It’s Time to Come Back – According to Our Readers Too!

Francis and Maho bays - Feb. 19, 2018

Francis and Maho bays – Feb. 19, 2018

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday! So for those of you who read News of St. John, you know that I think the island is definitely ready to have visitors back and I’ve thought this for the past few months. Well over the past week, I received several emails from readers on the topic and thought I would share a few of them with you today. I can tell you all day long that the island is ready for tourists, but I also think you should hear it from the actual tourists themselves.

This first email was sent by Andrew D., who lives in the Chicago area. He and his wife just spent two nights at the Cruz Bay Hotel followed by a seven-night stay at Grande Bay where they own a fractional ownership. Here is what Andrew wrote:

My wife and I spent 10 awesome days in St. John, having returned home last night. The hard work of everyone has truly paid off. We’ve been coming annually since 2002, and I can’t recall a better trip.

The beaches look great, the Lind Point and Rams Head trails are gorgeous as always, and the snorkelling remains top-notch. Any concerns about damage to the coral reef was allayed. We snorkeled on 10 different beaches, and the sealife remains awe-inspiring.

To those of you who are on the fence about visiting St. John this winter or spring, please allow me to provide the necessary reassurance. The cool-vibe of Cruz Bay remains intact, there are a number of high-end and affordable restaurant options, and the owners and staff provide incredible post-Irma stories to share.

Thanks Jenn for getting the word out. Your comments about St. John being ready for tourists was spot on.

The second email I’d like to share is from Pat and Jane S. of Shawnee, Kansas. They are annual visitors who stay in Coral Bay. Here is what they wrote:

We have come to StJ every February for several years – just got back yesterday. As frequent visitors – wanted to pass on our impressions. First – almost everyone we met – from a young lady we met on the ferry, to shop owners, restaurant owners – everyone said ‘thank you for being here’ – we were kind of humbled by it – but it was consistent everywhere we went & we were really impressed. Second – we stay in Coral Bay & try to make it a point to visit with business owners, home owners, etc. We were amazed at the resilient, positive attitudes we heard. It was so consistent – ‘we were devastated at first but we are recovering, rebuilding & getting things back to (almost) normal. It was absolutely awesome. As visitors, we couldn’t do much to help, so we just shopped & ate out a lot.

…Heard story after story about the recovery mentality – utility workers efforts & long hours, Red Cross food & water, neighbors helping each other dig out & clean up. Just amazing. On the way to the airport, visited with a young lady that lives in Tortolla – she said they were getting very little assistance, most are still without power. Makes me very proud of our country.

And it’s just not the repeat visitors who think the island is ready. I have taken out numerous first timers on island tours lately, and all became immediately hooked. Here is a quick note I received from Brian B. of New Hampshire. Brian and his wife Diane visited St. John for the first time earlier this month. I took them out on a tour the first full day to their trip to get them acclimated with the island.

We want to thank you again for a great  tour. Diane and I have fallen in love with St John for sure.  While some businesses remain closed we are very impressed with the resiliency of St Johnians to bring things back.  We met so many great people there, including you of course.

Back in the office to today and in a word…………yuck.  Same old computer, mouse, desk and phone.  We will be checking News of St John however to keep up with happenings there and our virtual escape of New England weather.

So for those of you who remain on the fence about visiting us this season, all I can say is that we’re ready. Our beaches are open and look beautiful. Sure some are changed and some still need additional time to heal, but they remain beautiful. Our hiking trails have been cleared and are open. Our sugar mill ruins are in tact and are awe-inspiring. Our restaurants are open. Our shops are open. Our charter boats are ready to take you around the USVI and BVI. I’m ready to take you all out on island tours. The island is ready. The people are ready. And we cannot wait to greet you all with open arms.

On the Market: Price Reduced on Beautiful, Non Hurricane Damaged Home

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Image taken in January 2018

Well folks, we know that many of you are interested in real estate here on island, so we think you will be interested in what we have for you today. It’s a home we first told you about late last year. It’s located over in Coral Bay and had no structural damage in the storms. And the best part? It’s just been reduced by $100,000. Please check it out…

Enjoy panoramic views of Coral Bay, Hurricane Hole, the British Virgin Islands and beyond from this three bedroom, three bath home. This home received no structural damage from hurricanes Irma and Maria. It has a new galvanized roof and seamless gutters, impact glass sliding glass doors, bamboo flooring, as well as new railings which were installed last spring. There is room to expand on this half-acre parcel, which is located on a very private end of the road parcel. The pool does need to be tiled and plastered to the new owner’s taste. Please check out some pics…

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living room

kitchen

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Looks great, right? This home is listed for $749,000 by Tammy Donnelly of 340 Real Estate Co. For more information, please contact Tammy at at 340RealEstateCo@gmail.com

First Ever “Cancelled” 8 Tuff Miles Happening Saturday

Peter Alter is the race director of 8 Tuff Miles. Photo credit: Michelle Cawthron

Peter Alter is the race director of 8 Tuff Miles. Photo credit: Michelle Cawthron

Only on St. John do cancelled events actually happen… :)

As you may know, the 22nd annual 8 Tuff Miles road race was scheduled for this Saturday at 7:15 a.m. Due to the hurricanes, Peter Alter, the race director, decided it was best to cancel the actual event. But you know what? Peter happens to be going on a run this Saturday, the date of the “cancelled” 8 Tuff Miles event. That run happens to start at 7:15 a.m. behind the National Park Visitor’s Center just like the “cancelled” 8 Tuff Miles event would have. And Peter happens to be running 8.38 miles from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay, which happens to be the exact course of the “cancelled” 8 Tuff Miles event. Oh, and he’s asking anyone who is interested to join him. But we need to stress that 8 Tuff Miles has been “cancelled.” 😉

So as you can see, there will be a “cancelled” 8 Tuff Miles event happening Saturday, and we encourage you all to join us. Again, Peter will be running from behind the National Park Visitor’s Center to Coral Bay. Since the ball field is now the site of a temporary dump out in Coral Bay, he will finish on the roadway near Indigo Grill.

(Random fact about Peter: He and I are from the same hometown in Connecticut … small world!)

If you happen to join Peter this Saturday for a run, please bring your own water. We will have a handful of “cancelled” and “unofficial” water stations along the way, but we will be acting more like cheerleaders than actual water stations. Students from Gifft Hill School will be located at the old St. John Rescue building. The Animal Care Center will be staffing un unofficial station just before mile two at the Water Catchment trail. Friends of the Park will be at the BVI overlook, and the Coral Bay Greeters will be at Chatueau Bordeaux.

I will be at mile 8 along with some friends, so please stop and see us!

But again, because we are not official water stations, we ask that you not throw your garbage along the side of the road during your run. Also, the roadway will not be closed so be aware of traffic and stay as far to the left as possible.

Because this race is cancelled, the bathrooms at the beginning of the race will be closed. There also will not be a truck to carry your belongings from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay, nor will there will taxis waiting to bring you back. So you are responsible for getting your belongings to Coral Bay and yourself home. There will not be an awards ceremony as that was “cancelled” too, but we hear that there may be a group of people gathering at Mongoose and The Tap Room just as they would have in previous years. 😉

Participants of this “cancelled” event are asked to bring cash as many of the restaurants in Coral Bay will be opening early to accommodate Peter’s friends who happen to be running alongside him Saturday morning.

All of this sounds pretty good for a cancelled race, doesn’t it??

Oh and one last thing – if you are not interested in running but are on island, we encourage you to set up shop somewhere on Centerline Road and cheer on these folks. Thanks everyone and I hope to see you Saturday!

It’s Time to Party Mardi Gras-Style!

mongoose junction

If you are lucky enough to be on island, you’re going to want to swing by Mongoose Junction tonight because our friends over there are ready to party!

Mongoose Junction is holdings its first ever Mardi Gras in the Courtyard party tonight, and it sounds like it’s going to be a great time. The party starts at 8:30 p.m. and will continue until it stops. :) And for those of you over on St. Thomas, you can come too as there will be a late ferry this evening at midnight.

Masks and beads will be provided, and costumes are encouraged. Music will be provided by The Ish, and there will be Absolute, Cruzan and Jameson drink specials.

Mutt Mixer ACC Fundraiser Happening Tonight

(Pre-storm pic)

(Drink – Pre-storm pic)

Hello everyone and happy Friday! As many of you who follow us may know, the Animal Care Center is not holding its annual fundraising gala this year as a result of last year’s storms. But we are excited to tell you all that our friends at Drink have stepped up and are holding a fundraising “Mutt Mixer” this evening to support the ACC. A HUGE thank you to Drink for that!

Tonight’s party, which starts at 5:30 p.m., is to celebrate the dogs and cats on St. John, as well as the humans that tirelessly care for them and find their forever homes. The “Mutt Mixer” will feature a fun evening of drinking, dancing, donating and dogs! All dogs are welcomed as long as they stay on a leash and are on the beach. There’ll even be a satellite bar down there for the puppy owners.

There will be beer and wine specials, as well as a 50/50 raffle. You can even purchase some of the latest ACC merchandise. And please bring along the kids too! All Dogs Go to Heaven will be played on the big screen.

The party is being sponsored by Tito’s vodka and will be catered by Dog House Pub. A portion of the night’s proceeds will also be donated to the ACC.

You may have read how Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation evacuated numerous animals from the ACC and transported them statewide. That was an amazing effort, but sadly, our shelter has many animals once again. If you are interested in adopting a cat or dog, please contact the ACC. Adorable Willy, for example, is looking for a forever home. Poor Willy was found tied to a tree by his waist in Tortola. He was brought to St. John where Dr. Laura performed an amazing surgery on him. He is now doing well, likes long walks and is good with other dogs. And on top of all of that, he is adorable!!

Willy is available for adoption at the ACC.

Willy is available for adoption at the ACC.

Want to know more about Willy or the other dogs and cats available for adoption? Please contact the ACC at  info@stjacc.org or check out their Facebook page here.

An Update From the Westin – February 2018

The Westin pool pre-storms

The Westin pool pre-storms

We received the following message from one of our readers yesterday. It was sent out yesterday morning to the timeshare owners at the Westin. As you will see in this message, it appears that the Westin is on track to reopen in January 2019 as previously stated. While we wish they could reopen sooner, I am happy that they remain on schedule. Here is the message in its entirety with a few comments from me:

Dear Fellow Virgin Grand Villas Owner:

We recently participated as your representatives in a special conference call meeting of the Board of Directors that was convened to approve the construction contract with Cotton International Inc., the company that has been working to clear the debris at the resort and that will repair the damage to our buildings and to the resort’s common areas.

As you know, Hurricane Irma brought the greatest damage that St. John has suffered in many decades, causing enormous destruction on the island, which is still limping back. Tourism remains at a very low level. Each airline has only one flight a day to St. Thomas, and transportation and communication to and from St. John remains limited. (Note from Jenn: This isn’t entirely true. American, for example, has two flights a day. Transportation is not limited. The passenger ferry runs hourly until 10 p.m. daily.) A few restaurants have opened in Cruz Bay, but Caneel Bay remains closed indefinitely, and much of the island’s infrastructure remains to be rebuilt. (Note from Jenn: The majority of the restaurants are open in Cruz Bay. So say “a few” is inaccurate.)

As you know, our resort was badly damaged. We did not have roofs blown off as Sunset Bay did, but most or all units and their contents suffered water damage. (Note from Jenn: I’m assuming Sunset Bay refers to the beachside accommodations.) In nearly every unit, drywall and wet contents have been removed and will be replaced.

Fortunately, the Westin St. John, and all the Vistana properties affected by the hurricane, had a very substantial property insurance policy, with a 5% deductible, and our condominium association has for many years been laying away money in a special hurricane contingency fund. That fund currently has about $2 million in it, and of course our Association has additional reserves as well. The maximum deductible amount that we would have to pay for reconstruction of the Virgin Grand property is $2.34 million (5% of the $46.7 million total insured value of the Virgin Grand buildings), but management assures us that most likely the amount will be less than that. In addition to what we will have to pay for work on our own buildings, we will have to pay our share of the deductible portion of the cost for repair of certain common areas, such as landscaping, the pool and pool pumps, and the tennis courts. The final amount cannot be determined until later in the reconstruction process, but because of the funds we have reserved, we do not anticipate the need for a special assessment. We will, of course, have to rebuild the hurricane contingency fund because of the possibility of storms in the future.

After reviewing the contract with Cotton, the Board unanimously approved it, as did the boards of the three other condominium associations on the property of the resort.

All four boards have also retained environmental consultants to inspect the buildings, both before and after reconstruction, to detect mold and assure that the buildings will be safe for occupancy. Our consultant is Environmental Analytics, a reputable firm based in Tucson, Arizona. The firm will inspect every unit and take and analyze samples. Cotton has committed to following its recommendations or, if it disagrees with a particular recommendation, to report the disagreement to our Board of Directors for such action as the Board wishes to take. The resort remains on schedule to reopen in January 2019, and Vistana is accepting owners’ reservations of their units for weeks beginning January 4, 2019.

The next meeting of the Board will take place following the Annual Meeting on March 5 in Orlando.
Philip G. Schrag
Robert H. Werbel

Again, I am happy to hear that they are on schedule to open in January 2019. For those of you who are Westin owners and would like to visit St. John prior to next year, please consider staying at a different hotel/resort/condo/villa. We printed a list back in January of available places. Click here to check that out.