Jost Van Dyke
Then and Now, Part 2
Into the Modern Age. 1970-2014
Story by Julian Putley
The BVI's fourth biggest island, Jost Van Dyke, has been blessed by geography and geology. Its location on the doorstep of the US Virgin Islands and the western end of Tortola makes it easily accessible. It also has some extraordinarily beautiful outlying cays and one outstanding palm lined beach, White Bay. This latter fact was not lost on two pioneering Americans, George and Marie Myrick. In 1970 the Myricks found that a piece of White Bay's waterfront property was for sale and they bought it. Over the next two years, with many setbacks, they persevered and constructed four cottages, two nonagons and two octagons, a bar and small restaurant. They named the resort Sandcastle and the bar became the world famous Soggy Dollar. Its signature drink was the Painkiller, invented by Marie Myrick, and it is now the most popular tropical cocktail in the BVI.
Jerry O'Connell, businessman and contractor from St John, USVI, bought the business in December 2005. He kick-started the on-line portion of the business with the Painkiller Club, a fan club promoting the famous drink and an on-line store for Soggy Dollar paraphernalia. His biggest achievement was not succumbing to changing a winning theme – a laid back Caribbean beach bar. Today the Soggy Dollar Bar serves hundreds of Painkillers daily and a lunch can be had with tables and chairs on the sand. The gift shop stocks unique Ts, hats and other memorabilia. A quiet candlelit dinner is available in the evenings after the crowds have departed but seating is limited.
Today White Bay is the ultimate destination for day trippers, party goers and yachtsmen. The laidback atmosphere of White Bay, its beautiful white powdery sand and crystal turquoise water is a magnet for hundreds of visitors daily. Add to this the many hospitality outlets and the elixir that is the Painkiller and you have the recipe for a great attraction.
At the western end of the beach is One Love; its theme is a fisherman's shack and it specializes in seafood. Owner Seddy – the son of the renowned Foxy from Foxy's Bar on Great Harbour – has a reputation for making the best Bushwacker on the island. Gertrude's is next to the Soggy Dollar; try a plate of wings or her famous cheeseburger. In the water, anchored in about 8-ft is a trampoline so you can park the kids and imbibe in your favorite ice cold libation in peace. If an excursion is on your wish list enquire about a tour on an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). Panoramic views will enthrall even the most jaded photographer and the hilly terrain offers an exciting ride.
At the eastern end of the bay you'll find a small beach bar behind the sea grape trees. This is Ivan's Stress Free Bar. It's full of character with a shell man guarding the front and a campground off to the side discreetly hidden behind bushes. This beach bar is favored by country music star Kenny Chesney who filmed his music video, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem here. On Thursdays, in season, a beach barbecue is served and an impromptu band is invited to play (if volunteers show up). This "International All Star Band" has featured Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones (Richards has vacationed on Jost Van Dyke at a rental villa on the eastern shore) and Dick Solberg of the Sun Mountain Band on past occasions.
This quiet end of White Bay is quintessential picturesque Caribbean. There are villas on the hillside alongside simple cabins and Ivan has a couple of cottages available for rent.
Great Harbour is the main anchorage in Jost. As well as being the administrative (police, customs and immigration) center; it is also the terminal for the ferry service. Foxy's legendary beach bar, restaurant and gift shop is tucked away in the eastern corner of the bay and is an essential stopover for most visitors, while the mega parties at Halloween, Old Year's Night and the Wooden Boat Regatta have locals and visitors buzzing weeks before the events. Other Great Harbor establishments high on the popularity list are Corsairs and Ali Baba's. Corsairs has a reputation for giant pizzas and a unique surf and turf with bone-in rib eye. Owner Vinny suggests "dinghy up to the sand beach and belly up to the bar… pirate style." Meanwhile Ali Baba's local menu and al fresco dining restaurant has a side-line of hand-made jewelry and polished conch shell lights on varnished mahogany stands for sale. Great Harbour also has a small bakery, ice plant and basic grocery.
If water sports are on your bucket list then fishing, diving and snorkeling are available here with Jost Van Dyke Scuba, a full service dive operation which also offers eco-tours.
Great Harbor also houses the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society whose objective is fairly self explanatory – no rampant development, conservation of natural beauty spots, preservation of local culture and respect of the island's heritage by education of the youth. The recent launching of the island sloop Endeavour II, a community effort, was a great example of an all inclusive project. Endeavour II is the BVI's only traditionaly styled island built boat available for sailing charters. Scheduled days sails of private tours feature nature and underwater exploration and combine the flavor of the past with today's comforts.
Little Harbour towards the eastern end of Jost is often thought of as the fishermen's harbor. Tucked into this protected anchorage are several local style restaurants specializing in seafood. Sidney's Peace and Love is one of the choices and lobster and fish are always available. Strawberry and Princess are two of the friendliest servers in the islands; they'll look after your every need, show you around their colorful gift shops and even braid your hair (if you don't have any buy a Rasta beret). The help yourself honor bar is a great attraction – the rum is hardly more expensive than the mix so load up your glasses and have fun!
Next door is the popular Harris' Place run by master story-teller Cynthia. Here you can really have fun while your lobster is being prepared. Try Cynthia's famous Bushwacker and end up with a slice of homemade key lime pie (to live for!). Across the bay is Abe's by the Sea – another great local dining choice.
Nearby are two of the BVI's idyllic gems, Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit. Sandy Cay is an uninhabited islet with a stretch of golden sand bordered by lofty palms. It was donated to the BVI's National Parks Trust in 2008 by noble philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller. The cay has a hiking trail around its perimeter and is managed by the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society. Sandy Spit is a tiny cay or spit of land with an off lying reef perfect for snorkeling on calm days. On windy days the cay makes an ideal launching pad for kite boarders. In 2003 Green Cay and the Spit were advertised for sale by private realtors. Foxy Callwood, president of the Preservation Society, got wind of the impending venture and took action. Sometime later the BVI government bought the property and it is expected to become a national park site soon. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The Bubbly Pool is another Jost Van Dyke attraction; it is something of a geological anomaly. On the northeast coast, the Bubbly Pool is easily accessed by a picturesque trail beginning at Foxy's Taboo and eventually taking you alongside a salt pond with ducks, wading birds and interesting flora. The pool itself becomes a turbulent frothy maelstrom when the north swells are up so caution is needed. The Jacuzzi like experience is caused by a narrow opening or fissure in the rocky shoreline and screams of delight are not uncommon when just the right wave crashes into the pool, spray flying. Don't forget to stop off at the Taboo for a great lunch, cold beer or tropical cocktail.
It is difficult to go thirsty on Jost Van Dyke and environs, and situated in a quiet bay on neighboring Little Jost is the B-Line, a watering hole where you can have a cold libation and sit on a deck chair for contemplating paradise.