October 4th Update from Jenn

October 4th Update from Jenn 1
Hello all, I’m back on island and wanted to give a quick update. For starters, internet is still spotty. There are several hot spots on island, thanks to some pretty amazing people, but the signal is not strong enough yet for me to upload numerous pics and video. It’s all being worked on, and I will share as much as I can as soon as I can.

I’ve been receiving a ton of emails regarding the future of tourism. The truth is – I don’t have any answers. Will St. John have tourism once again? Absolutely. But when will the island be ready for it? I simply do not know. I’ve been talking to nearly everyone I’ve encountered about this, and truthfully, everyone has varying opinions. I’m compiling their thoughts and will have that to all of you as soon as I can.

This Friday marks one month since Irma hit. It’s pretty amazing to see what’s happening here on island. People are working very hard. We all have the same goal here – to rebuild St. John. Will it be the same? Probably not. Will it be the new normal? Yes. And that’s ok.

I’m heading now to compile as much video as possible so I can continue to tell our story – the story of St. John and its incredible community of people. If there is anything you would like an update on, please leave it in the Comments section below. I will do my best to address as many requests as possible.

As always, thank you for reading and, more importantly, thank you for loving St. John.


109 thoughts on “October 4th Update from Jenn”

  1. When you’re able, any update on how the coral and fishes are doing. I spend as much time snorkeling as humanly possible when visiting and I’m hoping things underwater are getting better too.

    • Robin
      My wife Kathee and I bought Low Key from Ann Marie and Bob last year. We took one of our charter boats for Ocean Runner out yesterday with a few tanks. The reef of Whistling Cay were beat up but the deeper we went the more corals were intact. Lots of fish , saw rays and turtles. We are hopeful there were be plenty of reef to see when people begin to return

      • Ted have been coming to STJ since 89 and Low Key diver since 92 with Annemarie and Bob. Didnt get to meet you this past year but we will be back hopefully in the spring to support all.

    • Laura, we are the same! When we’re there we shop for groceries, eat at home, sleep and snorkel. I pray that the needs of the residents are taken care of and that there’s still coral and sea life to bring back the tourism that supports the residents!

    • Right there with you, Laura!! Wondering about the sea turtles, coral, fish, octopus, lobster, water quality, water hazards, etc.

  2. Glad to know you are back home.If you can,please get some updates on the CB campgrounds and the people who work at Spencers car rental,DaCoalPot and Uncle Joes (all favorites of ours each time we visit)

  3. Which local businesses currently have merchandise we can purchase in support? I see the Longboard is selling coozies, Java’Mon is selling coffee and an artist has a calendar available…who else? Would be great to have all of these in one place with a link to their website. Thank you, as always!!

  4. We will be back as tourists and more importantly in support of St Johnians, in August 2018. Thank you for keeping us informed, as we support you all stateside. <3

  5. Thank you first, Jenn for giving us an option to ask questions. I’ve been very hesitant to on Facebook, as I don’t want to seem insensitive and I’ve seen people get attacked with one simple question. My question would be about the car rentals. Do we know which ones survived? I still have not cancelled anything for January yet, waiting on our villa manager (he’s told us to be patient), and the fact that if we do come down, would we have a jeep to rent? We use Cool Breeze. Thank you again.

    • I have the same questions. Also have jeep and villa rental for January. Want to come and support the economy if we can.

    • It looks like they all survived. Varying degrees of damage to the fleets but I’ve seen work being done to all of the rental buildings getting them back in order.

  6. Thanks for the update. We love St. John and have been vacationing there for the past few years and had booked a house for the second week in January. We still have not heard back from the property manager on the details of the house but the initial report was the house was ok. But still not sure if the island will be ready for tourists by then. Is that picture you posted recent? Looks like the leaves are growIng back! Keeping fingers crossed!

  7. To the question of when will tourism reappear, I don’t think anyone really knows. After previous storms, generally, the island stepped back in time a few decades, it was very quiet, the locals reclaim the island for their own. After a period of time, tourism returns. However, the last big storms were in the late 80s and 90s. Since then the island has completely evolved, it is more dependent on tourism now, it has a lot more capacity and infrastructure. Sadly, the pictures in the paper, the news articles on the major networks, have shown complete devastation, and some of the postings coming out on Facebook and other social media sites have painted a bleak picture and in some cases overly depicted violence and suffering. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, it should be a realistic representation of what is going on. The photos posted several days ago of Maho Bay for example, are very powerful. People see those images and question about returning. The island will never be the same again. The kissing palms will not return, the swinging tire is gone. But a new island will come forth in its place, with new special palms to take pics of and Christian will do it. Personally, I will be down in April with my wife and daughters. But if I was a betting man, I think it will be a year or two before things return to pre storm normal. Hopefully, the Starfish, Dolphin, Longboard, Beach Bum, and so many others can hang on.

    • Hello Survivor-

      There has been massive devastation here – but it did not crush the spirit of the Island.
      I think your assessment is correct: A year or two.

      The shape of the Island has changed. Trunk, Maho, Cinnamon – they have been changed. Heading over to Coral Bay is surreal. Not only have the leaves been stripped from the trees: The bark has been as well. The pictures don’t always do it justice. The smells and the sounds – all a new experience for us here.

      Boats are still submerged all over the island, telephones poles are still down – in some cases snapped twice, wires are everywhere. Almost every home has been damaged. It will take a lot of people-power to bring us back to the basics.

      Today I hear the sound of dump trucks, saws, hammering. The smell of diesel hangs in the air. The water is starting to get it’s turquoise color back. Trees and starting to push out fresh green leaves.

      We’ll see what the next phase of recovery brings. It sounds like there is an army of linesmen on the way. Kenny Chesney is helping with debris removal. I suspect there will be a ramp-up of activity in the next month.

      • Has power been restored to the island? My daughter is collecting donations, toiletries, batteries etc. It is a small brownie troop so we can’t send big items, but are these basics still needed? Thanks! kristie

      • 1100 Jesery Strong National Guard are coming to help restore the power lines. They are Sandy tested! Bringing a C130 full of supplies and gear.

  8. Wondering if there are any properties/owners who might be open to people coming for a working “vacation” to help with specific projects or whatever is needed? Would not want to be a burden in any way, of course, and it may just be way too soon. Also, I haven’t seen any word on Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel yet, if you happen to hear how they are. Thank you for keeping us connected!!

  9. Could you find one iconic tree and photo it on a regular basis as it re-leafs.
    Watching the island go green again would make me and a ton of others feel better about the island coming back.

    • We would also like to hear about Coral Bay and the East End. That is where we spend 80% of our time on St. John. Are the people on that end receiving help? internet access? Which restaurants and businesses survived? Also, can you tell the owners of the St. John Spice store that getting their web cam operational would really be a sign of some return of normalcy. Hoping electricity, phones and internet will be restored soon.

  10. I have a silly question . We love Kenny Chesney and his music ( a reason we discovered St.Johns ) but the famous blue chair . Was that blue chair on the island during the storm or does he take it with him . I know I know silly question but I would like to know . Love you guys . See you soon I hope

  11. Did the structure at Oppenheimer make it??? My husband I were married there 10 years ago in November. I saw one picture that looked like the gate was destroyed but nothing on the building and beach.

  12. Jenn,

    Welcome back to St. John and thanks for the updates. Long time viewer of the blog, first time respondent. As an owner at the Westin, St. John we were just informed via email (Oct 2) that management will NOT be accepting, nor will be able to honor, any reservations for guests/owners thru JUNE 30, 2018. Damage to the resort has been extensive and repairs will be ongoing. Timetables may need to be adjusted accordingly. Updates and revisions due to schedule delays may be announced on a periodic basis. Hope that news helps with some questions regarding tourist accommodations. Good luck, keep the faith, and we’ll be back as soon as we can!

    Thanks for everything!


  13. Hi Jenn. Thanks so much for your tireless efforts on updates of STJ. We have visited many times and love this island. Do you have photos of the Westin?

  14. Would please like to know how the corals and underwater wildlife are (if possible). Curious if the turtles survived. Thank you so much for the updates! Glad you are back

  15. Hi Jenn! I am so grateful for your updates. We have our vacation planned to start Nov 29th. As long as there is electricity and running water, we plan to still go. We want to spend a lot of our time helping. Any updates on those two items would be appreciated.

    I would also love to get a status on the Kekoa. We have taken day sails on that boat several times and absolutely love it. I have only heard that there was damage to it, and that the owners are working on it, but would love to know more.

    Thank You!

  16. Why is FEMA not helping the locals to apply for help? I’ve been told all they are doing is handing out material on how to do it. They are also telling people to call the 800 #. My son called the number and was put on hold for over 30 minutes. He finally hung up.

  17. We just received an email that the Westin has cancelled all reservations through June 30, 2018. We have reservations for July and can’t wait to return! A lot can happen between now and then. I’m confident tourism will return ASAP.

  18. Thank you, Jen for keeping us informed. I fell hard for SJ after my 1st visit. We will be back & everything will be good. The spirit of those of you living on island is amazing & someday, I hope to
    be one of you! I am in my heart now. Prayer & constant thoughts are being sent to you all.

  19. My Son Mark Edwards and his girlfriend Bri Wilds have been working hard since Irma feeding people At Bernies Bar and Grill in Red Hook…and now the reataurant
    XO that she manages is open….have not heard from them lately as they are busy I am sure….just need to know if they need anything and if mail is back yet…thanks for sharing and being our eyes and ears!

  20. I know there are more important items, like power, water, supplies, homes, etc – but – one can’t help but wonder what the state of the coral is around the island? How badly damaged was it and who might be doing the checking?

    PS. Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do keeping us here on the mainland informed! Words are not enough to express our thanks and gratitude!

  21. Any information on how the cleanup of all the debris from the homes and businesses that is scattered all over the island? It seems such a massive undertaking. I know the focus is on the immediate, as it should be, but when attention turns to the general clean up, how will that be accomplished? What about all the decimated homes and their debris? What happens to them? This may be a premature question, but it just seems like it’s going to be a logistical nightmare. Thanks for your updates and glad you back!

  22. Please get update on status of Connections East in Coral Bay – plans to open when PO resumes delivery and if so, same or new location? If not reopening, any suggestions on alternative to getting packages out to Coral Bay are welcome. We have so much that we can offer our friends and neighbors if we could get them packages.

  23. I’m so glad you made it back, I know you are one of those people that will do everything you can to help get the island back on its feet. Like the last 2 posts I’m also wondering about Caneel. I’ve heard the rumors about it never reopening, but that just can’t be so?! And I haven’t seen any mention yet in the comments of the donkeys. I’ve seen photos of some – was there a large hit to the population, or most accounted for?

  24. Thank you Jenn! Would love to know any news about the Virgin Grand Estates. Specifically, La Bella Vita villa. Also, have you heard anything about JVD? Thank you again and be safe.

  25. Status of Low Key/Ocean Runner people—I saw Basil in your accidental storm video and a FB post that said OR boats are ok—any idea as to these and other charter boat businesses and good people getting back. Do these businesses typically have insurance? We are all thinking of you, love from Canada

  26. Hi Jenn: Thanks for the updates and the comments section. We have been coming to the USVI for 48 years – have stayed on St. John a dozen times and St. Thomas at least six. We have bare boat chartered 4 times too. St. John is our favorite place. Our daughters and their families join us ever couple of years and we rent a villa on St. John. We are scheduled to be there in April 2018 but can’t get any info our of the rental company. They tell us the house we rented on Klein Bay suffered minor damage and that it will be repaired soon. Other than that nothing in the way of how the power, water, roads and businesses are doing. When we come we want to feel safe, be able to get to the beaches on the north side, eat some dinners at the local restaurants, shop at Starfish and have potable water. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can stay informed on these issues? Anything you can tell us would be greatly appreciated.

    • Good Morning Carol B. My family and I have been traveling there since 1973, sounds like we probably have passed each other a couple of times. I have been following the facebook pages for Stateside St Johnians that has been a great source of information. We too are traveling to STJ in April, we rented a Villa that was heavily damaged in the storms. I have yet to hear from our rental company as well, although I have talked to the owner. There is a lot of devastation, lots and lots of trees down, homes completely destroyed. You will be safe. Several of the restaurants, the Longboard is open and serving locals only on behalf of the Red Cross. Starfish and Dolphin are open. I think by April, power will be restored, and more facilities open. But you need to prepare yourself, there is a tremendous amount of devastation. It will be a very different place.

  27. Thanks for the report, Jenn!

    Curious about Waterlemon, how did the water and cay fare there? Also the actual salt pond at Salt Pond and Ram Head?

    I realize I’m asking too many questions but thought it might help to get this all down in one place: In addition to wondering about the coral, water quality, sea turtles, fish, etc. I’m also wondering about the birds: I saw a photo of some bananaquits (yay!). What about hummingbirds, pelicans, boobies, pearly-eyed thrashers, etc? Are there any around? How about iguanas? I saw a photo of one rummaging in a trash heap, wondering how they are doing. Also the hermit crabs. There were TONS of them behind our cottage at Cinnamon in April. So cool to watch. And the crabs that dwell in the holes in the mangrove and open areas around the cottages at Cinnamon, did they survive?

  28. Hi, Jenn! Thanks so much for the updates. We came to St. John many years ago for the day while vacationing in St. Thomas. There was no going back. We stay at Estate Lindholm every time. Any news on how everyone there made out. It is our favorite place on earth. Thanks. Susan

  29. Like many our family Loves St John. We had planned to Vaca there again over Christmas. We decided to go ahead and come to the VI in mid December but stay on a boat. We would be interested as a family in at least coming on island for a day or so and helping with clean up or whatever. Our kids (college age) all build and 2 of them weld. I’m a Nurse and my husband is a crop scientist. If you know of anyway we can help and not be in the way message me or comment. Just want to help however we can.

  30. We are long-time St. John visitors (25 years) planning to come again in February with 8 friends. Lots of different skills represented and we all have an interest in helping, if we can do so without being in the way. Is there someone best to contact (VOAD?) about when our beloved island might be ready to receive volunteers?

  31. l hope they keep Caneel and remove the outdated Westin by building a brand new large scale all inclusive family friendly beach hotel on St John like they have in Ocho Rios Jamaica that would bring back the tourism. l also hope since real estate has been totally devalued they greatly expand the Vi Nat Prk that would bring in more eco tourism and stop the nonsense of building villas on the once pristine north shore inside of the Prk. There is also enough flat land in the Carolina valley to build a runway for small planes for ease of travel or build a beautiful golf course there. The marina should be left out for good. St John needs to be kept pristine but also include fresh new bold ideas.

    • Always andForever, I guess you haven’t been to the Westin lately??? Unfortunately our reservation was cancelled because of the damage to the Westin. But we would have been staying in one of the newly renovated Sunset VIsta buildings right on the beach. Renovations have been ongoing for the past several years at the Westin.The buildings are all BRAND NEW. I’M ALSO KIND OF SORRY THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST A LARGE UPSCALE RESORT ON ISLAND???? Do you understand what St. John is all about?????? How much more family friendly do you want??? The Westin has it’s KID CLUB, movie night, tennis, and swimming lesson, afternoon ice cream and day care????? Although I have posted this comment to you my main concern is for the people of St. John and the Westin. Because they all care so much. I’m sure the Island will be up and running as soon as possible. Including the Westin. With out putting a large upscale resort on it.

  32. We’ve also heard the news of Caneel Bay potentially not reopening, but their website appears to be accepting reservations for 2018. Any updates you can share would be greatly appreciated. We were supposed to be there in November – our third visit – and are heartbroken that we will not be able to share our vacation with the beautiful people of St. John!!

  33. Thank you so much for asking if we have questions! Like many here, it would be great to hear something about Caneel Bay. We have seen the photos so realize how bad Caneel was damaged but would love to know anything about the plans to re-open. Or even when re-building will start. Also, if there was some central place to go to volunteer to to help out on St. John with the clean-up and restoration, that would be great.

  34. Glad you are back on Island and thanks for keeping us stateside informed. I’m sure you will be extremely busy getting your life back on track…I can only imagine. I just wanted to say that after Irma hit I (like so many of us) wanted to know how to help, what to do, and when can we return. I actually volunteered to help, but understand that request may not happen.

    It seems so irrelevant to me now when we can return to “vacation” when there are people who have lost their homes, their businesses, places of employment and sadly lives. I no longer ask when I can return…knowing that when the time comes and STJ is ready we will return to the beautiful Island we all share, know and love.

    I was supposed to celebrate my “10th Wedding Anniversary” on December 7th…10 years to the day we got married in Cruz Bay!! I know that wont happen and that’s ok…my thoughts are with those who are there living and surviving every day. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s December 7th, February or June of next year…the date no longer matters. What matters most is that people get their lives, homes, and places of employment back. That STJ rebuilds and gains the strength and love from the beauty of it’s people.

  35. My family has winter vacationed on St. John for many years and we have all come to love the beautiful island and its wonderful inhabitants. We were terrifically saddened by the news of all the storm damage but the same time so impressed with the attitude and resiliency of the Islanders. Every night we check your blog to follow the status on St. John. If a plane is able to land on St. Thomas and the ferry is able to come over from Red Hook we will again visit St. John this winter. Thank you so much for all of the updated information on what is happening on your brave island.

  36. Welcome home, Jen! We appreciate you and your informative news of the island. Thank you for keeping us “in the know”!

  37. Hi Jen,

    Welcome home!

    Will look forward to your updates with much needed info…

    Hopefully people will understand the need to give the people on island the time, space and respect to start to rebuild and get their lives, homes and businesses back together.. People that chose not to leave still have to process and accept everything that has happened…

    Their lives along with yours and Mikes have been changed without prior approval… St John will always be beautiful, will always be “Love City” and will still and always be a special place !!!

    Much love to all. ❤️❤️❤️

    P.S. Still have plenty of 2018 STJ calendars available and a reminder that $1.00 from everyone sold goes directly to The St John Animal Care Center !!!❤️❤️

  38. Just wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper asking that there be ongoing coverage, access to verified local donation sites and updates (positive) on recovery, infrastructure, tourism (“voluncationing”). On island when possible list volunteer possibilities and mainland supply
    items (to pack in an extra suitcase). We WILL be back and thank you!

  39. I hope things continue to get better for you all on the island. I have a trip planned in March and would like to make it if anything to spend some money to aid in your recovery. But I wonder is that too soon? Would tourists at that time just be a hindrance to all the hard work ahead?
    Just don’t want to be part of the problem.

  40. Glad to see you are back on the rock Jenn! We have been coming to St John at least once a year since 1990. We may have to delay our next trip a bit, but we will be back and so will the island. We’ve met so many great people there over the years.
    Very encouraging news this morning from St John Source. $35 million in aid, tons of linemen coming in to get poles back up. it’s going to take a while but you guys will be fine!

  41. Jenn

    Had heard 240 lineman were coming to Islands to aid with electric. Any update on if this is true and when?


  42. Any news about damage in the Chocolate Hole/Dever’s Bay area? Vida de Mar and Sunset Beach villas are two favorites. Did they survive?

  43. Jenn,
    Thank you so much for all your updates. It was very sad to see what happened after the Hurricane hit. But now there is hope and a little happiness to hear and see about the good things that are starting to turn things around.After 15 years visiting St.John we will not be coming down this January. Are reservations have been cancelled. Can you say 2019?? I would like to ask you about O’Connors car rental. I have sent them emails about cancelling our rental car and have not heard back? Do you or anyone know how to get in touch with them?? Thanks.

  44. So glad you are back! I know things will be really busy and crazy but if you can find out about Gwen Benjamin for me that would be wonderful if anyone else has any info about her and her safety it would be greatly appreciated!

  45. Hey Jen! So glad you’re back! Would love a list of all local stores, bars and restaurants (merch) that can fill online orders for Christmas. I would like to buy as much local STJ stuff as possible for presents and support from here until we can get back. Hugs to you!

  46. For anyone interested, I was told by the folks that run Concordia Eco Resorts (also previous owners of Maho Bay Campground) that Corcordia would be closed through the end of 2018. There was total damage at their site overlooking Ram’s Head. This saddens me so.

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