, I flew like a flash,
Ran past the High Tide and heard a big splash.
The moon on the bay and the St. Thomas lights,
Gave a lustre of midday to something in flight,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than mongoose his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of Grande Bay! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up past Skytop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I put down my drink, and was turning around,
Down the palm tree St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his hand,
And his clothes were all tarnished all salty with sand;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
Now back at the sleigh were three ACC dogs,
And with them was Ziggy, their Facebook friend hog;
While back in the house, the man sampled some treats,
And made sure to leave some for the donkeys to eat;
He had a tanned face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the palm tree he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like Homer, a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

It’s Going to Be a Snowy Xmas Eve at Motu

If you’re lucky enough to be spending the holidays in the islands, you’re going to want to head over to Motu tomorrow night. Santa’s planning to make an appearance before he heads out to deliver all of those gifts and he’s going to bring some snow along with him. You read that right: It’s going to be snowing at Motu tomorrow night. I gotta hand it to these gals – they sure know how to throw a good party.

So stop on by and enjoy some hot spiced cider, egg nog and $3 Stoli drinks amid the snow. You’re not going to want to miss this one! The party starts at 8 p.m.


Taking the Plunge From the Farm to the Sea


The Barleys are a pretty neat family. They’re originally from Florida where they farmed cows, peanuts and grass seed – a pretty unique combination if you ask us. They first set foot on the rock back in May when they came to check out a local business for sale. Since then, they’ve taken the plunge and are now full time island residents. They also happen to be the new owners of Sail Safaris.

“We had never been to St. John until the end of May of this year to look at Sail Safaris,” said Kellie Jo Barley. “We decided to make a life change towards a more simplistic lifestyle and embrace our dream of sailing and water sports when we came across Sail Safaris. We moved here at the end of June this year and took over Sail Safairs, making it our own.”

Located right on the beach in Cruz Bay, Sail Safaris offers sailing and snorkeling tours both around St. John and over in the British Virgin Islands. It specializes in taking small groups to out of the way places for unique experiences while its nature guides entertain and educate on species both above and below the water.

The Barleys arrived in St. John after searching for a business in the Caribbean that they could purchase for their oldest son Trey, 17. Both Trey and Kellie’s husband Eric love sailing, Kellie said, as well the outdoors, boating, diving and fishing. Everyone in the family plays a major part in the business, including Kelly and Eric’s two younger children, Colton, 16, and Amanda, 14.

“All of the children are learning every aspect of the business,” Kellie said. “We home school and feel it is important in addition to their learning to learn life skills such as marketing, advertising and web design, retail, business management, people management and boat maintenance. In addition to all that, they are learning sailing and snorkeling.”

The Sail Safaris’ fleet consists of The Dell Rose, a 40-foot benatau with state rooms and two heads, a beautiful teak saloon and a roomy cockpit; The Fly Girl which is a 27-foot stiletto a racing catamaran, the only one of its kind in St. John; and a variety of hobie cats. Sail Safaris has varying price points so to accommodate every budget.

To learn more about Sail Safaris, you can visit them at their website at www.SailSafaris.net or over on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SailSafaris

Former Resident Debuts Novel About Love City


Love City has made its way into the pages of a book once again, as a former resident recently released a novel based on his own island experiences.

David Culberson lived on St. John from the 70s through the 90s and had a hand in the development of Gallows Point, Estate Concordia, Gifft Hill, Cruz Views and Battery Hill. He just released “Back Time on Love City: The Carnival Never Stops” and he’d like you all to read it. Some of the characters are based on people living on island, so you may come across someone you know … although the names have been changed.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the book:

Back Time on Love City, a factually-based work of fiction, is set amongst the pristine backdrop of an island in the Caribbean. Pre-AIDS, pre-DEA, way pre-9/11 and seemingly light years away from today’s world, the story takes place just a few years ago, when the island’s cultural fabric was made up of a blend of strange characters, all with magnetic personalities and somehow living together in chaotic harmony.

Torn between the relative safety of doing what was expected, living and working close to home in Middle America farmland, or blindly plunging into ‘sharky’ waters (literally), our young hero readily chose the sharks. A rookie to the sea and island life, he was innocently drawn to a modern-day pirate by the name of Captain Jay. With high drive and low scruples, the pirate takes the rookie under his dark wing. Often times, Jay’s antics nearly kill him but, somehow, our main character grew stronger and more savvy, eventually transforming his dark lessons into a very bright future – only after tragic events caused their roles to reverse.

A resident of the island of St. John from the 70s into the 90s, Culberson has written a rollicking good read, full of adventure, danger, and laughter, and is sure to transport the reader back time to a perfect place called “Love City.”

And here’s a brief bio of David courtesy of Amazon.com:

David Culberson grew up in the middle of Illinois farmland and has bobbed and weaved his way through the past few decades to become an influential global presence in low-impact and sustainable development. His particular expertise is with environmentally sensitive and logistically difficult properties in or near some of the world’s most outstanding environments: Belize, the Caribbean, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, and the boreal forests on the shores of Lake Superior. 

“Back Time on Love City: The Carnival Never Stops” is available for purchase or download on Amazon.com. Click here visit its page over on Amazon.

The Details on the Incredible Megayacht Anchored Off the North Shore

solandge pic

If you’re heading along the North Shore today, keep an eye out for a pretty impressive yacht that’s anchored in the waters beyond Cinnamon Bay. Not on the island today? You may be able to catch a glimpse of it by checking out one of three webcams – AmorosaIsland Stones and La Jolla Caribe.

The yacht is called Solandge and at 279-feet in length, it’s one of the largest in the world. What makes this megayacht special (other than the fact that it’s unbelievably large and luxurious) is that after being christened in Germany just last month, it chose the Caribbean as the destination for its maiden voyage. But really, who wouldn’t?

Solandge left Germany a few weeks ago and was off the marine radar until last Thursday when it sailed into port over in St. Thomas. The megayacht arrived in St. John late Saturday.

The 279-foot yacht can accommodate 12 guests and boasts 29 crew members. That means there is nearly 2.5 crew members per guest. Talk about luxury. The yacht also boasts six decks, a helipad and a swimming pool.


And for those of you interested (or perhaps dreaming like I am), Solandge charters at around $650,000 a week. That’s it???

We here at News of St. John are super curious as to who is chartering the megayacht this week. We’ll send a couple of koozies to anyone who knows. 🙂