Jost Van Dyke
roughly eight square kilometers, Jost Van Dyke is the smallest of the four
main islands of the BVI's, the northern portion of the archipelago of the Virgin
Islands. Jost Van Dyke lies about five miles to the northwest
of Tortola and five miles to the north of Saint John. Little Jost Van
Dyke lies off its eastern end. Like many of
the neighboring islands, it is volcanic in origin and mountainous. The highest
point on the island is Roach Hill at 1054 ft.
Great Harbour, the main town and one of the ports of entry
(Road Town on Tortola is the main one)
false information circulated throughout the internet that the island's name
comes from that of a 17th century Dutch privateer, Joost van Dyk, who used its
harbours as a hideout, there is no academic foundation to this rumour. The
island was home to one of the Territory's most famous sons, John C. Lettsome (of
Little Jost Van Dyke), founder of the British Medical
English captured the BVI in 1672, it seems that Jost Van Dyke was ignored for
mostly until the mid-18th century. A map drawn of the BVI in 1717 by Captain
John Walton does not depict either Jost Van Dyke or Little Jost Van
of a sugar works on the ridge above Great Harbour provide archaeological
evidence that some sugar cane was under cultivation and processed, though
probably not in any great quantity.
cotton was cultivated on 140 acres, producing 21,000 pounds annually. There was
a population of 428 (25 whites, 32 free persons of colour and 371 slaves). By
1825, cotton production decreased to 17,000 pounds, while the population
increased to 506 (34 whites, 76 free persons of colour and 397
other islands in the region, JVD and the BVI saw gradual and irreversible
economic decline throughout the 18th century, curiously though, the population
of Jost Van Dyke continued to increase (probably due to the freedom of travel
enjoyed by the former slave population after Emancipation in the BVI in 1838).
Thereafter, many BVI islanders regularly sought work at the Royal Mail Steam
Packet Company's coaling wharves in St. Thomas, (today the USVI's). By 1853 the
population was 1,235 residents on Jost Van Dyke, 196 died of a cholera outbreak
in that same year.
Emancipation Era forward, the community of Jost Van Dyke subsisted mainly on
small scale fishing and subsistence agriculture. Charcoal making was a practice
that began during the plantation era, when strong fires were vital for sugar and
rum production. Between the 1920's and 1960's, an estimated 20,000 tons of
charcoal were exported from the BVI to the USVI's. The locals would gather to
build the charcoal pits, when the fire was set the women would bake bread while
the men played dominos.
resources were also extremely important historically to the people of Jost Van
Dyke, and the island has emerged as a fishing village. The desire for trade and
social interaction with nearby islands stimulated the development of seafaring
skills. Sailing, fishing, rowing and boat construction flourished. Small,
locally constructed sailing vessels the "Tortola Boat" flourished in the BVI
until about the 1960's when they were replaced with motorized craft.
hundred people live on Jost Van Dyke. (In 1991 - 140; however, the
population increased in the late 1990's with the advent of electricity and paved
roads.) As of 2008, the population recorded was 297 (though many residents argue
that the government-derived population figure is too high and believe that
citizens who actually live in St. Thomas may be included in that census). The
island has a young population with nearly one-half (46%) of residents under the
age of 35 and almost 70% under the age of 50.
Dyke receives numerous visitors. The island is accessible by private boats and
ferry service from Tortola and Saint Thomas (via Saint John). The most
frequent destination is Great Harbour. The beach strip around the harbour is
lined with small bars and restaurants.
Foxy's clothing and gift shop to the left, bar and
restaurant to the right
Bear waiting for our Painkillers. A permanent reminder of
late 1960's, Foxy's Bar in Great Harbor has been a popular stop
for Caribbean boaters. Foxy's and the other bars in Great Harbour now host
a modest crowd year-round and are filled with thousands of partiers on New
Year's Eve (locally known as "Old Year's Night").
saying: I'd rather be in a boat with a fox and a drink on the rocks than in the
drink with a fox and boat on the rocks.
Harbour is one of the busiest ports in the BVI: in 2008, nearly 7,000 boats
cleared through the island's port. Today, tourism, and particularly yachting
tourism is the mainstay of the economy. We spoke to one of the Customs ladies
who told us 2009 numbers were severely down on 2008, most of the visitors
are Americans and their economy hit them very hard. Later in 2009 and so far in
2010 numbers have picked up.
nearby White Bay is the Soggy Dollar Bar, another
famous beach bar on the island. The Soggy Dollar is reputedly the birthplace of
the popular drink known as the Painkiller. The Soggy Dollar bar is appropriately
named because of the difficulty of navigating one's boat over the coral reef to
reach the beach where the bar is located. It is a common practice for boaters to
anchor beyond the reef, swim to the beach, and pay for their drinks with wet
money. When we were here in 2003 we paid with wet dollars when we made a rough
beach landing in the charter dinghy.
saying: A sunny place for shady people. www.soggydollar.com
music video for Kenny Chesney's 2002 recording, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems
(song), was filmed on and around Jost Van Dyke. Included in the video were
several scenes at One Love Bar and Ivan's Stress-Free Bar where it is common
practice for patrons to walk behind the bar, mix their own drinks, and leave
their payment in the register. Chesney also references Jost Van Dyke in his
song, Somewhere in The Sun, from his album Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue
ALL IN ALL A MUST VISIT ISLAND AND WE SAVED IT TILL