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