The 17th Annual Thankspigging in Coral Bay

Thankspigging Chef Benji prepares the pig for roasting.

Chef Benji prepares the Thankspigging pig for roasting.

This just in: Photos from Thankspigging!

With power and phone service finally coming back after THREE MONTHS, we’re starting to get more news from Coral Bay.

Thankspigging organizer Ken Yolman strings T-shirts underneath the new roof at Skinny Legs.

Thankspigging organizer Ken Yolman strings T-shirts underneath the new roof at Skinny Legs.

Thankspigging organizer Ken Yolman said there was no way Hurricane Irma was going to stop him from hosting his annual potluck Thanksgiving dinner, where everyone is invited to share a free, communal meal with their neighbors.

“Of course we were going to have it!” Ken said. “It’s more needed this year, for sure, with so many people without kitchens, or roofs…” Or homes.

The only question was where, as Skinny Legs—the traditional venue—was also ravaged by Irma, but as Thanksgiving approached, Skinny’s was starting to resemble her old self again. Ken decorated by hanging 17 commemorative T-shirts—one from every year since 2001—beneath Skinny’s new roof. This year’s theme: Irma La Douche.

Thankspigging in Coral Bay

Captain Pete of Angel’s Rest helps carve the roast pig.

“I lost everything so it’s nice to be here with people that probably lost everything too,” said Pete Hoschl, whose floating bar, Angel’s Rest, was wrecked in the storms. “Today’s a day that everybody gets together and forgets about the bad times.”

Chef Benji, who roasted the pig (it was mouthwatering), said he was thankful to be “helping out the community and just sharing a helping hand.”

The pig was a fraction of the size that Ken wanted, but this is a community that knows how to make do. Jeff McCrave from Drunk Bay Brewing fried three large and luscious turkeys, those who could brought homemade side dishes and desserts, and before long the (newly varnished) Skinny’s bar was full of delicious food.

Thankspigging in Coral Bay, St. John 2017

Coral Bay resident Megan Elliott organizes the desserts.

Megan Elliott, who was arranging platters on the buffet, said life’s been difficult in Coral Bay without telephone, television, or internet.

“You hear stories that the military can go into the middle of the deep dark jungle and set a system up in 24 hours and here we are, almost 3 months later.”

Thankspigging is a break from that.

“We need some normalcy and a sense of camaraderie,” Elliott said. “It’s been hard.”

Thankspigging Coral Bay 2017 St. John USVI

Drunk Bay Brewer Jeff McCrave deep-fried three mouthwatering turkeys.

McCrave is a regular at Thankspigging. He recalled meeting a tourist a few years back who wandered in with his wife and pretty much summed up the appeal of the event.

“He looked around and said, ‘This is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be.’ He said, ‘I’m bringing my whole family down here next year for Thankspigging.’ And he did!”

There were no tourists this year, but by 5 pm the band was ready to play and hungry locals were lined up out into the parking lot.

Thankspigging 2017 in Coral Bay

A Thankspigging feast!

Ken welcomed all who gathered, gave a shout out to everyone who worked on Thanksgiving—including the linemen from BBC Electric who would join the party when their power-restoring work was done for the day—and ended with a Coral Bay “toast” of sorts that drew cheers from the crowd:

“We’re not even Coral Bay Strong. We’re Coral Bay (expletive) Tough!”

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Love City Car Ferries, Inc. Update

Capt. Vic

Love City Car Ferries

It’s about three months post hurricanes. We, like many of you, are still in recovery and rebuilding mode. Here is an update of where we are and what’s going on at Love City Car Ferries, Inc.

The M/V Island Vic is deemed a loss; but we are working on its replacement;
The M/V Capt Vic is operational; We do not have office telephone service, but if necessary, you may contact us by calling 340-998-9597; We have temporary internet service; however it’s spotty at times;

As a result of the internet, we have entered many invoices via telephone satellite service; hence we could not attach copies of tickets to the invoice; Original copies of tickets are always given to drivers; we ask that you ensure that your drivers turn them in to accounts payable because we won’t be able to scan and attach copies until our offices are fully operational.

Since services have been rendered and since copies of tickets were given to drivers, we expect timely payments as per our terms. We update our ferry schedule on social media on a regular basis, so please check there first if you have questions regarding changes to our schedule.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the mobile number referenced herein. We look forward to continuing to provide a wonderful car ferry experience to residents and visitors alike.

Best regards,
Management
http://www.lovecitycarferries.com

Luck & Chance & Good & Bad

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Picture Looking down on Coral Bay from a demolished Chateau Bordeaux
on Thanksgiving Day, 2017

Luck & Chance & Good & Bad
by Margie Smith Holt

At first it all seems almost normal. After two months of waiting, of searching for clues, of seeing the pictures of the devastation and the signs of renewal, of failing to have an actual phone call with anyone on island, of trying to read between the lines of the updates they manage to post on Facebook, you just want to see for yourself. So after two friends say they have a place for you to stay, you book a flight, and that’s normal, and you discover you can even rent a car online.

Most travelers had to be up early to make that 10:35 flight connection out of Miami, but I’m surprised that so many have their window shades pulled down as we approach Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Don’t they want to see? I can’t wait for my first glimpse, to see something with my own eyes, but when I do, it still doesn’t tell me much. I see green and blue. Normal.

You disembark from the back of the plane and feel that first blast of tropical heat. A few letters are blown off the sign at Cyril E. King, but the airport is functioning. You walk past construction, sure, but the Caribbean music is playing and the free rum punch is there if you want it, and the bags are already coming off the conveyer belt, and the taxis are lined up and waiting, and before you know it, you’re on your way to the Red Hook ferry dock and, again, it’s almost normal. You can tell there’s been a storm, you see damage around St. Thomas, but there’s traffic, and people, and business being conducted, or so it seems, or maybe you’re just distracted by the young woman sitting next to you in the cab who also is returning for the first time (you heard her tell the cab driver) but spends the entire trip staring at her phone, apparently shopping for a leather jacket. Doesn’t she want to look around?

The sun is shining and I make the 4 o’clock boat and sitting inside I see some people I know and it’s the first time I see what I will later hear called “the look.” I don’t know whether to describe it as vacant, or slightly wild-eyed, or maybe just beyond exhausted. It is not quite approaching defeated, but it is definitely not normal. This couple were on island for both Hurricane Irma on September 6 and Hurricane Maria two weeks later and are just returning from what should have been a much-needed break up north, but it was too short, and too stressful, trying to cut through the red tape of shipping down the things they need to rebuild their home, trying to figure out what’s next since he lost his job and his business.

The mood shifts when we dock. St. John. You almost didn’t quite believe it was still here. Fresh-faced, in-charge relief workers greet the boat. Men and women in their clean shirts labeled Bloomberg or Johns Hopkins are off-loading boxes and bags, tangible evidence that Things Are Happening.

My friend who meets me at the Cruz Bay dock is one of these “Do-ers,” one of the people making things happen. She works for the St. John Community Foundation, her job to take care of the needs of St. Johnians even before there were two Category Five hurricanes. She has a lot of company these days. In her tiny office—and all over the island—in the days that follow, I will see people from the Coast Guard and the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers, from Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies and Love City Strong, and from all those acronyms that spell disaster relief and recovery: VITEMA, FEMA, VOAD, DIRT, and the BBC (more on them later). There are helpers and do-ers everywhere.

We go to Mongoose for a Painkiller. (Almost normal. Normal would be the Beach Bar, but all of Wharfside Village is shuttered and fenced off—save for Paul’s shiny and stocked Island Cork—a handful of beached boats still blocking the entire front of the complex.) My friend tells me about the successes and setbacks of her day—the hurricane rhumba, another friend calls it. One step forward, six steps back. She is relentlessly positive. We have dinner at Sun Dog where the lights are on, the place is buzzing, and people are upbeat. It’s a good night because Ted cooks on Tuesdays. Ted is one of the best chefs on the island, I am told. The dry rub mahi is delicious.

The house where my friend is staying fared well in the storms. The owners, off-island, apparently had the money—and the island wherewithal—to get things repaired, scrubbed, done. The house is clean and comfortable. There’s no power, but she has cool solar lights, plus a big generator. She turns the generator on long enough to settle in, take a hot shower, and flush the toilets before retiring for the night. The breeze is so strong on this hill overlooking Great Cruz and the Westin, I have to close a window. The stars are out. The tree frogs are singing. Normal.

***

The imposing West Indian man in the car rental place is talking about the rain. Everyone has been complaining about the rain but “the rain made everything green,” he says. “Maybe God knows what he’s doing. Maybe the island needed a cleansing.”

The island is so green—and has been for about two weeks, I’m told—a stark contrast to those early days when all of St. John looked desolate, a barren, scorched landscape, not a leaf to be found. When home looked so strange and foreign, a National Park ranger (St. John is two-thirds National Park) who has lived here for years got lost trying to get to work. That green and the bursts of red and orange and purple from the flamboyant trees and the bougainvillea, and, always, the blue of the water, make for a stunning—and incongruous—frame for the scenes of obliteration you see on that first drive around: A pile of rubble where Chateau Bordeaux used to be. Decapitated palms at beloved Maho beach. The Shipwreck restaurant smashed to smithereens. We’ve all seen the pictures, but it doesn’t really prepare you. Downed power and telephone lines as well as piles of rock and debris litter North Shore Road and Centerline, which are just fine in parts, and cratered with muddy potholes in others. The road is single track in some places, forcing people to slow down or even stop in some places and wait for oncoming traffic to pass. Fewer people and, I suppose, fewer working cars mean less traffic, but I swear, it still seems there’s almost always someone riding up my ass. (Normal.) Heaps of wood and metal that used to be somebody’s home cling to the hillsides. So many trees were toppled or denuded, there are now views of the sea where they used to be none. It’s hard to take it all in, harder still when you’re driving, but a few glances around show the randomness of the destruction: a house intact next door to a house blown to bits, a FEMA blue roof covering what’s left. Blue used to be just the color of the water, but now it’s a color of the land, too.

On my very first drive I see lots of wildlife, and that’s encouraging: donkeys, mongoose (mongeese? I never know the plural…), goats, cows, pigs. Deer, pelicans, and a bananaquit will soon get added to the list.

The friend I stay with in Coral Bay has not fared as well as my friend in Cruz Bay. Her property is in ruins, her personal possessions and tools of her restaurant business soaked by Maria after Irma took her roof, but she is also—on this day, at least—relentlessly positive, her boisterous laugh buoying the people around her, her bear hugs consoling another young woman who starts sobbing when we see her in the grocery store and ask how she is.

We stop at Connections, where people get their mail, to see what that day’s deliveries have brought in. My friend can’t get the screws she needs to put her roof on, but Jen, who runs Connections, has to make a trash run every day to get rid of all the catalogs taking up precious space in her cramped office. Even in a hurricane, the junk mail gets delivered. A care package from Boston contains work boots and clean socks—a big hit. A bag of trail mix is roundly rejected. Nobody wants to see another bag of trail mix. I make a feeble attempt to defend the poor sap who sent it. (I’ve sent a few boxes of it myself.) People want to help and they don’t know what to send, I offer. Some well-meaning church sent boxes of blankets and sweaters. Not much use in a place where it’s 80 degrees—at night. Medical supplies not from an official source have to be thrown away. Getting unwanted stuff off the island is as challenging as getting the needed stuff on. There’s a reason relief organizations ask for cash.

I wanted to bring as much as possible with me when I flew down, but every single person I was able to communicate with said they didn’t need anything. The truth is that many need almost everything. This one needs a roof. That one needs furniture. Let’s not even talk about the jobs just yet. The final item in the care package is a Kenny Chesney Christmas CD, from the $5 bargain bin. My friend gives it a big thumbs down. Jen snatches it up. Nobody’s allowed to say anything bad about Kenny, who’s funneled millions to the island so far. It’s because of him that Skinny Legs, the famous burger shack next door, now has a new roof, and a real one at that, not just a bunch of old sails.

We need the four-wheel drive to get through the muck that counts as a road to my friend’s house. She gives me a tour of the damage, of the mold, of the tiny closet where she and two friends huddled, cross-legged during Irma, water rising up to their waists. I brought her new sheets and pillows, and I’m embarrassed when she puts them on the bed where I’ll be sleeping. She shows me how to pull buckets of water up from the cistern to flush the toilet. She points out all the hazards while it’s still light: the open hole in the floor where they access the cistern; the stair railing on the left that’s about to give way; the network of extension cords snaking across the floors to position as many fans as possible toward the beds, the only relief from the bugs. From her front porch she gives me an assessment of her neighbors, all of whom, she thinks, are worse off than she is: the Haitians next door, living under a tarp; the family across the valley whose girls shrieked with joy every time they plucked something salvageable from the wreckage that used to be the second floor of their home; the couple whose home survived, but their business is gone and he suffered a stroke. She, too, has a view of the water where there used to be none. Maybe two dozen boats are floating in Coral Bay harbor, which seems sort of normal, except you realize most are sailboats and are supposed to have masts. Dozens more boats lie in jumbles on the shoreline, or splintered on the rocks.

My friend, who I know is one of the best chefs on the island, cooks dinner for half a dozen people—pasta with fresh vegetables, which have only recently begun appearing in the grocery stores. The meal is delicious. Halfway through, she mentions she had to pick weevils out of the pasta. There’s a brief pause in conversation, but nobody stops eating.

***

At 7:30 in the morning, Coral Bay is a hub of activity. A line of cars backs up towards the Disaster Recovery Center, across from the firehouse. You hear chainsaws and construction sounds. A fleet of BBC trucks hits the road. BBC Electrical Services is an electric utility contractor based in Joplin, MO and contracted to repair the power lines. Their linemen—uber-friendly, exuding competence, are working all over the island, seven days a week, the new heroes of St. John. The cavalry, someone called them.

Amidst the obvious progress are other signs of hope. Three National Park beaches are officially open, and beckoning. One of Miss Lucy’s sea grapes is flourishing on the beach in front of the closed restaurant. Delicate pink flowers bloom across the top of the fence around the Coral Bay ball field, which is currently being used as a trash transfer station. A tamarind tree, keeled over and uprooted, sprouts tiny shoots of green. While it’s hard to see new growth as anything but positive, one friend confessed to wanting to send a big Fuck You to Mother Nature for bouncing back when so many others were not quite ready.

We take a drive out to East End. It’s one of those clear days when you get a spectacular view of the BVIs. From a distance they exude normalcy. They are velvet green, and the sky and water are Caribbean blue, and then someone points out that Thanksgiving is just days away and there is not a single boat in Sir Francis Drake Channel. Not one. Not normal.

My friend checks on other friends whose property she has not seen. One structure is covered with a blue tarp. Another is open to the sky. Someone is living in a tent. A big stone house looks untouched, a fortress. I see more people with “the look.” “I can tell you weren’t here for it,” one weary woman says to me. “You’re too clean.”

“That hurricane was luck and chance and good and bad,” says a native islander, another resident who counts himself among the blessed, even though he lost his roof and his car, and his home was wet for weeks and weeks, and both he and his wife, he says, are suffering from “hurricane brain.”

I watch people greet each other: “How are you?” “I’m good. How about you?” “Good. We’re good.” In some cases, I know what “good” means for one person who is speaking, and I can tell you it’s not what a lesser person would call “good.” I can only imagine how the other person in this conversation is defining “good.”

Sometimes I am the greeter. “How are you?” I will ask, a vague, anodyne question because at first I’m not quite sure what to ask, if they want to talk. “Good,” they will answer, and I don’t have to ask any questions because then we will sit down and an hour and a half later, they will still be talking. About the 200-plus mile-per-hour wind gusts. About the closet where they hid during Irma’s screaming eye. About the bombed out aftermath. About the people who came to help. The flotillas from St. Croix and Puerto Rico. The helicopters dropping food. The first responders. The people who went door to door. The Red Cross working with the functioning restaurants to serve hot meals every day. The things they lost. They things they salvaged.

Make sure you write about the bugs, someone says. They came in waves. The Jack Spaniard wasps, the mosquitoes, the no-see-ums, some big green things. Write about the hurricane diet. Everyone’s lost at least 10 pounds; some of the men, 30. Be sure to talk to X, her shirt got blown off during Irma. Talk to Y, he can’t even find his boat. Write about the local people. What are the taxi drivers doing? How are the kids? One Coral Bay mother who evacuated her family from the boat where they lived told me her little girl wanted desperately to take a favorite doughnut pillow with her but there was no room in the dinghy. She soldiered through the storm, a 5-year-old trooper, who didn’t cry until a few days later when, asking when they’d go back to the boat to get her pillow, finally understood they were never going back. In Cruz Bay, a dance instructor says her dream is to organize a free trip to Disneyworld for some of her young students. She asked them to write down why they need a break: “I’m tired of doing my homework by flashlight.” “I’m being skinned by mosquitos.” “I’m afraid of the dark.”

Some people have had no breaks and none are in sight. Some have breaks coming up. One hurricane survivor, who just returned from a break, told me he was lucky to get up north to “decompose” for a couple weeks. I wrote “decompress” in my notes, but thought later that maybe he had it right.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving there was (more) torrential rain. Restaurants closed, plans were cancelled, roads were flooded, everybody stayed home. It was damp and depressing. By some accounts, there have been 40 inches of rain since the hurricanes. In the two days after the rain, when the skies were clear and people were out and about again, three different friends mentioned wanting to learn more about PTSD. Not that they were worried about themselves, mind you, but they thought “some people” might be suffering from it. Any heavy rain or strong gust of wind these days seems capable of triggering fear in someone. Almost every female friend I have on island has cried in the week I’ve been here, and I’ve seen more than one grown man on the verge of very public tears. People are smiling, and people are strong, and they are optimistic, and it is just not possible that they are not very, very tired. The DIRT (Disaster Immediate Response Team) folks checking up on people have a list of assessment questions. One of them is: Do you feel you need emotional support? No, come the replies. I need a roof. I need a job. It’s suggested that maybe the wording of the questionnaire should be changed: Do you feel like punching someone in the nose? We can guess the answer to that one.

The big question, of course, is when will the island be ready for tourists, and on this opinions are fierce and disparate. Those who fell on the good side of luck and chance are naturally eager for business to get going again, as are those less fortunate who also depend on tourism for their livelihoods and, moreover, their futures on St. John. Others see the weakened infrastructure and strained ability to serve the local people and say the island is not close to ready. One person squarely in the not-ready camp reminds me that the clinic has been condemned and there is scant access to health services. There is little room for error. I offer no opinion on this as I know only the tiniest fraction of what is going on here, but I’ll make one observation as a witness who is neither local, nor a first timer. It seems to me that St. John personified—the island and its infrastructure—is telling the same story as its people: Beautiful, resilient, optimistic, on the whole; and yet, in certain places and times, still with “the look” that reminds you it has endured something severely traumatic, is quite fragile, and may be harboring issues that are yet to be revealed.

Meanwhile, by Thanksgiving, the weather was better. The sun was shining. In the face of immeasurable loss, there is much to be thankful for. There was a free Thanksgiving celebration in Cruz Bay park for residents and responders, sponsored by the St. John Community Foundation and the Rotary Club. Long-haired Ken hosted his annual Thankspigging celebration (the 17th) under the new roof at Skinny’s. This year’s theme was Irma la Douche. This weekend the Coral Bay Yacht Club holds its annual regatta. This year’s theme: the Not a Lotta Yachta Regatta. One thing this community did not lose was its sense of humor.

Read More by Margie Smith Holt at https://www.getmerewrite.biz
http://www.getmerewrite.biz/2017/11/24/luck-chance-good-bad/

St John Restaurant Information

!Four-Bedroom-Rentals

Restaurants that are currently open
11/14/2017

420 to Center, Banana Deck, Cafe Roma
Chester’s: Open intermittently, Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis
Cruz Bay Landing, da Livio, Dog House Pub
Extra Virgin Bistro: Open – Now serving lunch too!
Hercules, Indigo Grill, Island Cork, La Tapa, Lime Inn
Nella’s Lounge: Bar is open!, North Shore Deli
Our Market Smoothies, P & P’s, Quiet Mon
Rhumb Lines, Sam and Jack’s Deli, Sun Dog Cafe
The Tap Room, Uncle Joe’s, Wok on the Beach

Restaurants that are currently closed
11/14/2017

Aqua Bistro, Asolare, Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Beach Bar, Cafe Concordia, Caneel Bay Resort
Château Bordeaux, Cinnamon Bay Campground
Columbo’s Smoothie Stand, De’ Coal Pot. DR!NK
Driftwood Dave’s, High Tide, Jake’s, Joe’s Rum Hut
Knox & Ollies, Lemongrass at the Westin
Little Olive, Margarita Phil’s, Miss Lucy’s
Morgan’s Mango, Ocean 362, Ocean Grill, Pickles
Pizzabar in Paradise, Ronnie’s Pizza, Shipwreck Landing
Skinny Legs, Slimman and the Snack Dragon, St. John Scoops
Tamarind Inn, The Bowery, The Thirsty Donkey
The Fish Trap: Closed – Freshwater Church is serving free lunch daily from noon to 1 p.m., The Longboard, The Terrace, The Triple B, UMAMI
Waterfront Bistro, Woody’s, Zozo’s Ristorante

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A Trip to St John

VI-11-16-2017

‎John Hilbert‎ to Stateside St. Johnians Alliance for Hurricane Irma Posted on Facebook on
November 10 at 7:31pm . Thank you John! We all appreciate that you made your pictures and thoughts public.  For those of you who don’t have Facebook I am posting some of John’s pictures and thoughts below.

“I’m going to post more photos of my trip to Jost separately but here are some more St John photos and my personal thoughts on when to return. As I mentioned previously, I asked everyone I came into contact with to give me their opinion. My advice to you all is, if you love St John (as I know you all do) then YOU NEED TO GO AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to support the economy. Make sure you have accommodations and transportation arranged in advanced, and then JUST GO! You will in no way be a burden. In fact, you can provide what they need most which is tourism and business and maybe a helping hand.

So many people I met with are worried about their next paycheck once the relief ends and the disaster workers are gone. They want tourists to come – with the right expectations… While its still beautiful, its not YET the ol’ St John you remember. Only one beach open. Limited options for dining and bars. Accommodations options are also limited. On the flip side, the grocery stores are stocked, roads are clear, power is returning, dining options are already great, and the island is still beautiful! But, the best thing is that the vibe on the island is AMAZING! Everyone says hello to each other, waves and flashes the peace signal when driving; you see random acts of kindness and generosity everywhere. Its really inspiring!

The beauty of the island is still there – its just the man made stuff that needs work, but that’s coming along too. Power is coming quickly. Debris is being removed. The beaches are recovering. I was so impressed! I know my opinion will not be shared by everyone here on Facebook. That’s fine. But after just a week there, I am so thankful that our island has survived, hopeful for the future, and excited for my next trip down soon.

JUST GO!

airport“This is it for the STT airport. You are seeing the entire departure gate area except for the small Spirit gate off to the right. The main hall has been reduced to 1 gate.”

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Cruz Bay on November 10, 2017

Coral-Bay-John-Hilbert
Coral Bay on November 11, 2017

Skinnys-New-Roof
Skinny Legs new roof!

Coral Bay Community Council Update

Thursday October 26th

cbcc

We haven’t sent a newsletter in a while, due to the continuing communications “void” after the storm – and the need to keep communicating here on St. John using our Coral Bay Community Council voice. We keep expecting cell service and real wifi to be delivered to Coral Bay by AT&T and Broadband VI and by several disaster relief nonprofit organizations working hard on St. John – but they all continue to run into parts issues and operational problems that they did not anticipate – so “waiting” is the key word for our Coral Bay populace. Right now, Text to cell phone numbers, occasional WIFI calling and short emails do get through at the one WIFI point at the Coral Bay Firestation. Don’t expect people to be able to use weblinks, unless they are going all the way to St. Thomas – where smart phones and computers are working pretty well. Cruz Bay is so -so, but intended to improve shortly. Red Hook is pretty good.

You may know more than we do about the overall conditions in the VI, since we cannot routinely see any of the on-line or other news sources.

The Coral Bay Community Council office is in a building that will be getting a donated generator because FEMA will have a Disaster Recovery Center to serve people in the building, CBCC is running a contributed goods distribution center and because CBCC will offer a full access WIFI point for people in Coral Bay – using our computers or your own – as soon as the generator and WIFI capacity reaches us.

Check CBCC’s facebook page for updated info on businesses in operation (as well as business Facebook pages)– a few highlights below:

Mail is starting to flow again, and more businesses are open in Coral Bay. Connections East and Keep Me Posted are open and can only accept stamped mail right now to go out. (probably not outgoing packages yet – due to post office constraints.) Mail and packages are being delivered.

Donated generators are being installed at the two grocery stores – which are still not fully operational. This has been labelled a Priority. The Bloomberg Foundation Team and Kenny Chesney Foundation are taking this responsibility – as well as repairs to some of the business establishments and some people’s homes – according to the recommendations of their hired disaster specialists – how to get St. John running again.

Oasis is serving food from 11-5 daily, Wok on the Beach restaurant (old Voyages building) is serving Breakfast 7-11. Lunch – dinner 11-5. Thirsty Donkey has happy hour 2-5 daily. And Indigo Grill will open shortly.

Vanessa’s Mumbo Jumbo store is reopening so you can buy t-shirts and clothes, etc. Skinny Legs is “working on it.. “

BOATERS: If your boat was beached or sunk in Coral Harbor or elsewhere in Coral Bay – but not Hurricane Hole – please send an email to usvidpnr@gmail.com which is being monitored by the Coast Guard. You can also call 340-423-6353. A flyer with detailed info can be picked up at the CBCC office and will be sent via email shortly. The Coast Guard needs to know your intentions for the boat – and you don’t have to decide right away – just let them know which boat and how to contact you – to start right now.

If your boat was beached or sunk in Hurricane Hole or elsewhere in National Park, please do the same thing to this corrected email address: Caribbean_recovery@NPS.gov . More detailed info will be emailed shortly for all boaters.

Thank you to everyone who has made donations thus far to the Coral Bay Community Council and to other organizations for “hurricane relief”. And thank you to those who have brought down a suitcase of requested donated goods – like solar and battery lanterns and extension cords and more. And to those people who have reached out to individuals who need help in Coral Bay—and addressed their needs directly. It is all of these gifts that help all of us here continue to strive to work together – in a positive manner — to recover. http://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/ to donate or learn new things about CBCC.

Cruz Bay “downtown” is supposed to be getting electric power from St. Thomas this week – and it will continue out towards the Myra Keating clinic. So many of the Cruz Bay restaurants and other businesses will be normalizing pretty quickly now.

We are told by WAPA and the Governor that there will be a backbone of electricity in Coral Bay by Christmas and some neighborhoods then or soon after. A number of rental villas are “ready to go” –as soon as power is restored or owners get reliable generator/solar power. Please tell your friends that they will be able to enjoy a St. John Vacation this winter – just wait a little while to book – so you can see what your choices are. Beaches are already open for swimming, and Reef Bay trail is being cleared… more each day… And the views are incredible already!

The toll on the wildlife – particularly birds that eat native berries and fruits – is significant. But it is gratifying to see flowers popping up along the roadside, even flamboyant trees – at this unusual time of the year as their biological clocks say “reproduce…recover… recreate nature’s bounty…and beauty!”

Help restore native vegetation in your home garden – stop by CBCC’s office for a free copy of the book “Landscaping for Erosion Control” or see it on our website here: http://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/landscaping-sediment-r…/ Many of these recommended plants provide berries and fruits for birds and other creatures.

Generator Use – Please be Very Safe. Do not refuel while the generator is running, or when it is hot. The smartest time is before you use it each time – when you check fuel level and oil. Also please respect others trying to sleep and don’t run your generator all night. Waste oil – you will be changing oil after 5 to 10 hours (very important) – and then at regular intervals – according to your manual. Please read closely so your generator will last! Save the waste oil – do not pour on the ground or put in regular trash. We are arranging for an environmentally safe disposal site with EPA – hopefully in Coral Bay!

For all of you who are off-island now: We are all “camping” in our homes, or partial homes, and it will be like this for several more months. So if you are coming down soon, be prepared for this reality in Coral Bay. Around Christmas time it should start getting better.

Saturday, December 9th was originally going to be the CBCC Bizarre Bazaar date. Instead there will be a scaled down version combined with CBCC’s “Annual Meeting” – which has always been a potluck. Whatever we do –it will be a fun celebration for all of us in Coral Bay. We need some volunteers to help with this– and make it a great day. Stop by the CBCC office and speak to Michelle Bransom of our staff — who has been a champion through this whole recovery operation for Coral Bay at our office.
That’s all for now….
Living strong …
Sharon Coldren and your CBCC board and staff

October 24th Update

October 24th Update for St John Highlights

The Post Office in Cruz Bay is Repaired and open! Retail lobby hours are 9am-4pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 2pm on Saturday for parcel pick up only. Connections has stamps available for purchase.

Car barge service currently runs daily, with a variable number of trips. Please ask someone at the barge for the schedule as it is subject to change daily.

Then Passenger ferry service to Red Hook is leaving Cruz Bay every hour on the hour from 6am to 5pm. The return ferry leaves Red Hook at 5:30am, 6:30am, 7:30am, 8am and every hour on the hour thereafter with the las departure at 5:30.

A FREE east-west shuttle is in service. The safari taxis hold 19 passengers each. Two taxis run concurrently from Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Shuttle service pick up/drop off points are the Cruz Bay passenger ferry dock and the Coral Bay Fire Station. The schedule for taxis is 8am, 9am, 10am, 3pm 4pm and 5pm. Departure and arrival times are subject to change.

The Army Corps of Engineers continues sigh-ups for Free tarp/roofing installation. Residents may sigh up 8:30am-3pm Non/Wed/Fri at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay or the Fire Station in Coral Bay. For the fastest service bring photo ID, a property tax bill and if possible, a photo of the damages roof for property identificatio. FRIDAY NOVEMBER 3rd is the LAST DAY to sigh up with Operation Blue Roof. Visit http://www.sad.usace.army.mil/Blueroof or call 888-ROOF-BLU

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Save Coral Bay: Hurricane Irma Update

Excellent post-Irma update from the Save Coral Bay organization:

Post-Irma Update 1

It has been just over one month since our island home was devastated by one of the most intense hurricanes in Caribbean history. I am sure you’ve all seen and heard of the extensive destruction to infrastructure, homes, and the environment wrought by Irma. And to add insult to injury, just two weeks later, Maria brought hurricane force winds to St John for hours on end, while decimating our sister islands of St Croix and Puerto Rico.

We woke up on September 7, 2017, to a changed Coral Bay. Houses had literally disappeared. Boats were strewn along the shores of Coral Bay Harbor and Hurricane Hole. People walked the roads in a state of shock checking on the safety of their friends and neighbors.

A month has passed. I’ve spent virtually all of that time securing my home, repairing the most critical damage, helping my friends, and seeking and providing comfort from and to the community of Coral Bay. It hasn’t been easy, but we didn’t choose to live in Coral Bay for ease of life. We chose Coral Bay because it was, and is, a unique and priceless treasure.
I am writing today to assure those who have supported Save Coral Bay over the years that our mission and our resolve remains unwavering. Although we have all been bruised, battered, and in some cases beaten, we need to look over the horizon at a point a year or two away when things have returned to a new normal, and focus now on what needs to be done to ensure that Coral Bay is redeveloped consistent with the vision of those who live here.

These points define my focus for Save Coral Bay over the coming months:

1. The mission of Save Coral Bay remains the same, to protect this special place so that its unique natural beauty may be enjoyed by future generations.

2. The risk of over development in Coral Bay remains, and the prospect of unscrupulous developers seeing an opportunity to leverage the community’s losses into their personal gains are greater now than ever.

3. We must remain vigilant and dedicated to protecting the future of Coral Bay. As incongruous as it may seem in the midst of this devastation, we will continue to pursue our advocacy for environmentally sound projects with the Army Corps regulatory division, with Coastal Zone Management, and with local government.

4. Recovery efforts are best handled by the agencies with the resources to make a real impact – FEMA, Army Corps, and territorial agencies – but Save Coral Bay will look for opportunities to assist when and where appropriate. Protection of the shoreline remains a priority.

People have asked about the future of Coral Bay given the extraordinary impact of these storms. In the short term, there will undoubtedly be significant changes to the people, the places and the environment which define Coral Bay.

Every storm erases some of the past, uncovering some of what was hidden, opening opportunities for the future. One of our Coral Bay elders said to me “we were due for a cleansing – look at the bright new growth emerging in the forest – this is regeneration.” Another person spoke to me as he looked out over the hillsides and said he had lived on St John his entire life, but was now seeing things that he had never seen before.

I expect at least a year of physical recovery – infrastructure, roads, businesses, critical home repairs, followed by several years of renovation and restoration.

The Coral Bay community is stronger than ever. The commitment to rebuild and reestablish the quality of life which we all cherish is indomitable.

Businesses in Coral Bay are rebuilding and opening – Indigo Grill, Wok on the Beach, Pizza Bar in Paradise, Oasis, Pickles, Skinny Legs, Connections, Windspree, Calabash Market, Love City Market – with tangible progress being made every day. Music is happening in Coral Bay – Indigo has hosted at least two open sessions with local musicians, generator power, cold beer, and LOTS of smiling, dancing, loving Coral Bayians.

The hillsides are getting greener every day. Flowers are blooming. Unfortunately insects are blooming as well, but that’s all part of the cycle. I will miss seeing some of my favorite trees and I don’t know when beaches and hiking trails will be reopened, but I do know it will happen. New vistas will replace familiar ones. Every void is an opportunity to create something new.

The human toll is difficult to measure. Everyone who lived through Irma experienced some degree of shock and trauma. Those who were away and returned later experienced a cognitive disconnect between what they remembered and what they now see. Each of us deals in our own way with these psychological impacts. Some have left the island. We will miss them. Some don’t know if they have the strength to stay. What I do know is that the core of the Coral Bay community is stronger than ever before. We are supporting one another and sharing the love that makes this such a special place.

As recovery progresses I will try to keep you all updated on the highlights. I won’t be focusing on the negatives. Our mission is to Save Coral Bay for future generations and that is what I intend to put my energy into achieving.

Blessings to each and every one of you.
David

Mail Update from Connections Cruz Bay

connections-building

10-14-2017 update
Connections (Cruz Bay) 
Is currently open 9am-3pm Mon-Fri & Sat from 9am – 1pm.
St John now getting letters & packages – post “IrMaria” (as we refer to hurricanes Irma & Maria). Connections in Cruz Bay is getting some emails & internet – though still spotty.  Please let us know if you left StJ & what to do with your mail. Our email address is stjohnconnections@gmail.com.  We cannot offer storage of packages as those of us who are here will now be getting care packages from family and friends. Let us know who you want to pick up your mail & packages.  The Post Office in Cruz Bay will not take any packages to be forwarded or returned to sender – and no idea when that might change.
Meanwhile, Love City Lives!

Irma Recovery Update from the St. John Community Foundation

10-4-17: SJCF-VOAD Mid-Week Update:
As the island has shifted from Emergency Response to Recovery mode, and more news is getting out of St. John, our communications will shift from daily updates to a weekly recap/forecast of basic services, while continuing to share vital updates and information on our Facebook page. We will focus on developing and facilitating collaborations for short and long term recovery efforts with local and stateside partners on behalf of the St. John Community.

Communication, Power and Security: Equipment issues on STT and STX have impaired some internet connections on St. John, however, there are several WiFi hotspots in town with service extending to the south side soon. There are spots near Ronnie’s Pizza, Connections, between the BMV building and the tennis court, and on the 3rd floor of the Marketplace. Look for VINGN-Free Public. No password is needed. To prevent slow WiFi speed, please disable automatic app updates on your phone. WAPA’s goal is to have power up in Cruz Bay to MK Clinic in two weeks, and to create a mini grid for interim/temporarily power to Coral Bay until full power can be achieved. An antenna is being installed at the Coral Bay fire station to improve communications between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay fire departments. Law enforcement continues to patrol both sides of the island 24 hours a day, and are experiencing good communications across the island.

Transportation: The curfew is officially from 7pm to 6am, and there have been no conflicts or incidents reported in relation to this. Passenger ferry hours are 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 3, 5 daily, schedule subject to change. The car barge has 3-4 trips daily; only one barge is currently operational. Speak directly to barge operators regarding daily schedule. The Coast Guard has not opened the original car barge location because the channel is blocked. Shipping companies such as Tropical and Merchants are running, however, expect delays in containers to private citizens and to businesses. Call the USVI Department of Tourism directly for information on mercy flights/cruises yet to be scheduled at 340-772-0357. The Bloomberg group is supplying fuel and drivers are donating their time for a free shuttle service between Cruz Bay ferry dock and Coral Bay fire department; two 19 passenger shuttles with pick up and drop off at 8, 9, 10 AM and 3, 4, 5PM…The airport on St. Thomas is open for business. Call individual airlines for their schedules, which are changing daily.

Mass Care, Housing, Human Services: Bethany Moravian Church Shelter is operational with approximately 14 people staying overnight. The Red Cross continues to distribute water and clean-up kits, and supports over 2,000 meals daily. Cruz Bay Landing will continue to serve Red Cross supported meals through October 11; Longboard through October 17; 420 to Center in Cruz Bay and Indigo Grill in Coral Bay have been and continue to serve meals on their own; St. John Community Foundation is working on supplementing/supporting food service in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay with details to come in next week’s update. The Coral Bay fire station is distributing rations 10-3 daily; distribution at JESS ball field form 12-3 daily. The Chesney foundation is conducting weekly evacuations according to need.

Health Care and advisories: The Chesney group reported that the clinics have received $500,000 in supplies to date. DeCastro clinic is seeing approximately 20-25 patients in Cruz Bay daily; The fire station receives about 15 patients daily. Many cases are related to people stepping on nails; proper protective footwear is encouraged. The US Public Health Service is augmenting medical service from local, John’s Hopkins and DMAT professional with trained grief and trauma counselors at the DeCastro clinic and the Coral Bay Fire Station. The New Jersesy Emergency Medical Service Task Force, a team of 11, have arrived as support. Mental health providers are helping the island heal emotionally and to manage stress effectively. They are conducting grief counseling and interventions, as well as, offering stress management tips and tools for dealing with the disaster. In a recent press conference, Police Commissioner Delroy Richards referred to incidents and arrests relating to domestic violence, and urged people seek counseling, and not to stay in a violent situation. The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a–year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to this or any disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
The National Park is advising residents to not swim in the ocean at this time. DPNR has not yet tested the waters and there is no established timeline for inspection as of yet. Swim at your own risk.

Debris Removal, Sanitation and Trash: Public Works’ current priority is trash and roadside debris removal. The Upper Carolina landslide is currently being cleared. Otherwise, roads are currently open and clear. The transfer station is closed today and will reopen on Friday, however, commercial sector is encouraged to take their bins to STT and the public is instructed to put only household waste in the bins (not landscape or construction materials), and reminded that burning debris has been prohibited in the territory. The Army Corp of Engineers will move forward with their debris mission, and the Chesney group has organized local workforce crews to work with the DIRT team.

Youth – School and Recreation: Gov Mapp is still hoping for STT/STX schools to open on October 9th, however, there is no definitive opening date for JESS as contractors fix the roof. Gift Hill School is in session from 10a-2p Mon. thru Fri. 125 are students enrolled and new student assessments are still being conducted; due to space constraints, there is a hold on admitting new students to preschool and grades 4 – 5. Parents can register their children between 8:30-9:30am or 3-4pm, they must have proof of current shots, physical exam records, and be willing complete a short interview and screening process. Volunteers are still needed at the upper campus. The Chesney group has (and continues) to make repairs the St. John Christian Academy, Gift Hill and Sprauve schools.

Business and Employment: Commissioner Catherine A. Hendry announced at the territory’s daily news conference, that all of those who are self-employed or are independent contractors and have had their ability to work disrupted by Hurricane Irma can apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The period for those affected to apply ends Oct. 30. The USVI Dept of Labor is available 10a-2p, Mon, Wed, Fri at the STJ Legislature Building for unemployment questions. Bring your ID, Social Security Card, and a Statement of Unemployment letter.

First Bank Cruz Bay branch service from 9:30a-12:30p and ATM service from 9a-3p. The post office can take mail and packages that are fully prepared for shipping. Post office hours are 10-2. They do not currently have the resources to assist with postage, weight, measurements, etc. Open for business: Groceries: Starfish Market is open 9am-3pm, hopes to begin taking credit and is expecting delivery of provisions. Neither Coral Bay grocery store has a generator and therefore are not operational. Starfish Market, Dolphin Market, St. John Market, Pine Peace Market. Chelsea Drug, RHFP health clinic at the Marketplace, Canines Cats and Critters, St. John Insurance, Tunick Insurance, St. John Properties, Connections, St. John Hardware, Paradise Lumber, St. John Ice, E&C Service Station, Caravan Auto, Steve Simonson Photo, Papaya Cafe, Sun Dog Cafe, Chester’s Getaway, Hercules, and Calabash Market and Love City Market in Coral Bay are operational. Monsanto laundry had 3 washers and is working to get a larger generator at this time.

For a more complete listing of Businesses open on all islands go to DIRECTORY LINK: https://docs.google.com/…/1oCyqZ7hICfRsoSbgij4dPevqLY…/edit… Businesses are encouraged to go to the USVI Business Community Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/USVIbusinesscommunitystjohn/ To be included, please follow our host’s directions to Businesses/Organizations ON ISLAND: PLEASE request group membership and directly post your information: Name of Business, Location, Contact Information, Description of Services/Items available, Time Sensitive information regarding services or hours of operations, Methods of payment accepted., If items are available for purchase or offered FREE. You will receive a “post pending message and they will respond within 24 hours.

Home Assessment and Repair: Bloomberg team members are conducting door-to-door assessments and have exceeded expectations for gathering household data. 200 people on the island have linked to disaster assistance benefits. The Blue Roof program via Army Corp of Engineers is stationed at both Connections and the Coral Bay fire station, 9am-3pm. Call 888-roof-blu, or go to http://www.sad.usace.army.mil/blueroof for more information. 800-621-fema or disasterassistance.gov and DSA personnel are on-hand at the National Park gazebo and the Coral Bay fire station. The VIPD and NY State Troopers advise all citizens that as FEMA and other agencies survey and assess, they should have credentials and provide them for you if you ask. This also extends to private contractors working for these agencies.

Legal Services: Disaster Legal Services (DLS) provides legal assistance to low-income individuals who, prior to or because of the disaster, are unable to secure adequate legal services to meet their disaster related needs. The following are types of disaster legal assistance that may be available to you: Help with insurance claims for doctor and hospital bill, loss of property, loss of life, etc. • Drawing up new wills and other legal papers lost in the disaster • Help with home repair contracts and contractors • Advice on problems with landlords. For more information go to https://www.disasterlegalaid.org/

Volunteers and Donations: We are getting many generous offers from people who want to come to the island to help in the recovery efforts. However, volunteers are asked not to self-deploy; right now the few accommodations left intact are prioritized for displaced residents and federal disaster responders, who are also priority recipients of limited supplies of food, water, gasoline, etc. Please know that many aspects of this recovery will take weeks, months and even years ….and we WILL need you. Register online at https://voad.communityos.org/volunteer-registration-usvi-irma … once registered, email celia@sjcf.org and you will be contacted once public officials and disaster relief organizations have had an opportunity to assess the damage and identify what the specific unmet needs are.

Persons interested in helping can best support the relief effort by making a cash donation instead of sending donated goods and services. Cash donations to voluntary disaster relief organizations enables them to purchase exactly what is most needed – whereas donated items require voluntary agencies to spend money and considerable time for sorting, inventorying, warehousing, and distribution.

To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA relief efforts go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate