Under New Management!

Almost through Year Two of Villa Ownership

After two years of working with Kristen Cox (four months of which was before we even knew we were going to purchase Great Expectations), we have decided to take over the property management of the villa. For the last 18 months, we have marketed the villa to renters, taken responsibility for supplies, renovations and maintenance, while contracting St. John Ultimate Villas to manage the cleaning staff, guest check-ins, as well as landscaping and pest control.

An end to the back and forth

Over the past two years, one or both of us was back and forth between Vermont and St. John every few weeks. We met several guests during their stays, and Carrie even had the opportunity to check-in two sets of guests last spring. I’ve met seven or eight different groups and checked-in one group myself.

Three of Us in a Jeep

Three of Us in a Jeep

This past March, we moved Carrie and Sadie down full-time and rented one of the Bogie’s Villa apartments on Gifft Hill.

We both worked our day jobs remotely and went back separately to Vermont twice this summer. Sadie acclimated to island living and seems to love her daily walks. She absolutely hates island cats - the ones that keep a nice control on island rodents.

Being on island let us get to know some guests, get supplies from St. Thomas, fix a few things that needed repair, and do a much better job of some longer-term planning than we did last year.

The next logical step

It was only natural that, as we said goodbye to our last guests of a very busy summer a few weeks back, we take the next step: lacing up our big-boy shoes and assuming full responsibility for our personal lives and loves beyond our day jobs - Great Expectations and St. John.

We packed up our belongings on Gifft Hill and moved into the Owner’s Suite (now called Honeymoon) on the top of the Guest House at Great Expectations on August 17th. Sadie took an instant loving to the little pool area and is now the as-yet-unchallenged 13lb Queen of Croton Road. We built an aggressive list of fall upgrades and work on them almost every night and weekend.

Our plan is to live in the apartment, as Chuck & Kristin did for many winters, and vacate as needed depending on the size of upcoming vacation groups. We have 10 weeks in 2020 already who are using all 8 bedrooms. For those weeks we will be back at a studio apartment on Gifft Hill before checking in the villa guests.

Expanding - not shrinking - our capabilities and capacity

We’ve already had multiple groups of 18-28+ people looking to stay with us next summer, fall and beyond. Just like our 10th year anniversary where we brought 11 couples down, we are actively planning groups that can overflow into 1 or 2 of our next-door neighbor villas (Calypso del Sol and RaRa Avis) when they need more than 7 or 8 bedrooms. We also have experience with St. John Utlimate Villa’s portfolio of options in Virgin Grande, Rendezvous & Fish Bays as well as Grande Bay.

Our mission remains: Provide a beautiful St. John rental villa that exceeds guests’ expectations every time.

On island, and on-site most of the time, we are poised to be able to fulfill that mission faster, better, and more efficiently than ever before.

Thanks again for all the support. We look forward to meeting you when you first come stay at Great Expectations or when you return.

Steve & Carrie Butcher
Owners AND Property Managers

2019 Tropical Storm Dorian (05L)

Trying (again) to Reason with Hurricane Season (2019)

Here we are in our 2nd storm season since we jumped into villa ownership on St. John. You know it’s coming in June, but you just keep your head down and smile about all the beautiful things you experience every week. Then the water heats up just a little more, guests on island tail off to what seems like 50% of a normal spring day, and then an Invest turns into a Depression then gets predicted to become a Tropical Storm which might become a Hurricane. This year, i decided to keep a little journal to reflect the emotions and actions happening on St. John leading up to the first named storm of the season. So, i will post here every few hours through Dorian’s formation, approach, and passing of our little island paradise.

Final Update: Thurs Aug 29, 2019 10:09 Atlantic Standard Time


Saturday Aug 24, 2019 14:00 AST - Our first storm threat of 2019

Two years ago we arrived on St. John for a vacation/reconnaissance mission to see what it would be like on island in the summer planning for a move in 2022/23. Everything changed during that 10 day stay when a crazy mixture of pressure, moisture, water temperature and a hundred other variables brought a September of hurricanes to remember.

Hurricane Irma as it hit the Leeward Islands in early September 2017.

A few days ago we were notified on our phones of a tropical disturbance that was forecast to go from depression to tropical storm. It’s the first one of the 2019 storm season and you can almost feel the jump of the community on island. Friends start texting. Parking spots in the lumberyard are hard to come by. Our first iPhone check is not what silly political tweet fight is going on, but what the cone from NOAA 5 day Atlantic forecast looks like.

Did it get wider? Has it shifted north? Who is this NHC Forecaster Stewart? I like (s)he explains things.

Anyway, we get up on the ladder and get out the bolts for the hurricane doors and start talking about Tesla Powerwalls, solar panels, lawn furniture, and the like. And, even though current 72-hour forecasts are more accurate that 24-hour forecasts in the 80’s, we still sit and wait and check our Hurricane apps every 4-6 hours.


Sunday Aug 25, 2019 19:00 AST - Plastic Protection!

Today we put more things away and made plans for this week’s villa upgrades: the remaining sliding glass doors, new curtains, and a whole lot more. But Dorian is still first in our minds. After a dip in the pool, Carrie mentions the track turned a little more northward - forecasts show 195 mile fly by on Wednesday morning.

So i climb up and get the hurricane door bars and bolts out.

This is a good time to talk about those doors…Chuck & Kristin told us 2 years ago this week, while we were guests at Great Expectations, that many years ago an island contractor suggested they replace their wood storm shutters with the current white plastic ones. They would last forever even in the salt air and they were made from recycled milk jugs.

When i arrived on island after IRMA and saw every one of them still in place - and only 1 sliding glass pane out of 39 broken behind them - i knew that they saved the day. I believe their slight flex allowed them to slightly deform in the wind and crashing, not splinter like wood or crinkle like metal shutters.

Great Expectations Hurricane Shutters bolted in just before Hurricane Irma, September 5, 2017


Monday August 26, 2019 5:07 AST (yes, we get up early) - Our Villa Hurricane Doors

Carrie and I go back to our day jobs - her at the villa apartment dining room table and me in my office on the way to Cruz Bay in the Palm Plaza complex.

I stopped at St. John Hardware to get some extra bolts for the internally barred shutters, just in case. The villa has 18 hurricane shutters. All but 3 of them get barred from the outside with 2 x 40+lb steel bars. Those 3 special doors are on Hawksnest facing west and one each facing east and west on Honeymoon (the Owner’s Apartment) in the Guest House. Those doors bars are put on the inside while in the room, and are held tight, keeping the doors from pulling out, by carriage bolts with wing nuts. There are 2 reasons for internal door bars

  • in the case of one of Honeymoon’s two sunrise facing shutters, it is so you can close the door securely without having to jump off the 2nd floor balcony or use a ladder.

  • In the case of one of Honeymoon’s and Hawksnest’s only sunset facing hurricane door, it is so you can bolt yourself into the concrete structure and hole up as a storm passes, but still be able to let yourself out after the mayhem passes.

So, the basic procedure is you walk around each building moving lawn furniture and a hammock or 2 inside, then swing closed the large white hurricane doors and slide down 2 heavy bars near the middle top and bottom to hold them tight. Then you head to the Guest House and slide those external-barring doors closed and decide whether you will stay in the upstairs apartment (Honeymoon) or downstairs in Hawksnest and bolt yourself in. We haven’t done it yet, and I don’t ever want to. But i know how to do it. I undid the doors 9 days after Irma when i arrived on island amidst the destruction, I put them all back just before Maria a week later, and took them all down again after.

Floor plan of Great Expectations hurricane shutters (click to enlarge)


Mon Aug 26, 2019 10:30 AST - Nuking Hurricane Eyes?

This morning my iPhone notified me of a tweet which contained a link that linked to a story online about how President Trump has, more than once, asked why we couldn’t protect the US from hurricanes by exploding a nuclear warhead into the eye to '“disrupt it.”

A friend in Vermont texted me and asked how things were on island, what with the storm coming and all. I replied with the link to the Axios story. LOLs, HAHAHAHAs, and stupid Emojis followed. Some one was quoted in the story as saying:

“His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad…”

I thought, yeah, just like tossing out the baby with the bath water, cutting off the nose despite the face, missing the forest for the trees, or [insert any other self-destructive over-reaction or missed big picture solution to a problem].

It’s not climate change that needs looking at. We’ll use explosions to fix these darn storms, one whack at a time.

I’d love to see the graph comparing effects on sea life (and above water life for that matter) between 60 years of increasing ‘bad’ sunscreen use and multiple annual atmospheric nuclear blasts.

Carrie and I are pretty middle of the road when it comes to our beliefs on government, finances, liberties, taxation, etc - but, come on, disrupting weather with nuclear explosions?


Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:30 AST - 9th Dorian Advisory from NHC

The 9th Advisory on Dorian from the National Hurricane Center just came out. Looks like the forecast for strength hasn’t changed much, but the forecast just moved it ~50 miles closer to St. John when it passes us. That’s still 150 miles away with a radius of maybe 40 miles, it sounds like we might be in for some 40-50mph winds.


Mon Aug 26, 2019 14:34 AST - Surface Wind Fields

Latest Update: NOAA’s colored maps showing Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches and Warnings expands up the windward islands and is headed our way. Hopefully this storm passes over St. Lucia and the Grenadines with just some rain, stays well south of the Leewards and dissipates only leaving some nice free cistern water in its wake.


Mon Aug 26, 2019 15:05 AST: Interactive NOAA/NHC Map found!

Ok, this is cool. I just found an interactive Forecast map for Watches & Warnings from the National Hurricane Center. It lets you overlay cone, tracking, warnings & watches, as well as wind speed & surge and probabilities. It is bookmarked and I will check it multiple times a day for this and any future storm.


Mon Aug 26, 18:40 AST | St. Croix closing her ports tonight

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Ok, it’s not the most heart-warming news that a US Virgin Island is closing its ports at 8:00p tonight, but i think it’s just super precautionary actions. They were late closing for Irma and Maria if I remember correctly. Plus, they are 40 miles closer to the storm’s predicted path than we are.

So let’s look at the meteorological facts:

  • The path remains constant: Dorian is still heading west-northwest and going to slide south of St. John by 150+ miles.

  • The forecast size hasn’t grown

  • The strength hasn’t changed

  • They are now predicting 2-4” of rain in Puerto Rico, so that most likely means the same or less for us

Looking at the TS-Force Wind Probability, the NHC is predicting 20-40% chance of them coming to us tomorrow night by 8:00p. Tropical-Storm-Force sustained winds of 39mph appears to be under 40% chance.

So tomorrow we get the hurricane bars down, but just as an exercise. We’ll know a lot more in the morning.


Tues Aug 27, 2019 3:43 AST - No longer a Hurricane?

Forecaster Pasch tells us that an Air Force plane has investigated and finds things not as strong as originally predicted. The cone now shows no “H” anywhere along Dorian’s forecast path. Good news for all involved, especially the people of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. They are predicting some decent rain and I wonder if that means rain for us or is 130 miles away too far to affect us significantly?

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Tues Aug 27 6:25 AST - early morning shoring up a friend’s boat

So the storm forecast has weakened and we think we’re as prepared as we need to be anyway for some rain and wind, but a friend is off island and we just want to triple check things in Cruz Bay.

My friend Basil (he and his wife own BogiesVilla) and I head downtown before 6am, grab a dinghy, and motor out to re-arrange mooring lines and add the bow anchor as a 4th backup on the Lucy Moon, another friend’s 19.5’ Scout center console - just in case.


TUE AUG 27 9:05 AST - NHC Advisory #12 from 5AM is Promising

With just about 24 hours before Dorian’s TS-Force winds hit the Virgin Islands, it’s comforting to know we know where everything is and have done a mental dry run of what we’d be doing if it were worse.

I find myself taking downloads of maps to compare when the next advisory comes out. I’d like to see where things changed and where the forecast didn’t. This NHC Interactive map is really an awesome tool that lets you revert back to previous advisories too.

As far as i can tell, it looks like the closest the storm could possibly come is 90+ miles away from St. John - and that’s with < 40mph winds.

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Hurricane Isaac in September 2018

Hurricane Isaac in September 2018

I remember last year, while Carrie was in Vermont, Hurricane Isaac tracked almost due West across the Caribbean a similar distance south of us in mid September. Isaac made it to a Category 1 Hurricane before it settled back down to a Tropical Storm as it passed by.

I recall waking up alone in the Owner’s Suite wondering what the edge might look like. The morning of September 14, 2018 was cloudy at dawn. The at about 6:10am it started blowing and raining sideways. For about 5 minutes. Then it was over.

Sep 14, 2018: A short but intense wind & rain storm from Tropical Storm Issac captured from our Owner's Suite apartment at Great Expectations villa on the south shore of St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

I’m guessing it will be a similar experience tomorrow morning sometime after 9am.


AUG 27 11:01 AST - NHC Advisory #13 Just Published

Well NHC Forecaster Stewart is back with some updated items for Advisory #13. Tropical Storm Warnings have been discontinued for St. Vincent & the Grenadines as well as the TS Watch for Grenada.

There is still a Hurricane Watch for PR and the DR that continues the possibility of Hurricane-force winds within 48 hrs. The only mention of the Virgin Islands is “INTERESTS IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF DORIAN. “

Maximum sustained winds are around 50mph and slow strengthening is forecast putting Dorian near hurricane strength as it passes southwest of us and nears Puerto Rico.

The big item to take note of is that TS-Force winds extend 45 miles out from the center. Doing some quick math on Google Earth, i can see that if the center of Dorian nicks the SW corner of Puerto Rico, that would put us (Great Expectations and St. John in general) roughly 160 miles from the center of the storm - or over 3x the Tropical-Storm-Force wind forecast.

Google Earth Pro: much more than a pretty map

Roger that Miami!

Stacy R. Stewart

I just found the detailed bio of the Senior Hurricane Specialist at NHC who just posted this latest detailed advisory on Tropical Storm Dorian.

This guy has been through it all >


AUG 27 16:00 AST - Dorian’s Center reforms Farther North

Pesky storm jumped off course…toward the Leewards

Pesky storm jumped off course…toward the Leewards

It’s always something, isn’t it.

First he’s going to be a Hurricane. Then now just a Tropical Storm.

Forecast to be 200 miles south, then 150, then 130, then 180. Now he “reforms” farther north according to Forecaster Stewert. If you look at the map, a REFORM looks like a jump outside the plan.

Reformed

A term used in an advisory to indicate that the center of a tropical cyclone, usually weak, has dissipated and a new center has formed at a different location. This will sometimes lead to an incorrect representation of movement. The center of a cyclone can reform multiple times in its life. The new center is not given a new name, unless there is a period of time between old center dissipation and new center reformation

This makes the “interest in the Virgin Islands should monitor the progress…” even more pertinent now.

After 5 days of reading more than I ever imagined about hurricanes in general, and this one on particular, this afternoon I return to my weatherman-are-flipping-coins pessimism.

The 2:00p NHC update is only a partial update - the deep-thought advisory comes at 5:00p AST.

Unless it spins in a circle, it looks like it might be closer than planned.

I guess we sit and wait.

Again.


AUG 27 17:25 AST - Well, now we’re under Tropical Storm Warning and Flash Flood Warning

Great. The eye popped up in another location (?) and the storm path is now curving more to the north. As of Advisory#14 at 5:00p, instead of the center just clipping the western tip, it’s now predicted right over the center of Puerto Rico. This puts the center about 100 miles west. If it stays 40miles wide, that means the edge is less than 60 miles away.

This shift also puts the TS-Force winds arriving after 2:00a but before 8:00a tomorrow morning.

So, plan B - we go put all the patio furniture, loose items, hammocks, etc inside buildings 1, 2, and 3 and lock it up. We’re not barring closed the hurricane shutters, yet.

No freak out, just take the next precautionary step. If it turns even more north than west, we’ll decide then.

Screenshot 2019-08-27 17.24.30.png


AUG 27 21:45 AST - Another jump to the north means Tropical Storm conditions 40 miles closer

After a day of regular work and a 5pm update from the NHC, we decided to use the ‘opportunity’ to hedge our bets and do a dry run buttoning up the compound for tropical storm conditions. We spent 3 hours taking everything that isn’t fixed to the ground and moving it into each building. We closed all the windows, latched all the transoms, and filled the Great Room with patio furniture and beach chairs.

It might be overkill, but now we know how long it takes. Better safe than sorry.

If all we get is a bit of rain and some 30mph winds, it might seem like a waste of time. For

me, it’s a great practice session for some future storm.

Everything is closed tight and protected and we sit wondering if a little or a lot of rain and wind is coming at 3am or 8am or maybe not at all. It’s not forecast as hurricane strength, but it still put us on a serious edge.

Good night island. Go easy on Puerto Rico and the Virgins as well as the DR, Dorian.


WED AUG 28 2:50 AST - Bands of wind and rain starting on the south shore

We were just woken up by a whoosh of rain and wind on the roof and windows. The weather station on the roof reports 1/10” in the last 5 minutes. The wind has only peaked at 14mph so far. Nothing abnormal, just another brief rain shower.

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Free water for the cisterns.


WED AUG 28 5:45 AST - Red skies in morn…

Well, proof that you really can’t trust storm models is here this morning. The storm tracking recorrected (?) again more to the north overnight and it looks like it has slowed down a bit as well.’

The 5am NHC advisory still has Dorian as a tropical storm but it’s now close enough to us that we are fixed in a Warning and Puerto Rico AND the Virgin Islands should expect heavy rainfall.

Screenshot 2019-08-28 05.52.46.png

Ever since I was on island through Maria 2 years ago, Carrie has been a big fan of the Windy app (and website). It seems to represent wind, rain, and intensities well and is especially handy by showing motion. At 4:30a she woke up and said “it’s going to be all over us this afternoon.”

It does look like it, but then again, the colors are a relative gauge. Yes, it looks like we’re going to get the heaviest, but it’s only Tropical Storm force winds (~50mph).

It’s only rained twice for 10-20 minutes and we’re up to 2/10” accumulated overnight so far. The sunrise has some serious oranges and reds coming up - and to the south is dark blue-grey skies and wide swaths of white clouds right above the horizon.

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My guess: it’s going to rain off and on quite a bit all day today into tonight.


WED AUG 28 7:08 AST - The calm before the (little) storm

This morning was a pretty colorful sunrise with not that strong of a breeze, but then in the last hour, the deep dark color started coming in around the horizon from the south-southeast until now it’s fairly dark everywhere but to the north.

The power just flickered on and off multiple times, but the wind is not that strong so we don’t know why. Brief bands of hard rain for a minute or 2 just started.

So glad we doubled down on solar panels and Tesla Powerwalls.


AUG 28 11:46 AST - Early parts of a storm that is getting stronger.

Well, it looks like they under-forecast it - both in direction/path and strength. The 11am Advisory has now put us in a Hurricane Warning and the storm is not over Puerto Rico at all, but rather right between Culebra and St. Thomas. Much closer to the Virgin Islands than expected.

We actually watched the first big edge of the storm come west across Fish, Rendezvous and Hart Bay. We had the screen doors open and saw a wall of white touching the water that looked like fog. It moved very fast. Then all of a sudden you couldn’t see Fish Bay. Then you couldn’t see Ditleff. Then the water on Rendezvous got nasty and we watched the line of rain come. Then we got wet. Spit in the face and inside the door wet.

I set up the GoPro for Timelapse on the sliding glass door and we’ve been holed up in our apartment (Honeymoon).

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Right before it came (10:30a?), i walked around the entire compound again, shut off the pool pumps and hot tub (huge power savings) and now we’re using 0.8kW/hr of power.

An unexpected gift came to us in the form of a software enhancement. It may sound stupid, but when the sun isn’t out, and power is off and on, and the wind is raging - it’s huge. To explain as succinctly as possible, first understand that when you have Tesla Powerwalls and Solar, you can choose an A or B switch back at Tesla corporate: charge our Powerwalls from Solar or charge from the Grid. You can’t do both. So when we are full up, the solar goes back to the grid (WAPA, our power company). If WAPA is out for an extended period, and you start using up all your stored power from the Powerwalls, then the timing matters because you need the sun to charge them back up. That is until StormWatch!

So the power was out for a couple of hours this morning. We used 15% of the total batteries. Then WAPA came back on and the StormWatch has some override that says “give me all you got grid, I need to recharge!” And 30 minutes later, we were. Then the power went out again. Incredible!

Thanks Tesla


THUR AUG 29, 2019 10:09 AST - It was real. It was (at times) fun. It wasn’t real fun.

The little storm that could. Thursday-morning quarterbacking is happening all over social media this morning, so I figured I’d finish up with a summary and learning points from our day yesterday as a little forecasted 35mph wind storm 180 miles away turned into a full blown Hurricane just about right over our heads.

  • Storm Forecasting is NOT an exact science! We did NOT bar the hurricane shutters or transom bars. One transom popped open and no damage was done (they sit behind a concrete ring beam anyway). But we have decided that we will add a +2 to every future forecast. If NHC calls for a Tropical Depression, we’ll plan for Hurricane CAT1. If they predict a Tropical Storm, we’ll imagine a CAT2. And anything that could be a CAT1, we’re shuttering the entire place and barring the transoms.

  • Sill Risers are your friend! When we installed the new doors, we did not put the included 2” sill risers on because the carpenter and I felt the added height on the bottom back of the doors wasn’t worth the headache of guests possibly tripping over them. Well, they weren’t needed in every room except the high-up-and-exposed owner’s apartment yesterday. Wind and water pushed back at the weep holes and brought water into our room in streams. Plus, who knows if they wind was another 30-40mph. I just talked to the door manufacturer rep and we are buying 4” risers next month! We won’t install them permanently, but instead keep them, labeled, with hurricane shutter bars for any future storms.

  • Never Enough Tools & Towels. Sure we had 5 Powerwalls with 74 solar panels running the place. We had all of our clothes, tech gear, and food in the apartment upstairs. But we had open cabinets. Next time we will have the entire Dewalt battery tool box, a bin of towels, a mop & bucket, as well as our screw/fastener bins. I went outside 3 times during the storm and sat in the wind and rain hand grinding through aluminum to solve our water problem.

  • Record for the Future. Yeah, we have 2 Nest cams on the driveways and an HD Axis Webcam, plus a GoPro Hero7. I figured I had multiple angles covered recording the mayhem. The internet went out for a few hours so the Nest cams didn’t record the worst of it. The GoPro battery died before the 10am. The memory card in the Axis camera didn’t mount properly. I’m a big fan of showing people in video - so next time, we’ll have backup plans for each.

I hope no one was hurt, but I don’t blame the NHC forecast systems. They will learn from their mistakes and improve the computer models. Carrie and I learned how to work better as a team next time and to avoid some of the silly little things that didn’t need to be issues.

We hope the future path of Dorian sees him reducing in strength and just bringing some free water. We also hope that others learned from the unpredictability of nature and are even better prepared when it comes slamming into them in the future.

That’s my first earthquake (last month), Carrie’s and Sadie’s first hurricane, and my second hurricane.

Enough for a few years.


THUR SEP 12, 2019 11:09 AST - Thinking about the phases of Disaster Recovery

Sadly, Dorian got massive AND slow. It swung north, picked up energy and hovered over The Bahamas and just hammered them. The images are sickening. The deaths and injuries are stunning. The destruction is just sad. I imagine so many souls lost and not knowing what to do next. Thousands are bringing in help.

We learned from FEMA over the past 2 years:

  • First there’s Search & Rescue. Save lives by finding the missing and injured.

  • Then comes Early Relief: water, food, shelter, medicine.

  • After comes Recovery: Stability in supplies, housing, work, education.

  • Then there is Risk Reduction for future disasters.

We saw it here. I arrived on St. John just as Search & Rescue was winding down. We spent the last 2 years participating with others through the other phases. Just today, more than 2 years after Irma, the BBC teams are moving the Chocolate East power wires from the old wooden poles to the new fiberglass poles. I stopped to talk to them and the crew manager says the final shipment of new poles for St. John should arrive in November…2020. Next year! He says maybe they will be done installing them all by summer 2021. That’s almost 4 years after Irma on a little 8 mile long island with under 1000 power poles.

Stunning.

We wish all the best to the people of The Bahamas, especially those on North Abaco and Eastern Grand Bahama who lost everything.

Looking east over Hart & Rendezvous Bays on the south shore of St. John at our rental villa Great Expectations. This timelapse is from 10am - 12:15pm AST on Wed Aug 28, 2019 as the outer band of storm hits us.

We learned from Irma, Maria, Isaac, Dorian. We improvise, adapt and over come. We will learn from the next one.


Living on a Rock: 5 years Ahead of the Plan

Testing out St. John in the Summer

Having fun at Cane Garden Bay 6 days before Irma wrecked it.

Having fun at Cane Garden Bay 6 days before Irma wrecked it.

Our last vacation on St. John was 10 days ending Labor Day 2017. The plan was fairly simple: spend 10 days with Carrie’s brother and his wife, do some diving, spend a few full days on Maho, and relax by Great Expectations’ big pool. The secondary goal was to see how St. John was in summer. We have talked for at least 5 years about moving down full-time by 2023.

The water was warm, really warm - even diving down 50 feet. We stayed neck deep at Maho throwing a frisbee for hours. We’d get a fresh beer out of the cooler every hour or so. We took a “local’s trip” with Jimmy & Bridgett to the BVI. Then the weather reports got more accurate. The water was too warm. Depressions were forming. Our friends were starting to make plans. Power tools and plywood came out of storage units. News reports were sounding more ominous by the day.

We left Monday September 4, 2017. The villa got buttoned up on Tuesday by an unknown-at-the-time Erickson and his crew. The weather came 2 days later. You heard - it wasn’t pretty.

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Island Relativity

Fast forward almost 2 years. We helped get Great Expectations sorted after the storm. Then we bought it. We took 2 dozen trips back and forth. We’ve now been on island with Sadie for just over 4 months. Some days it feels like 3 years. Some days it feels like 3 days. We try to go to the beach every week, but sometimes we just have too much going on. We have a small group of fellow island business owners we consider dear friends. We still marvel at the sunsets. I don’t think that will ever go away.

I have been underwater diving 5 days (10 tanks) since March and wish I could spend more time down with the spotted drum and yellow headed jawfish. I did just buy a local’s 40-tank package from Low Key Watersports - I call it instant dive insurance.

Carrie & I are renting an apartment at Bogie’s Villa on Gifft Hill, just 1.5 miles from the villa. The 6 unit complex was completely rebuilt by owners KC & Basil Bsisu and is made up of 2 long-term apartments, 4 short-term rentals and a pool area.

Constant Improvements

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We try to spend as much time at the villa as possible upgrading, cataloging, and planning. This summer is entirely booked except for 2 x 1 night openings. We’ve just checked in our 46th group of guests since January. We’ve had construction management crews stay for 2 to 8 weeks, many 3-generation families, 6 weddings, and a whole lot of repeat guests.

We’ve blocked off 5 weeks over this September to do some more work:

  • New villa-wide Window Treatments (sound minor? It’s 16 sliding glass doors worth of curtains and rods!)

  • Final 2 new sliding glass doors in Jumbie and Denis

  • Last 3 new in-wall safes

  • Pool/Patio furniture

  • Painting

  • Landscaping

  • Hardwood refinishing

  • Low-voltage lighting additions

  • Pool pump house doors

  • New Tennis net and Basketball hoop & backboard

We’re also making plans now for some pretty major work for the fall of 2020. We’re looking at tiling, bathroom upgrades, and some activity items.

Our 4th Life

Carrie kept her job and went remote. She plans to be back in Vermont 3-4x a year. I’m doing web development work here, back in Vermont, and all over the country as usual. I think i’m on my 19th plane ticket since Irma. While we miss friends in Vermont, we remember, this was the original plan - the storms just accelerated the timeline a few dozen months. When we meet up with Chuck & Kristin again, it will be with warm smiles and big hugs. We didn’t expect anything like this, but are embracing it full on.

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Our Goal: Give each group of villa guests a beautiful, welcoming place to relax on St. John while they celebrate their marriage, anniversary, birthday, family reunion, corporate successes, or just simply their ability to come to a small rock in the Caribbean where warm smiles and “good mornings” are commonplace and the hardships and negativity melt away.

What’s Next? Stay tuned!

Steve Butcher
July 31, 2019


You Can't Hurry Love (Kristine & Jess' wedding story)

One bi-coastal engagement

After 10 years apart, Jess and I took our first trip together to St John in February 2013. I come from CA so Hawai’i was my typical vacation. I’d never been to the Caribbean before, and after that trip we put a new island on our list every year. We’ve visited several since, but no matter where we explored, St John became the benchmark. Nothing compared. Cut to January 2016, Jess proposed — out of nowhere — in my hometown at Natural Bridges state beach, and as we headed to my parents’ for dinner, we knew right away planning one wedding with both families would be difficult. All options led back to St John. We wanted them to experience this amazing place and what it represented to us, and since we didn’t have a neutral place halfway in mind, or the need for a big fancy traditional thing, we decided to do it 100% ourselves. And like that, the date was set for October 6, 2017.

I found Great Expectations on Airbnb. It was the perfect size, shape and level of funky we knew the whole family would love. It wasn’t one of those posh villas with sharp edges, a huge chef’s kitchen and stark white art on the walls. With 6 kids and 3 parents in their mid-60s, we needed something easy and spacious and this was the perfect spot — plenty of fun for the kids, and private areas for the adults, a communal kitchen and awesome views from what looked like both sides of the property? Sold. We booked with Kristin and Chuck and set out to make plans with Laura at Passion Fruit Chefs for our 25-person reception, Dianne at Kekoa for the sunset cruise ceremony, a half-day snorkel trip with Calypso, rehearsal dinner at La Tapa, flowers by Gayle at Sally’s Bou-quet, and our trusty shuttle with Chico at Aqua Blu.

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Two storms

1 month out, the first week of September 2017, I started my calls to confirm flights and jeeps were booked for everyone, deposits and credit cards were all set with vendors, headcount, timing, rooms and other villas, allergies, everything. We were so excited it was finally coming together, nearly 2 years of planning our own DIY wedding, piece of cake. My first call was to Calypso, start easy. “Hi there, I’m just calling to check in on our snorkel trip for 12 coming up in a few weeks.” “Um, we are all preparing for a hurricane right now, shouldn’t be too bad, can I call you back?” I was shocked, and completely embarrassed I didn’t have any idea this was happening. Though he was calm, I could sense the emergency in his voice, and I immediately felt a gut bomb of panic. We were helpless, we couldn’t do anything for them, we didn’t know how bad it could be, and we didn’t know what to tell our friends and family who shared our concerns about how to react. The news we got only got worse. Once Maria was on its way we knew it was over. It was tough to understand the full scope of the impact because media coverage was all about Florida. Wedding aside, this was a national tragedy, and nothing was being done about our friends in the USVI.

It was time to call it and cancel flights. I emailed all our guests asking for their donation to St John Rescue Fund, knowing they’d already spent a small fortune. We did not have travel insurance or refundable tickets, and after hours on the phone with Expedia and busy American Airlines, neither could explain why $200 cancellation fees still applied when the flights themselves were cancelled. Others had worse luck, being forced to use their airline credit within the year (less than 3 months). I emailed Laura and everyone else to wish them luck, knowing they likely wouldn’t read it for weeks, and to say we obviously cannot keep our date, but you’re in our thoughts and we will reschedule!

Nothing was more certain than keeping our original plans with Love City. Would they be ok in Spring? Would it take years or never? We had no clue but it didn’t matter. Jess and I have known each other for 2 lifetimes, time is short but means nothing in the end, and we can wait. Kristin and Chuck responded in appreciation to say the villa is ok and of course we’ll hold your balance, please come back anytime. Laura surfaced a few weeks later with the same note, that she’s fine, just let us know when you decide to come.

Like the locals say, what’s the hurry?

People asked me if I was disappointed, and what I would do now. It was a bummer for sure, but my answer was always one of two ways or both: A) I’m not devastated (most brides likely would be), I have a pretty cool head about it. We’ll still do it on St John — Really? You will? — yes, because the one thing we can do to support them most is visit. And B) others were and are far worse off than us. I try to focus my attention on them instead. Please donate.

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I followed Kekoa on instagram. On October 9, 2017 they posted the first photo of her damage. “Normally when you own a business, etiquette says to never share the hardships. Always be positive, show people your success and not your failure. But this isn't normal.” Their story and how they told it affected me, the damage, their progress, how proud they are of their community, their family. I attached myself to the boat as a gauge for readiness. It felt hopeful.

And as soon as I started to see green in the background, I picked up where we left off. On April 30, 2018, I met Steve via email. He and his wife Carrie were the new owners of Great Expectations. Rescheduling our wedding meant quite a few new logistics had to be decided to set a new date (and keep cost on the sane side at the same time). We didn’t want to be married when there’s still snow on the ground in Boston, but we also didn’t want to do it in hurricane season again. With the higher cost of just about everything during high season, we decided to cut the guestlist to family — it didn’t feel right expecting friends to rebook, adding unnecessary pressure to ensure everything was wedding-perfect for their trouble, which wasn’t at all the experience we wanted. Originally, only one of my nephews would come, but since the other would be 3 by this time, he was ready for his first plane ride from CA. Kids are the same price as adults, so that was more for my brother to take on. Steve and Carrie were very cool to give us an 8th night free for moving our dates, but this also meant the kids would miss a lot of school. In the end, we covered the balance for everyone, and because we rescheduled the dinner outside of a year, Laura gave us only a partial refund. We tried to keep tight everywhere we could to be able to do the trip in Spring. It was a roller coaster of highs and lows, weighing sacrifice against gains, and after a few weeks of calls and callbacks, the wedding day was set for April 1.

Come February, about a month before we go, I get a call from Jamison himself at Kekoa. Because of an unfortunately timed government shutdown by an unfortunate imbecile and his xenophobic vanity project, Kekoa did not get its inspection that week and she wouldn’t be ready for us in time. Lucky for us, the folks at Kekoa are some incredible people, they took it upon themselves to organize for us their competitor, Daydreamer, the only other charter available on the island. And it was glorious!

Aside from your normal yet sometimes challenging island-time setbacks and the craziness of travelling long distances to foreign places with small children, everything went off perfectly once we arrived. It was the leading up to arriving Great Expectations, a 3-year cycle of planning and re-planning to bring forward a low-key, well-planned and stress-free vision, in a time of uncertainty and pulling faith it will all work out in the end. And it did, and I’d do all over again tomorrow.

Our 8 days on St John: 6 kids, 6 adults and 3 grandparents at Great Expectations

Everyone ages 3 to 65 loved every second at your beloved villa
— Kristine M.

My brother, his wife and my two nephews stayed with us in Boston for a few nights to split up their long trip. It was like the beginning of Home Alone, we were packing, bathing boys, eating pizza and scheduling Lyfts to get us all to Logan in the morning. My cats were berzerker, Nick couldn’t breath (or sleep) because of said cats, and my mom tells us she’s arriving St John at a new time, all about 5 hours before we take off. Everyone is super relaxed.

Tuesday

Two planes and a (very scenic, very sketchy) shuttle ride later, we ferry over from Red Hook. Our guy Owen was ready with his taxi to take us to Great Expectations (thank you Kristen!).

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Day one pool time! While Owen took the guys grocery shopping (I will forever thank them for stocking the house, little did they know it would be the first of 11 trips), we waited for the other half of our group to arrive to this outrageously convenient villa.

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All the nephews together at last, one great sunset

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Wednesday

Packed lunches and 3 cars and took the whole crew to Maho Bay for some first-time snorkeling for the older kids, and sea turtles. Water and weather were perfect and the two families meshed like gangbusters. The food truck ran out of propane so we headed home for dinner.

Thursday

Packed lunches and 3 cars and took the whole crew to Trunk Bay for even better snorkeling. Spent the whole day at the beach, with the bar and clean bathrooms, everyone was happy. Also tried Cinnamon beach, as we read there was a café where we might grab dinner for the kiddos, but it was sadly still in a post-Irma state.

Friday

Flower girl Kyla, bride and groom head to St Thomas to get the marriage license. We see Kekoa in Cruz Bay and wave. Met a taxi driver, Max, on the ferry who said he used to be a “beach boy” at the Westin, and that we are going to just love the Daydreamer cruise. We finally arrive at the courthouse, but they send us across the street to purchase a sarong to cover my short shorts. Luckily the security guard was nice enough to let me borrow his hoodie, and I was sworn in in camouflage. We took the safari taxi back to Red Hook (highly recommend this over an overpriced shuttle taxi), but missed our stop and had to run back ½ a mile to barely catch the noon ferry. Kyla was a trooper. I sustained blisters and broke a sweat. That night, we all met my Dad for dinner at the Banana Deck.

Saturday

Adventure day. We made sure everyone brought sneakers so we could hike the Lind Point trail to Honeymoon beach. All smiles, only 2 minor tumbles and zero complaints.

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Later that night, the girls and I met my step-mom at Longboard for poke bowls, and the guys made full use of the outdoor grill.

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Sunday

Swam with the big kids at Hawksnest Beach while the little ones stayed home. In the afternoon, we took a ride to the other side of Rendezvous Bay to scope out the beach we could see from the Great Expectations webcam and great room. At Ditliff Point, the guys were more interested in how we possibly might procure Villa Cin Cin.

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Wedding prep by Ryker

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Wedding aboard Daydreamer, April 1, 2019

(photo by Lindsay Vann)

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Sobbing at my brother’s speech during reception dinner by Passion Fruit Chefs, table by my niece Kyla. Notice the pocket-stash boutonnière. Steve strung solar Edison lights for us, and we added some fairy lights to the mix.

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Last day at Great Expectations — thank you Steve and Carrie for a fabulous stay — everyone ages 3 to 65 loved every second at your beloved villa

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Once the villa was cleared out (after 3 trips to the dock), Carrie and Steve let us relax a few extra hours before we checked into our next villa. With the toys and sunscreen put away, and the screaming pool fun died down, we were able to breathe a few deep breaths and take in the week.

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Kristine & Jess
Boston, MA
April 2019

Trying to Reason with (2018) Hurricane Season

Yes, it cleans me out and then I can go on. Interesting.

Great Expectations made it through the 2017 storm season with a few bumps and bruises, and we've invested heavily in making the property stronger than ever.

Most predictions were that we would have a mild season. We did. Florida and the Carolinas didn't. Our maintenance guru's home island, Dominica, got some big winds and water again like last year. St. John received some much needed rain multiple times this fall as systems passed mostly south of us.

The 2018 season has come and gone and we've owned the villa for just over 10 months now. If you have been keeping track, we have spent a lot of time & money focusing on constant upgrades. We're proud to have enough solar and battery storage to run off grid for days without sun, years with daily sun. This September/October we worked 10+ hrs a day, nearly every day, to make each group of guests vacations even better:

  • 18 Sliding Glass doors in every room except the Sun Room, which has a new door from only a few years ago when it was built

  • 4 x Sonos audio devices including a TV Sound Bar for the Great Room as well as new outdoor speaker for the main pool area

  • LED soffit lights in each villa bedroom and the Owner's Suite for soft lighting at night

  • Replaced the 4' of Aluminum railing cap that ripped off during Irma (yes, it took 10 months to get the aluminum cap and have it welded).

  • Complete upgrade of all parts in the Villa Lynx grill including new burners, new briquette trays, springs, knobs, and briquettes

  • 2 dwarf coconut palms & 24 dwarf Bougainvillea bushes (we chose 'sunset' colors)

Month 8: Lightly-seasoned Villa Owners

Well it's been just under 8 months since we took over the reins at Great Expectations. It's been lively. It's been fun. I've flown down from Vermont/Boston 12 times in the last year and been on island a whopping 161 days. Carrie has been on island 6 times since the storms. We've spent $74,000 on solar panels and Tesla batteries. The power bill is down to nearly nothing, and our guests never have to worry about WAPA outages again. We bought 20 sets of bed sheets and 16 pillows. Pool leaks were fixed and new kitchen utensils have been brought down. There are 8 new mattress sets on the way from the mainland and 18 sliding glass doors. Yep, 18 doors.

We're months beyond cleanup and repairs from the 2017 storms, and we've had 18 vacationing groups who've stayed 21 weeks since January. So next week we're closing down for 6 weeks to do some updates, including door installation, trim, paint, and updating a significant portion of electrical switches and outlets. All of this has me thinking about numbers. So we decided to create a little St. John villa Owner infographic highlighting our first season:

st John villa ownership by the numbers in 2018

st John villa ownership by the numbers in 2018

It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but extremely gratifying when a guest gives us a great review or contacts us after to tell us how amazing their vacation was at Great Expectations. After 20 years of destination marketing online and 16 years of visiting St. John, I guess the summary of our first season is - we 'trained' well for this. I hope Chuck & Kristin are proud.

Day charter around the USVI and BVI with Palm Tree Charters

Virgins to Boat Charters in the Virgin Islands

We got married on St. John on October 24, 2002. We returned to St. John for a week almost every October for our anniversary. After a few years, we prioritized and expanded to 10 days, then 2 weeks in October. That 'new plan' only lasted for a year, when we decided to come for 1-2 weeks in March as well (switching between Grande Bay Resort and Great Expectations). For the first 9 years visiting St. John, we'd gone out on 'shared' boats, like Calypso or Bad Kitty,  with 1-2 dozen people we didn't know, but we never even thought to do a private charter.

Small World

Lambuth University shirt Jackson TN

Lambuth University shirt Jackson TN

A few years ago, while on-island with Carrie's brother, Wally, and his wife Toni, we were hanging at Joe's Rum Hut after a 7+ hr beach day at Maho or Jumbie enjoying a happy hour drink. Wally looks over at a guy's t-shirt and says "LAMBUTH" out loud. You see Carrie (and Wally and Toni) are from West Tennessee. Lambuth is a small university only 30 minutes from their farm.

Guy: "What?" Wally: "I said Lambuth!" Guy: "Yeah, it's a small college from our hometown, Jackson, TN." Wally: "Jackson!?! Heck, the 3 of us grew up in Brownsville. I work in Bells."

Blah blah blah, small world, washed down with rum punches and Red Stripes. The next thing you know we have 2 new friends in Jimmy & Bridgett Key, fairly new owners of Palm Tree Charters.

A few days later, we get a call from them asking if we want to go watch a sunset on their boat, Palma Bella, while moored in Caneel Bay. We had 2 hours of relaxation - chatting, sipping, swimming, singing, dancing, and taking sunset photos. We learned something crucial that night: Bridgett likes classic country. Not classic as in Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson. We're talking George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Conway Twitty. And she's not afraid to gather a group of people to sing it out loud. Good times!

Sunset in March 2016 Caneel Bay

Sunset in March 2016 Caneel Bay

March 2016

Before we booked plane tickets for our 2016 winter trip, the 4 of us booked a cruise with Palm Tree. Not so surprisingly, they took us along the north shore of St. John pointing out the beaches we love, then over to BVI customs on Tortola. We hit the grocery in Soper's Hole, then

6pack charter on Peter Bay, BVI

6pack charter on Peter Bay, BVI

cruised over to Norman Island for some snorkeling in the Caves and the Aquarium. From there, Jimmy & Bridgett took us to Sandy Spit, Foxy's Taboo for lunch, then over to White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.

October 2016

Our 14th anniversary trip to St. John in October found us staying at Grande Bay and booking a new type of trip with Jimmy & Bridgett: rather than motor around the BVIs, they suggested that after we checked into customs, we head straight to Peter Island and visit Peter Bay Resort. While the resort has guests staying there, if you throw a few bucks around at the bar or restaurants, they welcome day visitors.

Barb Otto checking out the new growth on Jost van Dyke

Barb Otto checking out the new growth on Jost van Dyke

February 2018 with some of our displaced Soggy family vacationers

This past February, we'd owned Great Expectations for a little over a month, and scheduled a 'working' trip. We chartered with Jimmy & Bridgett for 2 trips to White Bay with 2 of our fellow Soggy family from Pennsylvania. We started off by checking into customs on Jost in Great Harbour and enjoyed a tasty breakfast of pate at the newly rebuilt A&B. We stopped into Foxy's for a morning refreshment, then headed straight over to White Bay to spend the whole day there and see some of our other 'family' we stayed with at Sandcastle Hotel every March.

Great Harbour and White Bay on Jost van Dyke are really coming back fast, with dozens of new palm trees planted and multiple bars & restaurants open again. We were there with another 12+ day charters and as many sailboats - maybe 120-140 people in total.

Some of our Soggy Family on Jost in February 2018

Some of our Soggy Family on Jost in February 2018

Chartering every visit to St. John

With over 27 visits under our belt (8 in the last 7 months), we try to get out on the water every time we're on the rock. It gives us a perspective of St. John and the Virgin Islands that you can't get by driving up to a beach. Maybe it's the fact that the Keys make a point of ensuring that you do nothing but relax. Sure, we've had great trips with Residensea, Ocean Runner, and others, but we keep returning to the Keys. Pun intended!

You Choose the Cruise™

As villa owners, we want to make it possible for you to get out on the water during your stay at Great Expectations. We're committing $100 toward a day charter with Palm Tree Charters to each group of guests who stay with us for a week or more.

If you haven't tried it, you should. If you have day chartered, you really should try a trip around the Cays with the Keys.

A greener St. John + a greener (and more resilient) St. John villa

our st John villa portable generator after irma

our st John villa portable generator after irma

It’s been nearly 6 months since hurricanes Irma re nightnd Maria blew through the Caribbean. We’ve seen the emaoliage return faster than imagined, displaced islanders return, as well as visitors come back to their favorite little rock to enjoy themselves for a few days or weeks. For the first 4 months, it was work work work and a whole lot of 5-gallon fuel can filling. We’ve come to know the smell of gasoline on your skin as a kind of 2017 island cologne.

When Carrie and I bought and took over management of Great Expectations from Chuck and Kristin, the insurance adjustment was getting underway and the first obvious big picture project was replacing the 40+ photovoltaic and 3 solar hot water panels lost or destroyed in the storms.

Pre-power restoration of Hot Water

New solar Hot water panels on our St. John villa by Island Solar VI

New solar Hot water panels on our St. John villa by Island Solar VI

Even before the 2017 hurricanes, the villa used little to no electricity for domestic hot water (shower, sinks, etc). Since the sun doesn’t care about

WAPA

(Virgin Islands Water And Power Authority) and the BBC folks were busy rebuilding the island grid, we hired Dan Boyd of

Island Solar VI

 to order and install 3 new hot water panels and plumb them right back into our domestic water system. The hot water from these panels circulates from the roof to the utility rooms via a small DC pump that has its own mini solar photovoltaic panel - no power is needed. The hot water heats the water in two electric domestic hot water tanks, and if the sun happens to be hidden for long periods or a lot of hot water is needed (early morning showers), the electric heater kicks in. Big thanks to

Island Solar VI

for making this happen, in the middle of a multi-hurricane zone, and helping us not only get hot water but also lower future energy bills. As I've started saying regularly - Dan's the Man!

Once we had a portable generator big enough to power the water pumps & lights, we were able to get cold and hot water as needed, and keep the beer cold without standing in line for a bag of ice - again, just as long as we kept filling those gas cans.

Pre-Storm Electricity from Solar

Great Expectations had 52 photovoltaic (PV) and 3 Solar Hot Water panels before the hurricanes. The 52 x ~200W PV panels (10.4kW) were wired directly into each building/bedroom's sub panel, providing power for lights, appliances, etc, and feeding back to the grid when power generation exceeded villa demand. This excess power lowered the monthly electric bill by about 30-40% over the past few years. The solar hot water probably saved another 3-5% on the WAPA bill since the hot water heaters didn't need to use electricity to heat hot water every day for guests. With plenty of sun and high energy costs, implementing solar on a villa in St. John is a no-brainer.

St John villa Great Expectations power usage sample 2017

St John villa Great Expectations power usage sample 2017

Pre-and post-storms backup power plans

Irma 

ripped off

or tossed neighbors' roof tiles

into

more than ⅔ of the panels. While some of them remained and could send power into the villa after Irma and Maria, it was only about 2000W worth of power at any one time during a sunny day, enough to run some lights and a fridge, but not water purification or pumping, pool pumps, or anything else.

Great Expectations had a medium-sized portable generator in a small wood shed, locked and chained down, near the power monument before the storm. When I arrived on island between Irma and Maria, the first thing I saw was a smashed wood box and cut chain: someone had 'borrowed' the villa generator. It was disappointing, but kind of understandable. I hope someone on island made good use of it after their home was destroyed.

That generator was under 7000W. Enough to run the lights, 2 refrigerators, and water filtration and pumps. Not enough to operate the rest of the villa for guests.

Six weeks after Maria, we got our hands on a new 6500W portable generator and our property maintenance man, Erickson, connected it to the existing transfer switch. We shut off breakers to the AC units, hot water heaters, and the pool pumps (large draw items) and ran the villa with 5 gallons of gas every 14-18 hours for months while FEMA staff stayed in Great Expectations during the recovery phase. September, October, November, and December found me and Erickson taking more than a dozen trips to the gas station (when there was gas to be had).

Taking Good and Making it Better

Until fairly recently, the only way to capture energy, store it, control its usage, AND monitor it ‘in the cloud’ was through a hodgepodge of hardware, switches, and software.  From what I’ve researched, it wasn’t that easy and the pieces are bulky and not made/supported by a single manufacturer.

Tesla logo

Tesla logo

Enter Tesla

We’ve all heard stories about how

Tesla Powerwalls

and solar PV panels are

powering an island in the Pacific

. I remember multiple conversations in September after Irma and Maria that would end with “why don’t we just gang together and buy a couple hundred Tesla Powerwalls?” There are quite a few companies in the US and British Virgin Islands combining solar and battery storage. There a couple of companies that sell and install Tesla Powerwalls. We chose

Pro Solar with their USVI location on St. Thomas

. One of their consultants, John Helgesson, was available and punctual - not a typical island one-two combo, especially after 2 hurricanes. He brought his ladder, climbed up on all 4 roofs, inspected the existing railings and solar panels, and answered my questions about design, costs, and lead times.

Retrofit or Redo?

First, we had to decide if it was worth it to move the solar connectivity from individual building sub panels.

Option 1: Work within existing wiring setup

Solar diagram of existing solar hook up to Tesla Powerwalls on our St. John Villa

Solar diagram of existing solar hook up to Tesla Powerwalls on our St. John Villa

If we were to leave the existing wiring setup, then the solar control would be lost to the demand of the buildings. On a typical day, there might be sometimes where the villa usage is less than solar output, and the Powerwalls would be charged from the solar panels. But most of the time, the batteries would be charged by the most-expensive WAPA incoming feed.

Option 2: Plan for the long term

On the other hand, if we were to home-run each building's solar arrays to the location where WAPA came in and the batteries were installed, then we could control where each leg of power comes and goes. We would have to trench across some of the property. It would take more wire and conduit, but the end result would be complete control of the entire system: Solar, Powerwalls, WAPA, and even a future generator 4th leg.

connecting st. John villa solar power directly into Tesla Powerwall after hurricane irma

connecting st. John villa solar power directly into Tesla Powerwall after hurricane irma

Guess which option we chose? Option 2 was $2500 more worth of labor, wiring, pipe, and trenching for the best possible setup for next month, next hurricane season, and the next decade!

The Install

Then came the install day: John, Zach, Marcel, and a whole bunch of other guys came in green shirts and started unboxing panels, rails, piping, and electrical equipment.

A ProSolar crew cleaned up the existing rails, removed defunct micro inverters, installed new rails, and then tested and repurposed the old 200W panels to a single array on the roof of building #1.  They then installed 3 new sets of panels on buildings 1, 2 and 3 with the 300w panels and new IQ6 micro inverters.

Before and After solar PV fixes from ProSolar on Great Expectations St. John Villa by ProSolar

Before and After solar PV fixes from ProSolar on Great Expectations St. John Villa by ProSolar

Great Expectations is now setup with 12kW solar system tied to a gateway that connects the villa electrical system with the Tesla Powerwalls and WAPA.

Satellite Internet, Solar Hot Water, and Solar Photovoltaic on the Guest House

Satellite Internet, Solar Hot Water, and Solar Photovoltaic on the Guest House

Cloud Monitoring

Oh, and our temporary to long-term satellite internet and WiFi mesh network from Hughes Net and

Pirate IT

provides the internet connectivity to send and receive data from the Tesla gateway and the solar panel map monitor, all the way back to a website and mobile app!

The Results

The installation was completed and registered at about 4pm on Friday February 16th. It was cloudy and raining. So I changed the Powerwalls to only act as backup power, rather than partially power the villa as well. I wanted to get them charged up to 100% as soon as possible. We got back to Great Expectations after dark and the Powerwall was 28% charged. The geek in me wanted to disconnect from WAPA and see how long she’d run the pumps, fridges, and new LED lights. But I didn’t.

The next morning was switch-over day with guests coming in. The cleaning crew showed up, the sun shone down, and before 3p were had not only fully charged the Powerwall, but had also powered the villa AND sent a couple of kWhr back to WAPA!

MyEnlighten web app for solar panel monitoring on St. John

MyEnlighten web app for solar panel monitoring on St. John

Other than a massive use of air conditioning, we may see grid-free nights in some cases, and much less draw from the grid during heavy-use days.

The Powerwall lit up and charging

The Powerwall lit up and charging

Conclusions

  • We should have taken down the solar panels before the storm. We will next time.

  • Generators are great, but for short term outages when guests need power for only a few hours, they are a short-sighted burden, that seems cheap, but is expensive in time and energy (and gas).

    • During long-term outages, schlepping 5 gallon gas cans for weeks and months sucks. There’s nothing enjoyable about it, except maybe the friends you make while waiting in line for your ration of go juice.

    • On a sunny rock, where you only get a credit against usage on your power bill for sending power back to the grid, high capacity storage and solar are the only way to go.

    • Island Solar VI and ProSolar are two professional outfits. (Heck, Dan Boyd came out to meet me at the villa a week after Maria! His house on Lovango was destroyed and he was on island helping people!) The ProSolar guys at one point had 4 trucks and 11 people onsite for the PV/Tesla install. They reviewed possible setups in detail. They explained how things work and how they don't. They made an organized mess and cleaned it all up. They did it in days, not weeks or months.

We’d do it again. In a heartbeat.

We have added a massive value to future guests in the form of silent backup power to the villa for hours or days, if not weeks. We’re using solar to charge the batteries AND power the villa during the day. The Powerwalls send stored solar power back to the villa at night when the sun is down!

We've made our St. John villa stronger, more resilient, less expensive to maintain, and 'greener.' Long term, it equates to better for the environment (if everyone used less power a fossil fuel power plant). It is less expensive to power and gives us less reliance on grid power. Seamless always-on power for guests and us alike.

Win

3

!

We’re already budgeting for another 20-40 solar panels AND 2-3 more Powerwalls. After a few months of data collection and some math, we may be able to be essentially off-grid in the near future AND have daily recharging of a villa-wide battery backup that doesn’t hum you to an angry sleep most nights during an extended power outage.

Running off grid on St. John in the USVI

Running off grid on St. John in the USVI

April 23, 2018: Phase 2 Upgrade

So, we know what’s needed now to effectively go off-grid: 3x powerwalls and another 40 x 300W solar panels. We’re holding out for an insurance settlement, but in the meantime, we have a good grasp on how much solar energy is being produced each day AND how much energy the villa needs per group. Three weeks ago, the power went out for almost 30 hours on all of St. John. Erickson, our maintenance guy, worked with us and the guests to reduce the pool pump usage and turn of the air conditioning. We made the sun set, the guests had power. The guests went to bed and the villa ran on battery. The sun came up, still no WAPA, but the batteries held (barely) and the solar kicked in. The batteries charged up again partially, and the power eventually came back on just after dark the next day.

Too close for comfort in our book, so last week we called ProSolar and had 2 more Tesla Powerwalls installed - a 66% increase in capacity. The battery bank now holds 67.5kWh of power, and they can charge from 0% to 100% during a single solar day, so long as WAPA (the power grid) is up. If WAPA goes down, we have an almost unlimited supply of power from the sun (and stored in powerwalls) so long as we keep the air conditioners off.

Progress!

5 Tesla Powerwalls at our St. John Villa Rental

5 Tesla Powerwalls at our St. John Villa Rental

Taking a few days to let your Soulshine

dinghy out to Soulshine catamaran in Cruz Bay

dinghy out to Soulshine catamaran in Cruz Bay

Our closing date for purchasing Great Expectations was scheduled for December 29, 2017. Legal issues delayed the date into January, but we weren't going to let that affect our planned 3-day sailing excursion for Old Year's Eve. We had booked a 3 day trip with 2 other couples on Soulshine Charters, a crewed Lagoon 4400 sailing catamaran, just recently returned from being holed up on Puerto Rico for the 2017 storms.

Day 1: Sail to Jost

The first mate and business partner, Pete, picked us up on the National Park Dock in Cruz Bay and dinghy'd us out to Soulshine in the harbor. Captain Jim Lee and deckhand/cook Megan showed us around the boat, gave a safety briefing, and got us into our queen-bed berths. The rooms each have their own bathroom and are quite spacious with portals that can be opened for air flow.

Soulshine welcome sign

Soulshine welcome sign

The salon area is open and spacious and we really noticed how much more room their was with the helm being built on top of the main cabin area.

Once underway, we sat back and relaxed while Megan plied us with "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" afternoon beers. They sailed the boat into Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands to check us into customs. It was December 30th and the bay was already full of boats moored for Foxy's Old Year's Eve party the next afternoon. We decided to stay put and just relax on the boat for 2 nights rather than sail off to Sandy Spit and possibly not be able to find a spot to anchor for the end of year party.

Jim &amp; Pete do the dishes

Jim & Pete do the dishes

We dinghy'd in to have a sunset drink on the beach, then headed back to the boat for a wonderful dinner prepared by Megan. The guys cleaned up and did the dishes while we just relaxed, then went to bed early. Slept great to the gentle breeze blowing through our windows.

Day 2: Dinghy to White Bay for a little work and play

I was hired by Soggy Dollar (for my 'day job' at VickeryHill) to replace the live webcam on the newly rebuilt bar roof, so Captain Jim, Chris, and I loaded up in the dinghy with a backpack full of technology for the short cruise over to White Bay. The camera install was fairly straight-forward, and not long after we got it up and running on the web, Jim returned with the rest of our group for lunch and drinks at Hendo's.

While I'd been back to White Bay 4 times since the hurricanes, today was something special. The bay was full of boats. The beach had between 200 and 300 people on it. Music was blaring. Dozens of people floated chest-deep in the water with a drink in their hand. Jost was back!

white bay on New year's eve 2017

white bay on New year's eve 2017

After another few hours in the sun and sand on White Bay (and a few Painkillers and Fat Snoopy's), Captain Jim came back with the dinghy to motor us back to Great Harbour where we cleaned up, took a nap, and got ready for the big Old Year's Eve party at Foxy's.

https://greatexpectationsusvi.com/st-john-villa/rates/specials/

https://greatexpectationsusvi.com/st-john-villa/rates/specials/

Meghan cooked another wonderful dinner (filet mignon) and then broke out the Chambong: yep, it's a bong for champagne. A few drumrolls and bottle of champagne later, and we were off to the beach and the big party. Dinghy's were piled on top of each other on the dock and along the beach. Hundreds of people milled around enjoying food and drinks from the rebuilt businesses (some just recently thrown up with plywood). Probably ⅓ of the crowd were in togas (it was advertised as a toga party) and the music was jamming. We didn't get on the beach until well after sunset, but the party had started hours earlier.

A few drinks, a few bands, and a lot of hugs later, and we texted the captain to bring us back to Soulshine before the countdown.

Day 3: Sail back to USVI with a stop for some fun in the water

Jim Lee, Megan Kenobbie, and Pete Mottl on S/V Soulshine

Jim Lee, Megan Kenobbie, and Pete Mottl on S/V Soulshine

After breakfast, we broke anchor and captain Jim sailed us over to the north shore of St. John where we anchored and then jumped in the water to play around. Jim manned the dinghy and prepared us for a little something unexpected: the Soulshine slingshot! It's a little hard to imagine, but they basically tie a line from the top of the mast to the dinghy, it lays slack in the water, where you grab on, and they motor out away from the boat, tightening the line and slinging you up in the air 15-20 feet -WATCH THE VIDEO!

After an hour of some serious relaxation just screwing around in the warm water, we motored back to Cruz Bay, disembarked with hugs, thanks, and even booked a trip for next year...we're thinking of heading to Anegada for a nice long sailing trip and some New Year's lobsters!

Taking a 3-7 day BVI excursion on Soulshine Charter's crewed catamaran before (or after) your villa stay is a perfect way to get out and enjoy the Virgin Islands from the water, come back to St. John and spend a week or more relaxing by the pool and on the beaches. You'll see the islands from a different perspective, meet new people, and be catered to by Soulshine's smiling crew. Plus, how could you not want to try the Soulshine Slingshot!

For you Sandcastle Hotel/Soggy Dollar families: we've created a villa rental special that includes a trip on Soulshine or day trip with Palm Tree Charters >

New Year, New Island, New Owners!

Carrie &amp; Steve Butcher overlooking Coral Bay

Carrie & Steve Butcher overlooking Coral Bay

Well it's official - Great Expectations has changed hands to longtime visitors Steve & Carrie Butcher. Steve & Carrie got married on Gibney Beach on St. John in 2002 while they and their wedding party stayed at Great Expectations. They returned for multiple stays at the villa including their 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th anniversaries, as well as a surprise 10th anniversary Steve planned for a year with 20 of their closest friends and family.

Steve has been the web developer/marketing consultant for our website for the past 10 years, and, most recently, he and Carrie were our last guests at Great Expectations just before Hurricane Irma hit. They actually were one of the last few off the island on Labor Day.

Steve Butcher loaded for hurricane relief

Steve Butcher loaded for hurricane relief

Steve spent the hours of until Irma hit prepping the webcam to record images and have an influx of visitors, then after the storm hit, with communications down and no one to help, he volunteered to load up with supplies and head to St. John to assess the situation and help with anything he could. He planned on a 4 night stay with MREs, tools, and work clothes, but got stuck for 17 days when Maria ramped up to a category 5 and hit the islands.

Since the storms, Steve has returned 4 times (twice with Carrie) to work with our maintenance crew, and help others on the island.

Chuck and I cannot think of two better people to pass Great Expectations on to. Actually, we probably would not have but for Steve's extraordinary help - and friendship - over the years. Our hearts will always be on St John and at Great Expectations. So many great memories and guests. We are confident that Steve and Carrie will take on this next chapter of Great Expectations and make your experiences even better!

As one of our first guests wrote in our Guest Book -- 'Great Expectations is heaven'! It was and is for us.

Kristin and Chuck

Kristin and Chuck

The Rebirth of St. John has happened

hawksnest

hawksnest

And, boy, is she beautiful both inside and out!

First, the obvious beauty -- our hillsides are now covered with new foliage and flowers are blooming with vigor, and flamboyant trees are even blazing red with a second bloom this year.  Our waters are beautiful turquoise again and crystal clear. And, thanks to lots of hard work by volunteers and the National Park Service personnel, our beaches are again silky sandy.  Some beaches, like Hawksnest, are actually bigger! Just last week the National Park Service announced that the VI National Park is open again. Dive and fishing boat captains are reporting that sea life is thriving with fish and lobsters. Charter boats are back in business and taking people out on the water to enjoy snorkeling spots near and far.

lineman

lineman

Secondly, and as importantly, residents of St. John and people from around the country who love St. John have given of themselves in an extraordinary way every day since September when the two Category 5 hurricanes (Irma & Maria), with their ferocious winds, 'visited' St. John.  St. Johnians jumped in to volunteer through St. John Rescue and St. John Community Foundation, first in search and rescue efforts and then helping provide housing for those who lost it, free meals, clothing and they worked hand in hand with the many wonderful government and private sector stateside organizations including Kenny Chesney and Mike Bloomberg's Foundations. Folks from FEMA, the Defense Department, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Red Cross have all been amazingly committed to helping our island rebuild. Linemen from all over the country have invaded (to our delight!) St. John. We have more utility trucks with stateside license plates than those with USVI ones!  Linemen worked Thanksgiving day and are routinely celebrated by local residents.

 St. John on the mend!

Amy Roberts, reporter for St. John Tradewinds, recently wrote about the team from the U.S. Public Health Services with expertise in post-trauma counseling who arrived Sunday afternoon, October 1:

No doubt they were somewhat taken by surprise by the sight that greeted them when they stepped off the ferry in Cruz Bay. Instead of the decimated island filled with traumatized people that has been portrayed in much of the national media in the past several weeks, the team arrived instead to an island party in Frank Powell Park. People of all ages and colors swayed to the sounds of Cool Sessions. St. John Brewers handed out bottles of cold beer, ale, ginger beer and root beer, collecting only donations to pay the band. The music started a couple of hours later than planned – the result of generator problems which explain much of the breakdown in services these days. But no one complained, even when the band stopped at 5:40 P.M. to provide ample time to get home before the 6 P.M. curfew which was still in effect.

[video width="1280" height="720" m4v="https://greatexpectationsusvi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_8288.m4v"][/video]

Dancing in Franklin Powell Sr. park to Cool Sessions.

Those who were on St. John and lived through not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes within a 2 week period, have proven why our island is known as Love City! The outpouring of assistance -- neighbor to neighbor -- as evidenced by the St. John Rescue all volunteer staff who worked tirelessly to save people from their homes, and the folks at St. John Community Foundation who spent countless hours coordinating relief efforts for sheltering and caring for and feeding St John residents.

The owners and staff of Cruz Bay Landing, 420 To Center, and Longboard (pictured left) who opened their restaurants offering two meals a day for free. And, then there are the off-island folks who have donated their time, resources (planes, generators, food, water) and talent who have truly been saviors.

The longboard crew

The longboard crew

While it is impossible to thank everyone and every organization, a few of the standout organizations have been Kenny Chesney's and  Mike Bloomberg's Foundations. Both country singer Kenny Chesney and former NYC Mayor Bloomberg have personally visited St. John to assess the situation, express their commitment to the island and its people, and sent their staff and multiple planes filled with relief supplies.  Government resources, both Virgin Islands and federal, FEMA, Defense Department, Public Health, National Park have worked collaboratively with local non-profits. The St. John Animal Care Center was helped by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) by bringing in staff and a plane to rescue over 100 dogs and cats and take them to stateside shelters. The Red Cross has also been outstandingly supportive.

As is said, it takes a village, and boy, do we have a great one!  Each day for the past month there has been a Town Meeting at 7:30 AM at which the major organizations will brief any and all about what to expect that day or week:

Pumpkin at a Mongoose Junction town meeting

Pumpkin at a Mongoose Junction town meeting

Briefing at the Town Meeting is 'Pumpkin', St. John manager of Viya (USVI communication services) and a well-known landmark always offering help to those in need (including Chuck and Kristin when we first moved to St John in 1998 and urgently needed a phone installed -- to deal with a family medical emergency -- where we were renting while building Great Expectations)

Ship of Utility Poles arrives St. Thomas

Never have people been so excited to receive a ship of utility poles as those of us who live in the US Virgin Islands! Usually we are excited to greet a cruise ship of tourists, however, this ship was filled with no tourists but something that is a more welcome sight -- utility poles.

Beginning this past Sept 29 and continuing for several days, WAPA crews and its contractors began positioning a shipment of approximately 1,300 utility poles at strategic locations across St. Thomas. A second shipment of another 2,500 poles and additional equipment is expected in the territory within two weeks. The utility poles are part of an initial shipment of additional supplies needed to rebuild the transmission and distribution system. Convoys will be deployed from the cruise ship dock in Havensight, destined for the west end, north side and east end areas.

Energizing the substations will bring service to Red Hook, affording WAPA the ability to test the undersea cables to St. John. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, WAPA should begin to energize portions of Cruz Bay within the next 10-14 days. St. John crews continue to work in the Cruz Bay area planting new poles from the roundabout toward the Myrah Keating Smith Health Clinic.

Oh, that coconut water tastes so good!

We have plenty of coconut water to keep our great staff going to get the Villa back up and running! Thanks #lovecitystj for pix and Steve and Erickson (and crew) for an amazing job clearing up the debris scattered around our property as the result of not one but two Category 5 hurricanes, first Irma and then Maria, in as many weeks !

Blue skies are here again!

Steve Butcher, our extraordinaire Webmaster, took the photo (above) earlier this week showing that the blue skies and sea of the Caribbean has returned to Cruz Bay.  Steve has been attending the daily 'Town Meetings' held each morning to brief any and all about the latest recovery activities. He reports that Love City is truly that -- St. Johnians are working tirelessly with representatives of the federal government such as FEMA,  the National Park Service and the military. They are working side-by-side with the Red Cross who are overseeing the distribution of food and managing the shelters for those who lost their homes. Equally important are volunteers from the private sector who are providing incredibly important health, technical, and communication services. Standing out in particular are the folks from Mike Bloomberg's organization and Kenny Chesney's Foundation folks.  All these groups are working together to help St. John rebound to the special jewel it is. To keep in touch with the rebound of St. John follow LoveCitySTJ and Great Expectations Hurricane Rebound pages.

What a difference a bit of time makes!

Author and long-term St John home owner, Homer Hickam, has a great way of helping us remember just how quickly our now brown landscape can rebound -- in a year's time brown hillsides turn into to lush, lush green. His example, while not St John, is similar to our environmental conditions. We will let his words and pictures speak for themselves:

I sort of went through this in 1998 when the island of Isla de Guanaja [in the Caribbean] was hit by Mitch, similar in size as Irma. Here are before and after photos, a year between. My friends standing in same spot with exactly one year between photos. Islands do recover (left photo right after Hurricane Mitch and the photo on the left just one year later: 

Guanaja hurricane mitch

Guanaja hurricane mitch

Guanaja hurricane mitch 1 yr later

Guanaja hurricane mitch 1 yr later

As we brace for Hurricane Maria and make every effort to stay safe, know that the future can and will be bright and the island green again as shown in the above photos!

St John -- Post Irma status report (Sept 18)

Thanks for all your messages and good wishes!  There have been numerous press reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma to St. John, unfortunately flamed by an effort to draw attention to the Virgin Islands so that the Federal government did not forget us in the midst of the wider spread damage in Texas and Florida (the Governor of the Virgin Islands told everyone last week that President Trump called him and said he would visit, but that has yet to happen). To the best of our knowledge, the damage is no worse than the last major storm to strike the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Hugo, in 1989. As has just occurred, the islands back then looked bare and awful, the result of the high winds denuding all the green, leaving just brown trees and bare earth. Wooden houses were badly damaged with FEMA blue tarps served for months as roofs. Being the tropics, the landscaping grew back within weeks. New building codes prohibited building any new structures out of wood. We bought our property in 1990, one year after Hurricane Hugo. Will St. John recover as quickly this time? We do not know for sure, but we fully expect it to! Our Webmaster and friend extraordinaire, Steve Butcher, arrived on St. John on Saturday (he had to fly from Vermont to San Juan via JFK, then take a supply boat from Puerto Rico to Cruz Bay). He has confirmed what we have seen from FEMA aerial photos and the initial report a week ago from Kristen Cox, our property manager, that Great Expectations survived Hurricane Irma incredibly well. Our thanks to our architect, John Sloan and our contractor, Bill Osborn and his construction crew, who designed and built the Villa to withstand hurricane-force winds with 8 inch thick reinforced concrete walls, no overhanging roofs and hurricane clamps to hold the roofs on, and hurricane shutters over all the glass sliders! We expect to be open for business within 2 weeks after power is restored to the island, however, we still do not know when that will be and there is yet another hurricane, Maria, bearing down on the Virgin Islands!

To help rebuild St John, please make a contribution to St John Rescue and keep St John on your ‘bucket’ list for the beauty of our island is amazing!

Many thanks!

Kristin and Chuck

Our hurricane shutters secured pre-Irma:

hurricane shutters

hurricane shutters

Our Webmaster and friend extraordinaire, Steve Butcher, enroute the airport last Friday:

butcher on way to Burlington airport

butcher on way to Burlington airport

Saturday night, after inspecting the Villa, Steve got to watch the sun set:

butcher pool post irma

butcher pool post irma

St John post Irma credible non-profits and news sources

There are so many ‘false’ stories (exaggerated statements) that are not helping the situation on St John. CBS, Washington Post, Boston Globe all ran very negative and, actually very unhelpful pieces today (Sept 13). News of St John (Jenn, the founder) wrote on her Facebook page a very heated post (understandably having lived through the horrific hurricane) and her post (which was refuted by credible sources like St John Community Foundation) went viral stateside despite many false statements and on Facebook further fanning unhelpful flames. The recovery effort is now underway with many St Johnian's doing amazingly wonderful things while working non-stop. From all reports St John Community Foundation seems to be the St John organization dealing with recovery services (Red Cross, FEMA, and others) and St John Rescue is the St John organization working with search and rescue groups such as Operation Dirt, FEMA, the military, and others).  Major changes are happening on a daily basis. Roads are being cleared, food & water being delivered and distributed.

Not all posts — even from these sources — will be true, however using your good judgment, we should be able to get a feel of what is actually going on from these sources.

Stay tuned, please, and spread the word that while the island took a huge hit it is already working to rebuild and rebound and with everyone’s help will do just that!

Thanks all!

Credible St John NGOs involved in recovery (please support these organizations with your donations):

St John Community FoundationSt. John Community Foundation - Home | Facebook

St John Rescuehttps://www.facebook.com/stjohnrescue/

Credible ’news’ sources:

St John Source

St Thomas Source

wapa workers

wapa workers

Help Pouring In to St. John (Sept 12) by St John resident Amy Roberts Help continues to pour in to St. John, including a military contingent that came ashore, accompanied by a FEMA official with experience in rebuilding after a hurricane....

Virgin Islands Consortium https://www.facebook.com/viconsortium/

Credible Facebook groups:

Stateside St Johnians Alliance for Hurricane Irma - Facebook group

Help is on the way to the US Virgin Islands

The US Navy announced today that the USS Wasp, USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill support relief mission in Virgin Islands. The amphibious assault ships USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) along with the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting the lead federal agency in providing humanitarian relief efforts for Hurricane Irma. Wasp, the first Navy platform to arrive in the vicinity of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is providing medium and heavy lift helicopters to transport people and supplies. Wasp's helicopters are conducting medical evacuations for intensive care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix and conducting site assessments on the initial damage in St. Thomas.

And, we also learned that St John Rescue has arranged for 2 jets to fly in needed supplies including high tech equipment and highly qualified first responders. They are deploying with Global Dirt Disaster immediate response team.  They plan to 'insert' on St John in the next 36 hours (posted on Facebook Sept 7 at 2 PM).

If you can, please consider donating to the St John Rescue Relief Fund.