Monday, October 18, 2010

"Good Enough for Who It's for"

Years ago, four of us went to the Virgin Islands on a bare-boat vacation. We chartered a 33 foot sailboat out of St. Thomas and spent a week going from island to island, living on the boat and going ashore when we thought there would be something of interest (usually a bar.) One such place was on St. John Island, a little establishment called Redbeard's Saloon.

To get to Redbeard's by boat, we sailed into a long cove in the middle of the southern shore; we had to anchor quite a way off because it's very shallow as you get closer in to shore. So there's a long row to a little dock, and then an even longer walk up a fairly steep hill to get to the tavern. There is a road that lets travellers coming from the posh resort hotels on the north shore drive up, but where's the fun in that?

Once at the top of the hill you discover Redbeard's - it's the only building there, and not much of a building at that. I don't remember the details, but I think "rustic" might be a little generous in describing the accommodations. The cooking, as I recall, was all done on a barbeque pit out back and I'm pretty sure there was a generator to keep the beer cold. That was pretty much it, except of course for the people there, who were wonderfully generous and pleasant to be around. It just felt good to be there. Oh, and the view from the top of the hill - wow!

It's important, I think, when you happen upon a place like Redbeard's that you take home a souvenir to help you relive the good times back home, when you're snowed in and wondering why you came back home to begin with. And of course, Redbeard's had all kinds of suitable items for sale just for this purpose. I love T-shirts, so that's what I picked out. It was kind of a salmon color with the Redbeard's logo, under which it said: "Redbeard's Saloon, St. John, USVI - Good Enough for Who It's for."

I knew exactly what that slogan meant, what it was really saying: there are tourists who would go there, take one look around and declare the place a dump, and leave (they probably drove there); and then there are tourists like us - a motley crew if ever there was one - who take great joy in finding a simple out of the way place where the proprietors are friendly, the beer is cold, and the view is spactacular. Good enough for who it's for - good enough for us!

There are lots of great place to go when your cruising in the Virgins and we went to a lot of them. I'm not even sure that Redbeard's was our clear favorite at the end of the trip, but I am sure I will never forget it, because it didn't try or pretend to be something it wasn't, it just tried to be "good enough for who it's for," and I think there's a lot to be said for that. I heard a few years ago that Redbeard's had closed and that made me a little sad, not because I thought I'd ever go back but because I think that any place "good enough for who it's for" should be successful for as long as it wants to be. I just hope it wasn't replaced by a mega-mansion or luxury hotel built to cater to "those other people" for whom Redbeard's wasn't good enough.

So if everything you have or do is good enough for who it's for, then you're probably a pretty happy camper - I know I am. I guess it's just another way of saying that being content with what you have is the key to happiness, and I truly believe that.

And if you ever happen to find yourself on St. John, USVI, please walk up that hill and take a look around to see what's there now. Whatever it is, I hope it's good enough...

Just did a little googling and got some updated info on Redbeard's - apparently a new place with the same name opened at another location on St. John. It sounds a little more - what's the word I want? - upscale, that's it, than the original. But here's the word on how the end came to the real Redbeard's Saloon (it seems kind of appropriate):

Joe Jackson May 14th, 2007 06:53

A couple of facts for the uninformed. Redbeards was Ted Johnson’s bar out where Skinny’s is now. It’s posted motto was ‘GOOD ENOUGH FOR WHO IT’S FOR’. Ted used a chainsaw to dismantle the old place when he was leaving. I understand he’ll be doing some guest bartender gigs when it opens. It’s Wally from Larry’s that’s opening it… I wish him all the best.

Here's a link to see what the "new" Redbeard's Saloon was like:

I'm pretty sure the "ambience" wasn't exactly the same, but it was probably good enough for a different crowd. I'm pretty sure that if my crew and I had showed up at the new place, they would have thrown us out - it sounds like the kind of place we would have avoided anyway.


  1. Hi
    This is the former original Ms. Redbeard though not many people would remember my name. ..Barb,
    Redbeard's closed because our renewal of our lease was screwed up by aggressive statesiders and some local business people who thought they deserved to have the place and run it better after our 8 years of dedicated effort. These folks did not weather days with no business because the times were different than now. And yes it was a simple place but heh - the NY Times (wrote us up in a highly positive article) and also the chef from 1829 in St Thomas came out on a regular basis to enjoy really good food prepared on the spot - yes real food real chopped garlic, no canned veggies. sauteed treats and grilled food made on a grill with burning coals from the charcoal from the beach by an old friend nearby. Every day a different international treat. Those were special times. People building their houses as they lived in them came down regularly for food and entertainment; yes movies on the big screen or just sing alongs at the bar of everything from showtunes to motown. Most folks had no TV and of course computers were not the modus operendum at the time. We welcomed Deniro, Patrick Moynihan, Walter Cronkite, The producers and actors of Le Grande Blue, Neil Young and many other famed people xperiencing an off the beaten track adventure. Hoorah for all the crewed yachts that came to join us. Do you know why the Coral Bay Yacht Club formed? Yes there was a desire but I will vaguely quote an original member as "Now we have a place to meet". Sealegs, Paul, Meagan, Don and a few others were the impetus. I have many real memories and details of the day and I particularly remember folks like Mr January and Mrs J, Guy Benjamin, Brando, Pojo, Mrs Marsh, Rahkon, Yvonne, and the many local people of Coral Bay who made it what it was - AMAZING. Greed and obnoxious "invaders" ruined the kharma. I suppose I was privledged to experience the time and the place which like most places when "discovered" change forever. I created my art studio Monkeyfist which did much creative work for many people in the US and BVI and abroad and then continued on to other endeavors. Cheers Capt Barb

    1. Capt. Barb, I am honored that you found my little piece and took the time to provide so much additional information about that special time and place. Obviously the impression I had after our brief visit was accurate but woefully incomplete - there was much more going on that I ever suspected! I'm thankful to have found such a unique place before it was gone forever. Cheers to you too, and thanks for the joy that the memory of Redbeard's brings to me.