Category Archives: St Thomas Virgin Islands

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.”

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The Diamond Brite™ Pool Resurfacing Project

17 April 2015

The pool at Silk Cotton Villa has been here since the original home was built sometime in the 50s. Of course, it has been resurfaced many times over the years and it was due again since the last resurfacing was about 12 years ago. The owners told us it needed resurfacing when we arrived last year and planned to have it done in 2015. Well, this big project finally rolled around.

Thankfully, this project was above our pay grade and expertise level so all we had to do was some prep work and seal the villa off as best as possible to keep grinding dust out. After watching the professionals who did the job, I can honestly say I would never choose this line of work. Nasty and hard work, to say the least.  It got resurfaced with Diamond Brite™ finish which is a blend of selected quartz aggregates and fortified white portland cement.

The owners awarded the contract to the same fellow and company, Rick Rossie, who did the resurfacing 12 years ago. However, he has learned a lot since that time and the products have improved, too.

One very valuable lesson he learned on this big job last time was to be prepared for rain during the application process. Last time he was not and it caused some issues with the final product. As you review the “work in progress” photo gallery below, you will see the big tarp that was erected to cover the entire project for protection against any possible rain storms during application.

This is a big pool – about 18′ x 48′ with a big bath tub-type indention to create the deep areas. About 19,000 gallons of water. But one good design element is that you can walk all the way around the pool while in it – there is a ledge about 4 feet deep along the entire outer edge. Makes for a great poolside refreshment area anywhere along the edge.

The contractor said he would have it done in less than a week and he did. They started on shedule on March 31 and were done late on the night of April 4. They did come back by on April 5 (Easter Sunday) and wrapped up the cleaning of the entire pool patio area.

The contractor has some locals he uses on a regular basis but he had 3-4 big pool resurfacing jobs all in a row so he brought in some help from Tampa, FL. He has used these fellows before. Hard workers, all of them – locals and outside guys. The refinishing part started at 0700 Saturday morning and they departed about 9 pm that evening. And water was going into the pool on Saturday night. Simply amazing!

The pool is swimmable now but it has to be brushed daily with a stainless steel pool brush to make sure all the loose cement coating is removed from the Diamond Brite™ finish as it slowly cures. And who gets to brush the pool? Me. Hopefully I’m doing a good job and helping to make sure the finish stays on another 10 years or so.

This project was an education for me as I had never witnessed a pool resurfacing. And it made me appreciate folks even more who have trade skills that help to keep our economy churning. Skilled trades people are tops in my book.  And these guys did an outstanding job!

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.

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.”

The TLC Never Stops

02 December 2014

I think everyone has had a dream at some point in their life of owning a house on the beach or ocean. I know I have … many times. Wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore or like this villa, look out over the ocean and watch the changing hues throughout the day and seasons. A place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

The harsh realities of ocean-side or ocean environment property ownership can turn your dream home into a full-time job. And I knew this before taking this position at Silk Cotton Villa . Bottom line is the ocean environment is rough on a building and its guts, no matter how it is built or with what materials. It just needs a lot of TLC.

This villa has a lot of decks and patios with steps going down to the lower yard in the back. When it was rebuilt over 20 years ago, the design included step lights built into the walls to light the steps and patios for safety and ambiance. These step light inner boxes are made of metal. And as we all know, metal rusts. And here, in this environment, it rusts to the point it disintegrates to just metal flakes and pieces (see photos below).

This project subject: Replace about 20 step light inner boxes.

This might sound easy, but it isn’t. First, since the walls these lights are embedded into are made of concrete and plaster, the replacement boxes needed to be at least close to the same size as the originals. Just finding that box and getting 20 delivered here was a project in and of itself. But we finally did get the boxes we needed, although just slightly larger in width.

Because the width of the new box is about 1/2″ wider, replacing meant chiseling out the opening so the new box would fit. Then there is the case of the new box conduit knockouts not matching up perfectly with where the wires are inside the opening so there is plenty of “MacGyvering” to make each box fit in the opening and be wired safely.

There are 8 of said step lights on the lower pool patio lighting steps down to the yard. Replacing all of these was last week’s main project. The photos below show some of the before and after work.

Now it’s on to the east patio located off the owner’s apartment where there are about 12 more of these step lights to replace. You just take your time and try to do it right. I’ll make an update post when this whole project is completed.