The Great Fish Count

ReefThe Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park will help finance an effort to catalog and count fish in the waters off the island.  Funds collected during this weekend’s Beach-to-Beach Power Swim will help purchase kits and supplies for the count, including plastic slates, underwater paper, and pencils, according to a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News

The count, to be conducted in July, is part of the Reef Environmental Foundation’s Great Annual Fish Count.  Volunteer snorkel and divers collect and report information on the fish populations in their areas.  More information is available at http://reef.org/data/surveyproject.htm.

Gasoline supplier threatens cutoff

Gasprices The consumer affairs commissioner has accused Hovensa, the St. Croix-based oil refining company, of saying it would stop selling gasoline in the islands if he persisted trying to put a lid on skyrocketing gas prices. 

Andrew Rutnik told a Senate committee hearing he hopes a district court judge would agree that his department has the authority regulate the gasoline companies, Esso Virgin Islands and Texaco Caribbean.  Rutnik, however, blamed the wholesalers, Esso and Texaco, for the high prices.

"If we can win, prices will lower again," he said, adding that Hovensa officials threatened to stop retailing in the VIs, the St. John Source reported.  At the extreme, that could mean no gasoline at service stations.

Water prices spike on shortage

One villa manager reports paying almost twice as much as usual, $500 a truckload, for water for his rental properties, in the face of what’s resulted from a two-month deficit of rain.  The water was barged over from St. Thomas because none was available on St. John.

On top of that, a reverse osmosis plant on St. John, which produces potable water, was offline for almost two weeks this month.  It’s now back operating, according to the St. John Source

Henry Boyd, a water hauler, said the Water and Power Authority doesn’t have enough money to connect a supply pipe from St. Thomas.  He blames the local government for strangling the utility by not paying its own power and water bills.

Dennis Demar, of Vacation Homes, doesn’t blame tourists for all the water shortages at properties he manages.  He also cites landscapers and drip irrigation systems.  He said there is no way to turn them off, even if rain is falling, and there is no way to know if they’re not working right unless they are spitting gushers of water into the air.

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.