Arizona couple fawns all over Caneel

David and Carol Porter, aka The Roaming Boomers, are either just having a hell of a good time in retirement or very smart business people.  Probably both, to judge from their work-in-progress travel web site.


The latest stop on a 25th wedding anniversary Caribbean tour (aka 'romantic' trip) was Caneel Bay Resort. Their video chronicle shows off beauty of the resort, includes a bit of original video featuring Carol, and a lot of stock photo shots from Caneel's promotional library.  A credit at the end of the video offers "Thanks to our Host: Caneel Bay Resort" which hints at, perhaps, the Porters' stay was a freebie, or partially comped, in exchange for the publicity.

The Porters' Web site makes clear that they are into high-end travel spots.  And it looks like they're developing it into a new business. (They sold a previous venture in Michigan and moved to Scottsdale.)

Kudos to the Porters.  They like to run their own business, they like to travel, they're putting the two together.

Whether there is a disclaimer that should have been included in their video, there is no denying … Caneel is gorgeous and we'd agree that it's, as the Porters said, "a place you should attempt to visit at least once in your life."

  • Watch the Roaming Boomer's video of Caneel here.

New ferries for St. John

800px-Ferry_loading copy
The Virgin Islands government expects to pay as much as $2.5 million for new ferries to go into service between Red Hook/Charlotte Amalie and Cruz Bay.

According to the St. John Source, $5.3 million has been set aside by the Department of Public Works to purchase two new water buses.  The Federal Highway Administration provided some, if not most, of the funds.

Public Works will invite bidders to submit proposals later this month. Commissioner Darryl Smalls told the Source, "We are looking for vessels that are brand new."

Could this be what one of the new boats will look like?  Probably not, since this ship holds as many as 2,000 passengers.  But maybe a scaled down version is likely.

While the Commissioner said requests for suppliers will go to national as well as local providers, it's unlikely the new ferries will be built in the territory. One resource for ferry manufacturers, Alibaba.com, shows ferries are manufactured in 20 countries.  China has the most builders, 46, followed by Ukraine (23), and the United States (11).

  • All you ever wanted to know about ferries here.
  • St. John Source story on new ferries here.

North Shore road gets a makeover

President Obama's stimulus program is helping to pay for almost $5 million worth of road paving, rebuilding, and parking lot improvements along the north shore of the island.

The contractor, Island Roads, has been on the job for almost a year.  The project is expected to continue through October.  It's included paving the gravely parking lot at Peace Hill, overlooking Hawksnest Bay.  That job, however, was reportedly funded by admission fees collected at Trunk Bay.

Stimulus dollars have been largely responsible for roadwork including a new road surface from Trunk to Cruz Bay.  The parking lot behind the National Park Service building is also getting a smooth-over.

The work will also bring some comfort to people who have complained, for years, about the lack of markings on St. John roads.  Plans call for center striping of the new surfaces as well as what are described as 'smooth speed bumps' to slow traffic to 15 miles an hour. (Wait 'til a few taxi drivers hear about this.)

Welcome (?) to St. John


No See Um, an island blogger, snapped this ironic photograph at the ferry dock.

"T_e C_o_n J__el __ t_e Ca_b___."

No See Um's blog has lots of other funny and even irreverent items. Read it here..

Inner Visions tour, reggae in the USA

Iv The Christmas City is going to get a dose of rhythm Thursday as St. John's premier reggae band, Inner Visions, takes the stage at Noon, part of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's week-long Musikfest.

"This huge festival is the bomb!," the band wrote on their Facebook page. "Had (us) a few years back, for a day, and requested us back for two years straight! By popular demand!"

Meanwhile, the band's annual summer tour has had the group at the Club Helsinki in the Berkshire mountains, at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ, and Crosstown Station in Kansas City, Mo.

The band really liked the Asbury Park date, playing with other groups. "Was great to hear Dub Proof and Randomtest reggae bands do their thing too! Taking a few hours of rest before heading Upstate to Hudson NY at Club Helsinki. Should be a continuation of the madness we have been accustomed to with the awesome vibes there."

The picture above is from the group's Long Beach Island, NJ date – body surfing!

  • Inner Visions on Facebook, here
  • Bethlehem's Musikfest, here

All you wanted to know about lionfish

The BBC has produced an excellent piece about the little devils.  

The thing that worries The Inquiring Iguana is this eating them thing.  "Venomous" says the BBC.  

Is "Eat more Lionfish" a joke?

Lionfish threat to St. John grows

LionfshIf you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

That seriously, is the government's strategy to reduce the damage the spectacular-looking fish can cause.  And the discovery of lion-fish in waters off St. John is troubling.

Divers from the National Center for Coastal Ocean Science and the National Park Service spotted a six-inch long lionfish earlier this summer, while collecting data about the health of corals, fish and invertebrates.  They captured and killed it.

"Lionfish pose a huge threat to the coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The native fish populations are essentially defenseless in the face of this threat. And once established, lionfish are very difficult to control," noted Rafe Boulon, Chief of Resource Management for the Virgin Islands National Park and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.

The first lionfish was captured off St. John in late March.  Since then, baby lionfish have been seen in Lameshure Bay.

"The good news is that the invasive fish happens to be delicious," according to the Environmental News Network (EEN).  So, NOAA is studying lionfish control strategies and has launched an "Eat Lionfish" campaign.  The agency works with chefs, fishermen, and wholesalers to promote the development of a market for these fish.

NOAA scientists have determined that a major fishing effort is required to reduce their numbers and mitigate their impact on reef ecosystems.  Approximately 27 percent of mature lionfish will have to be removed
monthly for one year to reduce its population growth rate to zero, added the EEN.

Fresh from the St. John farm

Whether it will be held again, you can't be sure.  But they had a Farmer's Market last Friday in Cruz Bay Park. On an island where most folks think Josephine Roller is the only 'farmer,' several other people brought their organic wares to sell.

One highlight of the event, sponsored by the VI Agriculture department, was honey.  The story about the fair highlighted St. John Source's Athena Swartley who explained the flavor of her honey is directly connected to the plants her bees frequent. "Genip, mango, guavaberry, starfruit, Christmas Palm," she explained. Other island residents offered lemon grass while St. Thomas farmers sold dozens of their eggplants.

  • Full Source story about the Farmer's Market here
  • More about Josephine's Green's here
  • Kathryn Wagner's photo essay of Josephine here

Villa and condo sales recovering

It could be that the worst is over for island real estate, that the bargain hunters are grabbing what they can and the bottom has been touched.

"Yes, the market has improved," says RE/MAX's Diana Beam. Her year-over-year comparison of the residential sales market shows business up 50% compared to this time last year.

  • Homes under contract: up 36%
  • Homes sold: up 50%
  • Sold volume: $19.5 million, compared to $9.6 million ytd 2009
  • Avg. sales price: $1.3 million vs. $953,000

However, before getting too excited about these numbers, one villa owner
pointed out that the comparisons are from a very low base.

One of the most interesting data points is this: "Percentage of sales price off listed price."  Beam says in 2009, buyers were underbidding and buying at about 19% lower than the asking price.  This year, the discount is 12%.

The number of condos sold this year compared to this same time past year, is up 25% (5 sold ytd 2010). The total dollar amount is up 9% ($2,2 million/$2,4 million). The average sales price is down 12%. This year the average sales price for a condo is $484,460.

  • (Disclaimer: Diana Beam's RE/MAX Island Paradise Realty is an advertiser on the site)

Why villa rates could go up

Let's touch 'the third rail' about the cost of renting a villa.

On the VINow forum, a person wanted to know if St. John villas charged an 'energy fee,' as she has paid at resorts in the Bahamas and Antigua.

Anita Davis, a long time VI resident, replied she was unaware of the practice generally.  "But, since our energy costs from 50-cents/kwh, it would be great if our visitors did not open doors and/or windows with air conditioning blasting or let water run unnecessarily."  To which, the Inquiring Iguana says 'Amen."

Toes in the Sand said, "We have never had a villa with a specific fee for energy usage. There is usually a provision in the contract for a fee if excessive energy or water usage occurs, but never a fee for normal usage. I would love to see a villa rate plan that allows credit for low utility and water usage."

Cruising Gal said she's found a villa that does have such fees,"The one we want to rent."  There is a $250 cleaning fee and a $19 per day energy surcharge.

Linda J passed along the news that Caneel Bay has a 10% charge which can be attributed to energy. (Can anyone confirm this?)  "Others, the Westin I believe, have a daily activities fee.  It all adds up to the same thing. (They) do not want to raise their published daily rates," she said.

How do you feel about villas trying to manage and monitor guests' water and energy use through quotas and charges for overage?