The picture of a little blonde girl on the beach at Caneel Bay could have been snapped last week, except a closer look reveals hillsides devoid of all construction, roads, vehicles and electrical lines.
The photograph of a three-year-old Anna Dohm Nose on the beach at Caneel was actually taken more than 70 years ago, when the young Dane was cruising through the islands with her venturesome parents.
“The first five years of my life were spent on a boat about 33 feet long with my older brother and my parents,” said Dohm. “My brother was about a year old and I was about three or four months when my parents decided to take off and go sail around. They were sea gypsies — they just wanted to sail for adventure.”
“We passed through the islands here in 1937 and then headed down to Miami, where my younger brother was born,” Dohm continued. “We were in no hurry, it was probably one of the slowest cruises. From Copenhagen to Jacksonville, Florida, took five years.”
Before World War II broke out in 1939, Anna, her brothers Per and Lars and Danish mother Elsa, returned to Denmark and her father Peter — who was a German-native — stayed with the boat in Cuba for a while, before returning to the Virgin Islands, a safe haven which held so many fond family memories.
“My father was very lucky to be here during that time,” said Anna. “If he went back to Germany he might have been killed.”
Instead of returning to Europe, Anna’s father was interred in Fort Christian for some time before being allowed to stay on his boat in Charlotte Amalie. While he enjoyed a level of freedom unknown to many war time internment victims, Dohm’s father, as did all island residents, did experience limitations on his mobility.
“He was allowed to stay on his boat during the war, but they took away his sea charts,” said Dohm. “He was fine with that because the harbor master gave him some. All you had to do was promise if you saw a ship wreck or a rock you would tell the harbor master.”
“My father didn’t mind the sea charts, but they took his little radio away from him and he didn’t like that,” Dohm said.
With Denmark occupied by the Germans during the war, it was impossible for the Dohms to contact their patriarch in the Virgin Islands.
“During the war, my mother got word through the Red Cross — the letter was over two years old,” said Anna. “Back then in Denmark the children always took the nationality of the father so that made things even harder. It took a long time to get the paperwork all together.”
“It was unpopular at the time to be German, it was better to be stateless,” said Anna. “I actually had a passport that was stateless.”
It wasn’t until four years after the war ended that Nose’s family shipped out of Europe aboard a freighter, bound once again for the Virgin Islands.
“There were so many families split up during the war,” said Anna. “Four years sounds long, but we actually got preference because they wanted families to be reunited.”
After two weeks at sea, the islands finally came into view, as Dohm recalled with tears welling in her eyes, her memory still vivid almost 60 years after the voyage.
“I will never forget the day I woke up in the morning and I could see the islands, the green hillsides,” Anna said with emotion in her voice. “‘This is America,’ I thought. I was so excited.”
“I was 15 years old and I thought the streets were paved with gold,” she said.
It was 1949 and the family settled in Charlotte Amalie. Never ones to conform to the norm, however, they soon hightailed it for the remote East End of the island.
“We lived on a house boat in Red Hook, which they called Shark Wharf back then,” said Dohm. “People said you couldn’t live out there. Everyone who was anyone had to live in Charlotte Amalie, but my father wanted to be out there.”
“There was nothing there, no electricity,” Dohm continued. “It was beautiful. To me there was everything — birds and fish and turtles, and I was learning to sail.”
Anna’s enterprising father viewed Red Hook as the stepping stone to St. John, and saw possibilities in transporting tourists to the island.
“My father loved sail boats, but we needed a motor boat to go to St. John and take people to Cruz Bay and Caneel Bay,” Anna said. “So we bought the ‘Shadow X’ and we would charge $8 to carry people to Cruz Bay and $10 to Caneel Bay. We’d take people and plants and we transported different construction crews.”
Working as a captain on her father’s 37-foot water taxi, one gentleman in particular stood out to the young Anna.
“I carried this man on the water taxi ‘Shadow X,’” said Anna. “People would always ask me would I like a drink, but I don’t drink. One man came back with a cup of coffee and I was so impressed — his name was Al.”
Anna and Al Brodeur were married in the Bahamas in 1962. Brodeur, a partner of Senator Theovald Moorehead, was a main figure in the early construction projects on St. Thomas and St. John. He constructed the building where Connections is currently located and the Juilus E. Sprauve School addition.
Brodeur also built a house boat where he and Anna, along with Brodeur’s three children and the couple’s son, called home. While the couple enjoyed living on the water, life wasn’t without its hardships. Brodeur’s 19-year-old son David was killed in Vietnam and Brodeur himself passed away unexpectedly.
After the death of her husband, Dohm continued plying the waters on “Shadow X.” Her mother, who was as enterprising as her father, ran the family business in Red Hook, which is where Dohm met the second man who would change her life.
“She was so special, my mother,” said Dohm. “She had a wholesale business where she would sell beer and soda by the case right at Red Hook close to the dock. Bob Nose had the restaurant ‘Lobster Hut’ then, where ‘Morgan’s Mango’ is now and he used to buy beer and soda by the case from her.”
“My mother sold simple food, hot dogs and hamburgers, newspapers, candy, juices, soda and gasoline,” said Dohm continued. “We were the only ones out there in the wilderness so we tried to accommodate what people needed. If someone didn’t have money, my mother would say ‘pay me next time.’”
It would be some time before Anna and Bob Nose crossed paths again, in the meantime, Anna continued bringing tourists to St. John and spending time with friends.
“Miss Myrah and Miss Meada Keating were two wonderful people in Cruz Bay,” said Dohm. “They were twins and Miss Myrah was the nurse and Miss Meada was the cook. All of Cruz Bay was practically their yard — that’s what we called it —the yard.”
“We’d go to the yard and my father would say, ‘oh Miss Meada, how are you — you are always taking care of a new set of babies and a new set of puppies,’” Dohm continued. “She always took care of everyone, she really did. They were so important back then.”
The Keatings lived in the Inn, a building near the Frank Powell Park. When Miss Meada got sick, Anna stayed with Miss Myrah to keep her company.
“The twins were always together,” said Anna. “So when Miss Meada got sick I asked Miss Myrah if she wanted me to stay with her, and she said, ‘I would be very grateful.’ I was so lucky to be able to know Miss Myrah and Miss Meada.”
While she was staying at Miss Myrah’s, Anna got an invitation to go sailing with Bob Nose.
“Bob Nose invited me to go sailing,” she said. “I said I’d love to go. I brought along a sandwich and out we went with three other men.”
“I didn’t realize it was a job interview,” Dohm said. “I knew my way around a boat and I got the job of first mate on ‘Alcyone.’”
Bob Nose closed “Lobster Hut” to operate a day charter business on Alcyone with Anna, who became his wife on June 24, 1989, in Ohio.
The couple took countless people out on unforgettable day sails aboard their 32-foot sloop “Alcyone,” based out of Cruz Bay. Throughout their long and happy life together, Bob Nose continually surprised and amused his bride.
“One time he bicycled from Ohio to San Francisco,” said Anna. “Another year he took his bicycle to Lisbon, Portugal and rode through Spain, France and Italy into Yugoslavia where he visited his aunt.”
“When he got her house, his aunt said, ‘I knew you were coming, but I didn’t know you were coming by bicycle,’” Anna said. “He also hiked the Appalachian Trail and completed it in two years. I stayed here and said the Appalachian Trail is for people who aren’t lucky enough to own a sailboat.”
From cruising the Caribbean as a child to living through war-time Copenhagen during World War II, to burying both of her parents at sea near Frenchmans Cap, Anna Dohm Nose has seen many things in her lifetime. Throughout it all she has loved the water.
“I’ve almost always lived on the water,” she said. “That is where I feel happiest — I feel safe.”
The Virgin Islands also have a place close to Anna Dohm Nose’s heart.
“I used to say, ‘well, if this isn’t home, then I don’t have a home,’” she said. “Denmark is too cold — I’m an island girl.”