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

Gasoline nears $4.00

You may be headed to the island, but you’re not going to get away from it all.

Domino Oil stations on St. Thomas increased the price of a gallon of gasoline 37 cents in the past week, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.  The company’s station in Coral Bay posted a price of $3.89 a gallon this week, the newspaper added.

You can bet taxi drivers are feeling the increase.  Anybody want to bet whether the drivers might hike fares (a fuel surcharge) with or without approval from the government?

Beach-to-Beach swim this weekend

The fourth annual island Power Swim is scheduled for 8 a.m., Sunday, May 27. 

Organized by the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, there are four races including three contests for solo swimmers and one for a relay team.  The individual
courses range from one to three-and-a-half miles, while the three-person relay is three-and-a-half miles.  All begin at Maho Bay. The long route ends at Hawksnest Bay.Map05_2

In a practice swim two weeks ago, the nationally ranked swimmer Jack Zakim finished first on a Maho to Trunk Bay course.  Another practice was scheduled over the past weekend.

"The event has become part of the list of challenging sporting events inn the Virgin Islands," said Joe Kessler, president of the Friends. "It features the incredible waters and beaches of the Park."

Sponsors of the Friends fund raiser this year include Alfredo’s landscaping, Mongoose Junction, American Paradise Realty, St. John Insurance, Skinny Legs, the Tap Room, Starfish Market and St. John Rotary.

Winners in the various competition categories will get their awards during an end-of-day barbecue at Oppenheimer Beach. There is more information online at www.friendsvinp.org/swim.