How to bring home a great shot from St. John

PHOTO St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots.  But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work.  Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.

In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.

Read moreHow to bring home a great shot from St. John

Virgin Islands business opportunities

There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.

Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."

JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone.  I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."

Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.

  1. "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
  2. "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
  3. "An electric car rental company.  And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
  4. "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details 
  5. "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)

Why people bring food to St. John

Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.  

Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores.  You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef.  That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.

In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.  

"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand.  "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner.  No hurry, no parking, no worries."

Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food).  We still ate out plenty.  It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."

What about you?

Historical Society’s book on sale

Book_cover_MEDYears in the making, years in the telling. That's the story behind the St. John Historical Society's new book, St John – Life in Five Quarters. (The Five Quarters refers to the original five administrative districts of the island: Cruz Bay, Maho Bay, Reef bay, Coral Bay, and East End).

The island history is available in the Society's online store for $29.95. The book is described as more than 200 pages of "local stories, pictures, and history … accounts of prominent people and notable places, firsthand descriptions of earlier ways of life on St John, fact-based histories of estate ‘ruins’ we have rambled, and an impressive collection of interesting and beautiful images and photos."

The Society does more than sell books.

Read moreHistorical Society’s book on sale

La Tapa gets a new neighbor

That building going up between La Tapa and the Police Department is going to be occupied by the Virgin Islands Legislature

Its current space, up the hill from Sprauve School, has a flooding problem on the first floor. It is also unsafe, according to Louis Willis, the Legislature's director.  He worries the ceiling could fall.

Meanwhile, St. John's Craig Barshinger, the At Large Senator, is warning that the new building layout is all wrong.  "A disaster is brewing," he said in an e-mail blast to voters and the media.  He says "foolhardiness and waste" are responsible for a layout which allows no place to sit for people attending a public hearing.

Furthermore, his new office is too small. "Not even big enough to keep my filing cabinets and desks.  When you come visit me, you will wonder why (I) am doing business out of a closet."

Se. Barshinger is trying to pressure the Legislature to re-plan space usage in the new building which, by the way, is, like the current building, owned by former Sen. Robert O'Connor Jr.

Plan for new gas station, quick-stop store

Plans are afoot to build a gas station on Centerline Road.  

Developer Guilderoy Sprauve is asking for a zoning change to allow him to build the station and a convenience store on land which used to be the home of a concrete plant and is now home to Love City Home and Garden Center. 

Sprauve was quoted by the St. John Source saying everything is in place to move ahead with the project. "We have the funding," he said.

There will be an attendant on duty at the station, even  though it will be self service.  You'll also be on your own at the C-store.  Sprauve apparently intends to install vending machines.  He said the store will be "robotic."

Of course a new gas station would be helpful on the island.  E&C Service in Cruz Bay is the only place to gas up now; the Dominio station in Coral Bay is still closed with no word when, or if it will reopen.

  • Read the Source story here

Blue Tang: #2 and proud of it!

Bt_tripadvisor
Longtime readers know that News of St. John began as a not-so-subtle effort to encourage rentals of our home on the island.  There's a lot of competition for rentals and I thought the site would help.  It has. It is the oldest and largest Web site with news about St. John.

Ext_day_pool So it was with surprise and gratitude that, while mousing around TripAdvisor.com the other day, I found that Blue Tang was ranked as the #2 most popular rental on the island, with a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars ranking, too.  Shocked … thankful … happy.

Blue Tang ranked so well because of the reviews people who have stayed at the house were kind enough to post.  A few of their comments:

  • "A peaceful, relaxing, romantic honeymoon at Blue Tang."
  • "Blue Tang rocks."
  • "Best vacation we've ever taken."
  • "Awesome views and location."

I have to admit that each time we visit Blue Tang and read through the Guest Books, we are often moved to tears at the kind things people say about the house as they recount the wonderful time they had on the island and at our place.

If you're headed for St. John, I hope you'll consider our home, too.

Frank Barnako, aka The Inquiring Iguana

New Yorker criticizes Maho Bay room service

You can't make this stuff up.

A guest at the Maho Bay Camps blasted the eco-resort on Yelp

Vasyl F. of Rego Park, New York said, "This is the worst hotel I've ever stayed in."

The Queens borough resident said the description of Maho he read on Expedia.com did not meet his expectations.

"No ocean view rooms … and no mountain view … they charge even to lock your door … tents are 30 years old and leaking, and cracks in the floors are so wide that cockroaches and lizards are flooding the dwelling. Restaurant is extremely dirty and the food is all from cans and is made in China."

As for being an 'eco-resort," Vasyl said, "They just don't repair the hotel and don't clean the territory, besides all their furniture, tables, plates, glasses and many more things are made of cheap toxic plastic which is definitely not eco-friendly."

In rebuttal, anyone who knows anything about Maho Bay also knows that Vasyl's expectations were way off the mark.  But, he may not be alone, given what The Inquiring Iguana found when he slithered to Expedia's Maho entry.

For starters, Maho describes itself as a three star "Coral Bay hotel with a private beach."  Misleading, some could say. The Expedia description of Maho is also, shall we say, 'generous.'

Maho's 'amenities' are listed (see below), suggesting the rustic resort, with accommodations from $80/night, could compete with villas. (It's the Select Comfort mattress that really caught The Iguana's attention.)

AmenitiesThe Iguana understands how Expedia wants Maho to present itself in the best light.  But, he also wonders how a smart guy from Queens could make the assumption that he was staying a a luxury-like hotel when the Expedia site reservation screen offers "tent cottage."  That's a pretty good clue to what he's going to get.

  • Vasyl F.'s review of Maho Bay on Yelp is here.
  • Maho Bay on Expedia is here.

Go on vacation, bring home a new skill

Most people know Maho Bay Campground as a laid-back, environment-friendly, low-stress place to relax. It's not so well known as an art school.  Yet, that's what it is, too, especially this year with a re-energized curriculum.

StokingkilnWeekly classes are designed for island visitors, generally two hours long.  They includes Kids and Family Potter's Wheel, Kids or Adults Clay Bells and Whistles, and mask making.  Each promises to get you out the door with something you've created.

There are extended classes, also.  Each meets for several weeks, three hours at a time.  They include Relief and 3-D Sculpture, Glazed Earthenware, and Off the Wheel Techniques

There are also glass blowing classes, with an emphasis on art you can make from recycled materials.

Early in May, Maho featured Steven Branfman as the Clay artist-in-residence. 

Blues Festival 2011!

Calendar
2011_StJohnBluesFestival This announcement from Steve Simon:

"Frank, the 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival will be held from Wednesday, March 16th through Sunday, March 20th."

Planning to attend? Stay at our Blue Tang villa.  BlueTang.vi.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18th, 2011
Time:
8:00PM
Starring:
Albert Cummings, Candye Kane,
and Grady Champion

SATURDAY, MARCH 19th, 2011
Time:
8:00PM
Starring:
Curtis Salgado, Reba Russell,
and Moreland & Arbuckle

More info at http://stevesimonpresents.com/stj_blues_festival.html