Category Archives: Property Caretakers

This Old Villa

24 November 2014

Silk Cotton Villa was rebuilt after Hurricane Hugo pretty much destroyed it in 1989. Hurricane Hugo was a powerful Cape Verde-type hurricane that caused widespread damage and loss of life in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Southeast United States.

The Villa was then a two bedroom house. Since the storm damaged it almost to the ground, the owners decided to enlarge it when they rebuilt and turn it into a large rental villa. They added two upstairs bedrooms and raised one bedroom so they could get another under it. In addition, they did some modifications to the “owner’s” apartment including enclosing an attached outdoor porch and making it part of the enclosed living room adding a very nice amount of floor space as well as a whole wall of windows.

That porch and its drainage holes is the subject of this post.

Being that it was an outside porch at one time, it had four (4) drainage holes at the bottom of the exterior wall to allow water to drain off of it during storms. For some reason, during renovations, no one thought to close these drainage holes that went through 12″-16″ of concrete wall. When we arrived this past summer, the owners indicated that a lot of critters, especially iguanas and lizards, have a tendancy to come into the villa through these openings. In due time, closing these drainage holes made it to the villa project list.

And the project made it’s way to the top of the list last week. Dumb me forgot to take “before” images so you will have to use your imagination looking at the photos below to envision what I am explaining.

With a little “MacGyverism” to make a hole plug, some fiberglass tape, and some concrete vinyl patch, I think it came out pretty good. I also think I could do a better job the next time around. I haven’t used concrete patch in the past so it was a learning experience. Not bad for a rookie, IMHO. Now the critters have four less places to get inside – LOL.

One more project checked off the project list!

Happy Birthday, Baby

21 November 2014

Last Friday was Sharon’s birthday. We heard of a concert coming on that date about a month ago from some friends here on the island. We decided to splurge and take it in. Figured it would be a great way to spend a birthday and “Hot Date” night.hit makers image

Our friends had attended several of these concerts. The series is called “Hit Makers and Rum Chasers” all started by a very talented, young lady entrepreneur named Carolyn Miller. Learn more about her here.

She has a great idea but I don’ know how she can be making any money on the concerts based on how many attended that night. I’m estimating maybe 200 were present. I guess the local islanders don’t like country music. Our friends said the attendance last Friday night was the most they had ever seen at one of these events. Everyone got to sit in the expensive seats, up close and personal, no matter what price you paid. Our friends suggested we purchase the “cheap seats” as they knew this would happen. They learned this trick at a previous concert they attended.

Best I can describe this concert is the Blue Bird Cafe in a beautiful amphitheater on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands – down on the west end of the island. It’s called the Reichhold Center for the Arts and one of the best amphitheaters I have ever visited or watched a concert in.

Supposedly this concert series comes about every 3-6 months. We will be there for the next one. Guaranteed!

The artists were excellent, the venue was superb, the promoter obviously knows what she is doing, and the ambiance and company of our friends plus tailgating before the concert made for a most memorable evening … on my honey’s birthday. One she probably won’t forget.

Happy Birthday Sharon.

The Case of the Squeaky Bed

10 November 2014

Behind on posting … again.

Guests are here this week. Arrived last Wednesday and depart this Wednesday. So, week before last was finishing up a big project and generally making sure everything was in “Show Ready” condition for the guests.

BR 3 new support -01

One down, one to go

One of the guest bedrooms has a homemade platform for its King size mattress. I suspect the platform was constructed many years ago, maybe when they opened in 1994 or so.

The platform is in two sections – made entirely of plywood, 2x4s, and 2×2 legs. Over the years of use, the leg mounts have become loose causing the whole thing to squeak badly when moving about on the mattress. Even a turn from side to side would wake the dead. Glad we slept in every room to see if anything needed fixing or repaired. This definitely did.

BR 3 new support -03

Time to paint

My “fix” was to add an additional 2×4 support all the way around the legs of each section and run some new screws into the legs where they were orginally mounted. Not a difficult job, just a little time and patience to do it right.

Of course, once the construction was done, it needed painting. I decided to paint the whole thing and freshen it up. Turned out fine. And it’s tight as a tick …. no more squeaking.

Final Note: We added plastic glides to the bottom of each leg so we can move the platform away from the wall easily for cleaning and making it up.

With guests here project work goes on hold. But we’ll be back at it in a few days. Stay tuned.

BR 3 new support -02

And everything gets covered by a bed skirt.

The Pergola Project – Part I

10 October 2014

Pergola Rot Repair 02The Pergola project has been staring us in the face for some time. It got delayed a bit when we discovered a fairly large rotten area in one of the Pergola’s large wooden beams. Of course, this rotten area had to be properly repaired before we could pressure wash and then paint.

Pergola 11Going into last weekend, the wood repair was completed and finally dry. Tme to pressure wash the entire Pergola. Sharon is the pressure washing Queen. I think she likes doing it. Plus, since she had to shoot up to get the Pergola beams, she got soaking wet. Not a bad thing in 90°+ weather.

Once she finished the Pergola (old paint chips went everywhere), we cleaned the outdoor wrought iron furniture and some dirty areas around the pool patio.

Screens Clean 02Then, Sharon decided to see if she could clean the big rollup screens along the pool without damaging them. She tested and it worked. So she got all five of the big screens nice and clean. Not often you can pressure wash from the inside of your home.

The last area we needed to pressure wash was the front entrance patio and some really dirty areas on the driveway. Guests are coming this weekend so we want it to look nice and clean. And it now does.

So another project week in the books and the Pergola is ready to be painted. I’ll cover that project in my next post.

Guest Season Right Around the Corner

30 September 2014

Another month is in the books for our Silk Cotton Villa adventure. Another week gone working on projects. Guests start arriving in a little over a week. No project work while guests are here. One reason we have been steady at it for some time now.

Electrical Outlet Pool Patio Issue

What happened when I unplugged an extension cord last week.

I don’t like electrical work – never have. But will do it when necessary and within my knowledge and skill set. We had two outdoor outlets that were in dire need of repair. The environment here had literally turned the electrical boxes into rusted metal flake. Nothing left to hold the outlets in the boxes. And the outdoor covers were dated and needed replacing, too. So, that project got about 90% completed this past week. And, it is turning out nicely. Still some finishing work to make them look nice on the walls. Should wrap this one up later this week. More photos below.

No photos on this one, but another electrical issue. Had some lights at the front door foyer and kitchen area that were not working. After some trouble-shooting, testing, replacing bulbs, etc., we discovered we had three bad switches. Replaced switches and all is fine now.

Things just wear out in a rental property – especially in this ocean/island environment. Constant TLC needed. Helps to be handy in this lifestyle.

Big Door Refinishing 003We have two very large arched wooden doors located at each end of the pool patio. A few weeks ago it dawned on us that they could use refinishing. They were both very, very dry from the elements and don’t appear to have been refinished in quite some time. These got on the “To Do” list this past week. Sharon started working on these this past weekend – sanding and scraping – while I worked on the outdoor outlet project. She’s a VERY good refinishing prep lady!

I joined her in the application of the stain step and we got that part knocked out, too, before the weekend ended. Now, just have to let mother nature dry them before a protective coating is applied. With the humidity here, drying takes a while sometimes. More photos below in the Gallery.

In between, we worked on several smaller projects like weeding potted plants and putting down a weed-block layer and then put the finishing layer of wood filler on the rotted out area of the Pergola beam (previously discussed). Now, once that final wood filler coat is sanded, we can move on to pressure washing the Pergola and getting it painted.

Man, we can’t wait until the next R&R weekend rolls around – LOL

Peeling, Painting, and a Bikini

22 September 2014

We were definitely the “working couple” this past week. Hope this doesn’t bore you. But if you’re considering the working couple lifestyle, you need to know what’s involved with a gig like this.

As many of you that follow our blog and Facebook page know, Sharon and I both kept doing our regular jobs when we started the villa hosts and caretakers position. We put in our required villa project hours when we can which a lot of that is on weekends. My “regular” job isn’t as intense as hers so I have more time during the week days to knock out some projects, and I do.

Examples this past week:

Pergola Rot Repair 02A few weeks ago we found a rotten section on a wooden beam on the Pergola over the outdoor eating area. It wasn’t a small rotten place – pretty big – at least 12″ long and 2″ tall and almost all the way through. Through talking with the owner (formerly a boat owner and yacht captain) about the issue, he told me to get a product called “Git”-Rot and apply first to stop any further rot and then fill the cavity with wood filler.

These repair steps cannot be done in one day. And with the heat here, the “Git”-Rot, a 2-part epoxy product, even had to be put in the refrigerator to cool it down before activation and mixing. Supposed to be done and used in 70° temp or lower environment …. don’t believe I will see that temp any time soon – LOL.

Long story-short on the rotten wood repair, almost done after a week. Maybe 2 more thin coats of wood filler to get the board face right and we can then move on to pressure washing and painting the whole thing … after we get the rust off and stopped on the metal cross-beams. I’ll cover that in another post.

The villa is built with a lot – and I mean a lot – of concrete. You have a tendency to build hurricane-proof once you loose your home to a big storm. And these owners did in hurricane Marilyn in 1995. She was the most powerful storm to hit the Virgin Islands since Hurricane Hugo of 1989.

Pool Patio Painting 04One assigned project is to keep the concrete walls around the patios painted and touched up before guests arrive and/or after weddings and events. Due to the heat, the flat surfaces of these walls get extremely hot causing the paint to blister in areas. So …. before you can paint, you have to cut out the blisters and peel off the paint where it is not adhering. That’s one project we did this weekend. And Sharon decided to use the time in the sun to work on her tan. Ergo the title: Peeling, Painting, and Bikini.

Pool Patio Painting 05I must say, I have never painted with a bikini-clad helper before but I like it. And, when you get too hot, just jump in the pool for your well-deserved break.

Not only did we work on the patio walls around the pool but also painted the short walls of the east deck outside the owner’s rooms. This was a little more time-consuming because we had to do the delicate work of brush painting the caulk line I re-did a few weeks ago between the floor and the walls. But it’s done. Check that one off the list.

Then there was the canopy bed project. We noticed a few weeks ago that the canopy bed in one of the bedrooms was very loose and squeaky. Would not make for a nice guest visit – hanky-panky or no hanky-panky. It was in need of some serious TLC.

After removing the box springs and mattress and doing some inspecting and testing, we discovered how to tighten up every joint on the wood parts and also found the bed rails were very loose and got these secured, too. It felt good to get that bed tightened up and rid of all the squeaks and creaks.

Below are a few more photos of the work. By Sunday evening we were tired and ready for some R&R. We headed off to Hull Bay for some fish tacos (the best!), beer, and live music by the ocean.

Liquid Gold

28 Aug 2014

The day after my last post, a tropical depression (the start of what became Hurricane Cristobal) came across the islands and brought a lot of rain (liquid gold) on Friday and Saturday. I don’t know exactly how much but believe it was about 6 inches. We didn’t have a rain gauge at the time … but we do now.

It was a lot more rain than TS Bertha brought back at the beginning of August. How do I know? Because our cisterns collected a lot more water this time. And monitoring the cistern water levels is an important part of our jobs here as caretakers. We have about 60,000 gallon capacity here – fresh water and grey water combined. Without the rain filling up the cisterns during the rainy season, you’re buying water from the desalination plants in town.

The USVI is the only place in the modern world where citizens are required by law to be directly
responsible for their own domestic water supply. Since the early 1930s the US Virgin Islands have a mandatory law requiring private residence and businesses to construct cistern(s) for the storage of rainwater from rooftop or dig a well for domestic water supply.

The building code of the USVI reenacted in 1964 and revised in 1996 has a clause setting a mandatory cistern construction or well for all dwellings except those units that have connection to public water supply system. Most of the lower areas around town and near the waterfront are connected to the water system which is from desalination plants. But most of the island is rural and depends on their cisterns for water needs. So we look forward to any substantial rainfall.

The Virgin Islands does not have a rainy season, however there are month to month differences. The rainiest months are November, October, September, August and May. Rainy months does not mean that there is continuous rainfall every day all month long, in fact most daily rainfall reports are below .10 inches. Rain showers are often short and typically occur early in the morning or at night. On a truly rainy day (like we had the weekend of the 22-23), it will rain off and on for the entire day. All day downpours over numerous days are not common.

So, yes, we had a rainy weekend but no one we know is complaining – especially us!

Where Does The Time Go?

21 August 2014

It’s hard to believe that today is the beginning of our second month at Silk Cotton Villa as caretakers and hosts – one month in the books. It hasn’t flown by and it actually seems to me as if we have been here longer than one month. We have definitely been busy both with our own work-from-home-office jobs and learning the villa routine and knocking out the projects to keep this place in shape and “show ready” for guests.

Speaking of projects, we knocked a number of them off the list last week. Examples: 2 coats of Tung Oil on the front door, fixed some shelves in the owner’s apartment, got the main storage room about 95% organized, fixed all of the guest bedroom’s shutter door and window slat controllers (many had missing connectors), and lots of little things not worth mentioning.

I must say … fixing the shutter slat controllers was tedious and time-consuming (hours!) – something Sharon and I had never done before but before long we had a system – LOL. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we have to fix some of these.

T-storm Aug in  the virgin islands

Here’s the good part of this lifestyle and the position especially when the owners are gone and no guests in the villa. At the end of the work day, we head up to the main villa house from our studio living/office quarters and enjoy a swim before dinner and then dinner on the pool patio looking out to the southern Caribbean Sea. The image to the right was taken earlier this week when a thunder storm blew up about 20 miles out in the ocean. It was a nice show from the patio. Nice way to end another day in paradise.

I think we will enjoy the next 11 months here.

Project List

12 August 2014

Keeping my promise from the end of the last posting, it’s time to talk about the Villa projects. The way a lot of these couple’s positions work is the caretakers/hosts get living quarters with things like utilities, TV, and internet service provided in exchange for a predetermined number of hours of work. Not a bad deal, IMHO. In some of the opportunities we have reviewed on the couple’s job sites we follow, some even offer other compensation such as a monthly stipend (or salary), health benefits, vehicle usage, etc.

Our caretaker/host position at Silk Cotton Villa provides living quarters (an air conditioned 500 SF 1-room, furnished studio apartment with a view of Charlotte Amalie bay), utilities, Dish TV, hi-speed Internet, and use of a work truck along with some compensation for cleaning during and after guest visits, and hourly pay for any work above the agreed upon hours owed for all the above. And if we want to provide Chef services or other Concierge services for guests, we can write our own menu and service offerings and charge whatever the going rate is at villas like this in St. Thomas. We haven’t decided on whether to Chef or not. That’s another topic for another post.

While guests are here, we HAVE to be available in case they need anything or something goes wrong or breaks. Otherwise, we stay out of their way so they can enjoy the Villa and their stay. While the villa is empty, that’s when projects get done. That time is now.

The list got started when we did out first full villa cleaning turn the second day we were here. The owners worked with us and showed us how they wanted everything cleaned and checked. As we went room to room cleaning, there were all kind of little details that needed to be addressed and/or fixed. Some as simple as replacing a bathroom drain stopper because it is rusted-looking. Then, all the rooms have shutters over the windows and sliding glass patio doors and as you can imagine, over time and heavy use, the shutter slats need a little TLC. That was the beginning of “The List.”

I won’t go over the entire list as it stands right now and nothing is what I would call “major.” But there’s caulking to do around edges of the patio over our apartment to stop some leaks, replacing 20 metal fixture boxes for embedded “Step Lights” that light up walkways at night (they are rusting due to weather conditions here), painting of walls, pressure washing the patios around the pool, re-attaching some loose hardware, cleaning and organizing some storage closets, Tung Oil the front door, Scotchguard some furniture, and the list goes on and on. Mostly little things but it’s having the little things right that makes a stay here special and enjoyable. We don’t do “shoddy” here at Silk Cotton Villa. Sharon and I have never done “shoddy” and never will.

My plan is to let y’all know what we get checked off as we go forward. I know, boring stuff, huh? So far … remounted a speaker to a wall, got one storage room about 85% organized, ordered one of the Step Light boxes to make sure it’s going to work before we order 20 of them (should be here in a week or so … slow deliveries here), and we’re trying to get all the projects onto one list so we can get a full grasp of what lies in front of us and we can develop a plan and schedule to complete them before guests start arriving again after hurricane season is over (Oct 15th).  Everything doesn’t have to be done by then but it would be nice if they were. Besides, in a place like this, as big as it is, in the environment it is in … there is always something that can be done. I don’t think project lists are ever empty here.

A Good Scout Is Prepared

06 August 2014

I am behind AGAIN on our blog – I apologize. Not much has been going on since I last posted. A couple (friends of the owners who also work at their other business in New Orleans) came in to stay at the villa for 10 days back on Monday, 28 July. They just departed early this morning. Nice couple and the owners used them as a “test” for us – we treated them as if they were paying guests. We did everything we would do for any group – 1 bedroom or 5. We met them at the airport when they arrived to escort them to the villa, did the Welcome and Greet once they got to the villa, and did the mid-week cleaning and changing linens and towels, etc. Plus, we made new friends as a bonus.

Tropical Storm Bertha August 02 2014 St Thomas Virgin Islands

Tropical Storm Bertha blew by last Saturday (02 August) making for an interesting day. All in all, the rain was very welcoming and the winds weren’t too strong. It was a very quiet, relaxing Saturday for Sharon and I – never felt in danger. Actually was very nice to watch the storm bands blow by all day. Had a few leaks in our studio apartment during some of the worst downpours but we now know where we need to do some re-caulking on the patio above us. Just one more item added to the growing villa project list.

Since Bertha, the temps have gone down a bit but it’s still about the same day in and day out …. 78-79 at night and 82-86 during the day. High humidity but there is usually a pretty good southern breeze blowing up from the bay below making it very nice out by the villa pool and patio. Had a little more rain the last few days and the yard has really greened up … was very dry-looking when we arrived. Amazing what a little water can do!

The owners head back to their RV Resort business (Ponchartrain Landing) outside New Orleans this coming Friday so there’s still a few things for all of us to go over before they leave. Today, we went over the “Hurricane Preparedness Procedures” and a few other important issues about the villa. Tomorrow, I suspect there will be some more items to discuss and then we’re on our own for a few months until the owners come back sometime this fall, based on their plans right now.

We are about to head into our “Shut-Down” period – hurricane season – so no guests are scheduled from now until late October. The Scout Motto – Be Prepared – takes on special meaning as we head into the next few months.

Next post we will begin to discuss the “Project List” and how we plan to get the items completed and checked off the list.  Believe me, we will not run out of anything to do – LOL.