NPS Officially Reopens a Third Beach!

yelena water 2

Well folks, we have some great news to start off the week here on St. John. The National Park Service opened yet another beach over the weekend. Trunk Bay has been cleared and cleaned, and is ready to take guests. This brings the total number of beaches that are officially open to three. Hawksnest and Honeymoon were reopened last week.

As you may all remember, Trunk sustained a considerable amount of damage during Hurricane Irma. Since then, crews from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Grand Teton National Park, Big Bend National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, Yellowstone National Park and of course the Virgin Islands National Park have been working diligently to clean up the brush and get the area ready for visitors.

Crews installed new walkways - Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

Crews installed new walkways – Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

New stairs leading to the beach had to be installed - Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

New stairs leading to the beach had to be installed – Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

Crews cleaned up a ton of debris - Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

Crews cleaned up a ton of debris – Photo credit: Virgin Islands National Park

Because the entry booth was damaged during the storms, there is currently no charge to get into Trunk Bay.

Our friend Yelena Rogers took the following pictures at Trunk Bay last week. How beautiful does it look??!!

yelena trunk overloo

yelena trunk overlook 2

yelena trunk beach

yelena trunk beach 2

yelena trunk water

Have a great day everyone!

An Update on the Airport & Seaports

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The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) provided a quick update on the airport and seaports last Friday. According to the VI Consortium, VIPA reported that is sustained $85 million in hurricane-related damages. Here are additional details straight from the VI Consortium:

The Cyril E. King Airport terminal on St. Thomas was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma and again by Hurricane Maria, the latter which came less than two weeks later. The entire roof was damaged and windows were blown in, which led to extensive flooding and destruction of property. The authority reopened the (airport) terminal to limited commercial traffic on September 28 – nine days after the passing of Maria. Most airlines have resumed service to St. Thomas, but are only offering one flight per day until repairs to the terminal are completed, according to the authority.

VIPA reported that American Airlines recently added a second daily flight to St. Thomas. It said that the damaged terminal gates have been repaired and the preclearance area at the (airport) terminal is ready to accept travelers. However, normal operations will not resume until the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has completed an assessment of its equipment and staffing, which were both affected by the hurricanes. VIPA’s said its goal is to fully reopen the (airport) terminal by mid-December.

On St. John, the Theovald Moorehead Facility at Enighed Pond is closed until damaged boats have been removed from the pond. Barges have been temporarily relocated to the Victor Sewer Facility at “The Creek” in Cruz Bay. There are no US Customs clearance services provided on St. John as both the US Customs Building and VIPA’s administrative offices on St. John were destroyed. These buildings will be replaced with modular units. A clean-up of the Loredon Boynes, Sr. Dock in Cruz Bay (the passenger ferry dock) is scheduled for Monday.

We will keep you posted on the status of the airports and ports as soon as we know more. In the meantime, have a great Sunday everyone!

An Update on Wharfside Village & Cruz Bay Beach

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Cruz Bay beach, November 2017

The very first thing you see when you pull up to the ferry dock on St. John is the stretch of shops and restaurants that line the beach in Cruz Bay. For decades, tourists and residents alike enjoyed this idyllic scene with its beautiful rainbow hues. Today, however, that scene has dramatically changed as seven large sailboats remain slammed against the heavily-damaged waterfront complex. We’ve received numerous emails and messages regarding the status of this area. Here is everything we currently know…

For starters, the waterfront complex is comprised of three separate parcels – 4A, 4B and 4C. The building that houses St. John Spice, Beach Bum, Freebird and Pig & Rooster is parcel 4C. The area where High Tide, The Dock, Verace, Vibe, Turquoise Turtle and Sotheby’s are is parcel 4B. And the area where Waterfront Bistro, Joe’s Rum Hut, The Beach Bar, The Parrot Club, The Bowery, Into the Blue, Now and Zen, Bamboo, Island Cork and Cruz Bay Clothing Company are is parcel 4A.

Three entities own Wharfside Village. Parcels 4A, 4B and 4C are all separate owners.

Three separate entities own parcels 4A, 4B and 4C.

As of today, the majority of all three parcels is closed. Parcels 4B and 4C remain without power. The only business in this area that is currently open is Island Cork. It is located in parcel 4A, which is owned by Joe DeCourcy.

Two boats remain slammed against parcel 4A.

Two boats remain slammed against parcel 4C.

High Tide

High Tide

Parcel 4A, known as Wharfside Village, sustained a large amount of roof damage during Hurricane Irma which caused subsequent water damage throughout a majority of the businesses below. The mast of Dreamweaver – the sailboat that crashed into Joe’s Rum Hut – damaged the roof at Vista Mare (which is located directly above the Rum Hut). This caused additional water damage to the inside bar at the Rum Hut, which continues each time it rains. Three boats slammed into Waterfront Bistro, causing the roof to buckle in some areas. And while The Beach Bar came out unscathed in terms of boats, the bar was essential “pressure washed,” according to its owners, causing physical and electrical damage. The Parrot Club, located between Waterfront Bistro and Joe’s Rum Hut, had several inches of standing water following Irma and was completely destroyed. Finally, the majority of the residences and AirBNBs located on the second floor of Wharfside were completely destroyed due flooding which occurred when the buildings lost portions, if not all, of the roof.

The Beach Bar

The Beach Bar – Its awning was removed before Irma

The Bowery looking toward The Beach Bar

The Bowery looking toward The Beach Bar – The paint is being removed from the walls due to ongoing repairs.

Joe's Rum Hut

Joe’s Rum Hut

The mast of Dreamweaver destroyed the roof at Vista Mare. It was removed before this picture was taken.

The mast of Dreamweaver destroyed the roof at Vista Mare. That section of the roof was removed before this picture was taken.

The bar inside the Rum Hut was removed due to water damage.

The bar inside the Rum Hut was removed due to water damage. The tile was removed due to ongoing repairs.

Waterfront Bisto

Waterfront Bisto

You can see the areas that had roof damage in the image below, which was taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration roughly one week after Irma.

This aerial image was taken by NOAA roughly one week after Irma.

This aerial image was taken by NOAA roughly one week after Irma.

As we mentioned earlier, seven boats remain on the beach in Cruz Bay. One boat that washed up near the ferry dock was removed with the help of the Love for Love City Foundation. They were able to remove the boat as its owner signed her over to the organization and because it was made from wood, allowing the foundation to cut it up into pieces. The other boats are made of fiberglass, so removing them is far more difficult.

I spoke with the Coast Guard Wednesday regarding the removal of the boats, and it sounds like it will be a lengthy process. All of the beached vessels have been tagged, requesting information of each owner. The Coast Guard, who is working in partnership with DPNR, is attempting to contact the owners to see if they would like to keep or abandon the boats. Once they obtain that information, they will decide the best way to remove the vessel while causing the least amount of impact to the environment. For some, they may use a crane to lift a vessel and return it to the water. For those that are heavily damaged, they may put it on a barge and bring it to a staging point. For others, they may try to float it out. Each vessel will be treated differently depending on its situation, the Coast Guard said.

I also spoke at length yesterday with Joe DeCourcy, the owner of parcel 4A. He said that he is working diligently to rebuild Wharfside, although he does not have a specific timeline on when it will reopen.

“We sustained a ton of damage,” Joe said. “The fact of the matter is that we were hit by two category five hurricanes. We received wind damage, rain damage, salt damage. (We’ve been told that the waves went over Joe’s Rum Hut and The Beach Bar.) I’m not interested in rushing to complete something that’s mediocre. It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t help my tenants. It doesn’t help me. It doesn’t help the public. So I’m going to take my time to make sure that we plan properly and that we rebuild efficiently so we can sustain any future storm. I want to make sure we don’t have this type of damage ever again.”

Joe pointed out that Wharfside was built back in 1982 and that code compliance has changed dramatically since. So when the businesses or residences sustained water damage and the sheetrock was removed as part of remediation, it revealed the wiring and plumbing in many areas. That wire and plumbing, Joe said, is outdated and needs to be brought up to code.

So the roof needs to be repaired, plumbing and electrical need to be brought up to code, Joe’s Rum Hut needs to be rebuilt, The Beach Bar needs to be rebuilt, The Parrot Club needs to be rebuilt, the sailboats need to be removed… It’s going to take time.

The upside is that Wharfside will be back better than ever when it does reopen, Joe said. He began making repairs to the property during 2016 and had been continuing to do so prior to the storms. They include new tile throughout, resurfacing the walls with shiplap siding, reconfiguring some of the business spaces and adding additional restrooms for the restaurants. (Thank goodness for additional restrooms!)

“I understand that this is a displacement,” Joe said. “It’s sad. It’s sad for all of us. The last thing I want right now is for Wharfside to be closed. But we have to be smart with this and we have to think about the big picture. I want to look at this longterm, not a short fix. We need to look longterm for the community.”

We also chatted with Kelli Thomas, owner of High Tide, yesterday. She stated that they do plan to reopen, but that date has yet to be determined.

We will keep you all updated on this folks.

Beauty Amid the Destruction

marty lauren cinnamon bay

Marty Bruckner and Lauren Saia took their engagement photos amid the destruction on St. John. All images by STJCreative.com

Our friend Anne Bequette did an amazing photoshoot earlier this month, and today we’d like to share those photos with you. They’re of Marty Bruckner and Lauren Saia, a couple who also lives here on island and were planing on getting married at Gallows Point next year.

Rather than a traditional St. John engagement photoshoot with scenes of beautiful blues and greens in the background, Marty and Lauren opted to take their photos amid the destruction on St. John. And what Anne captured is simply breathtaking. Check out a few pics…

marty lauren downed trees

marty lauren tree

marty lauren

The images are so powerful that they have been picked up by national media outlets including the New York Post and Brides magazine. Here’s Marty and Lauren’s story as told by Brides magazine:

When Hurricane Irma passed through the Virgin Islands a few months ago, it ravaged the area and left the island of St. John without power for 55 days. The storm destroyed countless homes and businesses and forced families to move back to the United States mainland. But a bride and groom-to-be from St. John decided that in light the devastation Irma inflicted on the area, the couple would shoot their engagement photos amongst the wreckage as a way to bring awareness to the damage the storm caused.

Marty Bruckner and Lauren Saia met in St. John six years ago. Bruckner worked as a boat captain and Saia worked in the restaurant industry. “Our whole love story is because of St. John,” said Saia. “I had heard that he had a little crush on me and eventually, he asked me to go boating one day. That was pretty much it. We’ve been together ever since.”

But their romantic paradise became a nightmare when Hurricane Irma hit. Saia was in Boston visiting family when she found out Bruckner, who was on the island at the time, would be in the midst of the devastating storm. Luckily, Bruckner stayed safe throughout the disaster, and it was he who came up with the idea to have the engagement shoot amidst the wreckage.

Photographer Anne Bequette of STJ Creative Photography captured the couple’s stunning engagement shoot on the island. The unique shoot featured shots of the couple amongst uprooted trees, broken glass and debris from destroyed buildings. The result? Truly breathtaking photos that are guaranteed to give you goose bumps.

Marty and Lauren originally had plans to tie the knot on May 12, 2018 at Gallows Point Resort on St. John; however, with all of the unknowns—power on the island, the state of the resorts, cancelled flights—their plans are on hold.

Click here to see all of the photos. And again, amazing job Anne.
marty lauren sunset

NPS Reopens Two Beaches

Photo credit: Yelena Rogers

Hawksnest – Photo credit: Yelena Rogers

More great news today folks! The National Park Service (NPS) has officially reopened Hawksnest and Honeymoon beaches! As you may remember, the NPS announced that the Virgin Islands National Park was “closed” following hurricanes Irma and Maria. Here’s what they had to say about the reopening on their Facebook page:

“We are delighted to announce that Hawksnest Beach and Honeymoon Beach are officially open! Vault toilets or port-o-potties are in place. A huge amount of debris was removed from the beaches themselves and park divers removed submerged debris from the swim areas. Even so, continue to be cautious when swimming anywhere in park waters. As you well know, a lot of “stuff” ended up blowing into the water around here!”

Honeymoon

Honeymoon

They also clarified that Trunk Bay is not officially open, nor are any of the other beaches within the National park. Here’s what they had to say about that:

‘Howdy all. Just to clear up a rumor. Trunk Bay is NOT officially open yet. We are doing a bunch of work out there, some of it with heavy equipment, and you can best support us by sticking to Honeymoon and Hawksnest for now. The faster we can freely work on Trunk, the faster we can get it open for folks to enjoy.”

As of now, the only way to access Honeymoon is by boat (they have been working to secure the mooring field) or by foot via the Lind Point trail. You still cannot access Caneel or the beaches via Caneel’s main entrance. We have been told, however, that if you hike in via the Lind Point trail, you can exit through the Caneel gate.

Lots of Great Stuff Happening at Sun Dog!

sun dog logo

Hello all, we just wanted to give you a quick update on what’s happening over at Sun Dog Cafe…

As we told you last month, it was one of the first restaurants to reopen following the storms. So a big thank you to Michael Barry for that!

Tonight and every Tuesday starting at 6 p.m., Ted of Ted’s Supper Club will be a guest chef. They’re calling it Tuesdays with Ted, and we know it will be delicious. Here is last week’s menu to give you an idea of what types of food will be available:

ted menu

Looks great, right?!

The Wednesday Night Jam is also back each week. It starts at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served until 9 p.m.

And as always, there are always great happy hour specials over at Sun Dog. Cheers!