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Camanoe

Revisiting an Old Friend

BVI Property Guide has featured Whipple House before, during its stages of renovation. The project was undertaken by Maritha Keil, who was responsible for the design and interior fittings, and Andy Gordon, who oversaw the labour and refit, with glorious results. Whipple House is now aptly named Stargazer Villa.

When I initially wrote about Whipple House, it had been my first trip to Great Camanoe. I visited The Privateer’s estate, where all land is leased from the Crown. If not for the property review, I don’t think I would have ever visited Camanoe unless to sail past it and simply wonder. But since my first visit to Whipple, in its refit as a somewhat stone ruin, I have been back whenever I can. I have to say I love the place.

 

Life on Great Camanoe is remote, wild and untouched. The houses on it have been there for at least 50 years. Before that, the indigo plantations, before that the Quakers, and before that, no doubt, the Arawaks or Caribs. It is rumored that many a jumbie haunt the place, but I prefer the term “protect.”

Each property is steeped in an eccentric history. Whipple, now Stargazer, is named after the Harvard astronomer who invented the Whipple telescope, Fred Lawrence Whipple (1946-2004). I have only ever seen the views by daylight, and they are spectacular. Sweeping from Virgin Gorda to Beef Island and then taking in the outer islands of Cooper, Peter and down to Norman Island whilst overlooking Marina Cay and Scrub Island. The wind still blows around the property. Elevated up from this point, the islands look calm, uninhibited and undiscovered. I can only imagine the view at night.

 

Maritha takes us on a tour as though we were residents on Great Camanoe. This I have never done, and the idea of the lifestyle here starts to sink in. A boat is provided with the house as all supplies must be brought to Great Camanoe from neighbouring islands. The communal meeting room by the dock still serves as the mail room and book exchange. The roads through Great Camanoe are not wide, and this adds to the idea of the whole island as an eco-resort. No plants have been imported, and the island still harnesses its trees of loblolly, bay, fig and cedar. The scents are as tantalizing as my first visit and jasmine, sage and thyme blow their familiar aroma as I brush my hand past them.

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The property refurbished astonishes me. The Saltillo tiles are in place amongst the original paths guiding you around the three displaced rooms, kitchen and garage. What was once a small larder is a fully functional kitchen with all modern appliances servicing the two dining areas that are furnished with small and large seated wooden tables.  An alcove where we sit and enjoy wine and cheese looks out over Virgin Gorda. Taking a walk around the finished decks, I come across the stone arches that frame viewpoints of different islands.

 

The master bedroom , one of two, has an inside living room, because it does rain in the islands, and the garden and cistern do need it. Inside colours are cobalt blue and jade with high tongue-and-groove cedar ceilings. All fittings are wood with a deep mix of cedar and pine. My preference is the fully furnished second master bedroom, complete with outside shower, larger deck and a total sense of privacy to the point of all of us missing it as we rushed around the property like exploring children.  The third bedroom has been refitted with a twin, again complete with en suite bathroom, stone walls with wood trims and a large overhanging deck past the French windows. I could easily live here, I begin to muse, along with six other people, or with the 5.5 acres, probably a lot more.

Currently this property is available for sale and vacation rental. The real spirit of the house and the sky would have to be seen by night. I have no doubt it is called Stargazer Villa for good reason. For now I will have to be one of the Camanoe jumbies and highly recommend the experience if not for a lifetime, at least for a week or two. 

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