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Buy a House for only $129k … Seriously.

for sale signThere are currently 144 homes for sale on St. John. Of those, 95 are listed for more than $1 million while 15 come in at less than half of a million dollars. So what exactly can your money buy on the island? Let’s take a peek.

The least expensive home came on the market about two weeks ago. I have to say, when the listing hit my inbox, I was immediately intrigued. “Wooded lot with large trees and a nifty large gazebo type structure,” the listing stated. Ok, sounds interesting. Location: Near Gifft Hill. Ok, nice area. Price: $129,000. What?! I immediately contacted an agent to get more details. The response I received almost immediately was, “Do you like camping?” Darn, I knew it was too good to be true.

For those of you who fancy the whole camping thing, this property is a steal … well, that is if you really do like camping. There isn’t a bathroom, nor is there a kitchen. It doesn’t even have electricity, although WAPA service is in place. But it does look like a fun little house … for the right person of course. Check out a few pics below and click this link to see the full listing.

Glucksberg 1
Glucksberg 2
Glucksberg 3

Now that we’ve seen the least expensive, let’s check out the most expensive. You may have heard of it – it’s called Jungle Stone and it’s truly stunning.

Jungle Stone is described as being the “ultimate luxury villa hidden deep within the VI National Park overlooking the pristine North Shore of St. John and the BVIs. The generous 1 acre parcel gives an estate feel with protected boundaries & magnificent views.” Curious what the ultimate luxury may cost you? How about a cool $8.34 million. Check out a few pics below and click this link to see the listing over at Holiday Homes of St. John’s website.

Jungle Stone 2
Jungle Stone 3
Jungle Stone 1

How about something in the middle of these two properties? Coming in at $4,199,000 is a five-acre beachfront estate – Estate Zootenvaal. Here’s the description:

A five acre beachfront estate amongst thousands of acres of federally protected hillsides and coral reef. Less than a five minute drive from the sleepy hamlet of Coral Bay, Estate Zootenvaal represents the ultimate in everything St John has to offer. The compound is currently operated as a short term rental business, but with three recently refurbished guest cottages and a larger two bedroom, two bathroom villa directly on the beach, the property would also make an exceptional family estate.

A family estate, huh? Wouldn’t that be nice. Here are a few pics and again, click this link to see the listing over on Sotheby’s website.

Zootenvaal 1

Zootenvaal 2

Zootenvaal 3

Want to check out the other 141 houses for sale? Here is a list of several real estate agencies on the island:


Open Beaches

We’ve received several emails asking which beaches/bays are not in the National Park. Check out this map. If it’s green, it’s National Park.

(Click the image to see a larger version.)

Map of St John


Government Shutdown: Day 3

Shutdown Day 3Well we’re now on day three of the government shutdown. The National Park is still closed, the hiking trails are still closed, and the majority of the beaches are still closed. Not only is this is a huge nuisance for residents and tourists, but it’s also affecting local businesses.

Let’s start with weddings. Imagine this: You’ve planned your dream wedding on one of the most beautiful and most photographed beaches in the world, only to find out you may not be allowed to step foot on it. What do you do? Well, if you’re Mary Bartolucci, owner of Island Style Weddings, you get on the phone and start making contingency plans.

“It’s almost like a storm,” Mary said. “You have to do the same sort of thing as if a storm was looming.”

Fortunately for Mary, several local businesses and organizations have offered to help. The Lutheran Church, Calypso Charters and Kekoa have all offered up their services in the event that Mary’s couples are unable to exchange vows on the National Park beaches. Woody’s Seafood Saloon even offered up its bar for brides and grooms to be, according to a post on its Facebook page. It may not be the wedding the couples originally planned, but we’re certain it will be just as memorable thanks to the kindhearted folks of St. John.

Mary said that all of the couples scheduled to marry on the beaches this month have taken the news pretty well. Most were stunned, she said, but accepted the fact that it was out of their hands.

“Really, what are you going to do? We’re really at the mercy of this,” Mary said.

Other businesses feeling the crunch are the ones accustomed to sending tourists out on the water each day. Cruz Bay Watersports, for example, said it can no longer rent its dinghies as they must stay close to shore. And as we wrote Tuesday, the waters close to shore are technically part of the National Park meaning they’re off limits too.

During this time of year, the shop rents about four to six dinghies a day. So with each day that passes, the shop loses additional revenue.

“We’re talking about a lot of money,” said Brooke Callwood, an employee at the shop.

However there are a few businesses that are taking advantage of the shutdown – Palm Tree Charters happens to be one of them. The boat charter company wasn’t scheduled to reopen for the season until Saturday, however the shutdown prompted them to set sail a few days earlier than expected

“The shutdown is affecting us in a positive manner,” said John Brandi, owner of Palm Tree Charters. “The national park beaches are closed, but people want to go to the beach. So they are calling us to go beach hopping and snorkeling over in the BVI.”

And just a reminder, even though the barricades may have been moved or the signs taken down, National Park beaches and parking lots remain closed. There’s been a bit of civil disobedience here and there, but overall people are adhering to the shutdown, according to Mike Anderson, Deputy Superintendent of the park. And as of Wednesday morning, rangers only had to ask seven groups of people to leave the beaches.

“Everyone has been cooperative and left the area when they were advised by law enforcement rangers the park was closed,” Mike said.

So what exactly will happen if you get caught on the beach or in the National Park?

“On the first contact with someone violating the closure, rangers are generally issuing a warning and advising visitors to leave.  As a matter of policy, law enforcement rangers can, but are not required to issue a verbal warning first upon contacting someone for violating a park regulation,” Mike said. “If someone refuses to leave the park, the law enforcement ranger can issue a citation if necessary to gain compliance with the park closure.”

And those citations can carry a monetary fine, according to Mike, .

“The maximum fine for the violation of any park regulation is $5000 and/or six months in jail.  The person may be required to appear before a federal magistrate at a later court date,” Mike said. “… The collateral fine for trespass, payable by credit card, is a total of $50, which can be mailed in to the Central Violations Bureau. If the person decides to appear before a federal magistrate and contest their citation and if they are subsequently found guilty, the federal magistrate would set a new fine. Fines collected from citations and court trials go to the general fund for the treasury and do not enhance NPS operating budget.”

Now there have also been questions swirling around the internet about the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Act, which states that the public “has and shall continue to have the right to use and enjoy the shorelines and to maximize public access to and along the shorelines.” Well we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but federal law supersedes territory law.

In the meantime, we’d like to know how you all are dealing with the shutdown. Let us know in our comments section or over on our Facebook page. And if you encounter a ranger, please be kind and realize that he or she is only doing what they’ve been directed to do by the federal government. Let’s cross our fingers and hope this ends soon.


The Adventures of Buster the One-Eyed Rooster

Buster at Sunrise

We’re not sure if you guys are aware, but there’s a pretty famous one-eyed rooster who lives over in Coral Bay. His name is Buster – Buster Keaton-Geller, St. John Rooster Extraordinaire to be exact.

Buster isn’t your average barnyard rooster; His life is actually quite the opposite. Some would say he’s been living the lap of luxury for the past two years, ever since Cheryl Geller rescued him. (You may recognize Cheryl’s name – she is the co-owner of The Tourist Trap in Coral Bay. She is also an avid animal lover.)

It was the afternoon of September 14, 2011 and Cheryl was on her way home when she spotted poor Buster laying in the middle of the road. He wasn’t moving and Cheryl feared the worst. She pulled over and walked up to him, and noticed he was still alive. Cheryl scooped up the badly injured bird and immediately brought him home.

His injuries were pretty gruesome – he had deep puncture wounds and was covered in scabs. Poor Buster was dehydrated and emaciated. He only had one eye. It was pretty clear to Cheryl that his injuries stemmed from cockfighting, which, sadly, is still legal in the US territories and in Puerto Rico.

Buster was in such bad shape that Cheryl thought it’d be best to euthanize him, but she gave it a few hours as she had a scheduled appointment with a veterinarian at her home later that day. The vet, Dr. Jan who left the island last summer, told Cheryl it was possible to nurse little Buster back to health. And while it took some time, it worked. And in the two years since, Buster has become one popular bird.

So how exactly does a one-eyed rooster become so famous? Behold the power of social media.

It all started over on The Tourist Trap’s Facebook page and continued over on Buster’s personal Facebook page. Once Buster was well, Cheryl started posting pictures and quick stories about their adventures, and we have to admit, they were pretty darn amusing. Buster is also credited for Cheryl’s stunning sunrise pictures, which are also posted on her Facebook page. Prior to living with Buster, Cheryl was only used to seeing sunrises following long nights working on her computer (Cheryl is also a graphic designer). Well Buster and his early morning cock-a-doodle-doos clearly changed that.

Here are just a few Facebook pics that caught our attention over the years…

Cheryl’s partner Larry Grenier isn’t 100 percent sold on Buster living in the house and he definitely doesn’t like Buster taking baths in his sink. So this is what Cheryl came up with – a unique bath tub for Buster.

Buster's Bath Tub

And he needs a place to hang out, right?

Busters Bed

He even wears pants.

Buster Pants

And now this one really cracked us up. Cheryl posted it last Thursday and captioned it, “I don’t want to ignite a political maelstrom or anything, but I don’t get all the hoopla over Sen. Ted Cruz. I fillabuster two, three times a day.

Fill a  Buster

But Buster’s adventures aren’t solely situated in Coral Bay – Buster’s a bird on the go. He recently ventured out to Cruz Bay where an admirer recognized him from Facebook. He’s also been to the movies in St. Thomas – twice.

“I don’t think they realized he was in my purse when I went in and I don’t think people realized he was on my lap during the whole time either,” Cheryl said. “I think that’s the last thing they would think.”

So what are people’s reactions when they see Cheryl and Buster out on the town?

“They usually say, ‘Now, I’ve seen everything,'” Cheryl said with a laugh. “But really, people are just blown away that a rooster is that tame. I could literally walk around with him on my shoulder. I just never knew a rooster, a fighting cock, would have as much personality as he has. He’s awesome. He’s the best.”

If you would like to follow Buster’s adventures, please check him out over on his Facebook page by clicking here. You can also see some of Cheryl’s stunning sunrise photos, which are posted regularly, over on Buster’s page as well.


Government Shutdown Effects

Closed Sign

12 p.m. Update: We just got off the phone with Mike Anderson, NPS Deputy Superintendent. He said that NPS has gone ahead and closed the park per direction from the federal government. He said signs were put up and barricades installed. Because the National Park extends out into the water, all beaches from Lindt Point to Haulover Bay are closed. Additionally on the South Shore, Salt Pond, the Lameshures and Reef Bay are closed. All park trails are also closed.

“No one is happy about this, including our staff,” he said.

Anderson said 46 park employees have been furloughed including Park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald. Anderson will remain working as the park coordinator during the shutdown.

Regarding the water, vessels are allowed to pass through the park waters, but they cannot anchor or tie up to any of the moorings. In addition, all commercial activity is suspended including guided tours, and snorkeling or scuba tours. Boat operators can, however, pick up guests in St. John but they must travel to the BVIs.

If anyone is found to be on NSP land or in NPS waters, they will be asked to leave by park enforcement rangers who will remain working. If they do not leave at that time, they will receive a citation.

Check out the map below to see which beaches are not included in the park:

Map of St John
Click the map to see a larger image

Original Story Below: 

Well the government shutdown went through. We’re not going to get into how ridiculous this whole thing is, but we will pass along some information about how this shutdown will impact the island. This information is courtesy of St. John Source:

1. The National Park is closed. All parking lots will be closed. People are not allowed to swim at the National Park beaches. If they are caught doing so, they will be asked to leave.

2. The National Park Service visitor center is closed.

3. Annaberg is closed.

4. Concession operations such as weddings and boat charters cannot occur.

5. The playground next to the visitor’s center is closed.

Please click here to read the full story from St. John Source.


8 Tuff Miles Off-Island Registration Now Open

8 Tuff Screenshot Video

If you live off island and want to compete in the 2014 8 Tuff Miles race, you better act fast. Online registration opened this morning and spots are expected to get scooped up pretty quickly.

According to race organizer Peter Alter, there will be 600 spots available for people living off island and 900 spots available for people living on St. John and St. Thomas. The cost to register is $50 for adults and $15 for people ages 19 and younger. Only people who do not live on St. John or St. Thomas are able to register at this time. People living on St. John or St. Thomas can register in person beginning December 1.

The race will be held on Saturday, February 22. Click here to register.

As many of you may know, 8 Tuff Miles is one of the toughest road races out there.  The course begins and end at sea level, and rises to an elevation of 999 feet in between. It’s pretty grueling, yet rewarding at the same time.

To give you an idea of just how difficult the course is, we shot a little video that shows the majority of the first mile. Keep in mind, this is only the first of eight miles and it’s mostly all uphill.

We ran a story last month that showed the entire course route via a Google Earth video. Click here to check that out.


Gallows Point Announces New Restaurant Plans

Gallows Point from Water

Since Zozo’s announced its plan to relocate to Caneel Bay last July, we’ve all been wondering what would replace the famed restaurant known for its delectable cuisine and amazing sunsets. Well, Gallows Point Resort just announced its successor and it sounds pretty spectacular.

The new restaurant will be called Ocean 362, and it will be headed by an internationally-recognized chef known for his creative and innovative cuisine – Ramesh Pillai. Ramesh, who will serve as both chef and an owner/partner, will serve contemporary American fare that will feature gourmet-style, health-oriented dishes.

When asked how this partnership came about, Gallows Point General Manager Akhil Deshwal said it was simply a natural fit.

“Chef Pillai has been active in Carribean for several years and fits the bill for us,” Deshwal said.

Ramesh Pillai
Image courtesy of Ramesh’s online profile

Pillai is the chef and owner of Tantra, one of San Juan’s most highly acclaimed, avant-garde restaurants. His talents have received worldwide recognition – Not only was he featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs of the World” program, but he has also created award-winning dishes for an array of international hotel chains for more than 30 years, earning himself a treasure trove of accolades along the way.

“Chef Pillai has created superb cuisine and masterpiece menus for some of the great hotel chains of the world,” Deshwal said. “We are thrilled that he will be practicing his extraordinary talent at our new oceanfront restaurant – Ocean 362. We believe Chef Pillai, his menu and our new restaurant will offer a popular and high-quality amenity for our guests and for St. John’s visitors and residents.”

The menu is still being finalized but here is a sneak peak of some of the items it will feature:

  • Grilled local mahi mahi served with cashew tamarind pilaf
  • Spice crusted seared sashimi tuna
  • Double cut lamb chops with mint chutney
  • Duck confit with mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus
  • Tournadoes of aged beef tenderloin with Asiago chicken sausage and vegetables
  • Malabar shrimp curry with cumin pilaf, and lobster risotto.

For now, the restaurant will serve dinner only, according to Deshwal. It will follow the same opening schedule as Zozo’s – The cocktail lounge will open at 5 p.m. nightly; the dining room will open at 5:30 p.m.

So where exactly did the name Ocean 362 come from? Well it’s pretty simple, according to Deshwal. The gorgeous blue and turquoise waters of the Caribbean will not only provide a stunning backdrop for the restaurant, but it will also serve as its theme. And the number 362 – well that came from the restaurant’s new street address, 362 Strande Gade.

To further illustrate the restaurant’s ocean theme, Gallows Point commissioned a one-of-a-kind piece by local artist Elaine Estern. A many of you may know. Elaine specializes is whimsical pieces that depict images both above and below the water. Dinner for Two, pictured below, is Elaine’s most recent and most exciting work. The mural will be made into a 15 ft. by five ft. canvas print, which will cover the restaurant’s entire back wall.

Elaine's Mural
Elaine Estern stands beside her latest piece – Dinner for Two

Ocean 362 is expected to open in mid-October. We’ll pass along more details as they become available.


Bones Rum is No More

The Bones Rum shop during happier times.
The Bones Rum shop during happier times.

It is with great sadness that we inform all of you that the Bones Rum location in Cruz Bay has closed its doors for good. Ok, maybe we’re being a tad dramatic, but we really liked this place.

For those of you not familiar with the Bones Rum shop, the concept is genius – you buy one of their frozen drinks and they hand you a bottle of Bones Rum. You can pour in as little or as much as you’d like. Come to think about it, maybe that was their demise … Ok, now which one of you guys (or gals) drank those poor people out of business?!

Perhaps Bones Rum is another casualty of the economy? Or perhaps there’s another reason behind it. All we know is that it’s at least the third business to close in the past few months. Cases By the Sea in Coral Bay closed its doors after Labor Day weekend and Cruz Bay Prime at the Westin closed for good this past summer.

There is a silver lining to this story, however. Well there’s actually two silver linings come to think of it.

1. The Bones Rum location in Charlotte Amalie is still open. It’s just across from the harbor near the Green House Restaurant. So you could stop there when you’re over in St. Thomas. (We highly suggest you do.)

2. There is now a pretty sweet piece of real estate available right in the heart of Cruz Bay. There really isn’t a better location on the island than the first floor of the closest building to the ferry dock!

If you could have it your way, what would you like to see in that space?

Update: We just saw this over on RumShopRyan’s Facebook page. He was able to find some answers. This is what he found:

I contacted Wayne, owner of Bones Rum along with his wife Cara, to find out more about the closing. I new that the rum brand had a strong following, so I had to find out why on Earth would they would close a great location like the store next to the Cruz Bay ferry dock.

Here’s what Wayne had to say…

“The real reason we moved out is simply the lease was a horrible lease and Matt (the previous owner of Bones Rum) did the lease.  The lease in St Thomas is not good either and I have gotten it straighten up so far.  I did try to work out something with the St. John property but it didn’t work out.  Like I told the land lord, a lease or any agreement has to be good for both parties and it cant be one sided.  They wanted a one sided agreement and it just didn’t work. Matt did this lease and was paying for the building’s maintenance, taxes, and insurance on the building which was prorated for the space.  I ask the owners several times to give me an offer on the building and that Cara and I would purchase the building and the owners would not do this.  In fact I tried about 5-6 times and they kept saying no.”

Wayne said that business is booming and that they have a lot of big things coming up, which I’m excited to tell you guys about soon. It’s just sad that greed and island politics had to get in the way of something that so many people love.

Bones Rum will continue to reside at its St. Thomas location on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. Wayne is currently working with real estate agents on St. John and if he can find a good building to purchase he will.

 Interesting

Update #2: The info just keeps on flowing today.

We just learned what’s going into the space and from what we heard, we think you’re all going to like it. The full details are being kept under wraps, but we can tell you that the owner of Big Planet is involved.

There’s no need to worry – Big Planet will remain in its Mongoose Junction location. But Pretlow Majette, owner of Big Planet, did confirm that they are taking over the space formerly occupied by Bones Rum.

He was pretty mum on the details, but he did say it will be “something really cool from Big Planet.”

The store is expected to open around December 1. We’ll pass along more details when we get them.


And We Have a Name…

Cruz Bay Landing

Todd and Christy Beaty have finally decided on a name for their new family restaurant set to debut next month – Cruz Bay Landing. It’s a pretty good choice in our opinion.

Their slogan is “You’re Here. Now Relax.” Ahh, that we will.

The restaurant is set to open sometime in late October and according to Christy Beatty, the transformation “truly is amazing.”

They just launched a Facebook page too. You can check that out by clicking here.

What’s It Like to Have a Movie Made About Your Life? One Island Resident Knows…

Homer Hickam
Homer Hickam, Owner of Skyridge Villa

Ever wonder what it would be like to make a Hollywood movie? How about a Hollywood movie based on your life? Well, one island resident knows and he wants to share his tales with all of you.

It started back in 1994 when Homer Hickam’s short story about his life as a young boy in Coalwood, West Virginia was published in Air & Space magazine. Hollywood came calling almost immediately, as did a plethora of book agents from New York. And all seemed to want the same thing – they wanted to hear more details his life and his childhood aspiration to become a rocket scientist. Well Homer obliged and soon began writing his memoir Rocket Boys. The book debuted in 1998 and one year later, October Sky was released, a movie based on Homer’s life.

Homer and his wife Linda own Skyridge villa in Upper Carolina. They’ve been part-time island residents for more than 10 years, splitting their time between the island and Alabama.

Ever since Rocket Boys was published, people have asked Homer the same questions: How and why did he write the book, and how exactly was the movie made? Well it may have taken a bit of time, but Homer has finally gotten around to answering those questions.

“I’ve been a little busy since I wrote Rocket Boys with a lot more books, but now I’ve gotten around to writing the answers to those questions and a lot more in my new Kindle Single From Rocket Boys to October Sky,” Homer recently wrote in an email. “Writing Rocket Boys was not an easy journey. In fact after I wrote it, I said, ‘I got a million dollars of psychotherapy I didn’t even know I needed!’

“The making of October Sky wasn’t easy, either. From Rocket Boys to October Sky gives lots of behind-the-scenes stories both on-set and off. Before the first frame of film was exposed, I was involved with the writing of the screenplay. My comment when I saw the first draft – ‘I’m going to have to go up to West Virginia and apologize to everyone in the state!” – perhaps gives you an idea of how that went.

“When you read this book, you’ll be by my side as I struggle with the complexities of how a major Hollywood motion picture is made, and learn how and why I disagreed with aspects of the film even while I admired the dedication and professionalism of the men and women making it. You’ll also be alongside the director and the producers and the actors as they create one of the most beloved movies ever.”

October Sky starred a young Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Homer, as well as Laura Dern.

Homer on the set of October Sky. From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg,  O'Dell Carroll.
On the set of October Sky – From left to right: Roy Lee Cook, Will Lee Scott, Homer Hickam, Chad Lindberg & O’Dell Carroll.

In addition to his writings, Homer is also involved with the the Wounded Warriors through Team River Runner (TRR). TRR helps raise money to bring wounded warriors and their spouses to the island for one week of healing each November. Homer, a veteran himself, is proud to support the men in women in their efforts to heal.

“As a veteran, I love to help veterans as much as I can,” Homer said.

Homer will meet with the wounded warriors when they visit during the first week of November, as he does every year. Together they chat and inspire one another. The wounded warriors are also treated to a special screening of October Sky.

And what advice does he give the men and women who may be struggling?

“I tell them that there is a path out,” Homer said. “I suggest they get up in the morning and watch the sunrise. You’ve got the light and the darkness. You’ve got to choose the light.”

Homer Wounded Warriors
Homer speaking with the wounded warriors.

In addition to his work with the wounded warriors, Homer is also in the midst of writing a new book. It involves a pet alligator and one couple’s efforts to drive it from West Virginia to Florida in an old Buick back in 1935. And the best part – it’s a true story about his parents and his mother’s ex-boyfriend who happened to be Buddy Epson of The Bevelly Hillbillies. Stay tuned for more on that one…

If you’d like to read From Rocket Boys to October Sky, you’ll need either a Kindle reader, an e-reader (iPad, Android, etc.), or a computer with the Kindle Application software. You can download the book on Amazon.com for $2.99 by clicking here.