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Sea Cliff.

Sea Cliff

"Sea Cliff,' located on Water Island--a 500-acre hideaway on the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, the largest city on Saint Thomas--brings dreams to life. Just a ten-minute ferry ride across a bay clear enough to see the bottom of a sailboat transports you from the nagging pressures of meetings, quotas, and appointments to the values of another, more civilized world.

Accommodations at the Sea CliffHotel, enhanced by a recent $6 million renovation, are plush by any standard and punctuated by a spray of freshly cut orchids or other islandgrown flowers delivered daily to your room. Conspicuous by their absence, however, are the items you might expect. There is no television set, not even a radio. No newspapers are sold in the hotel's convenience store. In fact, none of the rooms has a telephone, although emergency calls may be made from the main lobby.

Bob Albright, the general manager,makes no apology for any of this. "Most of us,' he says, "have become slaves to these things. At Sea Cliff, we offer our guests something that's nearly impossible to obtain in today's world--privacy.'

Some vacationers relax by lying onthe beach or chatting with the island's most celebrated pet--a parrot with a reported vocabulary of 200 words. Others enjoy more rigorous forms of recreation, such as tennis (the hotel has two courts) and swimming; snorkeling and scuba diving are extremely popular sports.

The perfect introduction to the underwaterwonder of the Caribbean-- schools of yellow grunts, spotted trunkfish, regal queen angelfish, redtinged squirrel fish, and brilliantly colored parrotfish--is available at Water Island. A certified instructor meets you on the hotel's famous "Honeymoon Beach' to explain the basics of scuba diving. After a brief instructional period, you are prepared for your first dive into the blue waters of Honeymoon Cove. A visitor from Buffalo summed up her first diving adventure with "It's breathless!' For experienced and certified divers, a full day of exploring the spectacular reefs is alone worth the trip. A certified dive master will lead you down to pristine reefs. If you're lucky, you'll see for yourself some of the sunken wrecks of ships that unsuccessfully attempted to sail the balmy seas.

Water Island--the fourth largestamong the U.S. Virgin Islands--is so named because in the days of the "windjammers,' it was one of the few places with fresh-water ponds where sailing vessels could replenish their water casks. By the time the United States had acquired the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917, Water Island was used chiefly as a grazing area for goats and cattle. The harbor at Saint Thomas became a submarine base at the start of World War II. Following the war, the island was abandoned. When Walter and Floride Phillips came upon it while looking for a place to live during their retirement, they knew immediately it was the answer to that dream.

As a result of several conversationswith representatives of the federal government, Phillips agreed to care for and improve the island. The government, in turn, granted Phillips a free 20-year lease renewable every 20 years thereafter. The Phillipses, who have remained on Water Island since 1951, are now on their second lease.

In the December 1, 1956,issue of The Saturday Evening Post, Walter Phillips described the island on the day he and Floride arrived: "We counted 33 concrete buildings--most of them shells, but with their metal roofs in good shape. There were seven miles of road, half of them macadam and half gravel.'

Most of Sea Cliff's constructionwas done by masons and carpenters from Saint Thomas, but Walter Phillips oversaw every improvement in his role as self-appointed general supervisor. By the end of December 1953 he had constructed enough buildings, sufficiently developed the water system, and planted enough lime, lemon, papaya, orange, and grapefruit trees that he could invite some of his friends from the frozen North to spend Christmas on his newly created paradise.

The peaceful life of Sea Cliff is notfor everyone. "Among our first guests were a bride and groom,' Mr. Phillips recalls with a wry smile. "The young lady evidently thought the Virgin Islands were wide open. The minute she found there were no gambling casinos here, she packed her bags and towed her husband back to Puerto Rico, where she could lose his money.'

Says the spunky Phillips, whowalks with a brisk pace that leaves others half his age puffing to keep up with him: "I have the best of all worlds here. I have isolation and beautiful beaches; I'm close to shopping, and all this under the American flag. Can you think of any better way of living?'
COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Water Island, Virgin Islands
Author:McCollister, John
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Hotel Review
Date:Nov 1, 1986
Words:770
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