Category Archives: Couples Jobs

Goodbye, St John

23 July 2015

Last weekend, while the owners were here with their family for a week, they allowed us to get away for a long weekend of some R&R. We decided to spend it on St John Island USVI since Sharon hadn’t had the opportunity to see that beautiful island in it’s entirety.

We found a small cottage on AirBNB at the last minute and booked it. It was on the south side of STJ about 4 miles outside of Cruz Bay overlooking Fish Bay and near Reef Bay.

Coincidentally, some friends back on St Thomas had some of their friends from Florida visiting and they were coming to STJ on Friday to show them around and then hang out at Francis Bay for the day. They invited us to join them. This is our second time to Francis Bay. We went back in September with these same friends, who we had only recently met. This link should take you to some photos from that day – they are on our Facebook page. If you compare the first visit to this visit, look at how green it was last year and how dry this year. Only 5″ of rain since 01 Mar 15. Dry as a bone.

Here are a few photos from the latest visit to Francis Bay. Our friends had not arrived yet.

On Saturday, we decided to check out Coral Bay and the East End. For the record, STJ is 60% National Park and very mountainous. We were traveling in the villa’s 1993 Dodge Dakota – a 22 year old truck. It’s a great villa truck. But it is tired. So tired that by the time we got out to the East End and returned to Coral Bay and stopped to get some ice, the right front brake caliper over heated and froze up leaving us with a truck that would not roll. We’re looking at a bad day.

Luckily, a shopkeeper contacted her local mechanic and he came right away – Jack is his name. We were able to drive the truck to his home/shop less than a mile away. It’s about noon when we get to his shop. We are not in a very populated area with conveniences like an auto parts store. Jack determines it is a frozen caliper caused by all the braking and heat over the mountains. Suggest we replace both. We agree. So what do we do for the next 4-6 hours until the parts come and Jack can fix the issue? Jack volunteers to take us where we were headed – Salt Pond Bay.

Salt Pond at Salt Pond Bay, St John USVI

The Salt Pond

Jack drives us the 3.5 miles to the Bay and says just hitch a ride back when we’re done and let him know. We didn’t get any photos – we weren’t in a photo taking mood. But we did love the place and it was beautiful and interesting. There is a real salt pond there and folks haul salt out of there. In fact, Jack said he and his wife (a local catering chef in Coral Bay) brought out about 250 lbs a few weeks prior. But it isn’t easy – you probably have to walk a mile from the parking area to the salt pond. All uphill on the way out.  Learn more about Salt Pond Bay here. Learn more about harvesting salt at the salt pond here.

We were able to hitch a ride back to Coral Bay to the bar where Jack told us to wait and call him. The bar was called Aqua Bistro – appeared to be one of the nicest places in Coral Bay. We called Jack and he said he was still waiting on the parts. About an hour later he called and said he was coming to get us. When we got into the car, he said he had bad news and worse news. Not what we wanted to hear.

Bottom line, wrong parts came from St Thomas. Luckily, Jack was able to get the caliper open with some brut force and the truck was rolling fine. Jack said it may work forever or it could freeze again – but said just go easy on the brakes on the way back to Cruz Bay.  Because it was a Saturday + Jack had to pay someone to go to St Thomas, the bill for his work was $230. We gladly paid to get on the road again and back to the cottage. Thank you Jack!

Just another exciting day in paradise.

We had some excellent food in St John, both breakfast and dinners. Best breakfast place was Jake’s; right in the middle of Cruz Bay. Hint: they are big – so share. Best dinner was Virgin Fire; a relatively new restaurant in popular Mongoose Junction complex – highly recommend. Here are a few more photos.

Bye-bye, St John. We will miss you. You are lovely!

 

 

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Weddings, Sailboats, Coconuts, and Beaches

Obviously, I’ve been a slacker as far as blogging the last month or so. But then again, the villa has been unusually busy for June and will also be busy in July which is rare. So there has not been a lot of major project work going on since I last posted. But we’ve still been having a good time and making sure we keep the villa in shape.

We spent several weeks in late May getting the villa spruced up for a BIG wedding on 10 June 15. The group arrived on the 6th and stayed the week. Prior to their arrival we did some patio wall painting, some deck pressure washing, and fixed a few broken items, replaced some screens, and replaced some light bulbs. Wasn’t a lot of work but all was needed to get the villa in “Show Ready” condition.
Apt AC Replace 02

The wedding rehearsal dinner and actual wedding and reception went off without any major issues. Although, the Sunday after they arrived, we had an A/C unit go out in the owner’s apartment that had to be addressed immediately as this was to be the “get ready” room for the bride and her brides maids. They NEEDED A/C, for sure. Luckily, we were able to get our relaible A/C guy out on Sunday and he had the new unit installed and running by Tuesday afternoon. Red Alert Over! Thanks Joe with Champion AC Service on STT.Wedding Trash

A 100+ guest wedding creates a lot of trash. And the photo to the left doesn’t show all of it. Just part of the job …. dumpster trips – LOL

Coconut Tree Tree 01One of the pleasures of living in our studio at the villa is we have a coconut tree right at the top of our stairs where we park the villa car. Since we have been here, we have made a habit of getting a young coconut and getting the sweet water out of it on a regular basis. The locals say it’s good for the ole internal plumbing system.

The landscaping crew comes every other week and I pointed out to them that the coconut tree needed a little trimming. So they took care of it. Once the trimming was done, the A/C guy asked if he could take some with him. The tree was loaded so of course we said “yes.” The photo is the landcscape guy trimming the tree. Looks great now. It really needed the trim.

With guests in the villa most of June, it has given us a chance to do a few projects in the caretaker studio. One was the replacement of screen in the sliding doors out to our porch. These are oversized screen doors so we had to order online from a screen company in Colorado as no one had it this wide on island.

Screen replace studio 06

Screen Mouse tool – Must Have!

No telling when theses screens were last replaced. They were torn and patched in places and had come loose from the edge seal in several places. Plus, they were filthy from the Sahara dust and the cruise ship smog. Not a hard project, just takes some patience and the right tool …. the Screen Mouse. The Screen Mouse makes putting the rubber seal back into the groove a breeze. A “must have” tool here at the villa.

Harts Sailboat Day

The Harts before heading off to San Blas, Panama for hurricane season.

Another cool thing we did in June was go visit some friends on their sailboat as they were about to head off to San Blas, Panama for hurricane season. They have been living-aboard since about 2003 and they spend many winters in St Thomas and hurricane season in different places south – out of hurricane routes. So, before they departed they had Sharon and I out for a short visit to say good-bye. Living aboard isn’t our cup of tea but they seem to really enjoy the life on a sailboat. If you’d like to follow their travels, they have blog and the crossing to Panama was a little hairy. Read it at http://hartsatsea.typepad.com/hartsatsea/.

A benefit of having guests in the villa is it allows us free time to explore and go “beaching” – one of the reasons we’re here in paradise …. right? And now that low tourist season is here, the beaches are almost deserted …. the way we like them. So, we’ve had a few great beach days in June. No complaints here – LOL.

It’s a tough life but as Mike Rowe says, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

Spring Spruce-up at the Villa

25 March 2015

As I stated in my post from last week, we’re headed into a lull period as far as having guests at the villa. Right now, we have a 1-weeker booked in April and May each. Then, June and July are unusually heavily booked, including a wedding and party on the premises in June – expecting around 200 folks. That should be fun.

So we’re using these open weeks to do a little spring cleaning, sprucing up, general preventive maintenance, and basic villa TLC.Painting Walls 01

These projects include (but not limited to) pressure washing all the patios and decks like we did last September, painting and touching up the patio walls, replacing worn or torn sliding screen door screens, fixing broken slats in louvered window and door shades, painting wooden porch rails, doing a major cleaning of the propane BBQ grill, and fixing various little items that were broken by guests … to name a few.

patching loose rocks 04One item that was no one’s fault was replacing several stones that fell out of a rock-faced wall near where we store the chaise lounge cushions just inside the giant doors to the pool area. Who knows why they fell out … maybe from one of the many small earthquakes that occur here on a fairly regular basis. Usually in the 2.5 to 4.0 range. Depending on where they occur in the ocean, you will feel them sometimes.

Our owners are coming in for a couple of weeks the first part of April (much needed break from their other business in New Orleans) and they have scheduled to have our pool completely resurfaced while they are here. It has been 10 years since it was last done so it is due. So, we’ll have a bright, clean and sparkling, like-new pool in a few weeks. I plan to document the project so stayed tuned.

A Job for a Professional

18 March 2015

Well, our really busy season is about over. High season in the USVIs is winding down. We have had guests in the villa almost every week and day since mid-January. A wedding party departed this past Tuesday so we’re in a little lull now until mid-April

Time to get a few projects knocked out.

Right before the last group arrived, we had an open weekend and I decided to clear some weeds that were growing up a water pipe on the south wall of the villa – the fresh water cistern outside wall. Evidently, I pulled too hard and the pipe broke right where it entered the wall and a little water came out of the break. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was the main fresh water outflow pipe for the entire villa. OOPS!  We discovered this fact quickly when we realized we had no water flowing in the villa.

Luckily, the wedding party group was not arriving until the following Thursday so we had a few days to get this broken water line fixed. Sunday evening I decided to call in a professional who has done some work around the villa in past years – Joey Ledee. Second generation plumber family on St Thomas. Great reputation.

Joey showed up on time Tuesday morning and had the issue resolved and totally fixed in an hour. Yeah Joey! I probably could have done it but it would have taken me 3-4 hours between going to get parts needed and not having the right tools for the job. And a lot of frustration.

Richard’s Rule: Know when a project is above your pay grade and call in a professional.

And the Rain Came Pouring Down

17 February 2015

Somewhere on the island, from a news report.

Somewhere on the island, from a news report.

We have never experienced an 11+ inch rain event in less than a 24 hour period. And according to the owners of the villa, neither have they. Not even during the many hurricanes they have been through here on STT. Sharon and I can now say we have. Last Friday night and Saturday morning it rained, and rained, and rained. But we did sleep good – LOL.

From a news report on the event:

St. Thomas was lashed by 11 inches of rain in the 24-hour period between 8 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, with most of that falling after 6 p.m. Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Jose Alamo said Saturday morning.

“An old frontal boundary has an area of increased convection,” Alamo said from San Juan. According to Alamo, the convection sat over St. Thomas. “That’s why St. Thomas got a lot of rain but no one else did,” Alamo said.

We awoke knowing we needed to get up to the villa and inspect for any damage or flooding. Guests had departed the day before and a full house – 10 people, 5 bedrooms – were to start arriving at around 3 pm. We needed to get the villa cleaned and “Show Ready.”

When we inspected a lower bedroom that has a wall below grade, we found our worse fear. The entire bedroom’s hardwood floors were covered with about 1/4″ of water. The shower and toilet area is a few steps above the bed area. There was water coming down the steps like a waterfall.

Our first thought was this was not flooding but obviously a pipe had busted. Wrong. On further inspection, we found water pouring through the hole in the wall behind the toilet where the cold water supply line comes into the room. Totally ground water seepage. Unbelievable. You could literally see the water flowing through the hole. And it was still raining outside. This was around 8 am. Six hours to “Showtime!”

While Sharon started cleaning the villa I started sucking up water in this bedroom with a shop vac. It took about 2 hours to get this room in presentable shape. Once I completed this task, I went up to the main villa and helped Sharon finish cleaning the main villa was she had already completed the bedrooms that needed cleaning.

It was a tight schedule between two separate guest parties and the flooding didn’t make it any easier. But we got it done with not much time to spare.

Just another day in the life of a Working Couple as caretakers and hosts of a villa in Paradise!

Green Goes To Blue

06 February 2015

Since my last post, we had an open week before we start a very busy, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back booking schedule. Our busiest block of bookings since we arrived back in July 2014. No complaints here. We are “Show Ready.”

One last project we knocked out before guests started arriving on 27 Jan was the repainting of BR 2 bathroom. This is a project that the lady owner requested we add to our project list when she was here during DEC. Just needed some freshening up. And she told us to pick the color …. pull something from the rug. OK …. will do.

Sharon is a very good painter and color-picker and we usually do painting projects together on weekends. But because we were sort of in a time crunch on this one, I did the painting by myself. I spread the paint work out over two days and then the two of us did the cleanup the following weekend.

The only thing remaining to do on this bathroom project is to find a full-length mirror to go on the wall beside the makeup table. We’ve been looking on island but the selection isn’t great. Who knows when or where we will find one but we eventually will.

Do you like the color?

Where Is My Security Deposit?

15 Jan 2015

Wow! It is already the middle of the first month of a new year. Man, time flies when you’re having fun. I haven’t posted lately due to December was a fairly busy guest month so not much going on in the way of big projects.

This doesn’t happen much at Silk Cotton Villa, but we had a last minute 5-day stay book in the middle of December. A group of 8, young twenty-something college folks. They seemed nice enough when I met them at the airport for the escort back to the villa.

As usual with all guests, we prepared them some “Welcome” snacks and after villa orientation, we retired back to our caretaker studio and off to bed around 10 pm. Phone rang around midnight. Guess who? Scared and lost kids in downtown STT and they had gotten separated from the other 4 in the group in a separate vehicle. They asked if I would come and get them. I said “Yes.”

Sharon got up with me and we headed off to get the first group who said they were at the STT Hooters down near where the cruise ships come in. I don’t think I have ever seen young strangers who were so glad to see me and Sharon than those kids – LOL. We asked where the other group was and were told they were lost at some beach. We finally determined they were at the entrance to Megan’s Bay – one of St Thomas’ world-famous beach attractions … you cruisers who have been here probably know it well.

Megan's Bay as seen from Drake's Seat

Megan’s Bay as seen from Drake’s Seat

At midnight in STT, when all businesses are closed and shutdown, even the Hooters’ parking lot can seem a little intimidating and scary. And Megan’s Bay at night is very dark and deserted, not the postcard you see in all the travel brochures. I was sure that group couldn’t wait until we got there. And we did about 10 minutes later and they were also glad to see Sharon and I.

The villa is a short 2.5 mile ride back up the mountain from Megan’s so we had them back in 5 minutes or so. We suggested they not go out this late in the future unless they were more secure and confident in finding their way around STT.

Well, you know how college-aged kids are. They are going to party. And party they did …. into the wee hours of the mornings. Every night. We don’t believe they saw or enjoyed much of this beautiful island during daylight hours. Oh well. Their loss.

SR-002After they departed for the airport and Sharon and I were doing a check of the villa, we discovered a BIG rip/tear in one of the big door roll-up screens in the main area of the villa that separates the interior area from the pool and patio. Oops. Appears someone went through a screen. Oops. No one bothered to report said screen damage. Oops. There goes your security deposit.

Renting out a villa, the owners (and us, too) know “stuff” happens. Ergo, a hefty security deposit. Occasional damage is just something that comes with the business. You deal with it, albeit sometimes getting repairs done by contractors can be time-consuming and drawn-out. Comes with the life of caretakers on an island in paradise.

Below are some photos of the damaged screen and of the fellows who replaced the new screen. Notice the rigging they had to set up to work over the pool. “MacGyverism” at it’s finest! Just another day in the life of the “Working Couple.”