Virgin Island Fun Facts
Ahoy! And Welcome Aboard!
I’m Kristie, lead Pirate of Stormy Pirates Charters, and in each Pirate Tales blog, I or one of our crew members will be sharing a bit of what it’s like to live in the Virgin Islands as well as some helpful information to make your trip to the islands more enjoyable. Let’s get started.
Virgin Islands 101 – Location, Location, Location!
Since Rich and I first visited the Virgin Islands 20 years ago, a lot has changed. We now have cell phones and social media to communicate with others off island, which alleviates the frustration of having to wait in line to use one of the scarce public phone booths on the island.
But, a lot has stayed the same. For example, the main road on Jost Van Dyke is still made from sand and there are no traffic lights on St. John.
Our love for these islands has grown deeper every year. As “boat people” from landlocked Central Pennsylvania, we traveled extensively through the Caribbean Islands before settling here, partly because no other location ever came close to being as beautiful or welcoming as the Virgin Islands.
There’s just something magnificent about our gin-clear waters that reflect the sun and magically turn the sea into a kaleidoscope of blues and greens. Nowhere else in the Caribbean can you see so many Cays (pronounced ‘keys’) spanning the horizon like the tops of mountains rising from the sea.
The Virgin Islands consist of some 90 islands, islets, and cays, which are part of the West Indies island chain. Located between the Anegada Passage to the east and Puerto Rico to the west, the islands separate the North Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea.
Although the Virgin Islands are one region spanning only 55 miles, they are two different countries. Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke, as well as some 32 smaller islands and cays, are a British overseas territory with their own government and passport, while St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island, plus some 50 smaller islands and islets, are territories of the United States.
The differences between these islands and the mainland are significant. For starters, their location makes fresh water scarce, which is why conservation is encouraged. When private cisterns run dry, owners have to pay for water trucks to make deliveries. Driving, which is done on the left, can be challenging on those islands with mountainous terrains. And unlike the mainland, the Virgin Islands embrace a less formal, laidback beach lifestyle, which means you might have to slow down for goats, chickens and donkeys as well as people crossing the roads.
Five Fun Facts
1. Haven For Pirates
Fact: All of the Virgin Islands were once a popular pirate hangout. Back in the 1600s, pirates exchanged their spoils for safe places to anchor, thus enriching the wallets of local governors.
Captain Kidd, Black Sam Bellamy, and Tempest Rogers were just a few of the notorious swashbucklers known to have spent time in the area. While Blackbeard once abandoned 15 men on an island now known as Dead Chest, Norman Island is credited with inspiring the classic story, “Treasure Island.”
2. A Name is Just a Name – or is it?
Fact: The Virgin Islands owe their moniker to Christopher Columbus, who made landfall in the area while sailing through the West Indies. So enchanted with the number of islands surrounding him, he decided to name them for Saint Ursula, who led 11,000 virgins to martyrdom rather than betray their Catholic faith.
While he miscalculated a bit as only 90-some islands exist, not 11,000, the island of Virgin Gorda, which translates to “fat Virgin,” is another reference to his chosen saint.
Charlotte Amalie, the capital city on St. Thomas, was settled by the Danish in 1666 and named Taphus or Taphouse because there were so many taverns at the time. Some 30 years later, it was renamed in honor of King Christian V’s wife, Charlotte Amalie.
Then there are those islands that have adopted nicknames along the way, like Twin City for St. Croix, Love City for St. John, and Rock City for St. Thomas.
3. Shop Before You Drop Your Anchor
Fact: Way before the street markets on St. Thomas became a tourist destination, the USVI was recognized as a shopping haven by none other than the Jamestown Settlers, who stopped in Charlotte Amalie on the way to Virginia to stock up on supplies.
4. Private Playground
Fact: Richard Branson already owned Virgin Records when he discovered the Virgin Islands, but he decided to keep the theme going by buying Necker & Mosquito Islands and turning them into his private playgrounds, complete with exquisite housing to accommodate himself as well as his numerous guests known to stay for extended periods of time.
Mega Yachts also call these islands home during the winter and spring months. You never know who you will see lounging the the deck of one of these floating mansions.
5. Small Island, Mighty National Park
Fact: In 1952, Laurance Rockefeller surveyed St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, and concluded the island was so beautiful that it should be preserved for future generations. Some 4 years later, approximately 5,000 acres of the 12,500-acre island became the nation’s 29th national park: US Virgin Islands National Park. In addition to hiking trails and historic structures, there’s also Coral Reef Underwater Park Trail in Trunk Bay with its unique underwater signs about marine life. Since its inception, the park has grown to 7,259 land acres which is nearly 60% of the island and over 5600 acres underwater.
Tips For Best Flight Prices
Deals for best flights and prices will get a bit easier as hurricane season winds down. By high season, every airline will be adding more non-stop flights.
According to The Points Guy, the best time to book a flight is about 1-3 months in advance of your trip. For best prices, try traveling on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Also, don’t forget to clear your browser history or check on a different computer while searching.
To save time, use Google flights. It’s our go-to when we want to take a vacation off the island. Just type in where you want to go and when. Google will continuously search for flights and let you know about price trends and best prices.
Hope to see you soon!
End Notes: If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends. Then visit our website and book a boat day with Stormy Pirates Charters – we’ll put the gang plank down and escort you in style.