Thursday, July 26, 2012

What To Do in the Virgin Islands - Norman Island, BVI

A couple of weeks ago we took the boat over to Norman Island, British Virgin Islands.

This island is off to the South East of St John. First you have to check into customs at Sopher's Hole on Tortola. Then it is about a 20 minute boat ride to Norman.

Our fist stop was to the Indians, a rock out cropping that has about 10-15 mooring balls. There is great snorkeling there.

Now off to Pirate's Bight, a great little restaurant on the north side of Norman Island. This place has a nice dock, with beach and covered dining area. They had great reggae music playing and service was good too.  They have a nice lunch menu with several items, Roti, mahi sandwich, burgers and I had the fish and chips which very good! They had clean bathrooms, and out back there was volleyball courts. Nice mellow place to go to!

Now it is off to the world famous Willy T's. This is an actual floating boat that is a bar and restaurant that is moored. You raft up to the boat or another boat that is rafted to the Willy T. We rafted up to a rental boat and the boat's captain who rented the boat from England was less than nice. She didn't have her boat properly tied up and when we rafted to her boat it caused some issues. Too bad she wasn't on island time?

Now depending on what type of crowd is on the boat, it can be almost like a frat party. It has loud music with a little dance floor and the bartenders prefer to serve the younger gals first, but you can always escape to the top where there are picnic tables and avoid the water ski shot area!

One of the traditions of the Willy T is to jump off the top back of the boat.

As always, time goes by fast and it was time to start heading back to St Thomas before dark. But not after first stopping off at Salt Pond on St John. Here we had happy hour cocktails and enjoyed floating around. What a great day trip!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Owning a Home in the Virgin Islands - Repairs - Cistern

As you may remember, we recently painted our pool and filled it from our cistern which needed to be drained as we had several cracks in the cistern and who knows how long ago it was cleaned and re-sealed. We were originally told we would be without water for about 10 days. In anticipation of having no water, we stocked up with buckets of water to make it through that time and luckily at our marina, we were able to rent showers for the time.

So the day came, water shut off and cistern was almost drained!

Once they have the cistern drained (ours is underneath our entire living and kitchen area and is about 26,000 gallons) they need to power wash it and drain out the remains. This process took about 2 days. At that point they fill in the cracks with quick drying cement. 24 hours to let that dry. Then the painting of the new sealer, Thermaseal. That takes about 2 days as they do two coats. Problem was, we had rain one night and had to postpone the 2nd coat as water leaked through our downspout plugs. Once all the coating is done you are to wait 7 days for it to cure and let the sealer leach out the minerals. Most of the cistern companies down here go ahead right away in fill it. Shannon checked out the manufacturer's website and once again, island mentality with just get it done. The real issue with filling it right away is you will have a salt like, smelly substance in the cistern.

After letting the sealer cure for a week, it was time to get back down there and replace the foot valve as the old one was dirty and whomever put it in the last time left at at the bottom of the cistern which would then suck up and the crap from the bottom. A little cutting with a hacksaw, some PVC glue and viola, new foot valve. One of the final steps to the cistern is to come back after cure time and spray salt water rinse and get that out of the bottom. Many companies don't do this either.

Now the time has come, after two weeks of no water, I was given the OK to order the water truck! We ordered 5250 gallons for $370. Because our cistern is so big, this filled it up about a foot or halfway up the picture above on the foot valve pipe. Regardless, to have running water again!!!!

So, now is the time we had been waiting for, getting the pump going again and have running water! Not so fast, as with everything here, nothing is easy! The pump would run but never shut off, which is bad as the pump will get hot and burn out! On the phone with a plumber, oh he can't come out for another 3 days. To hell with the plumber, it is time for "Water Pumps, this is Ken!" On the phone with Larry the Water Guy, we diagnose the problem (after many attempts and getting sprayed in the face) it is a bad pressure switch. Good news is we can still use the water, just have to unplug the pump until I can install a new pressure switch.

The next day off to Home Depot for a 20/40 PSI switch. Nope they don't carry them, even though most of the homes here have cisterns. Off to East End Lumber and purchase a new one for $19. Installed in less than an hour and no problems since! More good news, we are moving into our rainy season now and just had about an inch of new rain which translated into about 3 more inches in the cistern!

Here was the old switch!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Boating With Dogs in the Virgin Islands

One of the reasons we bought the boat we did was because of its ability for the dogs to get in and out with ease and plenty of room for them to walk around. We have two dogs, Bristol a Lab/Boxer mix who is 10 and Bo Peep, a 7 year old Yellow Lab. Both are from a shelter and Bo Peep had hip dysplasia surgery, hence why you will see her with a harness on, to help get her in and out. Another reason for boating with the dogs is the access you have getting to beaches where dogs are allowed. Most of the beaches on St Thomas and St John do not allow dogs.

We had a boat in Reno, Nevada and took the dogs out on Lake Tahoe and Eagle Lake, CA. That boat was a 19 ft Bayliner 195 and was a good all around boat for us and the dogs.

The dogs love going out on the boat and it is no different here in the Virgin Islands. Our fist time out with them was to Christmas Cove, a small cove off of St James Island on the SE side of St Thomas. There are mooring balls there. Well they went swimming all right, to a small sandy spot. Problem was there were sea urchins all around this little beach and Bristol stepped on one! She was ok, and in a few hours she stopped limping.

 We learned that we need to scout out a beach with a mask and snorkel before they are allowed to shore!

They had a great day and just love the warm water. After always being in fresh water, it was funny to watch them try drinking the salt water.

Another Sunday we ventured further out over to St John and anchored up to a nice beach.

Another weekend, back to Christmas Cove but this time we took a mooring ball on the East side of the cove and found that beach to be sea urchin free!

Now if you don't have a boat and want to go to a beach with your dogs (only if you clean up after your dog!) you can go to Vessup Beach on the east end. If you can find the road, you can drive your truck right onto the beach!

Someone asked me about dogs in the BVI and after doing some research and permit needs to be filled out and an examination needs to be done by a BVI vet. Sadly, the dogs probably won't be going to the BVI.

So many things to do with the dogs and if you don't go out on the boat or go to a dog friendly beach you can always just go in the pool!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Owning a Home in St Thomas, USVI - Home Repairs - Pool Update

In my last update with the pool, we had left off with the pool being painted. After a successful week without rain, we let the new pool paint to dry and cure. Next step was to get the spaceship skimmer up and running. Apparently with the former owner, there was a line break in the original pool plumbing and in order to find that break, my guess is the entire deck would have to come up and the bottom of the pool jackhammered. So to avoid those costs the just cut and capped off the old plumbing and ran PVC to the old skimmer with 1.5 inch for the filter intake and two 3/4 inch return lines. The new skimmer is this floating spaceship skimmer which is attached to the 1.5 inch PVC with a hose. Unfortunately after an extensive Internet search there is no real replacement for this contraption.

So we found the correct adaptor for the hose at Budget Marine. Ok, now to install it, simply just screw on the adapter, right? Well yes, but the hose that was on there was so old in just snapped and cracked! We were supposed to be filling the pool that morning as the painters were to begin on repairing, cleaning and re-coating our cistern the next day (another blog post in of itself!). Off to Home Depot, they have hose but not another adaptor, so off to the other side of the island to Budget Marine! We got back around 3 PM and sorted the hose. Now time to start filling the pool!

As I mentioned before, this pool had been empty for 2+ years with a sump pump at the bottom. Well the pump will always leave about 3 inches of water in the bottom. This water became a tadpole sanctuary, which we didn't mind as they ate the mosquito larvae. As luck would have it the frogs returned as soon as we had water in the pool. The first night we counted 16 Cuban Tree Frogs in the pool having an orgy!

Come to find out these frogs are not native and an invasive species and if you can catch them you should kill them. After their first night return for their orgy, we went down to the pool in the morning and found the entire top of the water surface filled with eggs!

The next night we went on a hunt and caught seven of them and put them in a plastic ziplock. The most humane way to kill these frogs is to put them in your freezer. Yes the next morning we had frozen frogs in our freezer, anyone have a recipe for frog legs? Just kidding....after doing that one time, we decided that we are not good at that. We found if you just pour salt on them, they seem to go away, plus the chlorine in the pool seems to deter them.

Now after a day and a half of filling the pool from the cistern, it was time to take our first EVER swim in this pool that we have looked at all these years!

Ahhh! A nice 82 degree temperature to escape the heat of the day! A few more adjustments to the spaceship, string seems to be working. Chemicals, the water was low in alkalinity, so I raised that to acceptable standards, but the PH also went up. I took my time, by adding a little bit a day for the alkalinity and eventually the PH came down on its own. So far, so good! What a welcome addition to the house!