It’s all happening at the St. Thomas airport

The main runway is being resurfaced.


Photos via the VI Port Authority newsletter

 The $8.9 million  project began in February. The work may continue through March, 2014. It's being done betwen 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. so as not to disrupt airport operations.

The first three phases will consist of replacing apron and taxiway asphalt pavement with a 12-inch reinforced concrete pavement including under drain, marking, lighting and other associated work. The FAA will pay 90 percent of the cost. The remaining 10 percent will be funded by the Port Authority.

In addition, the road leading to the airport has recently been resurfaced by the Dept. of Public Works.

The Port Authority also spent about $52,000 to acquire a passenger boarding ramp to accommodate passengers with boarding or deplaning needs.  The BAR 35 machine provides mechanical stairs and a lift for travelers, specifically those needing wheelchair access. Airlines have to request use of the ramp for which they will be charged $100, according to the Authority’s newsletter.

Maho Bay’s future: nobody knows nothin’

Even Stanley Selengut, who founded the eco-tourism business nearly 40 years ago, is in the dark.

Four months after the $13.95 million deal was announced to sell Maho Bay Campground the identity of the buyer is still unknown.  So are his/her plans for the 13.8 acre waterfront property.

Selengut has just three weeks left to keep the tents and campsites open. His lease expires at the end of June. He spoke with Lynda Lohr of the St. John Source last week, telling her the new owner is “an environmentally-oriented billionaire who’s supposedly going to use it as a family estate.” 

The buyer has not contacted Selengut, either.  Which some people might consider rude, given that there’s a heck of a lot of work to be done between now and June 30 to clean up the campground.

A few weeks ago,  Selengut said he could stage the world’s largest garage sale to sweep the site of millions of dollars of beds, silverware, glasses, blankets and so on – anything that’s not attached to the ground.  That means the tents and the buildings will stay.

New ferry route to STJ?

Word that a Louisiana company hopes to complete two ferries for St. John before the end of the year got all the attention last week when the Governor issued a news release. But the Inquiring Iguana thinks the real news was missed.

In the release, the Governor gave some people hope that a better, more efficient, and quicker ferry route to St. John from Charlotte Amalie may be considered.

Acknowledging that STT traffic is a nightmare and hardly the first impression the VIs want to give visitors headed for St. John, the Department of Public Works said it’s hired a consultant to develop a marine transportation system.

“The consultant will help determine appropriate vessels and marine transit routes … as well as study how residents and visitors alike can benefeit from new sea routes that will reduce traffic congestion downtown,” the Governor’s office said.

The Iguana thinks the best way to reduce congestion is to avoid it.  Create a new route from the ferry terminal now serving boats going to Tortola and other places.  That terminal is closer to the airport than the current “station” smack dab in downtown CA, at which cabs and busses chaotically stop, discharge and pickup passengers.

It’s likely, though, that the “Tortola Terminal” is too small, so … how about using Crown Bay?  It’s big enough for the cruise ships, should be big enough for St. John ferries.
New ferry service to St. John, with a pickup point closer to the airport and would be less stressful for visitors, reduce traffic through Charlotte Amalie.

Just do it!

Get an early listen to Chesney’s new CD

You don't have to weait until Tuesday to hear all 10 tracks from Kenny Chesney's new CD.  The iTunes stiore is streaming the full album free. One of the tracks, "Lindy", can also be played off the store's site.

Highlights of the album look to be "Coconut Tree," a duet with Willie Nelson, the track "Lindy", in memory of an island character who inhabited the Cruz Bay streets and alleys, amd the title track, "Life on a Rock." 

Kenny Chesney’s love song to St. John


The 20th album from Kenny Chesney is set for release Tuesday, the 30th — and it's going to benefit St. John!  The 45-year-old star will donate a portion of the sure-to-be-blockbuster sales to the Virgin Islands National Park.

It was 15 years ago that Chesney 'discovered' the island. He's been a regular visitor and homeowner ever since.

"As the world becomes more developed, protecting these wild places is going to become harder – and the cost of maintaining them needs to be covered," Chesney explains. "It's easy to forget, or not understand when it's a line item on a piece of paper. But if you've ever seen the trees, the oceans from a ridge, the way it all tangles together, you realize how important making sure lands like this exist for the people who come after us is.

"For me, Life on a Rock comes from this place, so I want to give something back, so it's there for others. Let them find the peace and the awe that I did for so many years. And I like that the music can be connected with protecting something so important.

The first track released from the CD, Life  a Rock, is Pirate Flag.  You can see it here. The video sure looks like it's got shots of St. John, Florida, too.  There's also an old blue chair on a beach. 🙂

The Inquiring Iguana senses that Chesney's making a head-on run at the audience of the original pirate, the aging Jimmy Buffett.

New St. John ferries seen by New Year’s


Two new ferry boats, costing nearly $8 million, are expected to go into service between Red Hook and Cruz bay by the end of the year.  

Darryl Smalls, commissioner of Public Works, said the cost of the craft is being borne by the federal government through a grant from the Tranportation department and federal stimulus funds.

"Those vessels, the first in the country that are being constructed under new U.S. Coast Guard regulations for passenger vessels, should be delivered by the third quarter of this fiscal year and go into operation soon after," Smalls said. "The territory's two franchise ferry companies will lease and operate the ferries, which will improve the speed, service, reliability and capacity of the ferry service that so many Virgin Islanders and tourists rely on every day."

The 85-foot aluminum catamarans are being built by Midship Marine Inc., a Louisiana company.  Each can carry 250 passengers.


Trunk Bay admission is free this week

This is National Parks Week which means there will be no admission fee at Trunk Bay or the Christiansted Histioric Site now through Friday.  The usual $4 toll comes back Sunday at Trunk Bay.

Dropping the fee, despite the Sequester and budget issues in Washington, is meant to encourage people to stop and smell the roses, or at least feel the sand between their toes.  Mike Anderson, deputy supt. at the VI National Park, told Lynda Lohr of the St. John Source, "You can pause and think about what's important."

Trunk Bay access will also be free Saturday.  The Friends of the V I National Park will be observing Reef Fest as part of this week's Earth Day observances.

The Friends announced Earth Day Fair will be held April 19th at the National Park ball field in Cruz Bay from 9 am to 1 pm and have more than 20 educational exhibits and learning activities.  The fair will kick off with a "litter stomp" parade from Julius E. Sprauve school to the fair grounds. 

Then on Saturday, April 20th there will be a fee-free day at Trunk Bay from 12 to 5 pm with various exhibits and interactive activities all centered around reef preservation and conservation.  There will be a free shuttle service from the Friends Store in Cruz Bay.  Call 779-4940 for more details.

Cafe Roma’s owner: “We will return!”


Photo courtesy of Kevin McCarthy

From John Hiebert’s Facebook page …

“The restaurant closed last night at 10:30 pm….. same as always… (Sunday) at about 1:30 pm smoke was seen billowing out of the restaurant. Local business owners and staff jumped into action. (Castaways, Woodys) The fire Dept, Police, St John Rescue, and all that responded did a great job.

“However, the restaurant didn’t make it. 

“Thank God that Woody’s, La Tapa, and Quiet Mon, Bayside were not touched by the fire.  Sorry that you had to close because they shut off all power in the area…….. ( I am truly sorry that you had to close for the evening….. but I am so touched that you were all on your roofs with hoses trying to control the fire.) 

“I live on St Thomas, and had to wait for the next ferry (1 hour after we heard the news)–just to see what was going on…. I could see smoke billowing over St John the entire ride ……. That was quite sickening for Michelle and I, because we knew that it was our restaurant BURNING!!… When we reached the St John dock, Michelle and I were so touched by all the people greeting us at the ferry, tears in their eyes. 

“The St John community is sooooo very very special. You have turned out in support and prayers for us… THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! We are so very blessed by the friends and support from everyone. WE WILL REBUILD!!!!! ROMA WILL RETURN!”

Chesney pitching Blue Chair rum

According to a press release, "When Kenny Chesney decided it was time to find the rum he’d always wanted to drink, he didn’t approach the various distillers who’d offered him lucrative deals to lend his name and likeness to a brand created for him.

"No, the man who oversees every aspect of giant stadium productions and listens to myriad songs beyond what he writes for his albums, decided he wanted to do it himself.

“Everybody’s always expected this from me,” said Chesney. “There have been people who’ve approached us, stories that have gone around over the years. But rum is what I drink, and I always told myself, if I was going to do this, I wanted to create something I could be really proud of … make the rum I truly wanted to drink."

Chesney's brand will offer a Coconut flavored rum, Coconut Spiced, and a premium White Rum.

Blue Chair Bay Rum won’t be available until May.

The 45-year-old country singer owns a house on St. John, currently listed for just under $8 million.

Better cell phone service?

Anyone who's ever tried to make a call from the beach at Maho will appreciate this: AT&T said St. Thomas and St. Croix will be included in the company's introduction of it higher-speed LTE technology by "the end of the summer."

But not St. John? (Read the corporate news release here.)  

It doesn't seem possible that other two islands would have the improved technology access but St. John wouldn't.  Maybe AT&T doesn't know St. John is here. or perhaps the towers that cover St. John will not be upgraded.  The Inquiring Iguana has always been happy with his AT&T connectivity in the past – we'll just have to wait and see.

The company said the LTE service provides  a stronger connection to wireless service, and faster upload and download speeds. Smartphones like the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy are capable of using the 4G LTE network.

Sprint is reported planning to add LTE cell towers in the VI, including one on St. John.