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History of Jost Van Dyke

What do Jost Van Dyke and the US Capitol have in common?

William Thornton architect of the US Capitol was born on Little Jost Van Dyke. There was a worldwide competition for architects, including the famous Thomas Jefferson. Homegrown William Thornton beat them all with his innovative design.

Jost Van Dyke , with a population of 180, is named for a noted Dutch pirate. It is mountainous, has lovely beaches, tropical restaurants and watering holes at Great Harbor and White Bay.

Jost measures just four by two rugged miles, the island is rich in history. It’s been home to Arawak Indians, Caribs, Dutch, Africans, and English. And John Coakley Lettsome, founder of the London Medical Society, was also born on Little Jost Van Dyke. Jost Van Dyke did not receive public electricity until December 23, 1989, and the entire island did not receive electricity until the end of 1997. For many years the island residents used generators and many were innovators by using solar panels.

Whether you stay for a day, week, or a month, you’ll find plenty to do. Trace the old trails that connect the island. Explore the overgrown ruins of sugar mills. In the fall and winter, watch whales and dolphins from a hilltop. Or visit the bubbly pool at the East End, where the foaming sea forms a natural jacuzzi. You could walk across to Little Jost or take a boat to Sandy Cay, the perfect castaway island.

It is reported that Christopher Columbus sighted the British Virgin Islands in 1493, on his second expedition to the New World; Overwhelmed by their multitude, he christened the islands ‘Las Once Mil Virgines’ – in honor of St. Ursula and the 11,000 maidens who sacrificed their lives in 4th century Cologne. The Crest of St. Ursula is a national symbol of the British Virgin Islands.The islands were said to be inhabited by Caribs and Arawaks. The Dutch established the first permanent European community here in 1648. In 1666 British planters took over control of the island group from the original Dutch settlers. The islands attained the status of British Colony, and remained part of the Leeward Islands from 1872 until 1956, when the British Virgin Islands became a separately administered entity.

To preserve its close economic ties with the U.S., Virgin Islands the group did not join the 1958-1962 West Indies Federation of British Islands. In 1967, the new Constitution provided for a ministerial system of government headed by a Governor. The island group remains under British Sovereignty today.The BVI’s are constitutionally autonomous of the UK except for external affairs, defense, internal security, terms and conditions of service of public officers and the administration of the courts. These areas are the responsibilities of a UK appointed Governor. The Territory features an internal self-government that has a long history of political stability. There is an Executive Council, with the Governor as Chairman, which includes the Attorney General (ex-officio), the Chief Minister (appointed by the Governor from those elected to the Legislative Council to handle financial matters), and three other ministers appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister.

Amongst the most popular Caribbean vacation destinations, The British Virgin Islands offer the finest sailing anywhere … and are home to the world’s largest yacht charter fleet. Balmy trade winds provide a most comfortable, tropical environment. Temperatures are rarely below 77 F in winter; or rise above 90 F in summer.

SloopNews.org follows the progress on a great and worthy project — that of building a 21st Century Island Sloop that bridges forty years of boat building in the British Virgin Islands — and the first ever built on Jost Van Dyke.

The Goal: Designing and constructing an island sloop to pass on sailing and boat building to the next generation of islanders as it is such a strong part of their cultural heritage.

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