We're just a couple of guys from Washington, DC building a house on St. John. Sounds simple enough! Guess we'll see about that. So ... here's a running timeline of the progress on our Bongo Bongo St. John blog.

This page is continued from the Bongo Bongo Blog

December 21, 2005

The concrete news isn’t getting any better. Now both St. John companies and the those on St. Thomas say nothing until next week. In the name of progress, our crew is pouring the bond beams by hand (the concrete beam atop the walls that holds the intricate roof framing rebar in place.) And, while we wait, most attention is now directed to interior work, so at least nothing has come to a standstill.

December 22, 2005

Well, there's always all the stuff that's gone well to think about. Nice shower, huh? And our phone rings. That's good. Claudia says she drove by, and, wisely changed our furniture delivery to January 18th. That takes some pressure off, although our bed sets are now crashing at her house. How nice is that? Truthfully, even with this concrete delay, we are still a little ahead of schedule. Our top goal is to be able to say "Hey man, our builder came in on time." Sunnyrock has a reputation for being expensive, but also for quality and timely building. Sunnyrock promised a 12 month build. Tick, tick tick.

We're off for another visit. Staying at what's supposed to be an awesome place on Bordeaux Mountain. Our first time on Bordeaux Mountain. A little nervous about the jumbies! A report forthcoming.

December 27, 2005

Happy Holidays, etc, etc. First, Bordeaux Mountain. All other comments we may have about a review of our stay are eclipsed by one word: Cold! No, seriously. Sweaters at night cold.

Second, Christmas on St.John. If you happen to be here for Christmas, three words: Jost van Dyke. (Is that three words or two?) One of the most fun days we have ever had down here.

The concrete situation is tenuous. The pour is supposed to happen tomorrow. In the meantime, the crew is putting forms in place for the concrete gutters. PVC is sliced and framed into plywood, which is attached to the roof edge. Rebar connects it to the roof. Once poured, the frames are stripped away and, voila, fantastic looking concrete gutters. (Man, we're sick of the word "concrete").

December 28, 2005

Today came, and went, without concrete again. It has gotten to the point where the builder is actually sending flowers to the most reliable source in hopes of keeping us on the top of the list for when it's available. The problem continues to be no cement, and the reasons and excuses we've heard range from mildly plausable to outrageously wild. (For fun, we're going to post the long list of excuses we've heard over the course of this build for the repeated concrete delays sometime later... when perhaps this is funny.)

Not much of a crew left on the job right now as a result. The work being done is inside, where the framing for walls is well underway. Concrete tomorrow? Maybe, maybe not.

December 29, 2005

Nope. No concrete. We really don't expect it this week at this point. Maybe next week. That would still be okay. Any delays beyond that, and...well...deal with it if we have to. Three times in this project and we've fought this! We won't finish the race early, but we're not late yet.


The carpenters go ahead and start framing in the small roof over the outside dining area that connects the two buildings, using a temporary 2x4 wall as support in place of the concrete columns. Keeps them working. And the rest of the crew starts working on the small, final concrete stuff, like framing up the pool steps. (Watch that last step...)

December 30, 2005

We met a guy today who says he’s been following this blog, and who is building what looks like will be a stunning house with an awesome view on Gift Hill (or Gifft Hill…seen it both ways), and he’s acting as his own general contractor. In other words, HE is building his house! This makes this guy about 100 times more of a man than us. (Well, 50 times Russell and 50 times Jeffrey). Nice guy, and he seems to know what he’s doing. We wished each other luck, and promised to meet at the finish line.

We met Cindy and Paco from Carefree Getaways for a sunset cocktail at Bongo Bongo tonight for an update and tour. Paco, if you ever meet him, is insanely funny, and he loudly predicted we would see a “green flash” tonight. And you know what? We actually did. First green flash we’ve ever seen. It lasts for just a split second, right when the sun dips just below the horizon. High fives all around. Not a bad way to end the year.

December 31, 2005

New Year’s Eve day, and we’re leaving. Seems strange, since all the big parties are tonight. (Jost is supposed to be especially fun…maybe next year.) It was also REALLY busy on the island this week. One day, there were three cruise ships parked outside of Cruz Bay sending launches full of people into town.

As we pull in to the car barge dock to leave, we see a barge full of cement being offloaded onto trucks. We ask, just to make sure, and it is indeed cement. Well, what-da-ya-know. We leave. It comes. (It is so funny that these concrete companies still make their stuff with guys hoisting individual 90 pound bags of cement into the hopper to make their goo, but that's still how it's done!) A quick cell phone message to the builder to alert him, who probably rolled his eyes, knowing this long before us. But it was still a very positive note with which to end 2005 on St. John. Maybe we’ll start the New Year with veranda walls after all.

January 1, 2006

There is this ugly, old, beat up whicker chair that’s been sitting on our worksite since about the very beginning. Suppose one of the workers rescued it from a dumpster for a lunch break seat or something. It’s come in handy for evening sunset visits too, and we’re writing a little song about it (like Kenny Chesney’s “Old Blue Chair”)

There’s an old flesh-colored chair…Sittin’ on the hill…Where I sit all night…wonderin’ how to pay the bill…I’ve read a lot of invoices, wrote a few checks… cursed Coral Bay Concrete but awe what the heck. ‘Cuz nothin’ compares… to the way that I feel... when I'm sittin' in my old flesh-colored chair.

(Gotta get me a cowboy hat and a puka shell necklace.)

January 2, 2006

Well, Hallelujah. We expected this would be the week the concrete finally got poured. We just didn’t expect it to be first thing Monday. We missed being able to roller-skate on our pool deck by two days. And it was apparently a very busy day. The sundeck and pool deck both got poured, as did the remaining bond beams and all of the columns and arches. The crew will use a power trowel on the decks to give them a nice, smooth finish. Jim Hall is being scheduled to come as soon as possible to score and stain both decks. The forms come down soon, and then stuff gets hauled off the site and now work will rock n' roll.

January 4, 2006

Okay, it is driving us nuts. We want to see Bongo Bongo with the forms down after this pour and the builder has not sent any pictures. We’ve been resisting the temptation to call and say SEND A SCRATCHY LITTLE CELL PHONE PICTURE ALREADY!…but we’re trying to be patient. It’s a big deal though, because it will expose what this place looks like, which, until now, has existed only on paper.

Forgot to show off our Schnells. Three huge boxes of them are currently stored at the builder’s office, which was a convenient delivery for Eric, since Sunnyrock is about a foot and a half from the Schnell studios at Mongoose Junction. (Man, I look haggard. Oh ya…forgot…I am.)

January 5, 2006

Okay, well we broke down and called the builder late this afternoon to beg for some pictures. He was already on the other side of the island and done for the day, so we settle for his promise of his best Ansel Adams work first thing in the morning.

We’re pretty pleased with our location. We’re in good company in Chocolate Hole North. Here are a couple of well-known places marked, like Ristaba, the Westin Time Shares and La Papaya. Bongo Bongo is on Traveler’s Trail, which is just off Rock Ridge Road, which is at the top of the hill just past the Westin. Lots of folks love more remote areas, but we’re city folks and being this close to town is a big plus for us.

January 6, 2006

We had to laugh this morning. This is THE picture we’ve been waiting four weeks to see. Nine months actually. The big reveal. What will that big, long arched veranda look like? All the anticipation, and here’s what we got from the builder.

First of all, your lighting is horrible, your color balance is unacceptable, your horizon is crooked, and you demonstrate absolutely no composition of the subject. You get an "F"! (Come' on dude. Stand out on the deck and give us a look at the house.) What we can make out looks pretty cool. We're told the bull-nose lip around the pool turned out perfectly.

January 7, 2006

We got the builder’s latest invoice this morning, and practically choked on our Cheerios. The number by which this builder has to finish this house is getting very small indeed. We had the pow-wow a month ago, and said give us a real number for what it will cost to finish this, and we’re holding Sunnyrock to it. There can be no more surprises, nor should there be.

There are a couple of these big, blue tarps at our worksite, covering this and that. Last week, we happened to notice that they have “FEMA” stamped on them in big white letters. Probably remnants of Uncle Sam’s help after Hugo or Marilyn. We'll assume this is the last time a FEMA tarp will be draped over anything at Bongo Bongo!

January 8, 2006

We just got this from a blog follower named Lori. She and her husband just bought land and are at the architect stage now. They took a picture of Bongo Bongo from the water while on an Ocean Runner charter. She also included this poem.. Funny!

“We went to Bongo Bongo and sat in the wicker chair…Thoughts of Rene and Kenny still hovering in the air…We spied the phantom window which soon will not be there…But the views were oh so gorgeous from that legless wicker chair…We left a note of greetings- look skyward from that chair…With thoughts of cement pouring…God soon let it be there!”

January 9, 2006

Our St. John view beats the fire escape on the back of the hotel we look at from the little Blue Tang Productions hovel here in DC. Waterfront views are awesome, but hillside views are fun too. We get lots to look at. There’s Chocolate Hole, and that big rock on the horizon is French Cap. We also get a great view of Hart Bay, and can hear the surf. And we have a nice view of St. Thomas. You know when they say “million dollar views”? Ask them for their revised estimate. I shudder to think how much Kenny had to sing for his view.

January 10, 2006

So, we know Steve Hendren can build houses and he can’t take pictures. We also know Steve Simonsen can take pictures, but probably can’t build houses. A funny Steve Simonsen story. We haven’t met face to face, but we’ve emailed some, and we did almost call him a couple of months ago when a tripod of ours crapped out. (He later said he would’ve been happy to bail us out.)

In early December, we get an email from Steve asking if “we’re still on for shooting Bongo Bongo the week of Dec. 27. HA! We freak out, but check old email, and sure enough, we asked if we could get on his schedule for that week waaaayyy back in the Spring. Talk about innocent, wishful thinking. He was totally gracious when we said “NO!”, and he just left it as whenever we were ready. We want the best photography, and this IS the guy. www.stevesimonsen.com .(Picture nabbed from his Website.)

January 11, 2006

Another change. We’re putting king-sized beds in both bedrooms which, if you don’t already know, are BIG. While everything looked fine on paper, the second bedroom is tight. We solve this problem by completely eliminating a wall-to-wall closet, adding almost 3 feet to the width of the bedroom, but it also scratches a built in mini-frig that was part of the closet wall. (Hey, neither one of us wants to be more than a few steps from a cold one, okay? Both bedrooms have them.) The closet gets moved to the oversized bathroom, and Jack Bishop comes to the rescue and suggests building the mini-frig into the bathroom vanity cabinets. How weird is that? Well, brush you teeth, grab that morning Red Stripe! I mean, refreshing orange juice.

January 12, 2006

We’ve decided to make a game out of Steve’s pictures. We call it “What the heck is that?”, and we see who can identify what the picture is first. Here’s today's dispatch. Give up?

It appears to be the forms for a set of concrete steps that go down from the veranda to the pool deck. We think.

We’re told all the steps, including this set, two others from the veranda to the sundeck, one from the sundeck to the pool deck, and the steps inside the pool itself, will be done by the end of the week.

Next trip down in 10 days. Will we camp out at Bongo Bongo?

January 12, 2006

We had a good conference call with Steve and Jonathan this morning, and feel confident about making the revised budget. We will withhold final judgment about Sunnyrock until BB is done, but today was one of those occasions when we realize why they were the right choice. These are honest guys who aren't out to nickel and dime us (which is good, since we'll probably be paying that last bill with bags of nickels and dimes...and maybe a couple of chickens and a mule.)

Johno and Lucas continue interior framing. Jim Hall has started on the floors. Roofing material is there.

January 13, 2006

Okay, Steve is putting renewed effort in his picture taking skills, and we must say, getting better. And the guy’s got a sense of humor. Here’s an excerpt from the email that accompanied today’s pictures.

“For God's sake I am an architect, not a photographer. I do not have a fancy lens built in to my phone. I will look for a Nikon lens for my phone.”

And man, that looks so nice. This covered veranda behind those arches is more than 75 feet long and 10-12 feet deep. It really adds a lot of living space to the interior. And there is actually more outside space than there is interior space. That’s how we envisioned this from the beginning. Inside/Outside. This is a very large two bedroom villa.

BIG First Bank news. Out of space. An update tomorrow.

January 14, 2006

We applied for a “loan modification” (as in “more money, pretty please”) 5 long weeks ago, and finally just got the news that it was approved. Took time, but the paperwork was minimal.

Despite our grumbling about First Bank, the truth is they have been great - slow - but great to work with. Patrickson Thomas and Maureen Hendricks at the Mother Ship at Port of Sale Mall on St. Thomas have been personable and responsive, and incredibly friendly. They have both also put up with me (Jeff) who tends to be a little manic, without ever losing their cool. This is a Puerto Rico-based bank, but you’d swear you were in Fairbury, Nebraska or something the way they have treated us with small town, personal attention.

This isn’t meant to sound like a commercial for First Bank. It’s in the bank’s interest that we finish this, and they’re now more of a partner than we had planned, but in all fairness, our experience with First Bank has been largely good.

January 15, 2006

This was a nice weekend update. Jim Hall and his crew wrapped up staining the pool deck and sun deck and will seal it next. We had him mix an aggregate into the stain to make it slip resistant. The downside is he can’t give it a high-gloss finish with that added. The upside is, no one will slip and slide on their wet feet. The interiors (if we actually end up being able to do it) will have that cool, brilliant shine that makes stained concrete look so good.

We also had him score a border around the circumference of the pool and stain it a darker color, which, based on this picture, looks pretty good.

Jeff is going solo next weekend. Staying at the Westin for at least a couple of nights. Tip: You can usually get the “local rate” at the Westin, even if you just own land. We’ve used just a property tax bill as ID in the past. ’Course, now we have a phone bill too. Ring, ring…clue phone calling: you guys are crazy. Remember when St. John was a VACATION?

January 16, 2006

There are 17 fans in this house, and that is after we eliminated a couple. This was our “fan homework” weekend, and apologies to the Fan World Expo 2006 people (I‘m sure there is something like that) but it‘s really pretty boring stuff.

Way back when, the fantasy was to put really fancy Fanimation fans throughout, but you can spend $400 and up on those puppies. We’re advised to look for a couple of things, including good warranties and fans rated for outdoor use, even inside. It’ll take a lot longer to start rusting and falling apart. (This means in a few years, not after a year or two. Stuff goes fast in this climate.)

We know what we won’t do: put the fans on rheostats (dimmer switches). Seen a lot of houses that have. Sounds nice to have infinite control over speed, but all that happens is the fan motors end up buzzing. Loudly. Go to Bongo Bongo, and you get low, medium and high. 17 different places.

You can get a fan like this one, made by Craftmade, for less than $150. Times 17.

Hunter is also a pretty commonly-used and reliable brand.

January 17, 2006

Very quiet today. No dispatches, and we didn’t call. We spoke with Jim Hall Sunday night. He got rained out on the sealing Sunday, and he may have been rained out again today.

Doors and windows are supposed to start going in this week. All the interior framing is done, and Durarock is supposed to start going up this week as well.

This is a picture from last week, when they were putting the last of the cypress up on the veranda roofs.

Anxious to get back down there in a couple of days…so I can hunt for Lori’s note.

January 18, 2006

Time to pick shutters. These aren’t just decoration. They serve a serious purpose. On our builder’s advice we choose to go with a vinyl-like synthetic material called Permex made by a company in Memphis called J&L Shutters (www.jlshutters.com). Sunnyrock has used them on several recent homes, and says they have held up well. Sounds kind of cheesey…vinyl shutters…but they’re low to no maintenance, and we’ve seen them and didn’t know they weren’t wood until we were told. Our only decision is pattern and color. We’ll match the shutters to the red roof. The company can custom color to match anything.

Shutters, wood or otherwise, aren’t cheap. About $30-$40 per square foot.

January 19, 2006

The sliding glass doors are going in. Johno is not short. The doors are tall. We specified 8 foot tall sliders throughout the house, instead of the standard 6’8” height. We figured it would add dimension to the house and they weren’t significantly more expensive. We also specified a bronze finish for all the doors and windows.

You can’t really make it out too well in this other picture, but we sent Jim Hall back up to score a border around the outer circumference of the pool deck as well, to kind of balance the border around the pool. The first of two coats of sealer is on. After the second, he’ll score 24”x24” squares in the surface. We actually stole this whole pool deck look from a villa called Tango Mare’ . Jim did that deck, and we said “we want that”.

January 20, 2006

Change in plans on the shutters. We just got the quote, along with a quote from a local guy who makes good wooden shutters. The synthetic shutters are twice as much. And this isn’t a few hundred dollars, it’s a few thousand. If we weren’t already so far over budget, we might consider it, but no way. We’ll go with locally-made Spanish cedar shutters. Our guys will paint them. This was not a tough decision.

Uh oh. Claudia calls. Our furniture is clearing customs. Steve knows this is coming. We tell her to coordinate with him. There is nothing we can do to help, so we just put our hands over our ears and hum “blah, blah, blah.” They’ll figure it out. He’ll either find a place, or have the container parked at Penn’s yard in Cruz Bay. I think you have 7 days to claim your container before you start paying for storage anyway.

January 21, 2006

Sliders in. Windows next. Plaster dude and crew after that. We have a feeling Jeff’s going to see a real house for the first time…in a few hours.

No idea how the furniture thing is turning out, but we both reminded ourselves we’re paying a slight premium for this on-island furniture service, and we’re not going to lose a whole lot of sleep over logistics. Claudia has treated us very well, but she’s also making a little money off of us, and we have boldly touted her great service. It’s kind of like why I shop at Nordstrom’s. They put your dress shirt in a really big bag and come out from behind the counter to hand it to you. And validate your parking, and call you by name. But as you’re leaving, you think “I paid too much.” But, then you realize why you shop there. Because they did all that. But then you think "I should have gone to Macys"... but their bags are plastic, and that‘s just tacky. Claudia better not let us down.

January 22, 2006

Okay, well things are progressing. No bottle of wine waiting at the worksite from the builder this time, but then again, he knows we’re running out of money…so why suck up.

The frames for all the steps are in…down from the veranda to the sundeck, down from there to the pool deck, and on the far side from the veranda straight to the pool deck. The steps inside the pool seem to have washed away or something. Don’t know what’s up with that…or when all of these steps get poured either. Meeting Steve first thing Monday.

The stained concrete looks pretty sweet. Jim comes back to score the 24x24s next week. I like the mottled, free-form look, although there are a couple of places where his creative freedom looks more like screw-ups to me, so we need to talk.

Great thing about a blog is you get to occasionally rant. I may have a long-winded Westin rant. We’ll see how tomorrow goes, but it was one farce after another checking in and getting settled this afternoon. At least I’m lap-topping on a patio while I look at tiki torches right now.

January 23, 2006

We wanted Bongo Bongo wired for built in speakers throughout the house. This is not a big deal. You just have to decide where you want them way ahead of time, and then make sure the conduits for speaker wire are put in place…it’s possible in both framed walls and concrete walls. So far, it looks like the boxes are all in the right place. We have 4 speakers in the great room, and six others spread throughout the outside verandas and dining area.

This was supposed to be a “look at the fun stuff you see from our pool deck picture,” but the weather today was really lousy…gray, cloudy…and, my horizon is crooked. How many of these Windjammers are there anyway? Did you know the sails are all computerized, and move the ship along at 17 knots?

Oh, you know…the Westin really grows on you. Despite the lost Express Mail I was expecting, the hassle moving me to a room that wasn’t horrible and the LAN connection that didn’t work, the staff is incredibly friendly, the grounds are beautiful…and I’m stealing this terrycloth robe.

January 24, 2006

The good news is our Sundance spa was dumped off today. The bad news is it looks like that’s pretty much literally how our $11,000 bundle of joy was delivered.. I can only hope it was very gently placed in this precarious position between the hillside and the truck.

Does’t look like much to me yet, but the pool side wet bar is starting to get blocked into place. Stone planters on either side eventually.

I met another villa owner at Bongo Bongo last night. Cindy and Rick, from Chicago, own Perelandra, a cool place above Cruz Bay with a great view. We’re always kind of apprehensive about meeting other villa owners, figuring they’re probably stuck-up rich people who belong to some fraternity that we’re not worthy of. We have been pretty much wrong so far … at least on the stuck-up part. I think we might just get in… on a scholarship or something.

January 25, 2006

Johnson is one of the stars of the show right now. Back from holiday in St. Lucia, he and crew are back in full swing. (I think the smug look comes from counting tuition bill payments as each rock is tossed up the hill.) And these guys literally toss stones from one to another until they are all the way up the hill. I asked why they carry the rocks one at a time. The answer was “because they can’t carry them two at a time.” Fair enough.

Ruddett and his crew are putting the pool steps back in. I asked him why they were taken out in the first place. He had a long, long answer but, unfortunately my Patios (pah-TWAH) is a little rusty. But I gather by the big smile it was part of the plan.

Russ’s reaction to the last batch of pictures I sent him? Bongo Bongo looks like Barbara Walters. “Pretty good from a distance, but those close-ups are rough…”

January 26, 2006

Okay…I really am not making this up. I show up at 8 this morning, and I snap this picture of Johnson BALANCING HIS CHECKBOOK…in MY pool.

Today the stoners start on the back wall of the pool that extends up and becomes a gigantic planter above.( The rest of the pool is tile and plaster.)

Later in the day, the stones start climbing the wall. But wait. This isn’t close fit. This is more like chinking, without the chink. I ask, and am and told that, because the stone wall will be in the water, the stones must be completely sealed in place. Well, okay, but that’s gonna look pretty stupid when every other planter and shower is close fit. I suggest switching to a matching look above the water line, which they will do. (The boxed in section is where a pool light is.)

You can see the magical vanishing pool steps have yet again vanished. Don’t know. Didn’t ask.

January 27, 2006

Jim Hall is back to score the deck. First step is marking out chalk lines. It’s pretty much just like laying tile…you pick a place in the center and work your way out. The only contribution we have is telling him to set the 24 inch squares at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal lines so they form a diamond pattern.

Later in the afternoon, he’s down on hands and knees with a special saw cutting the lines. Very dusty process. Looks really good though.

We also walked around before hand and noted a couple sloppy little staining spills, which he was able to buff out and blend in.

This stained concrete look is something you either love or you hate. As it’s turning out, we love it as much as we’d hoped.

January 28, 2006

Oh boy. Be careful with the architect, who is, after all, the artist. The phone rings well past dinner. It’s John Maize, who we haven’t heard from in a couple of months, which is odd, since he usually keeps in touch and wants to get together in Annapolis for brunch or boat watching or something. Just about the first words out of his mouth: “What happened to the arches?” The tough me wants to say “What happened to the arches?!? How about you tell me what happened to your best guess for cost to build!” The weak me says “Oh, ya, well, um, sorry about that.” He’s cool with our decision and understands why, but would have preferred the old Danish-like look, his passion. He’s right… but so was the builder… and so were we with the compromise. -Us with John and Carey….Carrol’s Creek, Annapolis.- (My shirt….fashions courtesy St. John Spice… kind of looks like stained concrete, only it was 26 bucks.)

January 29, 2006

The outside decks are done. Check that off the list. If it works out even close to this well inside, we’re going to be able to pull it off. And a big bonus about doing this is that we actually leapfrog over a major, time consuming step in construction. Laying tile can take weeks, and it holds up all of the final finish work until it’s done.

A very big stone planter now begins to rise out of the pool.

This was the week of stain and stone. Pretty fun week.

January 30, 2006

Orange is the “Trend Color 2006” for Wranglers. Okay, this is just silly blog filler…but twice in a row I’ve gotten stuck with one of these really ugly orange rentals. Everywhere you look you see orange Jeeps. Last year, it was Hot Wheels green. The year before that, it was yellow (Kenny says “yella”). A Jeep should be black and dirty, and have big tires and a couple of dents. That will be the Bongo Bongo Jeep.

If you go to the Jeep Website, you can have fun building a Wrangler. I kid you not…one of the options is called “the smoker’s package”, which I guess means an ashtray. Or, maybe it means automatic inclusion in tobacco lawsuits for 36,000 miles or until your death, whichever comes first. (Impact Orange Clear Coat is a $150 option. Black is no charge.)

January 31, 2006

The crisis du jour is our furniture. Claudia and Steve are apparently having communication problems and, despite wanting to ignore this, we have to get involved. The problem seems to be a new rule about how long you can leave a container at Enighed Pond, which supposedly soon opens, and we’ve exceeded it. As of today, the container still sits somewhere down there next to the pond, but there is no practical place on our worksite to put it. We were originally told leaving it there was just a matter of a demurrage fee (cargo-speak for “Dude, you’re stuff’s here and you‘re gonna pay for every day you don‘t get it.”) We were also told a week ago it could be moved to Penn’s Yard for a fee, but the intel we get on that is a little fuzzy now too.

We have to move it soon or it’ll end up back in St. Thomas. We’ve talked again to both Steve and Claudia and hopefully they will communicate. In the meantime, we called the St. John trucking company that brought it over asking for any help they might offer. Very friendly (Boynes Trucking), and they may come up with some solution. A couple of weeks and we’re enclosed. Just need to work this out.

February 1, 2006

Furniture crisis solved. Boynes Trucking was happy to move our container to a safe and secure location (maybe Dick Cheney is a neighbor.) We don’t own the container though, so the clock is still ticking on that…at $20 per day. We should just clean it up, set up the furniture, plug in the hot tub and rent it. The sooner we can get it unloaded, the better. Steve is working on getting a pod enclosed as soon as possible for that very purpose. This furniture thing hasn’t turned out as glamorous as we thought it would. Timing is everything, and we were just too optimistic. Lessons learned. I still say this wasn't our problem, but I'll give Claudia props for her hustle.

It looks like steps are getting poured. They’ll be stained the same colors as the deck.

February 3,2006

US Airways is now flying Boeing 767’s direct on the St. Thomas-Philadelphia route. Just more people to catch a cold from. Now that United is doing nonstops more frequently from Dulles, we wish our miles were with United…but Dulles is such a miserable airport anyway. National (oops...I mean Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) is one of the most user-friendly airports in the country, which is funny, considering its, um, location.

Another very quiet week. No updates lately from the builder. Lately, we kind of think there is such a thing as going too often. When you’re building a new house from 2,500 miles away, as opposed to across town or in the next county where you can drive by a couple of times a week, you really come to expect to see more each visit. Back in two weeks and would love to see one, or several, of the following: Durock, pool tile, pool plaster, stucco, windows, roof, inside floors, winning lottery ticket...

February 5,2006

The side patio is actually quite a neat space. We have no idea how to treat it, furnishings-wise. It is kind of a private space that belongs to the west bedroom. Maybe a little bistro table and a couple of chairs or something.

We have reached another frustrating stage in this project. We keep being told that each of the things left to do “will go really quickly.” Well, it would be nice to get going “really quickly” on any of them.

Got the latest invoice today. Breathtaking. As always. But at least most of the big ticket stuff is paid for now (and presumably either there or on the way.) Still on budget? Too frazzled to pore over the latest numbers yet, but it looks pretty good. (Wait. Did I just say “looks pretty good”???!! It’s happened. We’re now officially numb.)

February 6,2006

The troika of jeeps! Had to post this picture, emailed to us by blog reader and fellow villa builder Vicki. From a recent St. John gathering for her son’s wedding. (Refer to blog entry dated January 30.) There they are. Orange, Hot Wheels green and yellow. You gotta feel sorry for the guy that was stuck with that yellow one…driving by Woody’s with people pointing and snickering and whispering “that’s sooo 2004.”

A brand new week and we’re anxious for updates. As of now, the builder has no money left to make off us ‘til this is done. Sunnyrock divides the construction fee by 12, with monthly payments. The final payment, and final requisition, are both only payable upon receipt of certificate of occupancy. We have now paid 1 through 11. And we damn well better be about done getting these big, thick requisitions.

February 7,2006

How a construction loan works at First Bank. Scotia Bank and Banco Popular may do things differently, and you might be able to get a construction loan from your stateside bank…or you may be loaded and not need it at all, but here’s how First Bank worked with us. 1.Appraisal of finished house. This is easy. Your land is already worth a lot of weight. 2.Draw schedule. We have been able to submit draw requests monthly. A bank inspector goes to the site and determines percentage of completion. As we’ve learned, the determination almost never matches the request. 3. Monthly payment. We’re paying interest only on draws made to date. The bank also charges an inspection fee and a title search fee every time you make a draw request. 4. Conversion to mortgage. The rate is locked in at the beginning of the construction loan. About a half percent higher than stateside rates. It flips to principle and interest upon receipt of C/O.

This is the Port of Sale branch on St. Thomas…where Patrickson and Maureen have lunch hour laughs about us once a month or so.

February 8,2006

Wow. The concrete gutters are turning out really great. We wanted concrete gutters (versus PVC or copper, etc.) because it is such a great look. But it's not cheap. Those forms are labor intensive, and there are all sorts of tricks of the trade to get a nice, finished look to them.

We originally planned on leaving them in their plain, concrete finish…like a great Sunnyrock house in Peter Bay called Coco de Mer…but we have decided to have them stained. The product is similar to what is used on floors, only in a gel-like form so it adheres and doesn’t run.

Stucco guy is supposed to get himself up there soon, with a goal of finishing the exteriors by the end of the month. He can’t start until windows are in, which is supposed to start this week.

February 9, 2006

About 10 months ago, I was at a Sunnyrock project that was winding down, and snapped this picture of the crew starting on the pool tile. I remember thinking at the time, “man, I can’t wait until we’re putting pool tile in.” Lo and behold, one of today’s pictures! That's a really great feeling.

The builder sent a long, long list of what is scheduled to get done in the next 3 weeks. If he’s right, BB is moving right along.

A blog reader sent e-mail suggesting we sell raffle tickets for $100 to help pay the final bills, and draw a name for a free week at Bongo Bongo. So wait, Chris. You buy a ticket, but what if nobody else does. So you win. And I get $100. Very cagey Chris. The odds are definately not in the dealer's favor.

February 10, 2006

All the steps are poured, and looking pretty good. We like the wide steps down to the first deck. As previously mentioned, all steps get stained.

We suddenly have a high-class problem. Bongo Bongo is already booked for 119 nights this year. The summer is pretty much booked solid. That's great news, except the whole idea is that WE would have a place to stay too. We need to start blocking out our times…or get used to just driving by and saying “That place is ours. No, really…we swear it is.”

February 11, 2006

Steve the builder is off island until Tuesday, which leaves us in a picture void. Our friend Gretchen (Cruz Bay Realty) stopped by and snapped a jillion pictures and just sent them to us. What a great way to spend a snowy day in DC.

Looks like they’re working their way around the house with the gutters, which really look even better in Gretchen’s pictures. And inside, WALLS. I don’t envy these guys working with Durock. These 4x8 sheets, sandwiches of concrete, weigh 120 pounds a sheet. And they’re hoisting some of this stuff 17 feet in the air. I don’t envy them…but then again I am paying them.

February 12, 2006

We thought the pool plaster would go in before the waterline tile went in. That’s the way we’ve seen it done at other projects. Obviously not here. The tile looks great. We were a little unsure about how it would work with the color of the concrete, since all of these colors were chosen from either Internet pictures or brochures.

The local news here is wall-to-wall snow storm coverage, including the requisite reporter at the hardware store where there is a “run on snow shovels.” What did all these people do with the snow shovels they bought last year when there was a “run on snow shovels?”

February 13, 2006

Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC...and...Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.

Enough said? Guess you can’t appreciate one without the other.

February 15,2006

Today’s step forward: Purlins. Webster: (pur'-lin, n,: One of several horizontal timbers supporting the rafters of a roof.) Or, in this case, the actual metal roofing material. Which means, unfortunately, the peace and quiet of neighboring vacationers is about to be pierced by the horrific sound of metal roofing being cut. A truly awful sound. We chose a simple, RED, McElroy metal roof…think St. Bart’s…for both economy and look. Ours is the typical corrugated look, but you can get some pretty cool-looking stamped metal that looks very much like tile too for an only slightly-higher price.

February 16,2006

The pool tile has climbed the high wall that rises out of the pool to the upper deck. We questioned whether enough tile was ordered to finish, but the builder insists there is/was. (We’re hoping the “was” is done…and there was.)

I had a fun phone conversation with a Sunnyrock client whose house in Virgin Grand Estates was wrapped up 10 months ago (who owns the “guys tiling his pool” villa posted earlier). We commiserated about the building process, and about Sunnyrock a bit…but for the most part agreed that any gripes about Sunnyrock are inconsequential compared to the horror stories we’ve both heard about other builders.

As far as we’re concerned, we’re still (cautious) Sunnyrock cheerleaders. Now 19 days from the 1 year anniversary of breaking ground on Bongo Bongo.

February 17,2006

Good golly that’s a lot of tile! We’ll reserve judgment for what it looks like until we see it in person, but in this picture, that wall kind of looks like the underside the space shuttle!

Latest update from Steve says concrete gutters are 70 percent complete, Durock is almost done and the crew will start the glass block for the inside showers this weekend. Good. I need a place to hang my loofah scrubber asap.

February 18,2006

The pool fountains are taking shape…sort of. It’s tough to get a feel for the look from this picture, so we’re anxious to see in person and maybe do some tweaking to what’s happening there.

We have to deal with our furniture on this trip, so ready or not BB, we‘re moving in.

On our way this weekend via the lovely Charlotte airport. One of these days I’m going to take the time to sit in one of those little white rocking chairs.

February 19,2006

Well, the good news is we’re here. The bad news is I forgot to throw a card reader in the camera bag, which means I cannot upload pictures to our ftp server. What an idiot. I’ll fix this tomorrow by hunting down what I need.

In the meantime, Reader’s Digest version: Scratch coat, excellent choice in mortar, A/C, red roof, furniture, gorgeous gutters, and Oh Mighty Stonework.

Oh, and yes, the jeep is ORANGE.

February 20, 2006

(Thanks to Karye Carney at Islandia Real Estate for coming through with a card reader for us.) Here’s some real progress. The interior walls are getting finished. The scratch coat, or first coat, of plaster is on the Durock, here in one of the bedrooms. Second coat of plaster goes on top of that, and then a primer coat of paint.

We received our first house-warming gift today. Friends Frank and Donna, who own a very cool villa in Great Cruz Bay called Blue Tang (no relation) met us for a tour and brought wind chimes. Hope they don‘t put the carpenters into a trance.

There’s no water in the pool yet, but the boat watching from in the pool is fine nonetheless…

February 21, 2006

We completely overlooked specifying what color of grout to use for the pool tile. The pool plaster will be black (Diamond Brite Onyx), and white grout on the tile would have looked kind of cheesy. Steve made the right call with black grout, which looks great.

The stonework is now everywhere. And he’s got a little more still to do. One set of steps is flanked by big stone planters. We actually cut out a lot of the stonework in the original plans to save money, but as it turns out this house is still plenty stoned.

February 22, 2006

The last stretch of the concrete gutters is framed and ready to pour. The gutters will be finally finished this week, which is a good thing, because at last outside stucco work can begin.

These gutters have been the builder’s bete noire because they have held up so much other work, but we couldn’t be happier. They turned out really well. They are not perfect, and there was talk this week about covering them with stucco, or stain, or a slurry of thin concrete. Any of those options is money. We are quite happy with the raw look and will leave them that way. Besides, the guys who made them are really proud of their work. This was done from scratch with forms made on-site, and it wasn’t easy (or, for us, cheap). One guy said, with a huge grin on his face, “I‘ve never done this before”, to which we said “Tell us that when you‘re done.”

The crew actually hung up Frank and Donna’s windchimes at some point today. I don’t know if you’re a fan of windchimes…but we’re guessing they’ll be down within a week…

February 23, 2006

Oh, this is starting to get good. For the first time since ground-breaking, we fell like the blog can’t keep up with what’s being done.

Gary Francis’ plaster crew is busy finishing off the interior walls, and today they started putting up the first coat outside. We get even more of a feel for the gutters, and, apologies for obsessing about something as trivial as gutters, but this is a look we envisioned from the get-go. It’s a small villa, and those gutters give it a grown-up, buttoned-down, Mongoose Junction curb appeal. (Slightly used forms available for rent or sale.)

The simple, red metal roof will look great. Put it on already!

February 24,2006

There’s lots about this project that we don’t even try to pretend to know. Swimming pools, for example. What would a couple of guys from DC know about swimming pools? Fun education.

A concrete batter gets smeared around the bottom edge of the pool in a kind of cove fashion. This makes a smooth, rounded edge, but it’s main purpose is to protect against leaks. As settling happens, joints are the most likely places for cracks to develop, like where the slab meets the walls.

But this is the REALLY cool part. Immediately after the plaster goes up, the pool gets filled with water. It is part of the curing process. I guess that means a whole lot of water trucks. I know for sure that means we can swim in our pool within a couple of weeks. No house yet, but a pool. Frankly, add a Weber grill and a frig, and we'd have all we really need. Carefree is looking for a little more.

Trunk Bay gets $4 a head for a swim. Maybe we’ll put up a sign and charge 2.

February 25,2006

We’re doing something a little different with the air conditioning, using fan coil units that are enclosed and vent into bathrooms as well as bedrooms. This means no A/C units mounted on the wall and no remote controls to break or get lost. There will be proper, wall-mounted thermostats. This system is also more energy-efficient. Does it cost more than wall-mounted A/C units? Yes…but this decision was made way back when Bongo Bongo was still on paper and when the builder’s “Here’s what I would do” answers weren’t automatically followed by a suspicious “How much more?”

It will more than pay for itself over the long haul. We’ve been asking folks what their electricity bills run, and it’s staggering. One owner (five bedroom, fully air-conditioned house) told us her bills average $2,500 a month.That's more than I spend a month on, well...anything!

February 26,2006

If you want to know where our money disappeared to, look underneath the house. That is a lot of concrete. The tallest columns are 18 feet in the air. As described back in the Spring, we actually built two identical swimming pools, one of top of the other. One filled with dirt. The other, soon with water.

This is what you see as you start up the drive, and it presents some landscaping challenges. Personally, I’m happy with the catch-and-keep that has grown back on the hill. Don’t imagine the homeowners association would approve of that.

Thinking it’s time to start a blog 3 page, since blog 2 is now bogging down. It better be the final page! Probably sometime this week.

February 27,2006

Bondo…it’s not just for vintage hot rods. Who knows what they are using gallons and gallons of this stuff for. Actually, we know that it is, at least, what they’ve been using to fill bolt holes and joints in the roof rafters. Does the trick, but there is stuff that goes on building these houses down there that you just don’t even want to know. It ain’t like building a house in Fairfax County, where the choices are “the palladium window option” or “ the kitchen upgrade package.” These builders, all of them, are still filling in the gaps…so to speak…with what is available to work with. It’s not quite the third world, but there’s a lot we take for granted up here that these guys have to just figure out. And they do.

We’re anxious for pictures. And anxious in general.

March 1, 2006

It’s Time to move on to a new, and we trust, final Bongo Bongo blog page. Go here, or bookmark www.bongobongostjohn.com/blog3.

Bye, Blog 2. It’s been a lot of fun!

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