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.


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.

Island Roots Set to Sail Again

Island Roots Logo

Nearly three months have passed since Captain John Stewart lost his battle with cancer, but soon his beloved catamaran will sail once again, and it will be captained by a man with true “island roots.”

Jason Wilder Siska first met Captain John Stewart two years ago over at Miss Lucy’s in Coral Bay. After that initial introduction, the two found themselves bumping into one another around town – both lived in Coral Bay – and also out on the water – Captain John was frequently out chartering Island Roots while Jason worked at Ocean Runner. Together they’d chat about their love of St. John, what they pictured for the future of Coral Bay and, of course, their shared interest of being out on the water.

“He once said, ‘Jason, a Virgin Islands charter boat captain is the best job in the world,'” Jason recalled earlier this week.

Captain John quickly took a liking to Jason, so when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year and had to leave the island for treatment, he asked Jason to step in and help.

“John contacted me about running a few charters for him and to get a feel of the boat to see if I’d be interested in purchasing the boat and company,” Jason said. “I’d been in the process of starting my own business from the ground up and when this opportunity came along, it seemed the right choice. John took really good care of the boat and the engines, and I knew I wouldn’t be getting a ‘lemon.’ The business also had a great name – Island Roots – a small coincidence since I was born on St. John and my ‘roots’ are actually here.”

After a bit of discussion, the men finalized the sale just days before Captain John’s passing on June 30. It was a decision that Erica Stewart said her father was at peace with.

“I can say that he felt very comfortable entrusting Jason with the boat and the reputation of Island Roots, which he worked so hard to build,” Erica Stewart said. “My dad described him as the kind of guy that lights up a room when he enters. And that he had the expertise and enthusiasm to run the business the right way.”

Captain John even boasted about Jason in an email sent to fellow boat captain John Brandi, of Palm Tree Charters, just before his passing.

Island Roots Set to Sail Again 1
Captain John Stewart

“I really like what I know about him, even though he is not old like me and some other captains,” John wrote in an email according to Erica Stewart. “He did promise to change his name to Captain John so that is definitely a plus. Why, I feel better already!

Jason, who may or may not be changing his name to John, is eager to continue Captain John’s legacy when he sets out on the first charter of Island Roots’ next chapter on October 14.

“I’m very excited to be taking the wonderful small business that John worked very hard to create,” Jason said. “Going through his journals and financial records of Island Roots, I saw firsthand how difficult it was to start at the ground up. I felt honored that John contacted me in regards to the business and can only hope that I make him proud in continuing to offer a unique and memorable experience for Island Roots guests.”

Jason Wilder Siska
Jason Wilder Siska

Jason is no stranger to the waters around St. John, so we’re pretty certain he’ll do a great job. Jason was born at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in 1985 and spent his childhood living in Johns Folly. He attended Guy Benjamin School until his parents relocated to the states when he was 10 years old. Jason lived in Chicago until 2008 when he graduated college with a teaching degree and soon found himself back on the island where he began teaching History and Spanish at Gifft Hill School.

He taught for three years before deciding a career change was in order. He left to work as a dive instructor and boat captain, something he describes at the “best life change ever.”

Oh and there was a little something else that occurred around 2008 – Jason appeared as a contestant on Survivor Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites. He did pretty well on the season, lasting 30 out of 39 days; however his luck ran out when he chose not to play an idol at Tribal Council. “I was voted out because of my youthful naivety in trusting some people I shouldn’t have,” Jason said.

“During the auditioning process, I always joked that Survivor was going to be ‘just another day at the beach,’ kinda like a Sunday afternoon at Cinnamon Bay. Boy, was I wrong. (It) was one of the toughest mental, physical and spiritual experiences of my life,” Jason said. “I know everybody says that, but that’s because it is.”

Jason said he’d go back on the show in a heartbeat, but in the meantime, his focus is on Island Roots. His plan is to show guests the beauty of St. John and the surrounding islands, more so than traveling the typical charter route over to the British Virgin Islands.

“In the 2011-2012 season, only 18 percent of Island Roots charters stayed in local U.S. waters.  The other 82 percent traveled into the BVI. Mind you, I love the BVIs and all the cool places to go, and for some visitors to the island, it is the best day of their vacation. But I also think that because there’s all this hype about the BVI, some families and groups who might be more interested in further exploring the beauty of St. Johns shorelines are sometimes misguided by that hype.

“Additionally, the more budget-minded traveler might also like to know they can save a significant amount of money by staying in local waters.  Save on fuel as you don’t have to travel so far … Save on the $35 per person customs fees … You’re also saving on time as you don’t have to deal with checking in and out of BVI and US customs. I guess what I’d like to do is let people know that if they want to snorkel, St. John has the best!  If they want lunch and cocktails at a beautiful shoreline restaurant, St. John has it – Miss Lucy’s, Vie’s, Shipwreck, The Beach Bar, Hull Bay Hideaway. If they want a floating bar, St. John has it,” Jason said referring to Angel’s Rest.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jason and Island Roots Charters, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

Lastly, the Stewart Family is planning an island celebration of Captain John’s life later this year. Please click this link for more information.

New Building Blog Debuts

Seas the Day
Image courtesy of seasthedaystj.wordpress.com

A new building blog debuted over the weekend and we think you should check it out. It follows the adventures of one Chicago couple in their quest to own a home on St. John.

During their initial property search, Eric Woltkamp and Patrick Coffey just couldn’t seem to find what they were looking for. They would find a great villa, but it had little to no views. And then they’d find a spot with killer views, but the villa needed too much work for their liking. So after mulling it over a bit, they decided to build their dream Caribbean home.

The soon-to-be-built villa is called Seas the Day and it’s located in Estate Chocolate Hole. According to the blog, it “boasts panoramic views of Hart (Bay) and Chocolate Hole Bay with vistas out to St. Croix and French Cap.”

Here’s a bit from their “About” section:

After many trips to the Caribbean, and many to St. John, we knew that St. John just “felt right.” We connected with the pure beauty of the island, its people, its lifestyle, and that the US flag flew above. Dreaming to escape the snowy winters of the Midwest and realizing that life is just too short, in 2012 we decided it was time to buy a piece of the rock. After looking at several houses, we decided to build a house instead.  In 2013 we secured a parcel of land and began planning to build an “Urban-Caribbean” themed pool villa using green construction methods and totally solar powered. Ground breaking is scheduled the beginning of 2014.

This site is a blog of our construction progress. It’ll be written in real time, so there may be long delays between posts, as you know… this is island time ‘mon! As events unfold, we hope to realize a dream soon come.

Their first post discusses how they ended up choosing the lot in Estate Chocolate among other contenders in the East End, Leinster Bay, Upper Carolina, Bordeaux and Gifft Hill. It’s a pretty entertaining read with some nice pictures too. You can check it out in its entirety here. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

School Supplies En Route to Students at Sprauve School

Children at the first annual Just Play event - Image courtesy of GlobalGiving.com
Children at the first annual Just Play event – Image courtesy of GlobalGiving.com

Students at one local school will soon receive a backpack filled with school supplies thanks to two organizations whose goals are to support and strengthen communities.

Using Sport For Social Change, announced last week that in conjunction with Global Backpack Project, it will donate one backpack filled with school supplies to each elementary student at Julius E. Sprauve School. The backpacks will be hand delivered by Dean Doeling, founder of Using Sport For Social Change (USFSC) early next month.

USFSC and Global Backpack Project donated backpacks filled with school supplies to each student at Guy Benjamin School in 2012.

The two organizations hope the donations will make it easier for the elementary-aged school children to focus on their education without having to worry about not having the most basic of school supplies. The organization also want to give each student a means by which to keep all their homework together and carry their homework and books to and from school.

About Using Sport For Social Change

USFSC’s primary purpose is to support local sporting programs that are already in place, with fundraising, community education and sporting equipment donated through Nike. Furthermore, USFSC is trying to resurrect some failed sporting programs and provide play days where kids from all classes and cultures can come together for and participate in sports-based games and skill challenges.

The motto of Using Sport For Social Change is to “Focus Virgin Island youth through sports and fitness, giving them the confidence they need to set personal goals, achieve their aspirations and create opportunity for themselves, their family and their community.

In doing so, the organization has planned its fifth annual Just Play event for Monday, October 14. They are still looking for volunteers to help with the event, as well as children to participate. If you would like to volunteer, please click here. If you would like to sign your child up to participate, please click here.

More information can be found at www.usingsportforsocialchange.com, or by contacting the St. John Community Foundation at (340) 693-9410

About Global Backpack Project

Global Backpack Project is a community-based nonprofit organization that collects and delivers backpacks and school supplies to children in need in the Pacific NW and around the globe.

Its Vision
We envision a world which supports education for all girls and boys so they may reach their unlimited potential in school and life.

Its Mission
Global Backpack Project exists to encourage a desire for learning by helping children feel prepared for school. With the help of our local community and partner organizations, we seek to make a difference in the lives of children just as they seek to make a difference for themselves and their community.

More information can be found at www.globalbackpackproject.org

Changes to “No Fleas, Please” Flea Market

Happy Saturday everyone!

The folks over at the Animal Care Center asked us to pass along some information to all of you regarding their upcoming No Fleas, Please flea market. Here are the details:

The Animal Care Center (ACC) of St. John has announced a new location for the upcoming “No Fleas, Please” flea market.  It will still be held on Saturday, October 19, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., but is being moved from the Winston Wells ball field up to the grounds of the Gifft Hill School.  The school is halfway up Gifft Hill road and can be reached from either the South Shore Road uphill or Centerline Road downhill.  Parking will be plentiful along the roadside, and the flea market will be set up right at the entrance of the school.

As in the past, the flea market will offer a great variety of household goods, sports equipment, tools, decorative items such as framed pictures, furniture, and a Children’s Table that always offers new and barely used toys, games, and children’s books having animal themes.

Every dollar collected at the flea market goes directly to caring for St. John’s abused and homeless companion animals.  The shelter’s cats and dogs are all tested and given medications for any diseases they might have, and they are continued to be given veterinary care throughout their time at the shelter, even if some of them live there for years before being adopted.  The shelter on the library road houses kennels for about 16 to 20 dogs and cages for as many cats and kittens that the shelter can house, usually about 30.  In addition, ACC has a cadre of faithful caretakers for  feeding stations throughout the island to provide food and water to kitties who would otherwise starve. ACC also has a loyal group of dog walkers who take the dogs for walks on leashes around town two or three times a day.  This helps to socialize the dogs, train them to walking on leash, and helps to display them.

ACC is still collecting large and small items for sale at the flea market.  Please call the shelter at (340) 774-1625 if you need help with picking up furniture or large items.  Small items can be brought to the shelter on the library road in Cruz Bay.