Shackin’ Up: Back to Nature
- June 5th, 2012
- in PROPERTY
Story and photos by Dan O’Connor
When Winston Molyneaux first visited Long Bay beach on Tortola’s northwestern coast in the mid 1980s, he said he was guided there by a rainbow. The idyllic scenery, complete with a thick patch of palms crested upon a long stretch of white sand beach, would become his Virgin Islands respite—and eventually his own personal playground.
“When I first came down here, I was like, ‘Wow, man’,” said Winston, with a half-grin and his typical intensity. “I was totally into it. I was thinking of a name for the place—maybe something to do with that rainbow. … But, I thought, it’s more something like pure nature—powerful, man. That’s where Nature Boy came from.”
Photos of Winston, his shack, his dog and his toys:
In 2008, Winston, who is most commonly known as Nature Boy, brought a grill to the end of the beach and started flipping burgers and chicken and fish for the tourists that typically walked the length of the beach from the popular Long Bay Beach Resort. While the resort dominates one end of the lengthy beach, Nature Boy’s barbeque set up settled on its secluded end, away from the restaurant, bar and villas.
“It was like a nice little sunset-happy-hour thing in the beginning, but it was rough to get things going because the place was just deserted,” he said, adding that he averaged about $40 in sales his first couple of weeks on the beach. “I think I gave up like 20 times. I don’t know, what it was, though, man. I’d see the people coming down to see me—smiling—and it made me feel special.”
He stuck with it. His love for the location and the beach prompted him to build a small tin shelter, up a small enclave from the beach, where he began the first level of what would eventually become an unraveling project complete with more than a mile of trails and multiple huts. Think PeeWee’s Playhouse on the beach.
From his first shelter, Nature Boy built downward, onto the beach. The beach-level shack now stands as his main bar, complete with a palm-thatched roof and wooden supports collected from salvaged materials. While sturdy enough to weather some tough storms, the shack has been toppled and sucked into the sea on two occasions: First, in the summer of 2008 with Hurricane Omar, then two years later during Hurricane Earl. Both intense storms crushed the north shores with category-three intensity.
“This here, this is like an imaginary, temporary bar, and if the sea touch it, if wind blow it, you never know what could bust it down,” he said as we sat in the shack’s tiny interior, which usually remains sparsely stocked with a few twelvers of beer and a small assortment liquor and mixers. He also carries a Bible close at all times, and a machete near for customers in need of a handy coconut butcher. Of his shack, Nature Boy said, “I guess you could say I did it up like they did it 200 years ago: chopping up wood, making rafters and just covering them with anything that’s in front of you. … If I build it up too much, it’s just going to look too modern.”
Behind the maze of ramshackle thatch huts and tin shelters, Nature Boy’s happy to show his customers and passer’s by the entrance to what leads into an impressive mile of trails, through the largest patch of coconut trees on Tortola, clear to a large salt pond. Most of the trail was personally cleared by the hand—and machete—of Nature Boy.
“A lot of people would pass through, maybe on their way to Smugglers [Cove], and were missing all of [the trails],” he said. “It seemed condemned almost. So I chopped the overgrown grass, and used a pile of rocks … to create this trail—to give the people something to do; walk their dogs, or whatever.”
It’s unclear how Nature Boy and other like beach vendors have been able to operate under similar conditions, seemingly taking to their ventures free of legal red tape. Recently, government officials have put a halt to many on the neighbouring beach at Smugglers Cove; many continue to spring up on the beach at Cane Garden Bay on cruise ship days. Some residents, he said, like those living in the neighbouring Belmont Estate, have complained about his establishment on the beach. Others, though, continue to come back year after year to enjoy his signature rum punch and hike the trails he spent months clearing. But, whatever happens, Nature Boy said he’ll be happy he had the time he has had in his own personal paradise.
“This was my dream come true here; the place I always wanted,” he said. “A lot of people tell me not to leave it … like rich tourists. They tell me: ‘Nature boy, let’s trade places. You be a BVI law firm or a BVI doctor or whatever in New York, and let me take your job.’ I say, ‘No thank you.’”