The return of Thankspigging


St. John's Ken Yolman is at it again, for the 11th time, hosting a community holiday feast at Skinny Legs. The blowout draws several hundred people, many bringing along a little something to share, in the spirit of the day: turkeys, yams, stuffing and other holiday foods – as well as beer, punch, sodas and whatever.

He tried to call it a decade last year. He's been doing the dinner since 2000, and tried to tell everybody that last year's would be the last.  Didn't turn out that way.  Lots of people pitched in to help him put it together this tear and so, he says, it'll go on. "It looks like Skinny Legs has nine more years, so I guess Thankspigging will, too," he said.

The event grew out of Yolman's 15 years on the island, attending his first Thankspigging but he had nothing to share. Now, he repays the generosity of others to him by organizing the event for everyone.

"This is a perfect opportunity to showcase our small island’s very giving and sharing nature on a day for giving thanks. Your country cousins in Coral Bay wish to extend an invitation to our city cousins in Cruz Bay to attend. Also our cousins in Fish Bay, Maho, Concordia, East End and even Peter Bay ( Aunts and Uncles ). To those who raft up or get together for an annual feast, do something different this year."

Bob Schlesinger was on hand at Skinny's for Thankspigging last year. There were about 400 people in the joint at 7 p.m. Looks like a good time was had by all.

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Bob Schlesinger and his wife Karin own Tropical Focus Photography, specializing in weddings and family portraits.

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

Dream jobs on St. John

Rising Stars Some people would even take a boring job on the island if it meant they could wake each morning to beautiful sunsets, go to world class beaches, and roll into Woody's each happy hour.

But that life would be a fantasy. How about imagining the best job possible?

That's what some people have been talking about at Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com.

BigCheeze started off the thread, writing "I think there may a few people that consider how to spend more time on STJ."  His dream jobs?

  • Charter Captain 
  • Villa Video production 
  • Bartender 
  • Villa agent 
  • Tour Guide 
  • Drink mixologist
  • Island Gigolo 

Xislangirl suggested bartender, villa manager and real estate agent.

SOonthebeach's ideas included photographer, event planner, and volunteer at the Animal Care Center.

"Funny you should ask. I told my husband just recently I think I could be happy pumping gas at Domino's in Coral Bay," said Joppa.

Hugo offered some realism in his comment. "Most of those jobs do have a pretty high burn-out rate here–fine for a couple of years, but then you have to start something like No-See-Um's blog to stay sane."

Other suggestions:

  • Beach raker
  • Rum taster
  • Sunscreen applier
  • Head of quality control at the Beach Bar
  • Personal assistant to Kenny Chesney

Mickey threw in this nugget of realism:

"I am doing my 'dream job' of maintaining villas for a very classy villa management company. Today (Saturday) my wife and I went to a villa of angry guests to work on their 'list'. We decided they don't 'get it' … (don't)l understand STJ. That is sad but we like what we do. "

Dream on.  What's YOUR idea? How would you make a living on the island? Comment here.

St. John guidebook available online

St-john-guidebook copyThere are two indispensable tools for tourists on the island, the St. John Map and the St. John Guidebook.

Both are published by Arne and Barbara Jakobsen and their company, Great Dane Inc. 





The Internet version looks just like the one published on paper, four colors, cute cartoons and a bit of information about the island and its history.

Clicks on the pages take you to advertiser's pages with more information. It's just the thing for getting a head start on a vacation, even while you're still on the mainland.

A mobile-friendly version is also said to be available, but the Inquiring Iguana's iPhone found nothing when he clicked on the Web link via Google.  Nothing but this blank screen >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
A phone version would be ever so useful, with live maps and easy telephone calling.  There may be a version for Android phones, but the Iguana doesn't have one of them.

In the meantime, use the old fashioned Internet site: http://www.stjohnguidebook.com/st-john-guidebook/index.html. It's very helpful.

The silver lining story about Silver Cloud

You can't miss her in the Coral Bay harbor.

Three masts, steel black hull, lots of rigging, looking like a pirate ship. 100 feet long and 110 years old. What stories she could tell.

Silver Cloud.

Like how during World War 1 …yes "1" … she did duty as a fire boat, according to a story in the latest issue of the St. John Sun Times.  Before that, a kind of ferry, taking captains to shore when storms threatened.

Over the years, the hulking vessel was in service up and down the east coast, as far south as the Bahamas. Some of the runs were doing the Lord's work, at least one involved smuggling, the Sun Times said.

Read moreThe silver lining story about Silver Cloud

Sloop Jones: colorful talent

Pic_sloop_2(From the archives)

Sloop Jones is a man of many colors, two names, and lots of talent.  Born Terry McKoy, he picked up the "Sloop" nickname in college and went into business with his partner, Jones, in South America several decades ago.  So when he came to St. John more than 20 years ago, he named his company Sloop Jones.

Working in Guatemala, Jones said he was struck by the vivid colors of the Mayan Indians, and their contrast with his grey suit, white shirt, and black shoes. He said, "Theirs' was a life full of color. The color in my life was limited to a sliver of silk (a tie)."  That was a push that eventually brought him to St. John, in a studio far out on East End, where he and his other partner, Barbara Alperen built a business designing and hand-painting shirts, dresses, skirts, hats, rugs, pillows and more. His artistry and execution are first class; his palatte rich in vibrant yet relaxing colors.

While you can find some of his clothing for sale in Cruz Bay, driving out to East End for a visit to the studio/store is not to be missed. Jones took time one afternoon to show me around, and we began talking about how he got from El Salvador to East End.  

To Do: Paddleboarding at Cinnamon

The latest and greatest is Stand up Paddleboarding, according to Debbie Hime, writing in the St. John Sun Times magazine.

It's as simple as, well, standing up and paddling.  What makes it a terrific workout in just an hour is your reaching down into the water with the paddle and stroking. "Your core (abs and back) (are) doing much of the work," Hime wrote.

The place to rent paddleboards, at $20 an hour, is Wind Surfing Adventures at Cinnamon Bay Watersports Center.  They've got about two dozen different boards … big and fat for novices, slim and slick for the pros.

The variable for the degree of exercise, of course, is the water.  Waves or no, wind or no.

Hime quoted Watersports' Rich Metcalf saying, "Paddleboarding is growing so fast because it's something every age can do.  Plus, it's a killer workout and as you get better it becomes easier."

  • Read Debbie Himes' story here.

St. John to Do: Reef Bay Hike

Setting Out on Your Reef Bay Hike The two-and-a-half hour journey from the South Shore Road to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the warm water of Reef Bay should be at the top of any visitor’s list.  Whether you take the National Park Service’s guided walk, or hoof it yourself, the hike is one of the island’s best activities.

This video via YouTube was produced by Andrew Burnett, a big fan of the island.

Should I Take the Reef Bay Hike on My Own?

A word of caution, though. If you wouldn’t walk up the 400+ steps of Notre Dame, don’t think about taking the Reef Bay hike on your own. While it’s all downhill at the start, there’s always the return trip. Taking the Park Service tour means your guide is a Park Ranger and you get a boat ride back to Cruz Bay, along the south shore of the island.  (Lots of villa gawking to be done on the way.)  One veteran hiker added in a comment on TripAdvisor, “Hang out near the boat pilot and ask questions the whole way and you’ll learn a lot.”

If you hoof it yourself, going down is OK, it’s climbing back up that’s the killer for anyone who’s not in great shape and used to uphill hikes. At the very least, pack a couple liters of water with you.

What Will I See on the Reef Bay Hike?

Petroglyphs on Reef Bay HikeCivilizations lived on St. John long before the Europeans arrived to the region, as evidenced by the petroglyphs, or rock carvings left by the Taino people. Their carvings are found on the hiking trail and the ranger will point them out. These people were all but driven into extinction by Europeans in the 17th century seeking new territories as colonial properties.

Ranger-led hikes on Mondays and Thursdays take visitors down the three-mile path through tropical forests to the sugar mill. Reservations are required and there are fees for taxi transportation to the trail head and boat return to the Visitor Center.

  • Info on Reef Bay Trail Hike here

Eat and drink the St. John way

The island boasts some world-class restaurants. La Plancha del Mar, Zozo's, La Tapa, and Asolare jump to the tip of a well-used tongue.

Lately, some of the island chefs are "lifting their aprons" to reveal some of their recipe secrets.

Ovceangrill At Mongoose Junction's Ocean Grill has posted a small number of recipes.  Boasting that it offers "Contemporary cuisine with a fresh tropical flair," its web site offers how-tos for Crustless Quiche, Lemon Vichyssoise, and Banana Cake.  Each recipe is on the site and available for download via PDF. The site says there are more recipes available via a link to an Archive.  Not true.  Click it and you get the same three recipes.

Fishtrap Another source for recipes is the web site of Virgin Voices magazine.  Aaron Willis of the Fishtrap Restaurant in Cruz Bay is featured in two videos showing how he prepares Red Snapper.  The audio and video quality are a little rough (Looks like this might be an experiment by the magazine to see if it's a popular). See the video here. 

Read moreEat and drink the St. John way

The high cost of living on St. John

Technomads The first question people ask is "How can I find a job on St. John so I can live there forever?"

The second question people ask is "How's the cost of living."

The answer to the first is, "Work at it." The second is, "Very".

Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard spent about six months living on the island while they plied their trade as software developers.  They call themselves Technomads and delight in seeing the world while logging on and building their business wherever they are. They have published a successful iPhone app showing cell phone coverage around the USA.  

While on the island, they rented an efficiency apartment for $700/month.  That included electricity.  They had to buy propane for their stove.

Staying connected cost about $240 a month.  That covered Hughesnet for Internet (via DishandDat Choice WiFi), two iPhones and a Sprint data card.  "Connectivity is what makes our digitally nomadic lifestyle possible."

Read moreThe high cost of living on St. John