Category Archives: St Thomas Virgin Islands

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.

Advertisements

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.

Will Work for Living Quarters

15 September 2014

I site I follow on Facebook had a link today to an interesting article called “5 Quotes From Billionaire Mark Cuban That Will Inspire You To Work Your Ass Off.” This post is not about Mark Cuban, I just happen to like a lot of what he was quoted as saying in this article.
Mark Cuban

I liked all five quotes. They weren’t just 1-liners – they had explanations of why he said each. I really liked number four. You can read for yourself at the link above but it ended with the following:

“We are trained to interpret “different” as a negative, when in reality, different jobs and opportunities often provide for the greatest potential for us to thrive as individuals. Life is too short for us to live in fear of being different. Be whom you want to be and don’t worry about the haters.”

I like the “different” part. Doing what Sharon and I are doing here on St. Thomas is definitely different. Life really is TOO short for any of us to live in fear of being different. Just go for it. Whatever “it” is.  As you can probably guess, we had many folks who said we were crazy for doing what we did by taking this position at Silk Cotton Villa. But no regrets here.

And part of this lifestyle is having to give X number of hours in return for a nice place to live and extras paid for such as Internet, utilities, and TV service. In other words, “Will Work for Living Quarters.” Many of our friends have ragged us from time to time (since our arrival) about what a great life we have here on a beautiful Caribbean Island. And it is N-I-C-E … no question about it. But we still have to get our work done before we can play.

Frances Bay St. John USVI

Our Spot at Frances Bay, St. John

I did a post earlier called the Project List where I outlined some of the projects on the list and some we had accomplished. And once again I won’t bore you with the details of the list. It’s a living thing. We complete projects and add projects all the time.

A few weeks ago we took a break from projects and spent a wonderful Saturday with some new friends at Frances Bay on St. John island. Our first trip over there since taking this position. You can see more photos of that day at The Working Couple Facebook page.

And this past weekend, we spent a lot of Saturday and some of Sunday knocking out more projects. One was pressure washing the east deck. Yeah, the view is nice and who cares if you get soaking wet in 90° weather …. but it is still work and it has to be done.

But there is a reward for all the hard work we did this weekend and the photos say it all. It could be worse. We Work for Living Quarters (on St. Thomas).

Hurricane Season

03 September 2014

It’s hurricane season here in the USVI. So far, just a couple of Tropical Storms and/orEast Window Hurricane depressions. We already have one of the busiest hurricane months, August, behind us. Maybe it will be a quiet season. But you never know. So, best to be prepared. And we are. The image at right was the last piece of the preparedness projects I completed last weekend. I had to make a new hurricane board for the east window. It mounts over an iron grate that protects that opening. Somehow the last one got used or lost.

One of the greatest natural threats in the Virgin Islands is hurricanes. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th with the highest occurrences of storms in August and September. (The table below indicates tropical storm and hurricane activity which occurred within two degrees of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico from 1819 to 2001. Source: NOAA)

Hurricane Marilyn 1995

Storm Activity from 1819-2001

  • JAN – 1
  • FEB – 0
  • MAR – 0
  • APR – 0
  • MAY – 0
  • JUN – 0
  • JUL – 9
  • AUG – 34
  • SEPT – 38
  • OCT – 9
  • NOV – 4
  • DEC – 0

We have a very good emergency alert system in place here called VI-Alert which Sharon and I both are signed up for. Plus, between Weather Underground and NOAA, it’s pretty easy to stay abreast of coming storms.

The last major hurricane that affected the islands was Hurricane Marilyn (image above) in September 1995. Previously there was Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. There have been smaller hurricanes that have impacted the USVI like Hurricane Georges in September 1998 and Hurricane Lenny in November 1999, but none as severe in recent years as Marilyn and Hugo.

We shall see what Mother Nature has in store for us in the coming months. Stay tuned.

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.