You can barely see it from the water, nestled as it is under a big thatch of palm trees at the head of the bay. That’s one of its many charms, that when you step ashore and wander up to the beach bar, it’s like you’ve stumbled upon a welcome tavern by the sea that somehow feels like a private discovery of your very own.
But make no mistake about it, countless sailors of all stripes have been stumbling to and fro the famous British Virgin Islands watering hole called Foxy’s at Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke for a long time now. A long, long time.
As in, forty years.
I know this because earlier this month, quite by accident on an unplanned detour through the B.V.I., I wandered into Foxy’s on a Friday afternoon that turned out to be a special day indeed. It was the fortieth anniversary of the legendary bar’s opening, and that night there’d be a party to honor the milestone. And of course, as always, everybody was invited.
Part of the charm of Foxy’s is, well, Foxy Callwood himself, a troubadour, raconteur and fifth-generation son of the island of Jost. I’m delighted to report that he’s still holding court at center stage, still flashing that megawatt smile.
“How’s it going today, Foxy?” I asked.
“Tomorrow will be better,” he deadpanned.
“Uh, why’s that?” I wondered. It seemed an odd statement given the day’s celebratory nature.
“Cause today’s better than yesterday!” he howled. “And that’s the way it goes!”
It was good to see Foxy in such high spirits, as I’d heard he’d had some health issues in recent times, something he confirmed in a by-the-by manner. There’d been a polyp on his vocal chords, then another, a hospital stint or two.
“So doctor said no more singing,” he said. “But there’ll be plenty of music.”
Actually, Foxy was more interested in talking about sailing, which was fine by me. He waved toward the back of the restaurant and told me I should wander back and take a look.
News travels efficiently via the coconut telegraph so I was aware that there was a boat being built on the premises, but I wasn’t really ready for the striking little sloop coming to life in Foxy’s backyard. It’s called the Endeavour II and is both handsome and robust, with a purposeful prow; full keel; staunch sections; a distinctive transom; and as sweet a sheer line as you’ll ever see. The design, called the JVD 32, is based on the traditional island traders that played such a central role in these waters for hundreds of years.
The classic little ship is coming together under the supervision of project director Captain Kevin Gray and under the auspices of the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society. The funding is still coming together but received a nice boost, said Foxy, from country singer Kenny Chesney, who owns a house on St. John, in the neighboring United States Virgin Islands, and made a significant contribution. For more on the project or to make a donation, visit the website (www.sloopnews.org).
Built of local woods and sheathed in glass and epoxy, Endeavour II is a labor of love for a host of local craftsmen who are donating their time and skills. And more importantly, much of the work is being done by local school kids on the island, who are learning about the heritage of their forefathers in a decidedly hands-on fashion. When she’s finished, later this year, they’ll take her to sea.
“It’s being built for the long haul, the duration,” said Gray, who was checking up on the progress before the festivities got under way. “The grandkids of the kids building it will sail it.”
Herb McCormick| |The 32-foot sloop under construction behind Foxy’s–a design based on traditional island traders–will be a lasting tribute to a bygone time.|
It will also be a wonderful legacy for Foxy, not that he particularly needs another one. These days, while he greets the customers, favors them with a poem or lyric, and generally seems to be having a marvelous time for himself, the actual business of Foxy’s is being conducted by a host of fellow Callwoods, ranging from his wife, Tessa, to a host of their kids. Foxy’s is all about friends and family, his and yours.
In fact, by late afternoon, as if on cue, the day’s early showers had given way to bright sunshine and all sorts of friends and families were rolling into Great Harbour in earnest: That night’s barbecue at Foxy’s was sold out well in advance. So when Virgin Islands-based musician and sailor Joe Colpitt (he of the trimaran Virgin Fire) and his band took the stage around five o’clock the bar was hopping, the ribs were grilling, and the party was all on.
Foxy was just off to the side, nursing a drink, bobbing with the beat. Things were clearly about to get crazy, and I reckoned it might be my last chance to have a chat before he was swept away in the moment. Actually, I just had one more question: What had changed in forty years?
There was that smile again. “Back then, I’d look out there and see one or two yachts,” he said. “Now, sometimes, there are hundreds. Sailors came and the word spread like wildfire. What can I say?”
Not one thing more, I thought. In his own little corner of paradise, Foxy has already said it all.