We're just a couple of guys from Washington, DC THAT BUILT A HOUSE on St. John. Here's the ongoing story of running a rental villa on our Bongo Bongo St. John blog.

This page is continued from the Bongo Bongo Blog number 6

August 1, 2007

Ah-ha!You clicked on the Easter Egg and found us Yes, that's right. The Bongo Bongo blog is getting dusted off and brought back to life because there are just too many stories not getting told. Let me put it this way: We had NO IDEA what a soap opera running a rental villa would be.

So, when you see that little icon on the On-StJohn site, click on it. One year later and here's the headline: You might finish your house, but you'll never finish the saga

August 15, 2007

There are some really good people on St. John. Dean has been a big concern on St. John for the last few days and, while we have full shutter protection on all the windows, our Storm King shutters for our sliders aren’t done yet. This means we’ve been the risky equivalent of having anonymous, unprotected sex in Haiti all summer long. So Tuesday, I call this guy I know who drives a truck for Sunnyrock named Ralph and ask him if he could go to Paradise Lumber, get 14 sheets of plywood, take them to the house and stash them under the pool deck. Just in case. He says no problem. I tell him to go to Carefree to get a check to buy the plywood, which he does. Carefree says how much for your time? (I mean seriously…lugging 14 sheets of ¾ inch plywood into a truck and then out of a truck and then carrying them up a hill and stashing them under a house isn’t exactly “no problem.”) Ralph says ‘Nothing. I’ll just catch up with Jeff next time I see him.” This may sound insignificant, but believe me, on an island where it is pay-as-you-go-or-you-don’t-go, Ralph rocks. Just hope a truck showing up with plywood to cover the sliders didn’t freak out the guests…

September 28, 2007

Things start breaking pretty fast it seems. I noticed one of the outdoor showers was drip, drip, dripping one morning a day before guests were checking in. By the next day, the drip was a pretty steady little stream and sure enough the guests called the management company to alert them. Turns out, the entire valve mechanism needed to be replaced, which is fine and all, but it took a couple of weeks to get the parts, send them down and get them installed. In the meantime, give Paco enough time to dig through the back of his hatchback and he’ll find a solution. Which he did. A vice grip on the valve. Voila. To which the guest asked “when will you come back and fix this?” To which Paco says, “What do you mean? It IS fixed.” Yes, indeed, in an island way, it most certainly was! (Replacement parts since installed.)

October 5, 2007

Our pool had become a real problem. I don’t know if it’s the dark plaster, or the constant sunshine or a combination of the two, but algae just loved that pool. No matter how much chemicals we dumped in it, we couldn’t keep it clean. Which is obviously a huge problem. Like athlete's foot, except everybody sees it.

So, we just installed a saltwater system. A pretty cost-effective system and it has solved the problem. It’s a perpetual cycle once you get it up and running, and so no more chemicals and best of all, crystal clear, algae free water. And the best part? The water’s really, really soft. Just a very slight salty taste. But no chlorine smell at all, and, did I mention the no algae part? (This seriously had become a very embarrassing problem. Problem solved. Like all things on St. John, if you’re willing to write a check with a comma in the figure, you can fix it.)

October 15, 2007

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know how many times I said “why do we want a hot tub?” You do not want to come home and see your hot tub yanked out of its hole and sitting on your veranda. The tub had been leaking since day one. No one could actually isolate the leak and it just kept getting worse. Only choice? Drain it, pull it out and start digging through all that Styrofoam. Which Angel Electric did. And thankfully, they found the leak quickly. The light. Leak fixed, and five of us lifted it back up and dropped it back in its hole. And I’m still saying “why did we want a hot tub?”

January 2, 2008

It is a brand new year and the house is incrementally closer to being finished. Yes, that’s right. We’re still finishing it. Take the poolside wet bar. It sat there since June 2006 with no door on it, and an ugly, concrete countertop. We hooked up with a great “do it all” kind of contractor recently and he fixed us up on the bar. Well, sort of. Nice door to match the shutters. And I ordered more pool tile and sent it down to use on the countertop. I was three sheets short. There is always “the St. John way”, and in this case, that meant interspersing some other tiles this guy happened to have on hand that kind of sort of matched. Is it perfect? No. Does it work? Ya know, in a St. John sort of way it does.

And as if to just spite myself for being stupid and not getting enough tile, I’m in the storage room (which if you ever stay here please don’t go to because it’s like that drawer in your kitchen that you throw everything into…only bigger) looking for something, and I open a box and what do I find? Three sheets of pool tile. Exactly three sheets.

January 9, 2008

Brand new floaties. Again. This makes the THIRD time we have bought floaties for this pool. The first four “guaranteed to never crack or fade” red floaties all cracked and faded within months. Bronze this time. And big, thick ones. Frontgate calls them the world’s thickest floaties. ($189 each.)

And we also had the pool deck stripped and resealed. Again. Third time we’ve had that done (although this is the first time it was done right.) Looks fantastic now.

We’re finding that we are replacing a lot of stuff. Four more sets of bed sheets this month (third round of sheet replacements) and same with bath towels. I mean, seriously. Do you replace the sheets on your bed at home every six months? And this is with multiple sets in rotation. What are people doing on those sheets! (Actually, I don’t need to know.)

And the pots and pans, 18 months into a rental program, already need replacing. As do knives. I hate dull knives.

January 10, 2008

Here’s a fun story.

You can’t really tell from this picture, but somewhere in that knot of bougainvillea and palm and who knows what else Josephine has planted along the driveway is THE SEPTIC TANK. Funny thing about these unmentionable things. At villas all over the island, these (old day) concrete or (new day) plastic tanks are buried only enough underground to do their thing. The rest of them sticks their head out and says “Hi! I’m your crap tank!“ (Your poo is closer to the john you just used then you think.) In our case, our plastic crap machine turns what you flush…into water for our landscaping. Kind of disgusting, isn’t it? (But thanks.)

Anyway….we’re standing on the deck every night for about a week listening to this horrible loud “whaaaa-AAAAH, whaaaa-AHHHH, whaaaa-AHHH, whaaaa-AHHHH. And every night, we say, “who is the idiot running their generator nonstop!” It's really, really loud. We even hear it driving around the 'hood. And then we leave. (This is November.) And then we come back, (in December) and we’re still hearing it! It’s echoing through Chocolate Hole. This very noisy “whaaaa-AAAAH, whaaaa-AHHHH…” And again we say ‘who is this idiot!” And then we’re in town one day, and a neighbor says “did you know your septic tank is running nonstop?” OMG. Total humiliation. Our Crap Machine is MALFUNCTIONING and echoing throughout Chocolate Hole!

Should be an easy fix. We remember our original builder saying two guys on St. John carry really cool septic tank systems. (This of course is not something we’d ever associated with cool before now), Michael Milne and Michael Kaye. We call both. Both say “That’s not my crap machine!” We dig through invoices and see that we actually ended up with some system made in Australia which is a very long way from St. John, or either one of the Michaels, and we curse our builder for yet the one billionth time.

Long story short, we find a distributor in South Florida who happens to have a connection with somebody in Australia and we get the blower (yes, your poo is being blown) that needs to be replaced. Our Godsend “fix it all” contractor installs it….and peace on earth is restored Chocolate Hole.

And you had no idea how much trouble your poo is.

March 15, 2008

That's a brand new water heater. And we didn't need it. HUGE problem at Bongo Bongo the last two weeks. A water leak that we THOUGHT was from the hot water heater. So we replaced it. But the water leak continued. Out of the hot water heater closet, across the bathroom, under the wall and into the living room. A jackhammer and an undetermined amount of money later and it ended up being a PVC pipe buried in the concrete floor that sprung a leak. Yes, a jackhammer. Into a concrete floor. To find a leak in a PVC pipe we weren't exactly sure where was. Fixed. Yikes. Concrete again.

March 24, 2008

We started using Vicki at Starfish Gourmet to make our Welcome Baskets (not really baskets, never have been, just the stuff waiting in the frig for the guests' first night.) We're really happy with it. It now includes chips and salsa, good cheese and crackers, two kinds of chocolate, fruit, beer, juice, water and a big bottle of good rum. And of course, the requisite bougainvillea flowers that end up dying in the frig and sticking to the shelves most weeks. Hint: Take these flowers out and throw them away immediately!

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