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Virgin islands



A Home Worth Sharing: The Belmont Estate villa pairs the beauty of nature with friendship.

BVI SPRING REGATTA Racing Sloops SAVANNA REDMAN Traveling Art GOLIATH GROUPER Giants of the Sea BAG OR BUY Grocery Bags Are Priced

mar 2013


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Captain’s House [holiday home] Belmont US$1,150,000

Bayhouse Villa [beachfront villa] Virgin Gorda US$5,250,000 Endymion [sailor’s choice] Hodge’s Creek US$1,375,000

Rhumb House [luxurious family estate] Nora Hazel Point $6,500,000



A home in the Caribbean offers a blend of sophisticated design and casual barefoot living; of romance and privacy in an unforgettable setting, and wonderful memories of the time spent on a shady verandah admiring the expansive views. Live the life you have imagined. The British Virgin Islands comprise over 52 Islands, Rocky Pinnacles and Cays, appropriately named “Nature's Little Secrets.”

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS our qualities are numerous our benefits endless Each O ce Is Independently Owned And Operated.

Maritha Keil Mill Mall, P.O. Box 188 Road Town, Tortola, VG1110 t: 284.494.5700 | m: 284.340.5555 US/CAN Toll Free: 877.563.6755 |

mar V i r g i n i s l a n d s 2013



F e at u r e S


Greeting a Goliath Grouper By Dan O’Connor

Photographer armando Jenik shares his photos of this giant of the sea.


Bag It or Buy It By Stephen L. France

BVI grocery stores adopt a new plan to reduce the use of plastic bags.


the Whole World in Our Hands By Stephen L. France

the use of alternative energy in the territory is examined.

20 B l u To rtu


the Belmont hillside home invites magnificent views and acts as a catalyst for lasting friendships.


Bringing History Home

the Vetiver System By Scarlett Steer

the use of certain kinds of grass can help to counteract soil erosion.

34 Your Home, Your Canvas By Steve Fox

41 environmental Screening By Clive Petrovic

By Dan O’Connor

the BVI Spring regatta comes to tortola this month, and includes a commemorative sloop race.

52 Provisioning By Susie Younkle


Beach essentials


artists’ Corner By Dan O’Connor

BVI artist Savanna redman shares her colourful paintings and stories of travel and adventure.

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eDItOr'S Let ter, March 2013

this month, we sail.

The BVI Spring Regatta sails into town later this month, bringing racers and revelers from near and far together to celebrate all that is wet and windy and wonderful about our islands. In its 41st installment, the capstone sailing event remembers the pioneer boat-builders from Tortola, who designed and crafted the sloops that were once the lifeblood of trade and transport for the islands. This year, the regatta will bring home Intrepid, a storied Chief Editor Dan O’Connor Contributors

sloop that has spent the last several decades on St Croix. The remaining sloops will battle in a commemorative race to open this year’s Spring Regatta. Remembering where we came from also reminds us of where we are today—and where we would like to be tomorrow. Although wind, water and sunlight—the key components of renewable energy sources—are

David Blacklock Steve Fox Stephen L. France Clive Petrovic Susie Younkle

naturally created in abundance on our islands, the VI hasn’t always received gold stars for our use of the power-

Publisher Colin Rathbun

VI Director Charlotte McDevitt and AES front man Jacco Bos to discuss the actions and advancements occurring

producing resources. Currently, the BVI are bound by legislation restricting widespread use of renewable energy; but discussions among our community leaders suggest a brighter future ahead. The private and non-profit sectors perhaps deserve the most applause in recent years, with new initiatives to reduce the carbon and waste footprints we imbed in our soils and waters. Writer Stephen France sat with Green

Creative Director Nick Cunha Graphic Design aLookingGlass Advertising Sales Owen Waters Stephen L. France

to preserve our pristine playground. Charlotte was thrilled to report that local supermarkets have adopted an initiative to reduce the use and waste of plastic bags. Starting last month, stores now charge 15 cents a bag, and are promoting the use of reusable tote bags. Jacco gave us an update from the alternative energy front and reported positive discussions within government to lift restrictions on the use of renewable energy. His work has been exemplary on our sister islands, and he looks forward to a public project that aims to bring solar panel fields to Anegada. Per usual, these pages celebrate both the aquatic and land-based pleasures we so greatly enjoy bragging about to our friends living in colder climes. Photographer Armando Jenik took us on an underwater journey to the wreck of the Rhone, where he has documented the yearly journeys of at least three goliath groupers. He spoke fondly of the friendly sea mammoths, which are protected as endangered species. I marveled at the panoramas from Belmont Hill, from where this month’s cover property sits. From there, the dark blues from beyond Long Bay’s trough to the light hues circling Sandy Spit’s shallow sands and reefs reminded me of the endless natural amenities we’re awarded while living here—and the responsibilities they impart upon us. This month, as we welcome another year of sailing and sunning to these shores, we must be vigilant in our pledge to a sustainable environment.

Sail on. Virgin islands ProPerty & yacht is published eleven times a year (February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December/January) by aLookingGlass Ltd., Road Reef Plaza 6 and 7, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands VG1110. Copyright 2012 by aLookingGlass Ltd. All pieces reproduced in this issue are under prior copyright by the creators or by the contractual arrangments with their clients. Nothing shown may be reproduced in any form without obtaining the permission of the creators and any other person or company who may have copyright ownership. The publisher of Vi Property & yacht, assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the content placed in its publications. For the avoidance of doubt, aLookingGlass gives no warranty or guarantee in regards to any information placed in its publications.

Direct all inquiries to: Email: Phone: 284-494-7788 Fax: 284-494-8777 Mail: aLookingGlass PO Box 3895 Sea Cows Bay Tortola, British Virgin Islands VG1110

EDitORiaL aND BuSiNESS OFFiCE: aLookingGlass Ltd., Road Reef Plaza 6 and 7 Road town, tortola, British Virgin islands. Web: Email: Phone: 284-494-7788 Fax: 284-494-8777 Mail to: aLookingGlass PO Box 3895 Sea Cows Bay tortola, British Virgin islands VG1110

Cover: Blu tortu on Belmont Hill. Photo by Dan O’Connor.

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March 2013




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Bringing History Home in this split shot, racers compete in the Sloop Shootout.

BVI Spring Regatta celebrates the Tortola Sloop Words by Dan O’Connor Photos by armando Jenik

ThE lAST wEEkEnD in MArCh marks a pinnacle moment for Virgin Islands sailors. It’s the

time of the year when racers and revelers near and far come together to celebrate sailing, the sea, and all that our famed islands have to offer. And this year, when the BVI Spring Regatta sets sail at its 41st annual event, they’ll celebrate BVI history when they launch a commemorative Tortola Sloop race to kick-start the capstone event. Long before there was The Moorings and Speedy’s ferry services—before cars and roadways, fancy resorts and hotels—there were sloops and the islanders who hand crafted them and relied on them for crucial needs. In the 1800s and into the 1900s, sloops were used as the primary source for trade and transport between the islands. Made largely from local materials, the boats were crafted by carpenters who learned their trade from their parents and grandparents who passed the knowledge on through generations. During this era, sloops numbered in the hundreds; now, there are less than ten.

March 2013


This year’s BVI Spring Regatta remembers these historic vessels by honouring them in a ceremonial race across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Joining the race this year—and returning home for the first time since the 1920s—Intrepid will be making the pilgrimage home to BVI waters from St Croix. The story of Intrepid’s journey includes all of the ingredients necessary for a Hollywood Blockbuster: crime, high seas, incarceration, booze and babes in bikinis. I suppose the last bit is up for debate, but I like to think that a boat whose name literally translates to resolutely courageous and fearless would attract all sorts. Intrepid’s storied past begins sometime before the days of US prohibition. Acording to notes written by the sloop’s second owner, who purchased the boat in 1935, the boat was found under federal hold after being seized for running rum from Tortola to Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The 22-foot Totola-built sloop, although small in size, could carry a large load of liquor, according to the boat owner, who remains anonymous in the notes. She was purchased for $85 from a Puerto Rican judge and transported to Chistiansted, St Croix “with her paint all peeling, her mildewed canvas in tatters and her hull a mass of rotting produce.”

The boat saw plenty of use during that time. “Intrepid became a part of my life, and some of my happiest days have been spent at the helm of that little sloop,” the boat owner wrote. “We got to know each other well, that little boat and I, and tears come to my eyes when I think how circumstances over which I had no control forced me to part from her.”

Intrepid’s storied past begins sometime before the days of US prohibition. Acording to notes written by the sloop’s second owner, who purchased the boat in 1935, the boat was found under federal hold after being seized for running rum from Tortola to Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

The boat shifted ownership a few more times, but remained on and around St Croix. She even made her way to the cover of a 2007 issue of Caribbean Travel & Life, which featured a spread on St Croix. The recent purchase of Intrepid brings the vessel full circle back to the place it was born. Although, at that time, Nanny Cay—the largely reclaimed cay where the Spring Regatta is hosted—was nothing but an extension of the ocean last time she was here. The stories from these old vessels travel through endless miles of high waters and through generations of islanders. Perhaps the most famous of the remaining sloops is Vigilant, a 25-foot sloop built around 1880 in East End, Tortola. Although built for commerce, she too was seized by customs for smuggling. She also sank several times and once carried a 1,000-pound bull to St Thomas, according to records at the HLSCC Maritime Museum, where she is currently on display. There’s also the sloop Esperanza, which was built 80 years ago—a considerably young specimen of its kind. She was sold and rebuilt as a pleasure yacht, and was a common sight at many regattas. She’s currently sitting on the beach at Trellis Bay. Even more recently, sloops Moonbeam, Youth Instructor and Sea Moon were built by the last of the traditional boat builders. Currently, these three are all maintained by the college and will be featured in this year’s commemorative race. It’s a shame these old boats can’t talk; the travels they’ve been through and the times and places they’ve seen would baffle even the most studied culturists. But to those who remember, or those who have heard the stories passed on from fathers and grandfathers, watching these treasured vessels on the water it truly a sight to remember. Left: competitors at the Sloop Shootout Below: the 2012 BVI Spring regatta Village. Photo provided by Judy Petz.

NEW THIS YEAR BVI Sailing Festival at Nanny Cay! Nanny Cay Cup Around Tortola Race

Caribbean Insurers Island Invitational Race To Pirates & Beach Party Transportation from Tortola for family and friends to join in the fun

Wind, Water & Wander Tortola tours

Explore Tortola above and below the water

Special display of 100 year old Tortola Sloops and Races

BVI Spring Regatta 3 Days of racing Live nightly music featuring Final Faze Hudson & the Hoo Doo Cat’s Coca Cola presents Quito & the Edge The Last Resort Band Swimwear Fashon Show Moko Jumbies, Food vendors Easter Parade & much more!

Swimwear Show

See Website for complete schedule

Moko Jumbies




Skipper’s tips


How do you rescue the better half?

VERBOARD by David Blacklock

Probably the most important manoevre in sailing is the venerable Man Overboard or MOB. Political correctness, or accuracy if you prefer, has recast the term as Crew Overboard or COB but however you describe it, the ability to control a boat and bring it back to pick up a fallen crew member is the most useful trick on the water. Fortunately, very few sailors have had to experience the urgency of the emergency recovery. Offshore racers will blithely tell you, “You go overboard, you’re pretty much dead, mate.” By heaving to, the lone Though there are a lucky sailor can position few who’ve survived to the boat upwind of express their astonishment. And astonishing it is that a the victim and allow yacht crew sailing at high the wind to push it to speed can gather their wits leeward and close to and their spinnakers and locate their lost crew at all. the no-doubt panicked But it can be done with a crew member. crew spotting and trimming and tacking or jibing and organizing a pick up from the water. Unfortunately, not every boat has a full complement of crew aboard. These days, it’s often a couple sailing a 40-footer that might have to undertake an on-water recovery. No



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school or system really prepares a solo sailor for a crew-overboard procedure. It’s hard enough with three or four crew aboard but with just one person, and that one not always the most skilled sailor in the world, it can be a nightmare. Charter captain Tim Schaaf is a friend, and he’s been insisting for years that a method he’s developed is the only way to go with a small crew. “In the real world, most people sail doublehanded, so everything must be able to be accomplished by one stressed crew,” Tim recently told me. “And without the benefit of practice, whatever method you use must be blindingly simple and easily repeated. In the real world, you don’t have to stop right next to the victim,” he said. “If the victim is conscious, swimming ten or fifteen—or even fifty – feet is easily accomplished. If the victim is unconscious, then someone else will have to go into the water, and it is imperative that the

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March 2013


“do you have the confidence to let a crewmember, or even a guest, jump in the water, deliberately, to be recovered? You should.” -Tim schaaf boat is stopped and stays in the same place. Recovering a human is not the same as recovering an inanimate object like a life-jacket.” So what’s the magic technique? Heaving-to, the manoeuvre for stopping a boat under full control with sails aback and speed reduced to a minimum. Tim points out that “the most important thing is to get the boat stopped, and under control. Furling or dropping sails slows you down, and luffing with sheets snapping is hardly ‘under control’.” By heaving-to, the lone sailor can position the boat upwind of the victim and allow the wind to push it to leeward and close to the no-doubt panicked crew member. By practising with the boat, sailors can see how it behaves when hove-to. Some yachts will come about smartly and be well positioned whilst others may require the helm to fall off momentarily before heading up again into the tack and subsequent heave-to. The greatest advantage of the heave-to method, Schaaf claims, is that the sailor aboard the boat can actually leave the vessel—never the optimum choice but sometimes an essential one. Tim is so sure of his method that he encourages guests or his fellow crew to jump off the boat whilst he demonstrates his method. “Do you have the confidence to let a crewmember, or even a guest, jump in the water, deliberately, to be recovered?” Tim asked. “You should.”



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Alternative Energy Systems

RE N E WABLE ENER GY • ABU NDANT • SUSTAI NAB LE • I NDEPENDENT • A CARI B BEAN SOLU ION March T 2013 Al l fi g u re s a re a p p rox i ma t i on s b a s ed on 2 0 0 4 da t a . O i l p r i c i n g a s s u m p t i o n s b a s e d o n da t a f ro m w w w. e i a . gov


WHOLE World in Our Hands


By Stephen L. France

Kermit the Frog so famously sang, “It ain’t easy being green.” And during the time the famed amphibian croaked those words, it really wasn’t easy being green—eco-friendly green, that is. But today, economic trends suggest that Kermit should be composing a new tune.

Progressive information today supports the use of renewable energy as a smart economical choice, heeding gains for both the checkbook and the environment. Previously, renewable energy solutions were perceived as a potentially expensive alternative to fossil fuels, but today, the textbook answer to energy savings emerges from the abundance of natural resources surrounding us. Here in the BVI, it is sometimes conceived that we’re regurgitating issues about restrictive legislation, hindering the widespread use of alternative energy sources. However, as we advance into sustainability-conscious times, the solutions to economic and environmental woes have unified.



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Currently, we’re now able to conserve cash, develop economic stability, create numerous employment opportunities, and improve stature in international trade through renewable energy ventures. Unfortunately, we’re just not following through. The BVI places incredible dependency on oil for its energy necessities. Jacco Bos, Managing Director of Alternative Energy Systems (AES), a company committed to providing renewable energy solutions, continues to strive toward a BVI founded in sustainable energy. According to a recent presentation by the Energy Committee in Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad’s oil production peaked in 1977 and has been declining since that time. Bos used this example of our Caribbean neighbours as a point of reference for declining resources worldwide. The AES front man clarified that the traditional supply and demand economic model paints a transparent truth. “We see the BRIC economies— Brazil, Russia, India, China—all growing; they have a greater and greater demand for energy,” he said. “Oil is still the largest supplier of energy worldwide. So we see increased demand and we see plateaued production at this point. The plateau simply precedes the decline.” The inverse proportion relationship between decline in global oil supply and the BVI’s rise in energy prices is explicitly imposed on residents, who are feeling the impact on their electricity bills. Dana Miller, AES’ director of operations, expressed concern about the BVI’s reliance on oil. “All it would take is for the diesel boat supply to dwindle and the BVI industry would be heavily affected,” he said in relation to tourism, government operations, international financial obligations and our basic human needs. “If they were on an independent, renewable source of energy, that would not be an issue.” Balancing the scales, alternative energy sources— solar, wind, hydropower—have become increasingly cost effective. “What we’re seeing is a continued decline in solar pricing. Over the last four years, we have seen a 60-70% reduction in cost on solar panels,” Bos said. “The economics are really starting to make sense for renewable energy over long term.”

cost is less than Tortola due to the wind turbine interaction and…we saved over 20% just in diesel costs in 2012.” The renewable energy benefits are also exemplified at Scotiabank. Olanzo Boynes, Senior Operations Officer for Scotiabank BVI Ltd, said, “Using renewable energy via solar power is essential to the continued functionality of Scotiabank and is required on Tortola to maintain business as our local electricity provider goes down at times. AES level of Customer Service, professionalism and knowledge ensures that operations continue for Scotiabank.” Moving forward, Bos said there needs to be significant measures taken to change the current legislation. Government is taking steps to start integration of renewable energy. In particular they are initiating a solar project in Anegada, an important step in the right direction. The next step is legislative initiatives to enable individual home owners to integrate renewable energy. “Oil is still the largest supplier of energy worldwide. So we see increased demand and we see plateaued production at this By doing so the community is point. The plateau simply precedes the decline.” —Jacco Bos able to contribute to change and benefit directly from their investment. Distributed renewable resources their message. AES has started a renewable developed by the private sector will accelerate energy club for students at HLSCC and are the BVI’s transition and enable the community organizing visits to sites where renewable energy is operational. Students like 19-year-old to prosper in the age of declining oil Edrino Richards are learning green engineering resources. Continuing, Bos said that boaters could also skills for the futur. Richars recently commented benefit from solar integration as it extends that we need to switch to renewable energy to battery life and reduces generator run time. help our transition into the impending era. Studies suggest that in 100 years, oil For those living on the BVIEC grid, current reserves will have depleted. If we start today, legislation prohibits the use of renewable it could take us the same amount of time energy as a primary source of power, but to become sustainable through alternative projects on sister islands like Moskito, Necker, energy sources. So several questions remains: Cooper and Peter have become shining Will necessary strides be taken to ensure our examples of how renewable energies like solar children’s children inherit a healthy planet? and wind can be harvested. Will we be permitted to enjoy a great economy Christopher Potgieter, director of Island through renewable energy technologies? Will Engineering for Peter Island Resort & Spa, is our government set a legacy by transitioning satisfied with their contribution to carbon society to sustainable energy that will last for reduction as well as the economic benefits decades to come? received from their renewable energy initiatives. “There are initial capital costs, but these do pay down in single-digit years, especially at the current cost of $.43 per kilowatt per hour or $4.00 a gallon of fuel,” he said of their decision to install wind turbines on the island, adding “Peter Island’s energy Bos explained that the transition from traditional energy use—namely oil to renewable sources—needs to occur now, as it will be an obligation in the near future. The BVI possesses an international economic opportunity. Enjoying an ideal climate for solar and wind power, the territory could emerge as a leader in the Caribbean on island grid integration of renewables. With all of these ideas in motion, the local economy could be stimulated by a growth in the renewable energy industry, fresh employment opportunities and lower electric bills, he said. “You will see a growing number of technical jobs locally. Building a pool of technically skilled people who are needed to meet demand throughout Caribbean islands,” he suggested, also adding that the BVI could become a sought-after eco-tourism destination. Looking to the future, independent companies like AES are pushing forward with



For more information, please contact: Michael Burns Managing Partner - BVI +1 284 852 5318 Offshore Legal, Fiduciary and Administration Services


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March 2013



Tote-ally Hip



Your essential carryall to the beach, this durable tote bag holds all the beachside goodies you’ll need under the sun. Bags and accessories custom made by Annie MacPhail, and are available at Nutmeg Design ( by Wickhams Cay 2. Totes starting at $18.

Fly Girl

Desigual beachwear takes you from the beach to the boat to the evening ball. These innovative Spanish graffiti-art women’s dresses are the one-fit design for any occasion. Find them at Arawak (494-5240) in Nanny Cay. Dresses starting at $89.95.

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Look Behind You!

It’s not an optical illusion, but a panoramic mask that lets you see from your peripheral to your rear. Perfect for your next underwater adventure. Cressi’s panoramic dive mask is available at We Be Divin’ (www. in Village Cay Marina, starting at $50.

Waterproof Geek

Phone overboard? No problem, mate. This is Lifeproof, the waterproof iphone/itouch protection case that will keep your technology dry—even in high tide or en route to Soggy Dollar. Available at Budget Marine ( at Nanny Cay, from $100.

Superman in Style Got the surf bug? For all ages and all size waves, add this new element to your body boarding with these new recycled surfboard hand boards from Enjoy Handboards, complete with a GoPro mount for those barreled visuals. Available at Cane Garden Surfboards ( in Road Town, from $165.

Drying Off Comfort and style combined, these luxuriously soft, over-sized beach towels are a necessary accessory for beachside lounging. Made from 100% combed organic cotton and available in red, navy and grey stripe. Available at House (www. by Whickhams Cay 2; $48 each.

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” — Charlotte Brontë

BlutORtu a Home Worth Sharing

Story and photos by Dan O’Connor

Beyond the postcard views, the idyllic weather and general envy-inspiring environs, the British Virgin Islands encourages timeless bonds—bonds within nature and bonds among loved ones. And there’s nothing like bringing these experiences home. On a recent visit to Blu Tortu—a luxury villa perched high on Belmont Hill—I was welcomed into a refuge for friendship.



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On a short, windy drive through Belmont’s hillside covenant from Long Bay’s sandy beachfront, I’m greeted by smiling and waving neighbours. My flora-canopied drive takes me almost to the end of the tall road, where Blu Tortu nests at a private vantage point high above Smugglers Cove and Long Bay. As the doors swing open through the home’s arched entrance, I’m greeted with panoramic views that frame Jost Van Dyke and the surrounding cays. Puffy white clouds hang lazily overhead and are reflected off the mirror-like infinity pool within the main courtyard. It’s here where the main house and the guesthouse meet—and it’s here where friends gather and snapshot memories are made. On one end, a private gazebo acts as the perfect nook for intimate dining or a quiet read underneath a shaded view. As a center point, the spacious poolside area is flanked by lounge chairs that have undoubtedly cradled sundrenched friends and family spoiled by their surroundings. As I admire the view that radiates off of the still pool, it’s clear that this is a home that celebrates its surroundings and facilitates friendships. A coral stone stairway leads up to the master bedroom, which sits upon a central perch above the pool area. Cozied into the hillside, the separate villa-bedroom allows its occupants complete privacy. Outside, neatly manicured landscape invites scents of gardenias, frangipani and bougainvillea into the airy bedroom. Inside, clean

whites and light and navy blues pay homage to the deep sailing history embedded in these islands. It feels spacious, with an attached office space and ample light to brighten the pleasant room. A walk-in shower, terrace, air conditioning and plentiful storage space make this independent bedroom an idyllic extension from the rest of the home. Adjacent to the separate bedroom lies the two-bedroom main house,

March 2013


which is surrounded by neat, symmetrical pillars and archways. A covered verandah wraps around its exterior, with ample space for outdoor dining and relaxing. Inside, a tall, 19-foot cathedral ceiling shelters the tri-level living area. Impressive architecture and clean design aside, it’s the finite attention to detail that sets this property aside from others in the luxury league. Not a chip hear nor a crack there define the homebuyer’s turnkey dream. Roman-style columns and arches rise along the interior and mirror the clean aesthetics from the home’s exterior. From the two bedrooms above, the home creates a functional flow down two sets of limestone staircases into the foyer and great room. The large, open spaces are carried by a purposeful layout designed to create consistency throughout the home. Sotheby’s Maritha Keil reminded me that the villa was a product of BVI-based architect Jon Osman, whose Romanesque columns, segmental arches and natural stone designs are signatures throughout sought after homes around the territory.

A short stairway leads to the sizable living room equipped with teak frame furniture and ample room for guests to gather. It’s here where I can

it’s a nice transition into the expansive patio, which has views that spill out across the length of the sir Francis drake Channel.



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imagine enjoying intimate conversations with loved ones over fine wine and a varied cheese plate. The home is currently market priced with the cost of furnishings and fixtures included, and no expense was spared in the outfitting of this hillside gem. More than 70 custom clay light fixtures have been handcrafted to add character and warmth to the already inviting home. Fixtures from Bamboushay on Tortola and Schnell Pottery on St John add distinct cultural integrity to the home.

As we continue from the living room, I pause to admire photos of smiling friends dressed in festive garb for a themed party hosted at Blu Tortu. My host picks up the photograph, smiles, and tells me about the occasion at his home that brought all of his neighbours together. It’s these moments he says he will cherish most during his time in the territory. The two guest bedrooms are bisected in perfect symmetry by the illuminated stairwell provide their own separate privacy. They virtually mirror each other in layout, but both are characteristically unique. Each bedroom has windows—one facing out to the blissful expanse, the other with enchanting garden views. Separate ensuite full bathrooms and generous storage spaces make these guest bedrooms a comforting retreat for sun soaked friends or family. We continue through the living area and into the gourmet kitchen, where I’m greeted by the scent of freshly baked cookies. A center island separates me from the cooking area, where I chat with my host and bag a few cookies for my colleagues at the office. We retreat to the indoor dining area with room for a dinner party of eight. My host tells me that the dining room is mostly reserved for intimate meals with

March 2013


friends, and he instead prefers the second outdoor garden gazebo for fresh, flora-infused air with his morning coffee and emails. As I wrap up my tour, Blu Tortu’s homeowner tells me that his paradisiacal retreat has been much more than a spot to rest his head and enjoy to himself—but it has acted as a gateway to lasting friendships with neighbours and the community at large. More than anything, he says, he’ll look back on his time at Blu Tortu with the fond memories that it has created among friends and surrounded by unrivaled beauty.

Blu Tortu Location Belmont, Tortola



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March 2013



Vetiver System Cutting Hedge Technology Words and pictures by Scarlett Steer

As environmental issues continue to dominate both agricultural and natural resource sectors, with soil erosion one of the most acute, it is comforting to know that steps are being taken to counteract the depletion of our precious reserves. And not only on a global scale, but right here in our own backyard.

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Smiths Gore opened its office in the British Virgin Islands in 1965. The firm was established in the UK in 1845 and currently operates from 26 offices.



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British Virgin Islands Britannic Hall, P.O. Box 135, Road Town, Tortola T 1(284) 494 2446 E United Kingdom 17-18 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4PT T +44 (0) 207 290 1616 E

Home Grown

Vetiver grass on tortola soil.

Amid ever-increasing development on our islands, greener things are afoot in the BVI. Dr. Shannon Gore, Marine Biologist for the BVI Conservation & Fisheries Department, explains that the problem doesn’t lie with development itself, but how one goes about it. To this end, Dr. Gore is piloting a project to build community capacity to reduce island erosion, which includes creating a reference manual on best practices for reducing erosion on individual properties.

Vetiver is a highly valuable addition to your plant palate if your property faces possible erosion. “This project,” explained Dr. Gore, “evolved through a number of events— dying near shore reefs, heavy sedimentation after rainfall, and slope failures to name but a few—that ultimately kept pointing towards a need for watershed management.” Dr. Gore goes on to mention that, as a number of the best practices included in the reference manual are not currently being observed, it was decided to add a working best practice example to the project by planting a “miracle grass”—otherwise known as vetiver—in a small area that experiences heavy erosion. “The use of this grass promises to provide landowners the opportunity to visually see one of the measures used in watershed management, and it’s potential for reducing runoff,” says Gore.

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March 2013


Although still relatively unknown in these parts, Dr. Gore’s project will not be vetiver’s first venture into the BVI. While it has to date predominantly been used in the stabilization of commercial earthworks such as roads and railways, it also features in privately owned landscapes across the BVI. Steven Steer, owner of Minine’s Plants and Landscaping on Tortola, says: “Vetiver is a highly valuable addition to your plant palate if your property faces possible erosion. It grows in pretty much anything, is drought tolerant, and is specifically good in properties that have been excessively de-vegetated. It is also cost-efficient.”

Getting a Grip

“Vetiver? Isn’t that a folk band from the States?” A few frantic taps on a keyboard later and a friend produces a grainy clip of men with guitars wearing in brown corduroy with unfortunate facial hair (I can recommend their music though). Further digging unearthed a San Francisco Chronicle interview with founding member, Andy Cabic. When asked the origin of his band’s name, Cabic answered: “Vetiver is a grass. It has many uses.” While initially somewhat let down by this response (I mean come on Andy, you could have reached a little deeper),it can’t actually be faulted.

Vetiver is quite something and here’s a quick look why: Vetiveria zizanioides is a type of perennial grass, although just like bamboo, is considered a special member of the family. With an extensive root system and tall, densely clumped leaf blade it is perhaps best known for its effectiveness as a low cost soil and water conservation, erosion control,

and environmental protection measure. Structurally it looks pretty much like lemongrass and keeps its leaves, which can be likened to those of sugarcane, up off the ground. Its stems, which act like the backbone of the erosion control barricade, are sturdy and woody—again like bamboo. Although brought onto stage left in the 1980s by a World Bank environmental project, like many sensible practices we believe we’ve discovered, Vetiver has actually been applied in the hedgerow by rural farmers in places like south India for centuries. Now used on a global scale inover 100 countries, this grass has even inspired an incredibly effective non-profit organization—The Vetiver Network International (TVNI). TVNI promotes the global use of the Vetiver System (VS) for a sustainable environment, and is a true network of individuals, groups, communities, entrepreneurs, and social organizations working together in a voluntary capacity. The unique characteristics of vetiver are as far reaching as its root system. It’s a fairly swift grower and can assume the role of unyielding barrier at only a few months old. Its seed does not germinate, nor does it spread by stolons or rhizomes to become a weed. Its crown lies beneath the soil’s surface, which helps to protect against over-grazing, hoof traffic, and fire. To date its leaves and roots have proven resistant to both disease and pests. Vetiver can also cope with a wide range of soil conditions and vastly varying climates. Since around 1987 the technology has been put to the test in the field in many countries—including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Nigeria—in terms of soils and climates very much a mixed bag.


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its leaves and roots have proven resistant to both disease and pests. Steel-toed roots Of all these attributes, two are worth a revisit as they stand out as erosion and slope stabilization superstars. Vetiver’s vital, deep and immense root system is perhaps biologically the most significant and economically the most valuable. The roots are in fact as strong as—or stronger than—that of many hardwood species. Secondly, vetiver grows vertically, forming a compact hedge of stiff stems able to withstand relatively deep water flow in just three to four months. This makes it adept at rapidly putting the brakes on rainfall run-off, as well as distributing it evenly. Hengchaovanich also observed that Vetiver can grow vertically on sloped steeper than 150%. Does vetiver have its drawbacks? Sure it does. “Aesthetically, Vetiver is often not what one looks for in a manicured landscape,” explains Mr. Steer, “as it can look a little untamed. But it has its place and, in our opinion, is an invaluable addition to many challenging sites in and around the BVI.” We all know soil erosion meansd drawbacks like loss of land, reduced soil fertility, increased sediment flows, higher contaminants in diminishing water supplies, and increased hardships to both rural and urban populations. It’s a slippery slope, but just maybe Vetiver has it covered.

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March 2013



Savanna poses for a pic on Nanny Cay Beach. Photo by Dan O’Connor.

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A Journey Through Art By Dan O’Connor


rtist Savanna Redman would describe her wanderlust life and accompanying body of work as “ever-evolving.” The seasoned traveler has used worldly backdrops from almost every continent—and the alluring experiences therein—to navigate and influence her life to this point. Today, Savanna can be found on Tortola, where she uses the various inspiring environs to influence her canvases, and the soft sandy beaches as her makeshift studios. But tomorrow, it may be back to the rainforests of Belize, rice fields of Southeast Asia, or pyramids of Egypt. For this BVI artist, there is no boundary to inhibit her work.

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March 2013


I met with the Tortola resident at Nanny Cay Beach on a particularly pleasant Thursday in February. We sat under the shelter of Peg Legs’ outdoor beach bar and admired the lapping waves and sophisticated seascape that decorates Sir Francis Drake Channel. It’s peaceful moments like this that drive Savanna to create—be it an oil painting on a 4-by-6-foot canvas or a sterling pendant for a close friend. Her artistic mediums shift according to moods and influences. Asked how she’d describe her work, Savanna said, “Eclectic. I’m all over the place. My style is defined, according to the medium.” No stranger to the Caribbean, Savanna moved to the BVI in 2003, and has been painting under a trade license since 2005. Her work can be found hanging in various restaurants, resorts and villas around the Virgin Islands. When she lived in Honduras and Belize, she often worked closely with architects and interior designers on contract jobs to paint murals. But in the BVI, her work has sold more on an independent basis. However, she doesn’t shy away from the occasional odd job. For instance, while Josiahs Bay’s Tamarind Club was closed for season, Savanna painted stingrays, hammerheads and dolphins that now live on the walls of Tamarind’s popular pool.

Stingrays, hammerheads and dolphins now live on the walls of Tamarind’s popular pool. Savanna said she likes to work for clients, but doesn’t like to stray from her style in order to complete a job. “I’ll do more sales and get further ahead if my work is coming from the heart—if it’s genuine,” she said. “If someone says to me, ‘Can you draw my grey poodle?’ – that’s not what I like getting into. I feel like as long as I do something I can find inspiring, people can connect with it.” Currently, Savanna’s paintings sell mostly online and are best advertised on the walls from where they hang, she said. However, she comically noted, “There’s only so many walls left on the island.” This is perhaps a driving reason for her migration into jewelry last year. After years of sculpting with clay, she recently started dabbling with silver. “It’s playing with fire— what’s not to like?” she said. Mostly, Savanna draws her inspirations from wildlife and nature. Jaguars, toucans, hummingbirds and orchids grace oil-painted canvases inspired by her journeys to rainforests, and reef fish, dolphins and sea turtles seem to dance with the use of ink and watercolour.



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But the intrigue and allure of history have also captivated the artist. Sculpted mosaic masks using recycled materials and seashells and silk paintings create fascinating characters reminiscent of ancient Mayan or Egyptian cultures; old-world nautical charts of the Caribbean and Indonesia feature mermaids and dragons inspired from mythical times. For the traveled and varied artist, it’s the environment that channels her creative energy. Her muse: the unfolding journey through life. “I itch for big trees and rainforests—I really miss that—but today we’re here on the island,” she said. “Sometimes, painting on a big canvas—underwater themes or larger than life ones—it’s like being Alice in Wonderland. I feel I’m stepping out of a looking glass every day.”

“It’s playing with fire - what’s not to like?”


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March 2013


Your Home Your Canvas By Steve Fox, Managing Director OBMI BVI, Photos By Dan O’Connor

One of the great benefits of living in the tropics is the strong light and colour that consistently brighten our days all year round. In contrast to the greys and browns which predominate in colder northern climes, we’re fortunate to be bathed in sunlight most of the time, and surrounded by the natural blues and greens of the sky, sea and hillside vegetation. When designing and building homes on these islands, one of the fundamental issues we need to think about is the colour palette of the building.

Selecting colours can be a challenge. Although most people instinctively have some kind of idea of what they would like, not everyone is confident about choosing and combining colours when faced with the bewildering and seemingly infinite ranges offered by paint suppliers. Most manufacturers produce thousands of minutely varying hues at every increment on the colour wheel. Thankfully, if they don’t want to employ the services of an expert interior designer, home decorators can devise their own colour schemes with the help of design source books, which explain the basics of colour theory and practice, and aim to show examples of harmonious colour combinations. So the approach to colouring the interior of the home is a muchdiscussed subject and, of course, the interior paint is one of the easiest elements of the house to change if you feel like something new. That’s the beauty of most applications of interior colour—at relatively low cost and effort, a fresh lick of paint can have a huge impact and can really transform the atmosphere of the home. But perhaps what is less discussed is the colour palette of the exterior of buildings; the more permanent, publically visible architectural elements that make up the envelope and structure.



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Here in the Virgin Islands, regardless of preference, the most prevalent and ultimately most practical and durable material for the exterior walls of a building is concrete, which is then rendered and finished with paint or sometimes a more sophisticated trowel-on material. This means that the majority of buildings have an applied colour, as opposed to a more natural self-coloured material such as brick. This also applies to roofs, which more often than not have a painted metal finish. So the individuality and personality of the owner is expressed, and the hillsides are dotted with buildings in all kinds of colours; some more bold—and tasteful—than others.

And it pays to remember: lighter colours are environmentally better, to reflect the sun and keep the building cool. Some owners want their home to disappear into the trees and rocks. It’s possible, with the use of natural materials and earthy or leafy colours, to blend into the environment. A green roof or wood shakes, local stone wall facing and naturally-finished hardwoods for windows and doors, pergolas and decks, can be combined in a sensitive design to “camouflage” the building. Other owners want their homes to stand out, with light, bright colours, to contrast with the natural surroundings.

March 2013



Ultimately, the building is a blank canvas, ready for you to explore.


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Often, it’s best to go for a combination of these approaches—to use natural materials together with a creative use of colour, or to blend in where you want to and to stand out in selected areas. Natural materials like local stone and tropical hardwoods tend to be expensive, so it’s often not feasible to use them extensively. If you want to use stone facing, it makes sense to concentrate it in key areas, where it’ll have the most impact. Likewise, hardwoods are often a good solution for door and window frames, but cost and maintenance factors need to be considered, not to mention the environmental consequences. Most of the tropical hardwoods used in these islands are a deep red-brown in colour; there doesn’t tend to be a great deal of variety. This is likely to weather to a grey-brown if not regularly sealed or oiled. When choosing paint colours to combine with natural materials, it’s a good strategy to identify a group of three or four which harmonise well together and can be used in different areas—to break down the mass of the building and to give variety. On a steep hillside, we often study the colour of the predominant earth and rock, which can range from blue-grey to red-brown, to find a hue which blends well to use on the lower parts of the building to help to reduce the apparent height of the building. The roof is a major and often very visible element, so its colour needs to combine well with the overall palette. Green is popular, but it pays to consider more unusual options; I’ve seen yellow and bright blue roofs here which work beautifully and aren’t as outlandish as you might suppose. And it pays to remember: lighter colours are environmentally better, to reflect the sun and keep the building cool. Ultimately, the building is a blank canvas, ready for you to explore. It’s fun to develop the palette of colours as the design progresses, balancing freshness, richness, strength, tranquility, earthiness and boldness, to reach the perfect harmonious personal expression


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From the underwater Lens

Greeting a

By Dan O’Connor; photos by armando Jenik

Goliath Grouper

Over winter and sometimes into early spring, divers who frequent the wreck of the Rhone are sometimes fortunate enough to meet a giant of the sea, better known as the goliath grouper— or sometimes just giant grouper or jewfish. Whatever it’s referred to, this mammoth of the sea is a sight to behold, and often offers up quite the surprise when inquisitive divers find them hiding out in one of the wreck’s many stowaway spots. I recently caught up with underwater photographer Armando Jenik, who has recorded numerous goliath grouper visits over the past couple of decades. Armando first encountered a goliath named Abraham in the early 1990s. Abraham frequented the Rhone year after year around Christmas time. Abraham was average in size—about 400 pounds and six feet in length. VI PROPERTY & YACHT

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However, the fascinating creature has been recorded at lengths of eight feet and as much as 800 pounds. Armando has fond memories of feeding the giant fish lobsters, careful not to get his appendages swallowed by his giant mouth. Giant groupers have two stomachs—one to help break apart the hard shells of crustacean like lobsters and another to digest. When hunting, the slow yet studious creatures use a vibrations sound that numbs its victim and allows them to use their force to suction them into their gargantuous gullets. After a few meetings with Abraham, Armando would later find out the giant fish was speared and harvested for its sought-after meat. Considered of fine food quality, giant groupers have long been hunted by fishermen. Its inquisitive and generally fearless nature makes it relatively easy prey for spear fishermen. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning like clockwork to the same location, making them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting. But in 1990, the US put a ban on harvesting, and the Caribbean soon followed in 1993. Today, even though numbers are on the rise, the goliath grouper is recognized as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union. Goliath grouper sightings at the Rhone date back to days shortly after she sank in 1867. A trio of Irish salvage divers known as the Murphy brothers were among the first to dive and salvage the Rhone, after being hired from a London-based insurance company. In their diaries, the Murphy brothers also mention meeting a giant grouper about the size of Abraham. Goliath groupers rarely live over 40 years of age, but Armando and his dive buddies

often think about how it must have been to dive the wreck more than a hundred years ago and encounter one of these similarly awesome creatures in the same habitat. It’s a memory that will live on, and divers near and far look forward to meeting Abraham’s decedents for years to come. the goliath grouper explores the Rhone with scuba divers.

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The EIA Process

environmental screening By Clive Petrovic

Building a house, or any other project, in the BVI requires permission from the Planning Authority. This is normal and is similar to what you would find in any developed country. The intention is to encourage development and growth of the Territory in an organized fashion. Orderly and planned growth provides the economic benefits desired by the community while preserving the environmental, social and cultural characteristics that make these islands special and desirable. In this series, we are looking at the various components of the EIA process. The intent is to explain and simplify the procedures so you can achieve your goals efficiently.

There are guidelines provided by the Town & Country Planning Department (T&CP) to assist in the development process. These guidelines provide a framework for development and help individuals understand the steps necessary to make their dreams become reality. Once you have identified the property and satisfied the legal requirements for land ownership, the real fun begins. In a previous article we described the value of an initial Environmental Audit. This will quickly identify issues that could derail a project or require complex engineering solutions. It will also let you know what plants, animals, and other interesting features are on the land. Working with an architect to create your dream is essential. Once your vision has been transformed into a conceptual plan you should begin the process for planning approval. To begin you must submit an initial planning application and an Environmental Screening Form (ESF). The purpose of the ESF is to briefly describe environmental and social conditions as they relate to the property and the proposed development. This will give the T&CP a better understanding of the site and what you plan to do. Very often this is combined with a meeting where the project is presented to the T&CP. This information will then be used by the T&CP to determine what level of EIA is required, or if one is even needed. The three categories are: A (full EIA required), B (Limited EIA required), or C (no EIA necessary). When an EIA is considered necessary, the ESF will help the Department generate Terms of Reference to guide the EIA. So, what exactly is an ESF and how do you fill it out? While at first glance the Form may seem daunting and long, it is really quite simple. It actually is a useful exercise because it will help you understand the topics of

March 2013


concern and what will likely follow in the EIA. There is easy access to the Form through the T&CP and their website. If you prefer, your architect or environmental consultant can get it for you. The ESF is divided into a number of sections covering topics that are considered important in identifying the kind of information needed in the EIA. The first three pages consist of basic information describing the project and the site. The surrounding land uses and the project setting must also be described. The next page is devoted to the key habitat characteristics and the existing land cover. For example, the total project land cover, in acreage, ft2, or %, must be shown. The same is true for basic habitat types, such as forest, scrub, mangroves, wetlands and salt ponds, and other environments. The amount of shoreline or beach, where appropriate, is also requested. The remaining six pages are organized under a variety of headings with questions in each. While it may not be possible to provide all the information, some general knowledge of the site conditions is essential. Remember that this information will help guide the T&CP in formulating the Terms of Reference for the EIA. The more accurate information you can present, the more relevant will be the EIA to your project goals. Some of the important topics covered include land features and the proposed measures to reduce erosion. There is also concern with air quality and the likelihood of emissions, odors or smoke that may be discharged into the atmosphere. The same is true of groundwater and any possible discharge or contamination. Runoff, especially from stormwater, is a subject of concern because there may be impacts on other lands and users downstream. There are sections on plants and animals. These relate primarily to the quantity and types of vegetation that will be altered or removed during



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development. Naturally, there is concern for threatened or endangered species that may be affected by the proposal. Proximity to migration pathways or environmentally sensitive or protected areas must be described when relevant. Then there are sections on energy, environmental health, noise, aesthetics, recreation, archaeology and cultural resources, transportation, utilities, and additional topics. Each section contains several questions designed to better understand potential impacts of the project. All the information contained in the ESF is general and used to better understand the site conditions, surrounding land uses and potential

naturally, there is concern for threatened or endangered species that may be affected by the proposal. impacts of your proposal. The intention is not to discourage development but to help get the most out of it for you, your neighbors and the community. Most are the kinds of questions you would ask if someone was building next to you. The purpose of good planning is to foster continued development while minimizing negative consequences. The T&CP wants you to realize your dream while protecting the environment you came here to enjoy. The ESF is just one tool to help that process.

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March 2013


Photo By Dan O’Connor

The documentary film Bag It first aired for the BVI community at U.P’s Cineplex in December 2012 by World House Caribbean, an organization established to preserve the territory’s environment and natural resources. In a revolutionary act for our islands, supermarkets around the territory will follow the 2010 film, which witnesses Colorado resident Jeb Berrier in his movement against the use of plastic bags. By Stephen L France

Green VI, in collaboration with World House Caribbean and the BVI Conservation And Fisheries Department, has accomplished an achievement that will arguably stimulate diverse reactions in the BVI. I recently sat with Green VI Executive Director Charlotte McDevitt, who explained that all BVI supermarkets have signed a memorandum of understanding—or MoU—stating that they will enforce a 15-cent fee on each plastic bag used commercially.

“It’s a new concept—it’s a paradigm shift.” —charlotte Mcdevitt, green Vi

Supermarkets participating in the initiative span from Virgin Gorda to Jost Van Dyke, and include Road Town Wholesale Trading Ltd, One Mart Supermarket, A Value Supermarkets, Qwomar Trading Ltd, Supa Valu, Bobby’s Supermarkets, Buck’s Wholesale and Rosy’s Supermarket. “Each of the supermarkets has got their own reusable bags stocked,” McDevitt said as she explained that customers will be inclined to bring reusable bags when shopping in contrast to paying for a plastic bag. “We are the first territory…to voluntarily ban the plastic bag,” the Green VI director continued. “Many countries have done it, but it’s all been for legislation…You’ve had counties do it voluntarily, you’ve had some cities, but not a territory.” The MoU is valid for one year, she said, adding that future revisions could include a “total, outright ban.” She also remains optimistic about government support for the project, noting that the Ministry of Health and Social Development have put out a tender for a waste management plan.



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Green VI, in collaboration with World House Caribbean and Conservation of Fisheries Department, has accomplished an achievement that will arguably stimulate diverse reactions in the BVI. I recently sat with Green VI Executive Director Charlotte McDevitt, who explained that all BVI supermarkets have signed a memorandum of understanding—or MoU—stating that they will enforce a 15-cent fee on each plastic bag used commercially. “The money right now will go to the supermarkets, but we are looking at, for the next thing, to use [government funds] for environmental projects,” she said. All parties involved in this initiative reveal the numerous problems plastic bags create. Specifically highlighted as issues for the BVI was the infrastructure, aesthetics in its relation to tourism, waste management expense to the community and our ecosystem.

“It’s the biggest litter item. . .

. . . Adding that bags are also culprits in drain blockages and often lead to hazard concerns for nesting turtles.” —charlotte Mcdevitt, green Vi

If not convinced by this argument, McDevitt imparted that it is damaging to the BVI financially and economically. “You will see plastic and what it does to wildlife all the time, but in terms of infrastructure, it’s a real problem. It’s expensive…with waste management; that’s tax payers’ money going to litter picking, and the blocking of drains is quite serious, especially in flooding areas.” McDevitt further explained that plastic bag use can potentially affect our physical health and the bags themselves take 1,000 years to photo degrade. “So, you’ve got molecules of plastic everywhere now,” she added. “It’s in our water, it’s in our soil.” World House Caribbean also played a fundamental role in securing participation for this initiative. Founders Dalan Vanterpool and Sophia Bain were among the first to organise and rally for this cause. McDevitt described the two as “faces” for the initiative. Their efforts include distribution of 3,000 reusable bags and the allocation of funding from the Governor’s Office. In Jan 2012, they also organised a community screening of Wasteland, a film that reveals worldly problems associated with careless waste. “People were excited and I would say 90% were on board,” Vanterpool said of the screening, adding that their ambitious goal is to eventually distribute 10,000 bags to the community. With this initiative set to commence on March 2013 the decision falls to the BVI community: bag it or buy it?

Bye-Bye Bags

Plastic bags introduced in the 1970’s as an alternative to paper Account for 80% of grocery bags In 2008, US imported approximately 102 billion 500 billion to 1 trillion bags consumed each year

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March 2013


Cooking with

Christophene By Susie Younkle

Given my passion for seeking out local foods, it’s surprising when certain ingredients miss my local food radar. The Caribbean squash Christophene was one such food.

I had sampled many new foods after moving to the BVI and was vaguely aware of christophene, but somehow the versatile and popular Caribbean squash never made its way to my plate—perhaps because it’s a food with a slight identity crisis. Most commonly called chayote, it is known in the Eastern Caribbean as christophene and elsewhere as vegetable pear, cho-cho, mirliton and numerous other names. And while christophene is a vegetable, it looks like an oversized pear. The confusion extends to its preparation, particularly whether it can be eaten raw or must be cooked. Eventually, I was properly acquainted with christophene during my first visit to the French island of Martinique. Upon my arrival in the capital city of Fort-de-France, I noticed christophene everywhere. Vendors at the main farmer’s market had tables piled high with christophene and abundant advice about its preparation. Supermarkets displayed it prominently and every restaurant menu featured the vegetable, often combined with a cream sauce as a side dish. The French certainly know about great food. So, I decided to take a cue from the Martiniquais and prepare christophene myself. A little trial and error yielded tasty results, particularly in the form of christophene gratin. Mild-flavoured christophene is the Caribbean equivalent of summer squash and a terrific



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local substitute for zucchini. While its flavour is a cross between that of its cousins zucchini and cucumber, its texture has some potato-like starchiness. This member of the gourd family is pale green, pear-shaped and usually about 10 to 12 ounces. Choose christophene that are very firm and free from blemishes. The skin may be smooth or have ridges or tiny prickles. Christophene will keep for days at room temperature or weeks in the refrigerator. To prepare, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler and remove the edible seed, which you can nibble while prepping your meal. One note of caution: peel christophene under water or with oil on your hands, otherwise a sap may cause a mild (though harmless) reaction that gives the impression your skin is peeling off. If your skin is particularly sensitive, consider wearing gloves like I do when peeling christophene. Once peeled, christophene can be used raw for crudités, salad or slaw. Caribbean chefs know that cooked christophene is ideal for stuffing, as the vegetable holds its shape well and provides a lovely presentation. Christophene is also a common addition to soups and stews and makes a delicious alternative to potatoes in a gratin. This French Caribbean-inspired gratin would pair well with lamb for Easter or with a traditional British Sunday roast. Bon appétit!

Christophene Gratin à la Martinique 5 christophenes, peeled, quartered and seed removed

4 Tbl butter, divided 1/2 c finely minced shallots 1/2 c finely minced red bell pepper 4 Tbl flour 1 1/2 c whole milk 1/2 c shredded gruyere cheese 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg Salt and white pepper, to taste 4 Tbl breadcrumbs

Christophene: Add the peeled and quartered christophenes to a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 30 minutes or until very tender. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them. Place the christophene in a bowl and mash with a fork, then press against a fine meshed sieve or cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. Sauce: Melt 3 Tbl butter in pan over medium heat. Add shallots and bell pepper and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and seasonings. Add christophene to sauce and stir well to combine. Place the mixture in an oiled 11 x 7” baking dish. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and combine with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over christophene. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until bubbly. Serves 4.

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Virgin Islands Property & Yacht - March 2013  

I was a contributing author - Stephen L France

Virgin Islands Property & Yacht - March 2013  

I was a contributing author - Stephen L France