Category Archives: Working Couples Jobs

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.

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).

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!

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.

Hull Bay Hideaway

Sunday 27 July 2014

So, after Wednesday’s full day of cleaning training, we finished up washing all of the villa linens and towels. Clean linens are in all the bedrooms, either on the bed or in the closets since we don’t have any bookings in most bedrooms until late October. Plus, there is a clean spare of everything that has to be ready for the mid-week cleaning on any stays over 7 days. That’s all done and ready. We’re on top of it for now. We do have one couple coming in on Monday. They are friends and work for the owners at their other business venture in New Orleans. So their stay of 9 days will be a test run for us with “real” guests.

The last few days were spent doing odds and ends around the villa like watering plants and skimming the pool (regular schedule) but nothing major.  Spent some time with Carol going over the “Host” book which covers pretty much anything we need to know. There is also a “Guest” book that helps them plan their stay and provides information on things to do while on the island.

We spent Saturday getting caught up on some of our own business work so we can start the week off not too far behind.  Yes, we’re both still working at our “real” jobs since the villa work is not full time. Maybe we’ll discuss that in a future blog – but not today.Hull Bay 14.07.27-02

Sunday evening we decided to go do a little exploring at Hull Bay – a place Scott showed us earlier in the week – one of his favorite places. Only about 10 minutes from the Villa – over on the north side of the island. It’s a pretty cool place …. nice secluded bay with a small restaurant and two bars – Hull Bay Hideaway … mine and Sharon’s kind of place. Supposedly more of a local place versus a tourist place. Our kind of place.

Hull Bay 14.07.27-01The beach isn’t big and there is sand but the water’s edge is not shells, it’s small pebbles and rocks and very interesting shapes, sizes, and colors. We spent some time walking the beach and looking for cool rocks. A fun late afternoon and evening. Once we tired of that, we decided to grab something to eat. Hull Bay 14.07.27-05

Sunday night special menu item is what they called Brisket. More like pot roast to us but damn, it was good! Served with fresh veggies and mashed potatoes … it hit the spot. We shared an order and it was more than plenty. Check out their menu, they have a special every night. Our first “Date Night” on STT.  We will be back!

Wax On, Wax Off

Wednesday 23 July 2014

It’s training day for cleaning the villa – top to bottom, end to end. Today Carol and Scott show us how they want it done. The day begins at 0800. 

This training is to show us what a full turn would involve once a full house departs. Full house is 4 King bedrooms AND the owner’s 2-room apartment.  The reason it is dirty and needs cleaning is the owner’s family departed right before we arrived a few days ago.

I won’t go into the details but the cleaning involves spit-shining the bathrooms, all with tile floors and showers, vacuuming wooden floors, clean sheets and bathroom towels, packing up the dirty linens for washing, cleaning sliding door screens, wiping off porch rails and porch furniture, inspecting and making sure all AC units and TVs are in working order, cleaning and shining the great rooms and common areas, large kitchen, skimming the pool and surrounding decks, and various other odds and end that need checking. And then there’s the washing to do later. Whew.

Oh look. It’s 5 pm. Where did this day go?

Yes, it took us all day and we stopped for lunch. But there was a lot of discussion with the owners and taking time to explain everything that needs to cleaned and checked to make sure the entire villa is “Show Ready” for the next guests. It’s not hard. But a full house turn will need to be done in 5 hours or less if we have a back-to-back booking in the future. But that is not the norm so we’ll usually have plenty of time to get the villa in A-1 condition.

All in all a very informative day and I believe we now know what the owner’s expect as it relates to cleaning. We can do this. We got it covered.

Villa Caretaker/Host Training Begins

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Today is shopping day for our groceries and other odds and ends we need to set up home here in our apartment. We already know the prices are going to be higher than the U.S.

But first, Scott and I have to go into town to pick up a couple of recliner chairs that go in our apartment. They are at an upholstery shop they have been using for years. They tell us you make things last down here any way you can – just too hard and expensive to get good furniture. The trip to this guy’s shop was enlightening, to say the least. A very nice, local fellow he was who also asked Scott to take him to a gas station to get some fuel in some gas cans for his vehicle that was soon to be out of the shop. We did. Then returned to his shop and loaded the two recliners in the bed and headed back to the villa.

Around lunch, Sharon and I headed out with Carol for the shopping trip. She requested I drive and Sharon navigate from some pre-printed directions they provide to guests so they can get around the island without getting lost. Since I had been out with Scott earlier, I knew a little about the general direction we were headed and had had a chance to see how folks drive down here. A little scary at first but the trip with Carol went fine as far as my driving was concerned. Even Sharon said I did fine.

After 3-4 stops at various shops and stores, we completed our shopping and headed back up to the villa. I say up as it is located at about 700 feet above sea level, perched on a hill, overlooking Charlotte Amalie and the bay where the cruise ships dock. There are some pretty sharp curves and blind spots but as long as you’re careful, you’re OK. Generally, the drivers on the island are courteous, so far.

Later that afternoon Scott requested we take another ride to let Sharon get some practice driving but she just wasn’t ready yet, so I drove again. This time, we went down to the water’s edge, drove along there for awhile, then headed east by the cruise ship port then on out to Red Hook, which is as far east as you can go by car. Then headed to the north side by Megan’s Bay where we learned where we have to take the trash and garbage. Then on to Hull’s Bay which is a very lovely and secluded place we plan to visit often. I have a feeling it will become our little hideaway. Even has a bar and restaurant. Departed Hull Bay and headed back over the top of the mountain to the villa. Nice driving learning trip and got oriented to most of the eastern and northern parts of the island.

We still have a lot of exploring to do. It should be fun in the coming months. Click the map below for a larger version. The general location of the Villa is: find the words “Charlotte Amalie” in the middle of the map, then go up/north where you see “Hotel Mafolie”, see the little white road off the yellow road, leading to the red road? We’re off that white road.