Pond Bay Club ready to go

After years of preparation, permitting, arguments and public hearings, developers of the swanky Pond Bay Club project at Chocolate Hole have gotten some heavy lifting done. 

Land clearing has been underway, silt fences have been installed, and construction could begin by fall.

FOLIO has launched a Web site for Pond Bay.  It includes a site plan and artist renderings of units.

There will be several dozen units, including three- and four-bedroom villas and cottages. The Club will be part of the Folio Collection, a of "destination club" real estate venture. The New York Times published a story Sunday about destination clubs.  Read it here.

The Helium Report says one-ninth interests in Pod Bay will start at $325,000 and guarantee buyers’ access for 35 days a year.  Annual maintenance fees will begin at $10,000.

"Pond Bay Club is planned to be a private enclave of spacious villas and cottages with the amenities of a spa, swimming pools, restaurant, beach club and clubhouse. Located in Chocolate Hole, on perhaps the last great beachfront development parcel in St. John," explains an information page on the Web site of Holiday Homes.

St. Thomas airport air conditioning broken

It’s been so hot inside the Cyril E. King airport’s waiting room that the candy bars are melting. 

The federal baggage scanners are talking about walking out because it’s so hot.

At least one airline is asking the VI Port Authority for a rent rebate because the facility is so uncomfortable. 

The airport’s a. c. has been out of order for several days, with the Virgin Islands Daily News quoting a Port Authority spokesperson saying he is unsure when it will be repaired.  "The staff and management … apologized for the inconvenience," the Authority said in a statement, the News added.  Read the Daily News story here.

Now, try and find that news release on the Authority’s Web site, http://www.viport.com/.  Not there.  In fact, no news announcements have been posted this year!  And when you click on a link to the Authority’s "Newsletter," it takes you to a September, 2005 document – apparently the first and only newsletter.  (Wanna guess whether the Port Authority’s budget has an allocation for ‘Newsletter’?  Wanna guess what’s happened to the money?) 

Are these people on the ball?  Think they’ll be in a rush to fix the air conditioning in a public building dedicated to the island’s only industry, tourism?

Meanwhile, back at the airport, it’s still hot, hot, hot.  On the first floor, with its open air ticket counters, inside in the Customs clearance area, and even more so back in the holding pens (where travelers wait – and where it’s usually so cold you wish you’d put your long pants on). 

The airport staffers are blaming the Water and Power Authority for power surges which caused the a.c. chillers to shut down; WAPA says, "Uh, uh, it wasn’t us."

The Daily News
says the Authority estimates it could be eight weeks before the air conditioning is working again.

Charlotte Amalie ferry back in service

The island’s two ferry companies say they are resuming trips to Charlotte Amalie from Cruz Bay. Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services told the Virgin Islands Daily News its boats stopped making the run recently because they had to be inspected and needed "unforeseen repairs." (Read the story.)

Meanwhile the ferry companies have told the Public Services Commission they need a subsidy from the government to purchase new boats.  The ferry companies plead that they are losing money. 

Exactly how much, nobody knows for sure.  Because the ferry companies have failed to produce financial reports for the PSC to review.  Keeping records and accounting for fares collected is not the ferries’ strong suit.  Sometimes you get a receipt, sometimes you don’t.  Who knows what gets reported?

Jet Blue eyes the islands

More than two years ago, Jet Blue was asking customers where they thought the airline should add service.  News of St. John quickly began campaigning for the Virgin Islands and so did readers.  The issue is back on the front burner.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the airline’s new CEO says adding dozens of new smaller jets (100 passengers) gives Jet Blue a reason to consider new markets. 

Dave Barger says he sees lots of expansion possibilities with the new plans.  ""Let’s look at Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean," he said.

If you’re a Jet Blue fan, click here to send an e-mail to tell them what you’d like.

On little old St. John, Internet phone calls

Some businesses on island are using Vonage for their phone service.  Visitors to the Virgin Islands are bringing their laptops and using  Skype to make calls back to the mainland and around the world.  So says Will Culver, founder and owner of Surf da Web.  "In the Virgin Islands, we now have (Internet) access," Culver said. "The truth is that most of the villa renters can’t leave home without it, so as many as 40% of the rental homes have Wi-Fi networks.  Culver estimates he’s done 250 wireless installations in the past three years.

In an interview, however, Culver raised the prospect of more trouble for buyers of condominiums at the two new Cruz Bay projects, Grande Bay and Sirenusa.  While each property is advertising broadband Internet service will be available. Culver said he’s found "a  lack of facilities" from the telephone company, Innovative Communications.  "There’s plenty of bandwidth on the north and south shores.  But in Cruz Bay, with tons of development, no facilities.  Pretty poor planning."

For more about how the Internet is changing St. John, listen to an interview with Will Culver. Click the play button below.

You can also download or hear the file by clicking here.

Subscribe to News of St. John’s weekly podcast at the Apple iTunes Store and search for "news of st. john,"
or copy "http://fbarnako.libsyn.com/rss" and paste it into the "Subscribe" field under the iTunes software’s "Advanced" tab.  You can also use
that link to subscribe with other podcatching software.  If you’re having
a problem, e-mail: [email protected].

Where to get wired on St. John

InternetBack in April, we ran a survey asking people whether they bring their laptops. Hundreds of people said they did. Villa agencies are also reporting renters are often asking where can find Internet connectivity. One source estimates as many as 40% of villa have Wi-Fi, and both the Westin and Caneel also offer connectivity).

Here’s a guide to Internet access spots if you’re out and about.  If you know of other spots, please add them as a comment.

Washington DC PBS station airs VI Park documentary

The documentary produced to celebrate the Park’s 50th anniversary was broadcast by Washington, DC’s PBS station last Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. "Establishment of Virgin Islands National Park, was commissioned by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, and created by Bill Stelzer, Bruce Schoonover and Steve Simonsen. The film tells the story of three very different men who came together to preserve and protect the incredible beauty of St. John.

Now, early afternoon on a Sunday isn’t the best time slot, but it’s better than no slot.  And, of you’re outside DC, and know someone at the PBS station in your community, this is at least an excuse to say, "Hey, how about you guys running the show, too?"

Or  you could buy the DVD and watch it yourself, anytime 🙂

St. Thomas airport improvements planned

BaggageTesting of a new luggage belt at the St. Thomas airport has begun, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News. Installation of two new luggage conveyors is being done at a cost of $600,000, mostly funded by the Federal Aviation Administration

(This photo is not of the new belt.  It was taken earlier this year. Note that the belt is empty.  Maybe it was broken when I snapped it.)

The baggage area at the airport is frequently a source of frustration and then anger.  Several airplanes will arrive, overtaxing ground workers as well as which limping conveyor may (or may not have be) working. That delays people wanting to get the next ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.

The Daily News said further improvements are planned at the airport, too.  Architectural plans to expand restrooms and build a new food concession are expected by next month.

Attention to the airport’s rundown facilities is certainly welcome, and you can only hope it’s evidence the new Governor and his Tourism Department commissioner are already working on improving the first impression visitors get at the airport.  Remember, it was just a few weeks ago that Berkeley Young, a tourism expert, complained that the VI’s welcome to visitors included little more than "a urine cup of (rum) punch.)  Read his comments and listen to his podcasts here and here.

Ferry to Charlotte Amalie down again

Both ferry companies have been canceling their runs from Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie – without notice. 

The St. John Source reports that the director of the Public Services Commission is concerned.  At least one person missed a flight from St. Thomas because the CB-to-CA ferry was not running. Spokesmen for both companies told the Source they expected service to be resumed by the end of the week.

Neither Varlack Ventures nor Transportation Services has explained why service on the route has been sporadic.  Odds are that, given that it’s low season, the companies may figure the relatively light passenger load, and the long water run don’t add up to a profitable venture.

Myrvang a repeat winner of Power Swim

A 16-year-old from St Croix, Annie Myrvang, was the first place finisher in the 4th annual Beach to Beach Power Swim.  She also won the event last year.  Myrvang completed the 3.5 mile swim from Maho Bay to Hawksnest Bay in 1 hour 20 minutes.  Her average speed in the water: 2.62 miles an hour. 

Dave Nielsam from St. Thomas finished second with a time of 1:21:10.  The third place finisher was Barb Crowder from California with a time of 1:22:10.  There were 142 competitors in this year’s event which included courses for solo swimmers as well as relay teams.

Conditions for this year’s Power Swim were a little rougher than in past years.  Joe Kessler, president of the Friends of the VI National Park, the organizer of the event, said there was a light surf which "made it more challenging this year." Sponsors included Alfredo’s Landscaping, Scotia Bank, and Mongoose Junction

Here’s a link to the complete results: http://www.friendsvinp.org/swim/07_results.pdf