A Great Turtle Video

We absolutely love getting reader-submitted pics and videos here at News of St. John. We received one last one from one of our readers that was simply so good, we had to share it.

Larry Nix was vacationing on St. John last month when he took a daysail with the motor yacht Cinnamon Bay. They cruised out to Little Buck Island off of St. Thomas where he captured this amazing turtle video using a GoPro camera. Check it out:

Reason #3,429 Why St. John is So Special (according to Jenn)

Donkeys at Caneel. We're not sure of any of these guys or gals are Scotty, but I'll venture to guess they may be related. :)
Donkeys at Caneel: We’re not sure of any of these guys or gals are Scotty, but I’ll venture to guess they may be related. 🙂

People often ask me what makes St. John so special. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words just how special this place is. For me, it’s a combination of the people and the sheer beauty of the island. Yesterday, however, the inner beauty and actions of several island residents overtook the island’s charm in a big way. Here’s what happened:

I received an email around 1:30 p.m. yesterday from a woman named Shannon. Shannon has lived in the Virgin Islands for more than 20 years. After a brief time off island, Shannon recently returned to St. John. (That in itself makes us happy.)

Here’s what she wrote:

“We were out at Cinnamon on Saturday and noticed (along with some other concerned folk) that a donkey was limping really bad and then retreated to the trees behind the sailboats there by the beach rentals and just laid down for most of the afternoon. Apparently these tourists had noticed this some days prior and called the National Park Ranger who then came in that afternoon to look at the donkey. The tourists told us that he had planned to have ‘someone’ from St. Thomas come on Monday to sedate him and take a look, it appeared to him that the donkey simply had something stuck in his hoof.”

Shannon continued, “Well, we went to Cinnamon again yesterday and much to our dismay the poor donkey was still laying in the trees behind the sailboats. Another donkey has taken up residence to soothe him or her. It’s so sad.”

Shannon then mentioned how she notified the National Park Service and asked if we could help. Naturally we said we would.

We first reached out to Thomas Kelly, the Natural Resources Manager at the National Park Service. Within an hour, we heard back from Thomas who confirmed that the NPS was aware of the donkey’s injury. He stated that they had hoped the injury would have taken care of itself as these types of injuries typically do. Thomas thanked us for reaching out to him, and we knew that NPS would follow up.

In the meantime, we contacted Leslie McKibben. Leslie is the newest board member of the Animal Care Center. I explained the issue to Leslie and asked her to reach out to fellow board member Oriel Smith. Oriel works at Caneel Bay Resort and takes care of the property’s many animals, including a number of donkeys.

As luck would have it, the ACC was having a board meeting last night. About an hour later, Leslie informed me that the donkey “will be taken care of.” I was ecstatic.

Leslie spoke with Oriel who stated the donkey’s name was Scotty. Scotty the donkey used to live over at Caneel, according to Oriel, before moving over to Cinnamon. Fortunately Oriel knows this particular donkey well and is planning on checking in on him today, Thursday. Oriel also plans to contact a local vet to assist in treatment, Leslie said.

So in a matter of hours, several people worked together to help an injured donkey. Acts of kindness like this don’t happen everywhere. But they happen on St. John and they happen often. It doesn’t matter if it is a person in need or an animal in need, you can guarantee that the people of St. John will work together to help. And that, my friends, is what makes this place so special.

Update: Thursday at 1:15 p.m.

We just got off the phone with Thomas Kelly from NPS. He told us that a biologist from NPS checked in on the donkey after our conversation yesterday. The biologist reported that the donkey was up and walking around and that he appeared to be suffering from old age more so than anything else. He used binoculars to inspect all four hooves and did not see any external injuries. So perhaps Scotty the donkey was simply looking for some quiet time…

Update: Thursday evening

Oriel Smith paid a visit to Scotty today also. Oriel helped Scotty out a bit and expects him to be back to his old self again really soon. 🙂

A picture of Scotty taken on Thursday afternoon - Image courtesy of Oriel Smith
A picture of Scotty taken on Thursday afternoon – Image courtesy of Oriel Smith

How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John

Virgin Islands business opportunities

There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.

Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."

JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone.  I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."

Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.

  1. "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
  2. "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
  3. "An electric car rental company.  And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
  4. "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details 
  5. "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)

Why people bring food to St. John

Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.  

Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores.  You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef.  That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.

In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.  

"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand.  "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner.  No hurry, no parking, no worries."

Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food).  We still ate out plenty.  It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."

What about you?

Historical Society’s book on sale

Book_cover_MEDYears in the making, years in the telling. That's the story behind the St. John Historical Society's new book, St John – Life in Five Quarters. (The Five Quarters refers to the original five administrative districts of the island: Cruz Bay, Maho Bay, Reef bay, Coral Bay, and East End).

The island history is available in the Society's online store for $29.95. The book is described as more than 200 pages of "local stories, pictures, and history … accounts of prominent people and notable places, firsthand descriptions of earlier ways of life on St John, fact-based histories of estate ‘ruins’ we have rambled, and an impressive collection of interesting and beautiful images and photos."

The Society does more than sell books.

Read moreHistorical Society’s book on sale

Boardwalk at Cinnamon Bay

Hard work by volunteers is paying off at Cinnamon Bay.

With support from the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, a boardwalk is being built around the ruins.  

There are a number of positive effects.  First, folks using wheelchairs or walkers can more easily visit the site. Second, creatying walkways will reduce the amount of erosion and minor damage caused by people climbing on the rocks and ruins.

DSC_0665 (1)
Shelley McLennan
passed along these photos. "The walkway and cement sidewalks sure change the look of the ruins!," she said.

DSC_0668

Plan for new gas station, quick-stop store

Plans are afoot to build a gas station on Centerline Road.  

Developer Guilderoy Sprauve is asking for a zoning change to allow him to build the station and a convenience store on land which used to be the home of a concrete plant and is now home to Love City Home and Garden Center. 

Sprauve was quoted by the St. John Source saying everything is in place to move ahead with the project. "We have the funding," he said.

There will be an attendant on duty at the station, even  though it will be self service.  You'll also be on your own at the C-store.  Sprauve apparently intends to install vending machines.  He said the store will be "robotic."

Of course a new gas station would be helpful on the island.  E&C Service in Cruz Bay is the only place to gas up now; the Dominio station in Coral Bay is still closed with no word when, or if it will reopen.

  • Read the Source story here

New Yorker criticizes Maho Bay room service

You can't make this stuff up.

A guest at the Maho Bay Camps blasted the eco-resort on Yelp

Vasyl F. of Rego Park, New York said, "This is the worst hotel I've ever stayed in."

The Queens borough resident said the description of Maho he read on Expedia.com did not meet his expectations.

"No ocean view rooms … and no mountain view … they charge even to lock your door … tents are 30 years old and leaking, and cracks in the floors are so wide that cockroaches and lizards are flooding the dwelling. Restaurant is extremely dirty and the food is all from cans and is made in China."

As for being an 'eco-resort," Vasyl said, "They just don't repair the hotel and don't clean the territory, besides all their furniture, tables, plates, glasses and many more things are made of cheap toxic plastic which is definitely not eco-friendly."

In rebuttal, anyone who knows anything about Maho Bay also knows that Vasyl's expectations were way off the mark.  But, he may not be alone, given what The Inquiring Iguana found when he slithered to Expedia's Maho entry.

For starters, Maho describes itself as a three star "Coral Bay hotel with a private beach."  Misleading, some could say. The Expedia description of Maho is also, shall we say, 'generous.'

Maho's 'amenities' are listed (see below), suggesting the rustic resort, with accommodations from $80/night, could compete with villas. (It's the Select Comfort mattress that really caught The Iguana's attention.)

AmenitiesThe Iguana understands how Expedia wants Maho to present itself in the best light.  But, he also wonders how a smart guy from Queens could make the assumption that he was staying a a luxury-like hotel when the Expedia site reservation screen offers "tent cottage."  That's a pretty good clue to what he's going to get.

  • Vasyl F.'s review of Maho Bay on Yelp is here.
  • Maho Bay on Expedia is here.

Go on vacation, bring home a new skill

Most people know Maho Bay Campground as a laid-back, environment-friendly, low-stress place to relax. It's not so well known as an art school.  Yet, that's what it is, too, especially this year with a re-energized curriculum.

StokingkilnWeekly classes are designed for island visitors, generally two hours long.  They includes Kids and Family Potter's Wheel, Kids or Adults Clay Bells and Whistles, and mask making.  Each promises to get you out the door with something you've created.

There are extended classes, also.  Each meets for several weeks, three hours at a time.  They include Relief and 3-D Sculpture, Glazed Earthenware, and Off the Wheel Techniques

There are also glass blowing classes, with an emphasis on art you can make from recycled materials.

Early in May, Maho featured Steven Branfman as the Clay artist-in-residence.