Given all the beach bars on Jost Van Dyke, sobering moments don’t come very often. But I had one on my most recent sojourn to this smallest of British Virgin Islands, when I realized I’ve been visiting Jost Van Dyke for over twenty-five years. Sure enough, things have changed.
They have that newfangled invention, electricity, now. The road is mostly paved, except where it becomes a beach on the main street of the singular town, Great Harbor. The population has exploded to around 300, so long as you don’t count the day-trippers drawn to the sugar sand beach that Kenny Chesney sings about, and provided you don’t conduct your census on December 31, when the island is overrun with revelers celebrating at what has become one of the world’s most notorious New Year’s Eve parties.
Gratefully, some things are still the same. Seddy serves whatever he caught fishing that morning at the One Love Bar and Grill. If Ivan is not around, you can just pour your own drink and leave the tab in the jar at his Stress Free Bar. The Painkillers continue to flow in copious amounts at the Soggy Dollar, and Foxy has a few tunes left to play at his namesake watering hole. The lobsters jackknife indignantly when weighed by hand at Sydney’s Peace and Love, and there is always a dingy available to transport you for snorkeling at nearby Sandy Cay, the picture perfect castaway island. After a day on Jost Van Dyke, you stop looking at your watch; after week, you don’t remember what day it is.
My first three visits to Jost Van Dyke were all stops on the bareboat sailing circuit of the British Virgin Islands. It was delicious, waking up to the sound of lapping waves and the sight of pelicans diving mouth-first into the turquoise sea. But by definition, the sailing life is nomadic, and I always left Jost wanting more. So in recent years, I’ve made the hillside White Bay Villas my island home.
The locals smile when I tell them I have graduated to staying on-island. They know it means I have transcended from giving Jost Van Dyke a peck on the cheek to a full embrace. Indeed, as I sit on my porch watching the sun set over the bay, sipping a rum and listening to the riotous frog serenade, I know it is a love affair.