The Secrets of St. John
By Peter Muilenburg
St. John has more hidden coves and beaches than any of the Virgin Islands. Longtime locals share their picks for the best of their island.
The other day one of my charter guests asked how long I had lived on St. John. "Since 1968," I said. Silence for a moment while she did the math. "That's more years than I am old" she said wonderingly. "Don't you feel you're missing something . . . big cities, art, plays, concerts. . opportunities?"
It has been a long time. My wife, Dorothy, and I originally came for a two week vacation, but we fell head over heels in love with St. John and by the time the honeymoon was over, we had new friends, a sailboat for weekend charters, full-time work as teachers, and kids who loved it here.
The more time we spent sailing to other places, the more we felt St. John's appeal. Caribbean isles tend to be high and wet, or low and dry. Many of them don't have good anchorages or beaches. St. John, with its lush, steep mountains, is high and rugged enough to delight the eye, but not so lofty as to be excessively rainy. It has more hidden beaches and blue water coves than any other island in the Virgin chain. It is well-forested, sparsely populated, and at latitude 18o north, trade winds are constant but not overpowering. The best part: As an American, I can say I own nearly three-fifths of the island, or at least have the right to explore the land Laurence Rockefeller donated in 1956 to form the Virgin Islands National Park, an area that now spans 14,000 acres of land, waters, and reefs.
St. John, USVI Author and Resident, Peter Muilenburg
I built our small, snug house up on Bordeaux Mountain, St. John's high peak, overlooking Coral Bay and the east end of the island, partly because my wife Dorothy loves the sunrise, and partly because Coral Bay is quieter and less developed than Cruz Bay, the main port. I didn't want to be kept awake by reveling tourists or the boom, boom, boom of the band that can't bear to quit. But, ironically, the reason I'm typing this just after midnight is that a tiny tree frog is deafening us with its stentorian chirping. I can't find the frog despite its piercing calls, my wife has moved to the bed in the loft, and I'm wide awake.
If I were sleepless in Cruz Bay on a Wednesday night, I would join what can't be beat and go down to Fred's to hear Inner Visions. The band leader was a student of mine many years ago, and maybe that's why I like the band's exciting, homegrown reggae. Or maybe it's just because they're really good, laying down a compelling rhythm that goes on and on, relentless, inducing a state of trance. When they finally stop, it's as if the dentist cut off the nitrous gas. Colors fade, reality creeps back – but only until the next set begins. But I'd rather be kept awake by a tree frog.
Stories of St. John
Peter Muilenburg, beloved St. John author, captain
and resident of over 40 years, shares his captivating tales of life in this corner of the Caribbean
St. John Essence
Copyright 2012 by Thia Muilenburg
All rights reserved
For events, info and photos from St. John USVI,
"I bought Peter Muilenburg's book, "Adrift on a sea of blue light" a few yeas ago & kept reading it while I was on vacations to St. John. On my most recent trip , I happen to meet Peter & his wife Dorothy. I feel very fortunate to have met them. They were a delight to talk to."
-- Pat Jakubisin
Lake Villa, Illinois
Peter Muilenburg's second Novel, "A Sea Dog's Tale" is available in stores on St. John
"I feel as if I'm part of the family by the end of the book."
-- Paul Hellings