Bar Wars: Happening Today

bar wars 2014Thanks Life on Our Rock for passing along this info…

Be sure to stop by The Beach Bar today, Saturday, at noon for the 14th annual Bar Wars competition.

Bar Wars is a charity event that happens each August. The event tests the bartending and waitressing skills of participants who happen to work at a variety of our favorite eating and drinking establishments. Each team has to work together to create, serve and drink beverages, all while completing an obstacle course.

The best part of the competition is that all of the proceeds from the event – it costs $100 per team to enter, $50 to buy back in  – will be donated to the Family Resource Center, which helps victims of crime in St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island.

Click here to read about last year’s Bar Wars competition. 

Saharan Dust Moves into Territory

Saharan Dust

If you’ve been on island within the last few days or so, you may have noticed a haze throughout the territory. Yup, you guessed it – the Saharan Dust has arrived.

For those of you not familiar with Saharan Dust, it happens nearly every spring/summer. It starts over in the North African desert when an increase of warm air causes sand particles to rise above the desert. Those particles are then transported over the Atlantic Ocean and across the Caribbean.

When the dust arrives in the territory, the islands’ typical bright blue skies are replaced by a haze. It looks like clouds, but in actuality, it’s dust. Visibility is reduced, and the air quality becomes poor. According to the National Weather Service, it looks like the dust is going to get a bit worse in the next week before getting better.

Here are a few pics we took the other day that show a dusty haze in the sky:

Trunk Bay Dust

Saharan Dust

cds saharan dustWant to know the status of the Saharan Dust? Click here to view current satellite conditions.


St. John Brewers Launches New Brew

Amber Ale
By Andrea Milam, Special Contributor to News of St. John

Island brewing company St. John Brewers launched its new Small Batch Series line last week with the release of bottled Amber Ale, to be sold for a limited time exclusively in the Virgin Islands.

The medium-bodied, well-balanced Amber recipe was perfected over time at St. John Brewers’ Mongoose Junction brewery, and has been served on draft at the Tap Room for several years. Subtle roasted malt notes, a mild hop profile, and a round finish make the Amber Ale drinkable even in the V.I.’s warm climate.

“It’s a darker beer with hints of roasted grain as well as just a little bit of chocolate,” said co-owner Kevin Chipman. “It’s very food friendly and extremely drinkable.”

“This Small Batch Series will give St. John Brewers a chance to showcase some of the other styles of beer that were created locally,” said Chirag Vyas, co-owner. “Patrons to our brewpub have enjoyed our small batch brews on draft and this is an opportunity for folks to try our island recipes on a larger scale.”

The new Amber Ale can be found alongside staple beers Island Summer Ale, Island Hoppin IPA, and Tropical Mango Pale Ale at grocery stores, bars, and restaurants throughout the Virgin Islands for a limited time. St. John Brewers’ Liquid Sunshine Belgian Ale, released in 2008, will now be placed into the Small Batch Series.

St. John Brewers was founded in 2004 by Kevin Chipman and Chirag Vyas, who met as students at the University of Vermont. The brewing duo initially gained notoriety with their Tropical Mango Pale Ale. Today, St. John Brewers operates its own brewpub, the Tap Room, an apparel shop, the Brewtique, and Chipman and Vyas brew small batches of several different kinds of beers that are served on draft at the Tap Room. For more information, visit www.stjohnbrewers.com.


Ferry Soon Come?

Well folks, it’s been 104 days since Public Works Commissioner Daryl Smalls said the new ferries would be running within 30 days. We had a sighting last week where they appeared to be doing some sort of trial runs. Well, we have some more news today…

Red Hook I was actually at the ferry dock this morning! See for yourself:

Image courtesy of Mark Gierth, Owner of X on St. John

Red Hook I is designated to Varlack Ventures. We tried to reach Mrs. Varlack but she wasn’t in the office this morning. We’ll try again later.

As far as Cruz Bay I is concerned, that ferry is designated to Transportation Services. The woman who answered the phone there said that ferry will not be running soon.

So now that it’s made it to the ferry dock, how long until it starts running…

98 Days and … A Ferry Makes an Appearance!

It’s been 99 days since Public Works Commissioner Daryl Smalls said the new ferries would be operating within 30 days. Well clearly Mr. Smalls is operating on island time…

But we have good news! Look what just made an appearance over near Turner Bay:

Image courtesy of Coconut Coast Villas
Image courtesy of Coconut Coast Villas
Image courtesy of Coconut Coast Villas
Image courtesy of Coconut Coast Villas

You may recall that the last time one of the ferries made an appearance on St. John was on April 9, which happened to be a mere three days before Mr. Smalls got an award. I wonder what he has up his sleeve this time 😉

Castaway’s Debuts New Menu

It’s the weekend … woohoo! Happy Saturday everyone!

For those of you who’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in Cruz Bay over the past few weeks and have gone over to Castaway’s, you’ve probably noticed some changes. They’re really stepping things up over there in an effort to attract a more mature crowd, and I have to say, I really like what they’re doing. Well today we’re happy to announce that they just launched a new menu, and it looks delish!

Check it out and let us know what you think:

Castaways menu

Life on a Rock: Full Circle

roccos second pic

Yesterday we introduced you to Carol and David Rocco, a couple from Missouri who decided to take a leap of faith and move to St. John for one year. Here’s part two of their story:

Rock Fever – September 24, 2013

Rock Fever – temporary claustrophobia and restlessness caused by living on an island

The fever is alive and well. And I have it.

How can anyone living in ‘paradise’ have moments or hours or days of restlessness? Good question. I can only describe just a few of the annoyances crowding my thoughts of late …

  • I’m going to toss a spike strip in front of the truck driver who blows his horn for a good quarter of a mile up the hill 18 times a day.
  • Could I get more than one bag of groceries for less than a hundred dollars?
  • Keep raining so it will fill the cistern and I can let the shower run for one full minute.
  • Stop raining! The dishes won’t even dry!
  • I dream of a mouth-watering pizza … delivered …
  • Oh how I miss the smell of a mall … even the offensive, mucus-inflammatory odor pouring out the doors of Hollister.
  • Is it happy hour yet?

I realize slow season is the calm before the storm, but at this moment I would welcome a hurricane. I haven’t crawled into a dry bed for three nights anyway.

P.S. To concerned family and friends: No worries. My antidepressant is still effective and there’s no need to alert AA. Rock fever is a normal and temporary condition of living in paradise. I feel better already.

Six Months in St. John: What I’ve Learned – December 17, 2013

We left America six months ago for an island adventure – and what an adventure it is!

Notes to Self:

  • You don’t need much to live here. You don’t need much to live in America either … you just thought you did.
  • This isn’t South Beach. No one cares about your designer clothing, expensive jewelry and shoes with bling. Those things will get ruined anyway. You’ll be glad you brought the weatherproof, functional (boring) handbag.
  • You will not live in a big house with air conditioning and all the luxuries you’re used to (unless you win the lottery, so start playing). You will, however, have a magnificent view while ‘suffering’ with less.
  • 450 square feet isn’t so bad. On the bright side, it will take only 30 minutes to clean house.
  • Do not bring anything you’d rather not replace. Your favorite pirate shirt will mold. Your most comfortable flip flops will fall apart. The metal embellishments on your pink bikini will rust. And you will replace computers and cameras at an astonishing rate.
  • After spending $60 on an appetizer and two drinks at a fancy restaurant, you will decide the $10 burger meal at Woody’s is a pretty good deal.
  • You will consume drinks at approximately 3 times the normal rate to avoid the immediacy at which ice melts in the tropics.
  • Choose ‘dry days’ and stick to it. Your liver will thank you.
  • Lizards are your friends. Scorpions are not.
  • You will live in Mayberry. The guy you dissed yesterday may end up being your landlord or employer or bartender or mechanic.
  • Want to be happy here? Then embrace island culture. This includes greeting everyone with a Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night or the all-inclusive Good Day before uttering another word. Get comfortable with island time – the more of a hurry you’re in, the slower they’ll move. West Indians love music so when the gal on the taxi sings as if there’s a talent scout lurking, just sing along.
  • Try new things, sample new dishes, go new places. That is why you moved here, right?

Bittersweet – March 21, 2014

Warm weather, beautiful beaches, a small town where everybody knows your name – what’s not to love? As our one-year sabbatical comes to an end, we are often asked why we are returning to America. Why not park under a palm tree and live in paradise forever?

Leaving St. John will be bittersweet. There are so many things we love about living here aside from the obvious beauty and laid back lifestyle.

For instance:

  • We are judged by who we are, not by what (or who) we wear, who we know or how far we’ve climbed on an imaginary career ladder.

  • We have fewer aches and pains. A more consistent barometric pressure and warm weather is good for the bones. Our stash of antibiotics has remained virtually untouched.

  • We are far removed from mainstream media. Who cares about the latest iPhone release, or that Kim Kardashian named her baby North or South … instead, tell me what time the local parade begins and if the island’s second gas station will ever be finished.

However, living here and visiting are very different experiences. While on vacation, you climb into a fluffy, comfy king-sized bed in an air-conditioned multi-million dollar villa with panoramic views. We sleep in a lumpy, humid bed exactly four steps away from a toilet. But not before checking under the bed for iguanas.

Another misconception is that we are eating fresh fruit, vegetables and mahi every day. Not so. We shop at the grocery store just like you. Ciguatera, a toxic disease affecting reef fish in the area, prevents us from fishing anywhere near the shoreline. As for produce, St. John’s soil is equivalent to a desert so even most roadside vendors import.

Simply said, it is very expensive to live here. Most people work multiple jobs – with no benefits (which are rarer than a watermelon for less than $19.99). We could stay if we worked far more for far less. But that was never our intent.

I once overheard someone say {paraphrasing}, ”There are times when I think: I CANNOT believe I live here! … and other times when I think: I can’t believe I live HERE!” So true!

The rudimentary aspects of the islands are precisely why many people come here, including us. Escaping the daily grind has been good for the soul. We often hear people say, “You’re so lucky!” It has nothing to do with luck. It is a conscious decision.

Whatever your dreams are, pursue them. Don’t wait for someday. You will never have ‘enough’ money and the time will never be just right.

You just might run out of time.

Time’s Up – March 8, 2014

This experience has accomplished exactly what I had hoped — it changed me. My perspective, my attitude, my goals. I always had a wandering spirit; I just never had the guts to step outside of my comfort zone. Learning to live with less has been the shallow part of my transformation. Immersing myself in a vastly different culture in which I am the minority has provided the greatest insight. I use the term culture broadly: race, language, values, background, opinions … I am now much more open-minded, non-judgmental and tolerant. I am surprised by how liberated this makes me feel – obviously my ingrained belief system was stunting my growth.

I also realized how much I used to live in fear — fear of losing a good job, fear of something bad happening to the people I love, fear of not having enough money, fear of change. Uncertainty breeds vulnerability. I am learning to welcome vulnerability as a necessary ingredient of legitimate growth.

We return to America on May 1, starting with a family visit in Florida followed by a month-long journey back to Missouri. The old Carol would be anxious. After all, we are returning without a blueprint. However, the new Carol is learning to trust. And whaddya know … the Universe has already begun to provide.

Full Circle – April 22, 2014

214 hours …

I’m watching imaginary sand trickle through an imaginary hourglass timer – only I cannot turn it over or lay it on its side to delay the passage of time. Our last days are spent resurrecting the wonder and awe we felt when we first moved to St. John, while deliberately ignoring the countdown.

The transmission went out in our vehicle here in the ninth inning. We are now afoot just like our first days on island. Full circle.

Our walls are bare and supplies sparse. Just like our first few weeks. Full circle.

We are hypnotized by the sea, moved by scenic overlooks, and silenced by the sunset. Just like when we arrived. Full circle.

Our blog reaches more than 1,200 subscribers, many we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting. We often hear from followers who have been inspired to make a change or take a risk simply by witnessing our journey. Jimmy and Bridgette from Tennessee let us know we are living their dream. We were thrilled to finally meet them during their visit to St. John last month. Now it’s their turn. They will be moving into our apartment shortly after we leave and begin their own journey.

Full circle, wouldn’t you say?

May the island be as good to them as it has been to us.

Historic Cruz Bay Free-Colored Cemetery Restoration Taking Place

One of the unmarked burials within the Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery in 2013. Photo by David W. Knight Sr.
One of the unmarked burials within the Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery in 2013. Photo by David W. Knight Sr.

By Andrea Milam, Special Contributor to News of St. John

Tucked away in a corner of Cruz Bay between establishments reflecting modern life in this little island town is the final resting place of six free-colored Danish West Indians who died in the 19th century. Although the cemetery is incredibly significant for myriad reasons, it had been all but forgotten until last month, when the Virgin Islands government joined forces with the St. John Historical Society to lead restoration efforts at this important site.

St. Thomas-St. John Historic Preservation Committee Commissioner David W. Knight Sr. is leading the initiative, which began March 19 with a clearing of the site, adjacent to Roger Harland’s commercial building and behind the Banana Deck restaurant.

“The site’s been totally desecrated,” said Knight. “The two markers that remain in the cemetery, which both date from the 1800s, are broken. Someone recently smashed one of the memorial plaques and attempted to access the burial.”

The HPC will bring together the State Historic Preservation Office, the SJHS, and any other concerned citizens or groups to help with the restoration, which will take an estimated three to six months and cost approximately $24,000.

In addition to the clearing that has already taken place, the restoration process will include the treatment of stumps and roots with approved herbicides and removal of stumps and roots from within the cemetery’s monuments; the collection of loose artifacts and architectural components and the re-association of these materials with their respective monuments; the stabilization and rebuilding of the six historic monuments and replacement of memorial plaques; the repair and stabilization of the historic perimeter wall; restoration of the cultural landscape; and installation of a historically appropriate security fence with gate and access steps.

The Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery holds the oldest marked burials within the town of Cruz Bay. It’s the site of the only marked burial of an individual born into slavery on St. John in the 18th century, and it’s the only cemetery on St. John dedicated exclusively to members of the island’s free-colored community. The cemetery is the resting place of Sarah Elizabeth Martin and at least five of her children. The individuals interred there were born between 1774 and 1817, and were buried from 1820 to 1879.

St. Thomas-St. John Historic Preservation Committee Chairperson Felipe Ayala II hopes the restoration of the site will facilitate a greater awareness of Cruz Bay’s historic past.

“It is unfortunate that so many people do not show proper respect for our historic burials,” said Ayala in response to the recent desecration. “It is my hope that out of this tragedy will come a heightened appreciation for the rich history of Cruz Bay, and that the restoration will bring the memory of those buried there, and the free-colored community as a whole, back into the public’s consciousness.”

Several businesses and organizations have already signed on to help with the restoration including the St. John Community Foundation, Roger Harland, V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild, Friends of VINP President Joe Kessler, former territorial archaeologist Emily Lundberg, naturalist Eleanor Gibney, and licensed St. John contractors Eric Couzobon and Brent Squires’s Stonemasonry Inc. To donate time, funds, or expertise to the restoration of the Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery, contact the St. John Historical Society at [email protected] or call project coordinator David Knight at 714-5872.

The Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery in March 2014 after its initial clearing. Photo by David W. Knight Sr.
The Cruz Bay free-colored cemetery in March 2014 after its initial clearing. Photo by David W. Knight Sr.

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.

Saturday Happenings

Chester Miago
Chester Miago

Hi everyone, happy Saturday! There are a couple of things happening today that we wanted to share with all of you. Check it out:

Chester’s Getaway

By now you’ve all probably realized how much I adore this great new spot on Centerline Road. Well tonight they’re having something that sounds like it’s going to be lots of fun – a country and western dance party. Can’t wait!

So I am not a huge country western fan, but I know this will be good. They’re having a dj and we’ll all be dancing our flip flops off. It starts at 9 p.m. and I hope to see you all there.

Just a reminder, Chester’s is located around mile marker 2 on Centerline Road. It’s on your right if you’re heading east and it’s right next to Canines, Cats & Critters.

The New Gas Station

So yes, we admit that we made a bit of fun of the gas station and its inability to get its gas truck up the hill about a week or so back. Well we received an email from the owner. Nedal Salem, yesterday and he asked us to pass along some info to all of you. He was very kind, so I am happy to oblige.

They’re having a grand opening party today from noon to 2 p.m. It will feature bands and light bites. They are also raffling off a 32″ tv.

So I asked Nedal if he’d like me to relay a message to all of you and this is what he had to say:

“We and of most our family are born and raised in St. Thomas and this is our home. This infusion of our gas station will benefit the entire St John community and tourists in that it will offer better prices, open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Sunday, and also means more fuel on the island thereby motorists will not be stranded without fuel if the other station had no gas.”