The Story of Windchime Estates and the Start of Our Remodel

Day 11
Total Spent So Far: $11,920

Shaleece Picking Granite
Shaleece Picking Granite

Before I dive into this next post, I wanted to put it out there that I’m going to start consistently adding the above heading with the “day” since we started the remodel (May 3rd) and the total spent so far.   Should give you some perspective at how fast, or slow we’ve been moving since the last post.  The above amount already includes backsplashes (material only for downstairs apartments), granite (material only for downstairs apartments), a ton of yard work to clear our view even more, paint for most of the interior of the house, random tools, doors, new cabinet hardware, several faucets, three new ranges, a new washer and dryer, and probably several other things I haven’t thought of yet.

Demolition of Cabinets/Kitchen
Demolition of Cabinets/Kitchen

We’re actually almost done (minus the sink/granite install) with our first apartment out of three.  While I feel like we’re moving slower than I’d like, it’s only been 11 days and we’ve been spending more than $1k/day on average… so I don’t know how we’d go any faster really and I’m actually happy with our progress so far.

Besides the intense amount of “demolition” I’ve done on the old kitchen cabinets and counter tops preparing for the granite and backsplash install, and the painting and new hardware installed throughout the first apartment, the other thing that’s been done that has been very impressive is the amount of “bush work” that has been done along the sides of our cliffs (both the Eastern and Southern cliffs) .

Apartment 1 Paint and Cabinets
Apartment 1 Paint and Cabinets

These guys have been at it tirelessly for three days straight and have cleared out about 15′ down the mountain side to open our view from the 20′ tall Tan Tan trees that grow like weeds.  I thought our view was amazing before but now it’s really impressive.

We also have quite a bit more yard than we expected after we cut back the overgrown bushes and grasses on the land that had been previously cleared out.

Bush Work
Bush Work

This was a pleasant surprise as the dogs have a lot more room to roam.

It’s All in the Name: Windchime Estates

Originally our plan has been to name our property Waitiki Villa all along, in honor of the place Shaleece and I first met. The story can be found here on our blog. After purchasing the property however, we had the opportunity to speak to the previous owner, Tom, who told us the rich history of home and it’s previous owners, including the man who built it.

We’re now planning to name our happy abode Windchime Estates, although plans for Waitiki’s inclusion on the estate still exist.

In 1972 the home was originally built by a sail maker, Ralph.  Ralph’s son, Ralph Jr. later inherited the property from his late father, whom much like his father was a sailer through and through.  Ralph owned a boat named Windchime, which was a 39′ Trimaran that he sailed the world twice with, and where he met his best friend Tom (also a sailer) in the South Pacific.  One day, in the late 80’s Ralph had taken Windchime on a charter with nine people out to Buck Island (viewed from our home.)  Upon the way back the wind died, and without power, Windchime drifted into what is known as Round Reef, the reef that protects Christiansted Harbor (also viewed from our home.)

Windchime Wreck
Windchime Wreck

Ralph lost the boat that day on Round Reef, within view from his own home.  He saved many parts from the boat in hopes to rebuild her one day.  Shortly thereafter in 1989 Hurricane Hugo ripped through the Caribbean decimating St. Croix and tearing the roof off of Ralph Jr.’s home as well as a wall built for his outdoor living space.

Wrecks from Hugo
Wrecks from Hugo

Ralph later used the masts from Windchime as the headers for these walls in the re-construction of his home, which are still seen today.  Ralph willed the home to his best friend he met in the South Pacific, Tom, who 10 year’s later sold the home to us.  Besides this amazing story rich with history, the wind never stops blowing at the high elevation where we are at.  We thought it only right to name the property after the boat for multiple reasons since we know the history, can see the masts in it’s construction,  can literally see the place it sailed and wrecked, and more than likely will hang windchimes from them since the breeze will always play us a tune.

Windchime Logo on Letter Head
Windchime Logo on Letter Head

We also found on the back door of the generator room a hand written note, taped to the back of the door.  Simply put it said “Do Not Lock! We Don’t Have a Key for This Door!”  – Why is this important you ask? Well, it was written on a piece of paper from the early 80’s it appears with a header that included the Windchime Trimaran’s logo from Ralph’s chartering business.  So cool to find this vintage piece!  We plan to pay homage to this logo now and have a sign created with it at our front entrance gate to identify the property.

We decided to keep going with the names since we’re planning to rent out the bottom apartments as short term rentals for easy identification of the three apartments; we named each of them based on additional ideas which we thought made some sense.

Apartment 1 is on the South West corner of our property facing a large mountainous view with a deep reaching valley, covered in forest.  This forest is called Windsor’s Forest.  Well past Windsor’s forest you can see the South shore and at night, the twinkling lights of houses across the forest on the other side of the island beneath the stars.  This apartment is a small efficiency which we feel most who stay there will only come home to “rest” rather than to hang out.  We named this apartment, Windsor’s Rest.

Apartment 2 is in the middle, facing South.  We’ve gotten many comments that Shaleece looked like a Mermaid in our underwater engagement photos which lead to many other mermaid discussions, items for her bridal shower, and well – quite frankly mermaids are everywhere on St. Croix… so we dubbed this apartment The Mermaid.

Apartment 3 is on the East end of our home, and has what we consider the best view, with the most ocean and a clear central (almost framed) look at Buck Island.  It will also open up to our infinity edge pool over the cliff when we finish with it, so rightfully so we named this, the largest apartment, The View.

Finally, last but definitely not least, we decided since we met at Waitiki (a bar in Orlando) that our Pool Bar, which will be held right on the cliff, with seats in and out of the pool, will be dubbed Waitki.  I’m sure Shaleece and I will wander down at times and have a drink, to celebrate “us” the way we did the first night we met.  Today we actually found “his and hers” Waitiki solar light up statues.  They are awesome and we weren’t sure if we’d find them again later so we bought them, even though their final resting place won’t be finished for quite some time. We’re keeping them in the box put away until the pool bar is done.

That’s all for now.  More to come soon!  For Now, More Photos!

Apartment 1 Before the Work Began
Apartment 1 Before the Work Began
Giant 40 Yard Dumpster - We Filled It and Need Another!
Giant 40 Yard Dumpster – We Filled It and Need Another!
New Hardware Goes A Long Way
New Hardware Goes A Long Way
Shaleece Painting!
Shaleece Painting!
Cabinet Termite Damage
Cabinet Termite Damage
Ripping Out Old Sinks, Backsplash, and Cabinets
Ripping Out Old Sinks, Backsplash, and Cabinets
One of Our Many Home Depot Car Loads
One of Our Many Home Depot Car Loads
Land Crab in Our Back Yard
Land Crab in Our Back Yard

We’ve Bought a House! – A Major Shift Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Well I’ve been M.I.A. for quite some time on this blog… and I feel horrible about it.  I’ve wanted to write in it so much, but throughout the last few years trying to buy houses, buy land, and move to St. Croix with one fail after another, I didn’t want to write another article until I was 100% sure about the direction we were headed.  This last time I thought I was so sure we were building a house… and then TWO category 5 hurricanes landed in the US Virgin Islands.  Boy did they turn the island (and our plans) upside down.

So you’ve already read the title of this article and know by now we’ve bought a house – but have no fear, while this blog is going to shift from a “building in St. Croix” to a “completely gutting and remodeling in St. Croix” journey, there is PLENTY to learn here none-the-less.  We’ve basically bought, on the cheap after the hurricanes, a shell of a house with new plumbing, updated electrical, a roof that lasted through the storms, and an interior that hasn’t been touched since 1972, after two major hurricanes.  Needless to say there is a TON of work to do here.  But buying this property has saved us an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in concrete, electrical, and plumbing costs if we were to have gotten this far (with a property this big) ourselves.  In the end, this was the smarter move for building more equity quickly, and getting our dream home done on a tighter budget.

Celebratory Closing Day!
Celebratory Closing Day!
Celebratory Closing Day!
Shaleece and Tamra Cheers!

To explain why this worked out, when just a few months ago you couldn’t touch anything we were interested in for less than $750,000 (making building a somewhat feasible option), the Real Estate market tanked immediately after the storms came through.  NO ONE was thinking of moving here in the last quarter of 2017 and thousands of people fled the island for the mainland leaving all sorts of deals to be had on cars, houses, and land.  At the same time that the real estate market took a hit, construction materials and labor sky-rocketed as everyone on the island scrambled to start repairing their homes and businesses.  Today the market is quickly recovering, and we were incredibly lucky to lock a home under contract and close on it as fast as we did.  (A special thanks to Doane Dariah from Sotheby’s Realty and Michelle Nose of Leeward Island Mortgage – These ladies can get ANYTHING done!)  While the market is recovering, construction materials and labor are still at an all time shortage and high.

The good news is that most of the things inside the home, such as paint, fixtures, light carpentry, tile, backsplashes and refinishing is going to be done by Shaleece and I.  We’re still planning on using the contractors and draftsman I spoke of earlier in the blog to do some of the bigger items such as the pool, wrap around balcony, kitchen remodel (requires walls being removed), 2 car garage and 6th bedroom, however we aren’t in a rush to get many of these done which will help us on the costs as construction prices normalize over the next year or so.  I’m also still planning to source all the materials myself to save as much as possible and GC the project overall for the most part.

I’ve got a lot to update in the next couple of days to catch you up, and if I wrote everything here this article would be the longest yet – so I’m going to leave you with some hints of topics to be covered in articles to come and some descriptions and photos of the place we’ve bought!

To be discussed in the next few days:

  • The Story of Windchime and the Change of Our Villa’s Name
  • $5k Already Spent at Home Depot in First 2 Days Remodeling
  • Pool Design Sketched & Wrap Around Balcony Plans
  • New Windows, Doors, and Shutters in the Works!
  • Tiles, Granite, and Backsplashes Selected for Apartments
  • Indian Furniture – Safe and Sound All the Way from India!
  • Paint Colors Chosen and Painting Begun
  • Meeting the Neighbors – Our First Monthly Neighborhood Brunch!
The House!
Shaleece and I in front of the house with the keys!

The House!

The house currently boasts a total of 5 Bedrooms with 5 Bathrooms and 2,950 square feet inside with another 1,500 square feet of living space outside.  The main house consists of 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms upstairs, while downstairs we have three separate apartments, including two one bedroom apartments and one studio.  The plan is to rent these units out via AirBnB, HomeAway, or VRBO when we’re all said and done with their remodel which should more than cover the entire mortgage on the property.

Estimates on the future value by multiple contractors after discussing our plans for the remodel are in the $1.2M to $1.3M range. The property was purchased for just $349,000, on a lot with this million dollar view, 200 degrees from North East to South West.  We can see Buck Island, Christiansted Harbor and Round Reef, the North Shore all the way to Sugarloaf Hill and Goat Hill. Point Udall at these hills is the Eastern most point of the USA. The Featured Image at the top of this post is our Eastern view taken from our house.  We can also see a large strip of the South Shore.

We’re surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped land known as Windsor Forest in a community called Vista Concordia and Concordia Ridge.  We’re located on the North Shore where we’ve always wanted to be, central to everything, on the “Scenic Route” of St. Croix upon the second highest mountain on the island; only second to that of the next mountain after us along the same Scenic Route.  Multiple neighbors we’ve met have been on the island for 20 years, have lived everywhere from East to West, and swear this is the best location they’ve found  yet.  Our drive-way is about 300 feet long.  The lot is breath-taking and the views this house has the potential of showing off upstairs are incredible.  Most who I’ve taken to the home say that the views are of the very best they’ve seen on the island.  We think so too.

Enough with the talk… Here are some photos of this horrendously dirty and out-dated house!

Waitiki St Croix - Windchime Estates - View - Scenic Route
Some of our friends checking out the house right after we closed!

We’ve Arrived in St. Croix, and Our Move is Finished

We finally made it.

We’ve finally finished moving out of our Orlando home, and down to St. Croix. We’ve got boxes upon boxes that should be arriving soon at the post office. But, it wasn’t easy getting here.

After an evening with my parents, and afternoon moving boxes to the post office to ship off to the island, we packed ourselves and the dogs in the car to head to our friend Val’s for a ride to the airport.  Unknowingly (since the app wasn’t up to date) our flight had been canceled, but we pushed to head on anyways at the CheckIn counter.  Upon arrival at the counter, the gate agent told us we couldn’t take our chainsaw as checked luggage, even though it was brand new and in the box. Val, our angel of a friend and ride, offered to mail it down for us. I’m going to need it in our yard.

The farthest we got that day was Puerto Rico, where the next flight to St. Croix wasn’t until the next morning and on a different airline, Cape Air. We spent the night on the sidewalk under the stars, outside of the airport, with both Tate and Kaden. No hotels were available until November (a month from now) since many reservations were now long term tenants who didn’t have homes to go back to since the storms.  A nice man from the NY Port Authority, there to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s airport, gave us a pillow and blanket. He was there with a team sleeping on cots upstairs. Several grueling and tiring hours later, we were almost told that two dogs are not allowed on the Cape Air flights since the planes are so small. Luckily it was a completely empty flight with the exception of our new friend Matt (also moving to St. Croix with plans of building a home), so the pilot made an exception for us. Thank God, because another night in Puerto Rico on the sidewalk would have been a nightmare.

We arrived home to find our friend Rupert in our drivable Jeep. We had a flat tire, and he got it fixed for us while we were gone. What an awesome friend! To top it off, our other amazing friend Virgil drove over to the house to help us unscrew the front doors so we could get in. He had come over the day after the hurricane to nail shut our doors since the storm had blown them wide open and we weren’t around at the time. Did I say our friends are amazing?

Upon opening the doors we found a 20′ long piece of galvanized steel sheet metal roofing that had actually slammed into the doors like a battering ram, opening them to the elements of a Cat 5 storm, before proceeding to spin around in the living room like the blades of a blender. After removing it, we found a ton of leaves, mud, and debris everywhere in the house. It’s literally taken 3 days of sweeping, scrubbing tiles, walls, ceilings, and everything else you can think of by hand,  to get it clean. We are almost there though.

Now, back to a semi-normal life, we are only without power. The rains are bringing plenty of water. Our landlord has made it down from Missouri. His plan is to repair a leak in the cistern, clean the yard, and get a “whole house generator” installed so we have power the next few months while the island’s infrastructure gets rebuilt.

All in all we are happy to be here and are excited to start our journey. In the interim we’ll be focused on work as we wait a few months to see how the real estate market shakes out. We think we may find a great deal on a fixer upper, to cut down the build process and cost. This blog may turn into “Remodeling in the Caribbean” instead of building from scratch. Only time will tell.

Hurricane Maria Devistates St. Croix, and Our Imediate Plans to Build

Just when we thought we were one of the luckiest islands in the Caribbean to escape the grasp of a Catagory 5 hurricane named Irma, Catagory 5 Maria sweeps through the Leeward Islands, this time further South, devastating our new home town. Two Catagory 5 hurricanes within 12 days. Most every island in the Caribbean is completely devistated.

 

Earl Morris, veteran videographer is out and about looking around St. Croix on Day 2 after Maria and has sent Channel 8 TV some pictures from his journey

Posted by WSVI Ch8news on Thursday, September 21, 2017

 

Shaleece and I had finally flown back to the mainland after a 5 day airport delay due to Irma’s path towards Florida before Maria hit. We gathered in our RV after assessing the near $40,000 worth of roof, fence and seawall damage to our Orlando home from Irma and headed out to work in Arkansas for Backwoods as well as the wedding we were attending in Texas of our good friend Erin and Joey.

While on site in Arkansas, we watched and listened in horror how our friends and family on our new home island were in for one of their worst storms in 27 years since Hugo, which also devastated the island.

Since then I have been reluctant to write in this blog. The wind has left our sails momentarily and we are trying to figure out our next move. With the damage in Orlando and not being able to rent it out as quickly, we have some work on our hands before we completely close our Florida chapter. It’s hard though because we are half way though the move with things in both places.

The governer on St. Croix said he may not let anyone fly in to St. Croix for 30 days, which would delay us by almost a month, at which point we are supposed to be in India for work as well as home for Thanksgiving just after.

Our house in St. Croix which we are renting suffered only minor damage, while our friends are missing their roofs. We may even have some of our friends stay in our place. It’s the only way we seem to be able to help since we can’t get there or mail anything at the moment which is incredibly frustrating.

I know we will get through this eventually. The house in Orlando will get fixed, and the island will slowly return to normal. Although power may not be restored in some places there for 6 months or more, our neighborhood there should recover rather quickly since we are close to the hospital and Christiansted. There will be more work there than people to do it in the coming months which is good for the economy. The government confirmed that as they are completely overwhelmed. Help and funds are on their way to rebuild the island.

While we have a lot going on in the interm, we are still thinking about our ultimate goal of owning our own piece of paradise.

At the moment, we are unsure if an immediate build of a new place may be feasible anymore which weighs heavy on our hearts. For one, every month we get behind schedule, and continue to loose rental income, as well as pay to fix the damages caused by Irma, we begin dwindling our cash reserves which will be needed for the build. The second reason we are unsure if the build may be possible as quickly as we planned, is because we fear the cost of construction materials will skyrocket over the next year or two as the islands consume all resources to return to normal and repair the buildings and infrastructure. Skilled labor will also rise as it will be in high demand. This may mean the cost of building will outpace what we can financially spend.

However, all may not be lost.  We now may consider a search to buy a home instead of build once more. Although we originally searched for the last two years as prices rose and inventory dwindled, we think now the opposite may happen. There will be few people considering a move to the Caribbean right now. People will still have to sell their homes in some cases. Many homes may get listed as “fixer uppers” now since the storms came through. And we may just get a better deal buying and remodeling or adding on if necessary rather than building from scratch.

I guess the truth is it’s all in the air at the moment. We have no idea what the future holds for us any longer. The only thing we can do right now is wait and see what happens, take one step at a time to repair the lives we have, finish our move, and help our neighbors as best as possible. We will eventually reassess our situation in the coming days and figure out how to proceed.

One thing is for sure though; we are still planning on staying in the islands, and eventually we will find our own piece of paradise.

Offer Placed on St. Croix Property and Hurricane Irma Aftermath

I officially placed an offer to purchase our first choice property on St. Croix today and went for a celebratory scuba dive in Cane Bay just down the hill from the property. Signed purchase agreement and earnest money are in the hands of our Realtor. I was given a verbal pre-approval for the land loan by Banco Popular the Friday after Irma came through. The person who signs the letters for the pre-approvals lives on St. Thomas which is currently decimated by Hurricane Irma so I don’t have an actual letter in hand.

My Realtor said she spoke with the original listing agent of the property and that the seller would be willing to entertain an offer for the lot, so we know he’s willing to sell it. That’s good because technically the property isn’t listed for sale currently. The listing originally expired 10 years ago when he first had it listed and never got it sold (after the last market crash in 2008.) Now, if we can only agree on the price.  🙂

I met a nice man named Matt today who helped shave a back door that swelled and was unable to be shut from the hurricane we had. I put his card in my little rolodex which is quickly growing of subcontractors and handymen whom I may hire for our build. Other than this little issue, the house has been great. It handled the hurricane wonderfully, although we lost a few trees in the yard. A couple days after the storm our landlord rented a huge rollaway dumpster and we completely filled it (he and I) with downed trees, leaves, sticks, and other vegetation that was brought down from the storm. The property looks as good as new now, minus the two beautiful missing trees that were in the front yard. I really can’t believe just how much we put in that dumpster. There was a TON of yard work to do.

Huge Dumpster of Debris

Fresh Coconut from Our BackyardYesterday, we harvested from our own trees on the property and collected 8 lemons, a bunch of almonds which we now have drying out, and a coconut which I hacked open with a machete and turned into a rum cocktail. We also have a plum tree on the property and a banana tree which has probably 100 bananas that should be ready in about a month. Over the week and a half of being here we were also given a bunch of Carambola (Star Fruit) we’ve been eating for breakfast and Avocados as well, which we turned into fresh guacamole tonight. Last time we were here a few months ago, we were eating mangos, genips and fresh bananas that were gifts as well. One thing is for sure on this island, even if you have no money, it may be impossible to starve with the abundance of fruit and vegetables grown here in people’s back yards. There’s something to be said about a place in which you collect your own water from the sky, and grow several edible items on every piece of land.

Lemons from Our Backyard     Almonds from Our Backyard

There are still people without power 6 days later here on St. Croix, although we got ours back in just a day and a half since we’re on the hospital’s grid. The neighboring islands have sent thousands of people over here for shelter so far, as much of the neighboring islands are uninhabitable at the moment. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruse-lines are actually sending down cruise ships to help evacuate people who were on vacation on some of the islands that were hit, and provide them at least with a little vacation on the ride home. I thought that was pretty cool. One of the best cruises we ever went on was Norwegian.

Last night the storm hit all of our family in Florida (Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando). Everyone seemed to fair OK through the storm, although we have a missing fence and some roof damage to our lake house. I haven’t heard anything regarding my other rental properties there, but I assume my management company would have called if there was something significant.

Here are a few pictures of the damage around the island. All in all, not bad considering our island neighbors. We were lucky. I snapped a photo of Ham’s Bluff a day after the hurricane. It looks just as beautiful as ever, and is a constant reminder as to why we’ve moved here. It’s the last photo in the series below.

Neighbors House After Some Beautiful Palms Cut Down Boat Washed Up on Rainbow Beach West Shore Chainsaw Fallen Tree Trees on Vans Powerlines Down Our Street Sign is DownHam's Bluff Just a Day or So After the Hurricane

 

 

 

Hurricane Irma Smashes Through The Virgin Islands

Well, we made it through our first hurricane in the Caribbean. Category 5 at that. We got really lucky that the track of the hurricane had shifted North a bit. The eye of the storm passed between St. Thomas and the BVI causing much more damage to those islands.

While I am not sure of the extent of the St. Croix damage since the curfew has not been lifted yet, I know through social media that we have lost many trees, there is much flooding, power is out all over the island, and I’m sure our coastlines have been damaged.

We weren’t able to get the cap off the cistern to get water from it, so we filled the bathtub up before loosing power and also filled the sinks. We’ve also been collecting rain water in buckets from the porches and using that to reserve the water in the sinks and bathtub. We can’t flush like normal because the pumps have no electric to bring up water from the cistern. Without the water we would have a very stinky situation on our hands. As long as it continues to rain while the power is out we should have no issues. We are on the hospital power grid so we should get service first before the rest of the island. I think that will be sometime today.

Last night we ate Spaghetti O’s on the gas stove. It totally makes sense why everyone has gas here rather than electric since the power goes out so often. It’s nice to have a hot meal at a time like this!

After a day and a half with no shower, we decided to go outside in bathing suits today and shower in the rain. It was incredibly refreshing! (And a tad bit fun.)

Not a ton of photos yet since the curfew has kept us at the house, although last night we did chainsaw up the tree that fell in our front yard blocking the road from passage that landed on our neighbor’s van. That was a beautiful tree and now the row of 5 has a missing gap in it.

Other than that, we’ve had no damage to ourselves, the house, or my Jeep (although I saw a tree about to topple over on it yesterday so I moved it up closer to the house during the middle of the storm.)

We kept ourselves busy throughout the day doing random things. I spent 6 hours drawing plans for the house. It’s based on our first choice lot though so if we don’t get it I’ll be redoing everything. I will probably have more time today to work on them. I still have the side and rear elevations to do. At some point I’ll share the drawings.

Most of our friends are without power right now too (I think one managed to keep it) but the good news is no one got hurt. I feel like we’ve been through a right of passage with everyone. The islanders have been incredibly nice, all helping one another and checking in. The sense of community here is much stronger than I’m used to (even when there isn’t a storm.) I guess it’s necessary when you live on a small island.

While the eye of the storm was packing winds of 180MPH, we saw wind gusts upwards of 80-100MPH.

Its headed for our second home in FLorida next, and with the scheduling of the storm’s arrival, looks like it may delay us getting back there a week! Thats no good as we have a lot scheduled right now to finish the move, go to a wedding, and do a site visit for Backwoods Music Festival, as well as rent out the lake house prior to October 1st.

If we can get out and about later, I’ll see if I can get some photos. Right now the cell signal isn’t strong enough to upload the couple that we took. Maybe that will change when the power comes back on!

Hurricane Irma Bearing Down on the Virgin Islands

Before I provide everyone with a Hurricane Irma update, let me catch you up on our very productive day yesterday…

Randall McBeanWe decided to visit our top two properties yesterday with our draftsman Carlos Reyes, and our concrete builder Timothy Francis (Previously spelled Timoty, and definitely pronounced without the H). On the way we met our landlord Randall McBean who is a very nice man who lives in Missouri. He’s here for a reunion and a couple projects he’s got going on the house we’re renting.  He is staying downstairs right now (which is an entire other floor that isn’t part of our lease.)  I guess he also came for the hurricane parties.

When we finally met up with Timothy we drove around to several of his projects in progress, and a few of his finished homes.  He seems not only to be a reputable builder on the island, but an incredibly nice guy.  He spent eight hours with us driving around yesterday.  The quality of his work seemed to be good as well. We didn’t see any cracks in any of the homes walls or driveways on the finished homes. The fact that he answered his phone right away and met with me on a holiday (and also had his guys working at job sites) on the island is definitely above average.  While we were at one of the sites, we came across another excavator, Wilbert Drew.  Timothy said he’s the best on the island. I still hadn’t received a call or text back from Israel (the original guy I talked to and Carlos referred me to) about meeting up on the island since I’ve been here, so I took down Wilbert’s number.Building Project on St. Croix with Retaining Wall

One of Timothy's Build ProjectsAfter we were done looking at Timothy’s projects specifically, we picked up Carlos Reyes and all drove out to the two properties we are considering for purchase.  It’s all in agreement that our first choice is their first choice as well due to the fact you can use more of the property.  However, our second choice is actually even better than we thought, as we realized that our realtor didn’t know the main part of the land was just a little further up the hill, which revealed a large build-able area up on the cliff.  This gave us some great ideas as to how to build a really neat home on that property if we don’t end up with our first choice, but only about .75 of the 2 acres is usable on that property.  The rest is steep hillside and/or cliff which makes for some dramatic views, but doesn’t leave room for gardens, etc.

Building Project on St. Croix

At about the time we finished with Timothy and Carlos, Wilbert was available and done with work, so we drove out again to view the properties with him and get an idea on the time and costs associated with clearing the land and moving dirt on each.  He also agreed that our first choice was the better property.  That’s 4 people total in agreement so we’re pretty confident with that decision. He was also super nice, kept his equipment and himself super clean, and was even critiquing some dirt moving jobs we came upon with precision.  I like all that detail and I think he has won our business as our excavator, especially since Israel didn’t get back in touch with us quickly.  Being responsive is critical for me to stay on schedule.  All in all we spent 8.5 hours working and researching the project with these guys, and we learned a ton.

Rainbow Beach with FriendsFeet in the SandAfterwards we decided to hit up Rhythms at Rainbow Beach for sunset, and then head over to the Lost Dog for a hurricane party.

Hurricane Irma PathHurricane Irma Path

Hurricane Irma. Seriously? Just a few days here and you’re headed this way? It looks like we’re going to get spared from the eye of the storm where the worst winds are, but we are definitely going to be “in” the hurricane.  Power may go out for days (when Hugo came through it was out for 3 months) and there will definitely be downed trees everywhere, and probably some homes that haven’t been up-kept or built cheaply, that are damaged.  We are in a solid poured concrete structure (the way we will build our house) with hurricane clips on the roof.  The windows are jalousie windows most with wood slats so our process for protection is simply to close them up.  We don’t have any ownership interest here yet, so it’s not too concerning for us, but of course we are concerned for all our friends on island who do. We stocked up on PB&J and will have hundreds of gallons of fresh water coming into our cistern from the roof catching the rain water. We will have a bucket and rope for pulling rain water from the cistern if need be to do things like bath and flush toilets if the power is out and the pumps can’t pump water. Candles and lighters also are on hand. I think we’re ready to ride out the storm which should hit in the next 18-24 hours. We are supposed to go home on Saturday, but now it is looking like that may be impossible. Not necessarily due to the damage here, but the fact that the path has the hurricane headed to Florida and we would basically be flying through it to go home, or into it right about that time.  We may have to wait until it passes Florida completely before we can fly home.

I snapped this photo of our neighbors house next door.

All in all though, I don’t think anyone should worry about us, we should be just fine.  I’ll try to get some footage of the hurricane and possible aftermath in the coming days, but I’m not sure when I will be able to update the blog again.  By the way, at the time of this writing I was just notified it was upgraded from a CAT 4 to a CAT 5 with 175 MPH sustained winds.  Wonderful.

Right now, it’s the calm before the storm.

Calm before the Storm

Seeking the Perfect Land Lot on St. Croix

Today was a good day. We started at K-Mart to grab a few things for the house, and then headed to our favorite spot on the island, Norma’s Domino Club in the rain forest. At this place, the pigs drink beer. No joke. After a couple of drinks ourselves, we headed to the West End to take a look at a few properties that were on our list and meet Doane, our Realtor. We parked at a spot on the beach to wait for her at the end of the of the road leading from the rain forest.  Unfortunately the properties out on the West side were very vertical, hillside, which would make it hard to build. Although the views were incredible and the sunsets would be amazing. We proceeded then to follow Doane to the North shore to take a look at a couple more, one of which isn’t listed on the MLS.

Jeep in the SandThat’s the great thing about having a realtor like Doane – I know I’ve talked about this lady in multiple posts now as one of the best realtors out there who goes out of her way, but really she is! She showed us a lot that used to be on the market back in 2009, of which she knows the owner.  She had contacted him before to sell off other lots when they weren’t listed, and got them sold to her buyers successfully.  She kept saying “it’s exactly what you’re looking for. This is the one.” and we think she was right.  The thing is, there isn’t much on the market right now, so having an “in” is really helping to find what we’re looking for.

Mt. PleasantAt least out of all the properties we looked at today, her “not listed” property is our prime choice.  It’s the top crest of a hill off the North shore, so there is a lot of gentle slope for a great build (unlike steep cliffs which cost a lot from an excavation standpoint.)  The property will be great for both a main house and a guest house with a large outdoor pool area – and room for a future horse barn if we end up getting a horse.  It’s a total of 1.6 acres, which is a little smaller than I originally thought we wanted but the location and views are superb.  You can literally see the North coast line AND the South shore from the top of the hill.  360 degree views of the ocean!  It could be an incredible space.

Mt. PleasantWe left each other today with Doane saying she would text the owner’s previous Realtor. She’s planning to strike up a conversation to see where his head’s at, and if he’s still looking to sell it. Will the owner be reasonable from a pricing stand point? To be continued…

Shaleece Wins!

Our Official Move to St. Croix

Today is the day. We arrived in St. Croix as official residents. But first, before I talk about that, here’s a quick update from the last couple of days.

Kaden Going to St. CroixOver the last week we have been frantically packing and going through YEARS of stuff, each item deciding whether A) we really need it anymore and B) if we do, whether it is cheaper to ship it or rebuy it, once we’ve arrive on island.  Our other dog, Kaden, finally made it to our going pile.

My car officially sold to a nice man in Bradenton, and she now has a home in a covered garage. I think the A7 found a great home, and I got my full asking price. I couldn’t be happier about that transaction and her new owner.

We also found a good home for BC, our 25 year old snake whom I’ve had forever. Our friends, who are really into reptiles (seriously they have enough to be a mini pet store in their house) have volunteered to care for him. Brittany and Cameron already had another ball python and were surprised to see just how big BC was. Needless to say, I don’t think we could have found a better home. (Fun fact: BC stands for Billy and Christopher, named after my brother and I as kids… but now it very well could stand for his new owner’s names, Brittany and Cameron). 

We literally have purged 50% of all the things we own. All of the things we kept, we are shipping via USPS. 16 boxes total so far, and we probably have another 10 to ship when we return for the next part of our move. Pricing out our options, UPS wanted $900 for the same box that USPS wanted $90 for, which includes $50 insurance and 3 Day priority shipping with tracking. When it comes to the Virgin Islands, USPS can’t be beat for non-furniture items. Our total move looks like it will cost us less than $1,800.

Yesterday, we had our giant yard sale. We made $1,700!!! Incredibly, it looks like we are paying for our move by having sold all the crap we couldn’t bring with us anyways. A very special thank you to my mom, Sue Royall, and our good friend Valerie Whitehurst Kuliberda who really killed it for us, and assisted us with the sale. We worked from 5am to 3pm and got rid of so much stuff.

This morning, we got up early and headed to the airport. We were tired and I think it shows in the photos. Construction at MCO meant ridiculous security lines today. Even though checkin was smooth, we missed our flight. That never happens. The gate door shut in front of us. The great people at JetBlue however, (shoutout to Di at the Just Ask Desk) took care of us, as they always do. Even though I had to book another airline and pay for the tickets, JetBlue (via my Twitter account) was willing to give us that as a credit, so our net out of pocket ($450) was credited in a combination of points for future flights and a cash refund, even though they aren’t affiliated with the other airline we booked on. They are the best. I always recommend JetBlue. And, I always recommend reaching out to any airline via public social media if you have an issue to get it taken care of. (Disclosure: I am long on JetBlue’s stock.)

Cape AirNow, I’m not sure if you’ve ever flown Cape Air whom we booked for our second flight, but they more or less give you a plane and you fly it yourself.  It wasn’t quite the smallest aircraft we’ve flown in (Shaleece and I were in a single prop 4-seater when we flew into the Amazon in Venezuela), but it definitely was an adventure. This is not how we normally get into St. Croix, but it was the last flight of the day and we had to jump on it. Shaleece took the helm (she’s always wanted to be a pilot) and landed us safely. I’m still unsure how she landed so smoothly while looking at my camera.

St. Croix from the AirShaleece Flying Cape Air

Since the second flight was a bit later than the first connection, we arrived 2 hours behind schedule. That means we were going to miss our mattress store appointment and be sleeping on the tile floor tonight. No matter though, our realtor Doane Dariah came to the rescue again and went out of her way, letting the delivery people in early for us! I seriously can’t recommend this woman enough!

Rupert RossRupert Ross, our awesome friend on the island arrived to pick us up in our new Jeep. He is amazing and helped pick up the Jeep from port when it was delivered on the Norma H. (A car delivery service between St Thomas and St Croix.)  I had a small issue with Norma H in that they lost one of the two $400 keys, but they found it a couple of days later, and we can pick it up on Wednesday… that is if Hurricane Irma doesn’t delay them further.

So let’s talk about that for a minute. Our first few days as official residents and we have a huge hurricane headed towards us. Not sure why, but we don’t really have a worry in our minds about it, with the exception that we may get rain our first few days in paradise as we try to take care of a bunch of moving errands. This blog may get interesting in the next few days.

The house is much nicer than we actually expected, believe it or not. It’s very large and has a huge outdoor balcony with multiple seating areas outside. The dogs will love this place. There is no AC (but the breeze is fairly cool/nice and we will probably get a small unit in the bedrooms), but other than that this place was a winner from the start. Although I have no idea why you would ever need it on this island, there was a surprise sauna in our master bathroom. Cool, I guess.

Tomorrow we go to look at the final list of land parcels we’ve narrowed it down to with Doane! We can’t wait!

 

Boat Gone, Car Sold, Loan Update, New Jeep, Concrete, Rebar, and Packing!

Super Air NautiqueJust a couple of days ago the boat left the backyard. It’s now at Nautiques of Orlando. Ask for Jason who is selling it for me if you’re interested.

I sold my Audi A7! (Not officially, but we are supposed to finalize paperwork this week.) $30k to someone I think will love and cherish the car as I did.

The day before the car sold, we bought a Jeep! A 2015 4 Door Sport Wrangler with less than 15,000 miles. It’s white. It will be delivered on a boat to Gallows Bay just a couple days before we arrive, which will be a week from now! Scored this about $7k under book value.

Both Bank of St Croix and Banco Popular are willing to do land loans  Banco Popular’s terms are looking way better though.

I spoke with Timoty Francis of St. Croix who is going to possibly help us with the concrete and rebar work. Speaking with him he quoted in line with what my research was telling me on material costs. Concrete is $160-$170/yard depending upon its strength. (GREAT because another blog I read about a Villa build on St. Thomas said it was upwards of $900/yard when they built 10 years go, which sounds absolutely crazy.) Rebar is best shipped from Puerto Rico and is running somewhere around $675/ton. I can’t wait to tell you how many yards and tons we need… it will be a lot, and the total price for these two materials alone could build a framed house in the states on the mainland.

I sold a bunch of my studio gear to friends I made while I owned Venue 578 before we sold out of it today, as well as a big carved wooden fish I liked to my neighbor. You never know how much stuff of value you have until you start selling it all.

PackingAnd finally we’ve started the dreaded task of packing. So much stuff! Our dog, Tate, made sure he was in the “going” pile. We are in the mindset that if we don’t need it in St. Croix, then we probably don’t need it in our lives at all anymore. The good news about this move is that the furniture is staying with the lake house, since we are going to rent it out fully furnished, so the “things” we’ve collected over the last 10 years is really all we’ve got to deal with. Much of it will be at a HUGE yard and moving sale this coming Friday and the rest is getting packed in boxes and shipped via USPS to come with. We worked on it all day, and although we feel like we accomplished a lot, it doesn’t look like it. There’s much more to do.

First on the packing list, Scuba Gear.