As a whole, St John is returning much faster than we expected. The island is GREEN. At this point most businesses are open. Not all, but most. The courageous islanders are in good spirit. The Westin and Caneel are down, but a number of Villas and small boutique hotels are open. Most of the Car rental firms are open. Slim mans and L&L have parking available. All grocery stores we visited were well stocked.
Beaches. Well here is the difference. Not much shade from palms on most beaches. The national park service had cleaned up and opened most north shore beaches. The only one they have not gotten to yet was Maho. Watch our vid of Maho on the FB page. Even though it had not been cleaned up, there were a number of people snorkeling and swimming. We did see turtles popping their heads up. Hawksnest was as wonderful as ever. Little fish nipping at your feet always makes me smile.
Amenities at the beaches have not fully returned. There are no restaurants or bars. There are rental stands for snorkel gear and chairs. Porta potties are available, but the showers were not in operation at Trunk as of our visit. Not all of the debris has been removed, but we were told that is being taken care of quickly.
Heading over to Coral bay side, we did not stop at Anaberg, so no update about it. I wonder if the defiant tree which used to grow out of the top of the ruins made it? It was always an inspiration to us. We put up a FB video of Chateau Bordeaux before it was cleaned up. Tremendous damage. The most amazing thing was the number of homes which are now visible to us for the first time.
Driving down centerline to Coral Bay one goes from no damage to the appearance of a war zone. There is a bright side to this as the BVI's are incredibly visible. Beautiful string of green pearls on the blue background. Yup, we stopped so i could get pics. I r a tourist again!
This was the first trip where we simply dropped in on our friends with out pre ranging a visit. No cell service either at Villa Tesori or on the East End. We stopped out to see Catherine Perry and Sloop Jones.
Before getting to them, we drove by Skinny's. Much work was going on and we were told they expected to be open mid December. NEW ROOF! We wanted lunch and stopped by Aqua Bistro, but it did not appear open. However, Wok on the Beach was. We never ate there before. Thoroughly recommend it. We both had their grilled cheese. Comfort food for an emotional trip. Very nice setup. Bistro tables with ocean view, small bar. Friendly service and happy guests.
Heading off to Catherines is always fun. I used to enjoy off roading and Catherines place is past Carolina Corral. The storms have not been kind to roads in the VI. Secondary roads have become more interesting. I tried to get Lisa off road couple times to no avail. This trip finally did the trick. Lisa drove and I can confirm this would be the equivalent of a Green trail. Lisa is now an official off roader! Ginger the Jeep handled the road like a champ. 4WD is suggested if you get off the main roads. To all you off roaders, grab a jeep and enjoy until they fix the roads!
Catherine was surprised and happy to see us. She made out very well from the storms. She has had a number of guests stay at her place since. Most have worked with her and other groups cleaning up roads or helping locals. She pointed to where a tornado just missed her home. It appeared like a large knife was dragged up the hill. We mentioned that one of the Parrot Fish post lights at our place was actually a Flying fish and now awol. She promised to fit a replacement into her schedule.
Sloop was also happy to see us. He is truly a kind and special soul. There are quite a few people staying at his place. A camper and Tent are already in use and everyone appears to be in good spirits. His studio lost the second floor and one of his outbuildings took flight. It landed up the hill in one piece. Discussions about how to retrieve the errant building are underway. The debris from his second floor in all collected, arranged for future use. Nothing will go to waste. There Is a plan to put up a couple Yurt's on the second floor to help out with the local housing issue.
Sloops Cottage was being re-screened as we were there and should be ready for guests soon. He even recently re-roofed his lower art studio and is planning on getting back to painting decorative clothing. All in all it was an inspirational visit.
Back to Cruz Bay.
While visiting Ruth at the Spice Shop we ran into some of the linemen who are working relentlessly returning power to the VI. They had their families with them and were planning a beach day. Everyone in the store thanked them and wished them a wonderful day at the beach. The shop itself showed no change. Still well stocked and smelled as wonderful as ever. Managed to get a new painted wine glass. It has the petroglyph on it.
Lisa lost one of her petroglyph earrings and we had to replace it at Patton. They were very helpful and able to sell us just the one we needed. Even polished the old one for her. We then headed off to Caravan. One of our friends had broken a ring and Radha was kind enough to swap it out for us. Mongoose Junction did not appear to have any issue we saw.
Always have to stop by Sun Dog when at Mongoose Junction. We were having a drink when someone told Lisa they knew her. Alexi had bartended for the ACC gala last year and recognized her laugh. (We hosted the Gala last year.) We commiserated about what a wonderful event it was and how well the ACC is doing now. Multiple relief flights taking all the cats and dogs stateside for adoption.
Off to see Ryan at the ACC. Small number of animals at the shelter so we were not needed to walk dogs this visit. They are doing well. Saw a number of other friends volunteering there, moving supplies. Hoping to have one more relief flight for the animals, collecting them from the surrounding islands.
All in all, the island is back. Not perfect, but it is definitely back. Ready for tourists? Some palm trees are missing and rebuilding will go on for years. But, the fish and turtles are about. Beaches are beautiful, sand is soft, water is warm. Sam and Jacks are selling wonderful to go lunches. Boo at CBL is still mixing a mean Rum Punch. Ferries almost back to normal schedule. The beauty of St. John and its people are visible and welcoming today. After visiting and talking to friends, it still soothes my soul. So yes, i think St. John is back.
Now, about Villa Tesori.
We were blessed. Not only did we have minor damage, but we had a whole house generator. Both of us are certain that we would have had much more damage without it. Our wonderful property manager John Brego and his amazing crew were able to get our place dry right away. No mold issues.
Yes, we lost some doors and windows. We have 2 maids closet doors on order, but the damaged ones are in place and usable. They do not interfere with guests comfort. 2 windows are also on order. One in the apartment, which has a temp window installed. The other is in the upper turret bathroom, which is generally left open for ventilation when using the bathroom. We have the window which can be screwed in temporarily, but that would keep the humidity trapped in the bathroom.
All of the exterior deck fans were a loss. We have replaced the main fan in the rotunda. I really enjoy how much air it moves. Skeeters will have a tough time flying against that wind! Negative is that people with contacts might get dry eye. The others are on order and should be installed soon.
On to the surprising things.
If you have been to Villa Tesori, or have seen pictures, my main thought was that our Gazebo would be toast. All the way at the end of the deck. Huge sail of a roof, just asking to be lifted to parts unknown. But, nothing happened to it. The grill, ice maker, and fridge are all still there an working. Though one thing did occur which we had not considered. While we understood that hurricanes whipped rain around like a wild banshee, we forgot that most of the rain was salt water. Salt water whipped at hundreds of miles an hour into a structure, be it walls, windows, doors.....or electrical outlets....Yup the exterior electrical was fried.
I think we spent about 3 days replacing outlets, switches and pulling wire. The wind had forced water past the covers, switch plates and into the conduit. POOF, no power. I became very familiar with the layout of Paradise lumber. Ran into a number of friends and became friends with Brian who owns it. Im a likable guy, but the fact that i bought a ton of stuff probably helped....lol.
The second thing which surprised us was the new exterior door on the apartment looked aged. It took a direct assault from the wind driven rain and shows it. The finish appears to be stripped off. The amazing part was the rain forced into the joints of the door. Normally this would just create an issue requiring some sanding. However Salt water when it dries leaves salt crystals.....which expand, creating cracks.
My third unexpected discovery was the hinges, handles and fixtures on the exterior were essentially sand blasted by the rain. While they all work, we are replacing them prior to the next hurricane season. As well as some additional windows. Rather safe than sorry.
Hope this helped any inquiring minds about the island or Villa Tesori.
Have a Wonderful Holiday Season.
See you at the bar!
Brian and Lisa.
Ps. It's snowing in Pennsylvania today and we want to go home!!!