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.

Not Many Lenders Out There Lending for Land on St. Croix

Scotiabank never returned my call about financing. I called them back and found out they aren’t doing land loans or construction loans at this time.  That leaves two options out of the list of 10 I started with, Bank of St. Croix and Banco Popular.  I still don’t have land loan information from Bank of St. Croix though.  I think I’m going to go ahead and get pre-qualified with Banco Popular so we can get the process moving. It doesn’t mean I have to close a loan with them and can still check through Bank of St. Croix when and if they get back to me.

Carlos sent me the names of a couple other guys to talk to regarding the house.  One’s a contractor who owns the forms to do the concrete and steel shell of the house including the cisterns, and the other is an excavator and land clearer to help me clear the lot.  I’ve left messages with both of them and hope to get in touch with them soon to start reeling in a rough budget.

Right now we’re so focused on the move that very little is happening in regards to planning of the house.  We may have selected a Jeep, it’s my first experience planning for shipping between 3 islands and working with multiple logistics companies to get it there.  I better get used to that!  It’s on St. John so it first has to go to St. Thomas, and then to St. Croix.

Garage sale at our Orlando house next Friday by the way.  Lots of things going up for sale!  Come get some!

Financing and Design

I made calls for about 2 hours today looking for financing information and only got ahold of one person who has 100% of the information I needed. Banco Popular wins for the day out of lenders. The people at Bank of St. Croix were very nice too, but only had info on Construction Loans. Someone is supposed to call me back about Land Loans. First Bank VI and Scotiabank both have to return my calls still as no one could get me to anyone with any information. Welcome to the Island life! These are the only four banks that offer land and construction loans from what I’ve found down in St. Croix.  Hopefully if I have info from all four, I’ll be able to make the best choice between loan products. I need to get prequalified before we start real conversations with land owners. We have our eye on 8 properties at the moment.

In other news, I spoke with Carlos Reyes, a designer and draftsman who was referred to me on the VImovingcenter.com site.  This is my third call with him, and I really like him. He seems to be very free with information and knows where the good deals are VS the sub contractors who are out to get as much as they can from a “mainlander.” He was helpful in a few budgetary items today as well. He also seems like he’s going to be the best value wise for us to use. We’re planning to meet in person when we go down around the end of our next trip.  I’ve got some hand drawings of features I want in the house going, and a Pinterest Board Shaleece and I have been working on, but we have to wait until we get the lot to start layout out the actual house.  Follow our Caribbean Home Pinterest Board and dream with us!

Update: First Bank VI called back first thing this morning (8/22/17) and they are no longer doing Land and Construction loans.  Just waiting on Scotiabank and Bank of St. Croix to finalize a decision after receiving the rest of their information.

We Signed a Lease!

Wow, this is all happening way faster than we expected! We just signed a year long lease on a property in Queens Quarters (central to the Island) that starts Sept. 1st! Cheers!

We were really just looking and didn’t expect to lock up anything for another month or so, but with the limited rental inventory, the fact this place accepted our dogs, the low monthly rent (relative to other places available), central location, and 1 bedroom apartment we can sublease for extra income… we couldn’t let someone else scoop this one up!

It’s all a little surreal.

TateYesterday I was actually a little in shock and a little sad that we’re leaving this beautiful lakefront property. We hung out with the dogs on the dock to watch the sunset with a couple of glasses of wine.

We are shedding everything we’ve worked so hard for over the years right now, and moving into a smaller place without the luxuries we currently have. It sounds like the answer to the title of our first blog “Are we crazy?” is an astounding YES! However, the end goal in mind is that the home we build over the next 12-24 months is going to be even better, and worth it if all goes well. A step back to take a step forward I guess. The good thing is we’ll be motivated to get the hell outta this place and finish the new house as quickly as possible. Man this sunset on the lake is beautiful though.

Jeep on STXWe’re looking at Jeeps and hopefully we will have one waiting for us there by Sept 2nd… got our eye on a 2011 and a 2015 4 Door Wrangler. Leaning towards saving the money and going for the 2011.

We have a lot to figure out with the move over the next couple of months. There is so much to do. Plan for the dogs. Move out. Put things in storage if need be. Buy furniture down there. Get the Jeep. Get the lake house rented out. The plan is to have it all done by October 1st. I can’t believe we’ll be there that soon already!

Our Realtor Doane Dariah has been amazing by the way. My favorite of them yet! I would recommend her to anyone. She’s going to help us rent out the 1 bedroom to save money by showing it for us while we’re out of town. She also said we could store stuff at her house if we need to while we prepare to build if we find sales and deals on things. That’s so nice!

The house is a 2 bedroom 2 bath home with a separate 1 bedroom apartment that has it’s own entrance. We’re going to rent out the apartment to a Barry University student (where my brother went to PA School) since we have some connections there.  We’re super close to where the study hall and classrooms are, and over 14 students were turned away from the area due to housing not being available.  Should be a pretty easy place to rent out to lower our monthly liabilities even more in prep for the build. Best part is we’ll have a guest room for friends to visit. Here’s just a couple photos of the place:

Living Room

Kitchen

2012 Correct Craft Super Air Nautique Team Edition 210 for Sale

I remember the day I got her. She’s still just as beautiful. 😍 The boat is also just as beautiful as the day I got her too.

Truth be told I worked so much in Orlando on the weekends the last couple of years owning the concert venue I was either dead tired and not wanting to go out on the lake, or was away for the weekend visiting family or traveling.  The two years before that while we were building the New York Ad Agency office I was gone every two weeks.  I wish we would have used this baby more. No matter though, someone else will get to reap the benefits of the low amount of engine hours I put on her. I know they will have a killer time and she will treat them well. I looked at the hours this morning and the engine only has 61 hours on it.  Wow, I think my biggest sin over the last 5 years was that I didn’t have time to use this thing enough. Someone else’s gain I guess.

Nautique 210 Graphics

This boat is loaded with features, and again – I’m selling it because we’re moving to the salt water islands of the world, and this is really an expensive fresh water wakeboard boat. (Maybe I’ll end up with something more appropriate for down there, once we’re there.)

Here’s some of my favorites:

  • LCD Heads Up Display
  • Push Button Start with Keypad Lock
  • Cruse Control
  • Wake Surf System
  • Front and Rear Ballast System
  • LED Underwater Light Package
  • Clarion CD Player with Auxiliary Input
  • Clarion Rear Audio Controls for Wake boarders Already in the Water
  • Snap in Carpet
  • Bimini Top
  • Tower for TowingGirls in Boat
  • Tower Speakers and Upgraded Sound System
  • No rips, tears, or anything, anywhere on the vinyl
  • Low Engine hours with Up kept Maitenance
  • Kept Covered, Out of Water, Under Roof
  • Tons of Storage
  • Tons of Seating (Configurable)
  • Tons of Hot Girls (Although not guaranteed, if you buy this boat you probably will have a ton of them in it.)

Wake SurfIf you know someone who wants an AWESOME Wakeboard and Wakesurf Boat, this is it.  They can finance boats WAY longer than cars, so your payments aren’t super high.  (Mine was $500 over 20 years and I put almost nothing down.)  These hold their value so well too – I’m not even upside down on my loan.  They are in high demand and Jason actually said he has a waiting list for 210’s. I guess that’s why they hold their value especially in Florida (Wakeboard capital of the world).

This boat is still worth upwards of $70k. Nautiques of Orlando is selling it for me, ask for Jason. (407) 425-2628

 

 

Did I mention it has underwater LED lights which means night time wake surfing?

Night Time Wakesurf

Why Waitiki?

I guess we should write a little blurb about why we’re going to name our villa “Waitiki” just incase anyone was wondering. The name Waitiki is special to Shaleece and I because it’s also the name of a little bar on Wall St. in downtown Orlando, FL where we first met one very special night. A few times we have returned on or near the date of our friendship anniversary (January 6th) to have a drink and sit on our same two bar stools.

We thought the name was perfect when Pierce, Shaleece’s brother, suggested it for the Villa since it references both something very special to us, as well as hints towards a tropical paradise for our guests. While we may not opt for the roof made from palm leaves, we will most definitely have something that resembles a tiki bar out by the pool, and most likely several tiki torches.

Anyways, Waitiki – if you don’t know, now you know!

In other news – The Realtor we started working with (Patrice) for land, referred us to someone else today who happens to be the same person that we were referred to find our rental property. I also learned that she (Doane Dariah) is a builder, which is another reason Patrice thinks we may be better off working with her. She will have insight about buying the land that’s builder specific. I’m probably going to ask Doane to act as a consultant on the project since I’m Owner Building it. It would be good to have someone who has the connections, experience, and knows the ins and outs down there to look things over for me sometimes.