Rains pour little relief

The nearly month-long island-wide water shortage has been helped in the past week by some pretty wild weather.  Heavy rains and flash flood warnings were expected this weekend, but don’t seem to have shown up as forecast. During the month, 2 inches of rain has fallen, slightly more than usual for April.  A weather predictor in Puerto Rico, quoted by the Virgin Islands Daily News, warned Friday that 2 inches more could fall this weekend, but statistics from Weather Underground indicated late Sunday no such deluge.  Islanders were mighty disappointed when the hoped-for rain (sorry tourists!) didn’t arrive – leaving cisterns still emmmm-teee!

Raku in the Caribbean

Branfman2Steven Branfman, founder and director of the Potter’s Shop and School in Needham, Mass. will be on island May 2-8 at Maho Bay.  He will be teaching the making of Raku, a clay art form grown out of Japanese tea ceremony preparations. Potters take red hot pots and plunge them into newspapers and other materials to produce glaze effects. This workshop within a workshop offers a week-long "hands on" session, as well as a weekend only session from May 7-8. More information’s available at mahobayclayworks.com.

Wanna buy a business in paradise?

Lots of people dream of coming to St. John to run their own business.  The opportunity to buy in has probably never been greater.  While historically there have been about half a dozen businesses listed with real estate brokers, there are now 16 offerings.  They include St. John Dive Adventures and its boat at Coral Bay ($150K), the newly-listed Duffy’s Love Shack leasehold (trade name does not transfer) ($650K), the Turquoise Turtle gift shop near the ferry dock ($325K), and Dr. Cool Inc.’s air-conditioning business ($350K). 

Why are there are so many businesses available?  Probably, why there are almost twice as many residential properties on the Multiple Listing Service (63).  Every owner has his or her reasons.

Island dog show moves to Cruz Bay

WagapaloozaIsland dog show growth prompts shift to Cruz Bay Next weekend’s Wagapalooza will be held at the Winston Wells ball field of the Sprauve School. The 5th annual fund raiser to benefit the St. John Animal Care Center will "bark off" Sunday morning, May 1. Dozens of island dogs, and dog owners, will be featured as they vie for prizes and awards in categories such as "Best Costume", "Most Dog-Owner Look- Alike," and "Best in Show."

The event began five years ago in Coral Bay, headquartered and organized by the owners of Skinny Legs and Jen and Jeff Donnelly. But the number of attendees increased and has made a cozy event at Skinny’s unmanageable now, and so the show has moved.

The ball field will be turned into "Waga Town", with animal lovin’ products and services from festival-like booths ringing the space. The Waga Photo Contest "is open to all spoiled cats, dogs, birds, reptiles … whatever," said Celia Kalousek, a spokeswoman for the event. Many local businesses have donated items which will be included in a fund- raising raffle. This is the second event for the Animal Care Center this year. In March, a dinner and auction at the Westin Resort generated almost $50,000 to reorganize and re-open the Center. Sheila Karcher is the ACC’s president, Diana Ripley is vice president, John Fuller is secretary, and Holly Hardy is treasurer.

Water restrictions in effect

Here’s why your rental villa managers ask you to conserve water … there ain’t any!

WatertruckThe Water and Power Authority reportedly closed the island’s standpipe for water delivery trucks at noon today.  One resident says there was no water available for  delivery to homes and rental villas last Thursday and Friday.

The National Weather Service agrees all three islands are extraordinarily dry.  Less than an inch of rain fell during February and March, making February the driest ever and this March, the second-driest.  A territory-wide ban on burning permits also continues at the order of the Fire Service.

Magazine readers vote St. John #1

LogomagSt. John was voted the Best All-Around Destination by readers of Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine.  Four of the island’s hotels also were honored in the 2005 Best of the Caribbean balloting.  Caneel Bay Resort was Best Resort for a Wedding; the Westin St. John was named Best Large Hotel; Maho Bay took the title of Best Eco-Resort, and Cinnamon Bay Campground was voted second in the Eco-Resort category. St. John was also named Best Snorkel Destination. Results of the balloting were announced during the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association’s symposium for travel agents and professionals.

The territory’s islands, hotels, restaurants, and beaches received 8 "Best" citations, the same number of first-place awards as last year, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News.  St. Thomas was voted best for shopping and cruise port.

New tourism Web site planned

The Virgin Island’s newly-hired public relations firm said its first order of business will be to launch a new interactive Web site. Maggie Booth, of New York’s M Booth, told an audience of travel industry professionals Sunday at the St. John Westin, the site will be “our first major initiative” and it will be done by June 1.

Booth’s firm recently won a contract for promoting island tourism, replacing the Martin Agency which had the job for nine years. She said other promotional ideas include having chefs from the islands appear in New York during Caribbean Week, according to a report of her remarks published by the St. John Source. Window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and a promotion at Grand Central Station are also possible, she said.

The V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association also described its promotional efforts, which began with $100,000 contributed by American Express and nine hotels. Beverly Nicholson, president of the group, said there are now a dozen members supporting the effort. The association showed several TV spots it produced along the theme, "It’s just easier," in the VIs.

Coral Bay beach party, April 16

The annual Coral Bay Yacht Club beach party and flotilla will be held at Vie’s Campground on the East End Saturday, April 16.  Ticket prices are $20 for people arriving by land and $40 for water-borne revelers who also want to take an early morning sail or motorboat ride and tour of the bay.  Admission also includes a lunch of burgers, hot dogs, West Indian dishes.  Live music will be provided by Innervisions, and Da Crab Mon will offer a full slate of crab competition. Proceeds from the party will be used for the benefit of Coral Bay’s Guy Benjamin School.

Car barge prices rise

CarbargeBlaming higher fuel costs, one of the three companies which operates car barge service from St. John to Red Hook will boost its round trip fare from $35 to $50 beginning Friday, April 15.  One-way fares will be boosted from $22 to $30.

Cheri Jackson, manager at Boyson Inc., said, "We have no choice," the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.  Boyson runs two barges, the General and General II.  "It’s nothing that anybody wants to do. But we’re operating a business and we have no choice.  It’s simple economics," she added.

The two other barge operators, Global Marine and Republic Barge Service have not boosted rates, but it may be only a matter of time.  Global’s Stanley Hedrington said he may raise rates and if he does, he will also increase service.  He’s considering expanding his hours to include runs until midnight.  Anecia Sewer, whose Republic company operates the Captain Vic, told the newspaper her company is not boosting prices at the moment.  "We realize that car ferries are the umbilical cord that connects the islands, and our customers depend on it," she said.

Passenger ferries to charge for baggage

If you checked it on the airplane, chances are you’re going to pay $2 a bag when you take it on the ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay. 

The Public Service Commission approved requests to collect handling fees from Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services. "Baggage equals extra weight, which equals fuel," said Claudette Ferron, counsel for Transportation Services. 

A manager for the company pointed out that on a recent weekend, 380 pieces of luggage and cargo were on board one ferry.  The companies had previously been authorized to charge baggage fees, but had not done so.  "It is the law, and it is in the rules and regulations," said Yvette Canegata-Jones, a PSC member..  "They are asking us to take advantage of the law.