Racing Along!

St. Patty’s day and rocking and rolling!

As anticipated on our last post the two new rooms on the lower level were are completed. New bedroom on east side, utility/laundry and storage on right and re purposing old basement as bedroom in the middle.

Above them is now installed a truss system which supports the upper floor and walls. The trusses arrived right on time…..but not without issue. When we inspected the shipment, we quickly detected that two sets of laminated wood was not pressure treated which, in The Islands is a non negotiable feature. Untreated lumber is the preferred diet of all of those termites you all see in those nests in the trees all over. Those little guys can detect untreated wood in no time at all and when they return to the nest, they are treated like royalty by their nest mates as they all start building tunnels directly to Sundancer! Not good.

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Here is Rob, sitting atop the Truss shipping rack talking with the supplier about the untreated lumber in the pile!

Bottom line, the supplier screwed up. After some tense negotiation they agreed to send four treated glue-lams (laminated beams) to replace the untreated ones. While they have been delivered to the port in Florida for shipment, they won’t arrive here until a week from Monday.

In the meantime we were able to continue working on the second floor except for the north half of the master bedroom where the missing beams are required.

And the walls start to go up!

Note the sliders Na’ama and Rob designed are 7 feet wide compared to the 6 feet sliders in the original Sundancer.

Here is a link to a video taken yesterday.

We had the pleasure of hosting long time friend and St. John guest of some 35 years, Father Patsy Iaquinta of West Virginia. Patsy jumped right in and did some heavy lifting during this past very eventful week.


We were also pleasantly surprised to greet long time Sundancer guests Dan and Lisa Lowery who were visiting STJ and came out to mourn the loss of Sundancer and offer some moral support in the rebuilding.


On Monday, the crew will begin to install the roofing on the west side. We move into the next phase and are delighted with the progress so far and the coming challenges. We have a good crew including a gifted carpenter from Jamaica (Neville) and a strong, pleasant young man from the Dominican Republic. (Salvatore). Language is a bit of an issue for Salvatore, but he could not be more pleasant and helpful.


Keep in touch folks.



Three months and big Progress

March 2 and the end of our third month here.

As an aside, before I fill you in on the Sundancer progress, last Saturday (the 23rd) was the 23rd annual running of “8 Tuff Miles” a run/walk from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay via Centerline Road. It starts and ends at sea level and climbs to 1000 feet near the 5 mile point. The last 3 miles are pretty much down hill. Over the years, both Carol Ann and I have run the race, but this was Rob’s first try.

Bottom line? Rob finished 27th out of 1065 participants! Pretty impressive!  One of the guys who beat him with this delightful 65 year old Rasta Guy from St. Thomas! (He ran the marathons for the Virgin Islands Olympics team in Seoul and Barcelona.)  That is current VI Olympic Team boxer next to him.  (Built like me!)

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After the race, we hung out at the new beach emporium at Maho Bay.  It is a really neat space!  I beat Rob at some Jenga.  (BTW, Sundancer Jenga game survived Irma!)


Now back to the news.

As last reported, house concrete and back fill complete. House panels shipped a couple of weeks ago and they have arrived but not without Islands complications.

Turns out that the panels would not fit on the 40’ flatbed shipping “rack” as originally planned and ended up on a 40’ and a second 20’ rack. Just about doubles the shipping costs. Argh!

I was advised the racks were due last Monday and began the process of clearing customs. Now, you need to understand the convoluted system down here. Even though we are a U.S.Island and our shipment is coming from the US, federal customs agents have to clear the shipment AND if anything, I mean almost anything that is made outside of the U.S. incurs a 6% duty. Now this has no baring on the fact that whoever imported it into the U.S. in the first place had to pay duty on it already. Go figure.

This leads to fact that some of these agents are paranoid that people like me lie about where our things are made in order to avoid paying the duty down here. I am sure this happens, but I caught an agent with a total attitude and she demanded that the SIP manufacture certify that everything was made in the states. After four return trips and reams of paper they still wouldn’t approve our shipment until they physically inspected the panels to either approve or tax them! While all this is going on, I learn that our 40’ container was left at the port in Florida and only the 20′ was on Island! “Oh, Mr. Faucett, we are so sorry but we will get it here next week!”

Turn page, wait another week.

While all of this was going on, Rob and I were preparing the lower level for the “soon come” panels.  This requires a pair of glued and bolted down boards all around the parameter.  Done!

Finally when the 40’ arrived, I encountered a reasonable customs agent and all was cleared. Sheesh! I hope we don’t have to go through all of that on the next four/five or six shipments!

Bottom line, We had to: hire a trucker to haul the trailers out of the port, rent space to park and unload the trailers, leave them there for a month while we installed them because we don’t have enough room at Sundancer to store all of them and finally hire someone with a crane to unload the material.

This was all accomplished early last week and they were unloaded on Tuesday. Rob and I then began to sort the panels and related lumber and pick the parts we will need first and truck them to Sundancer. Accomplished this on Thursday.  As you can see, all of  the SIP parts are labeled to facilitate the construction of this supersized jigsaw puzzle.

We began to install them in earnest on Friday, Our local carpenters (Neville and
Salvatore) showed up to help and got a good start. Rob and I worked on Saturday and the project continued today (Monday).

Naturally there’s a learning curve and there are always some glitches, but Rob is a quick study, very creative and determined and I am sure the pace will accelerate. While I pick up some slack, I am not up to his pace and not accustomed to such physically demanding days and tasks.  I need to (and do) pace myself.  (not a kid anymore!)

After the two new rooms on the lower level are done (read “THIS WEEK”, we install the truss system to hold up the second floor. The trusses and related materials are at sea as I write and should be available this Wednesday or Thursday.  Right!

By Golly, it is starting to look like a house!

Short and sweet!

More time and more progress!  The house concrete work for the new Sundancer is now complete.  This entailed large footings on either side of the surviving basement.  On the east, (sunrise) side, we now have the completed slab which will be turned into one of the two lower bedrooms and bathrooms for that bedroom and another for the second bedroom which will be housed in the former basement.  On the west side, we have added a second cistern and above that will be a third complex containing the utilities, laundry room and a larger, private storage and work area.  By Island standards, completing this work in 2 1/2 months qualifies for miraculous!  58 yards of concrete!

As I write this (Sunday morning) I am preparing to meet the excavator who will complete the back fill all around these new structures.


This will pave the way for arrival of the SIPs which were delivered to the port on Thursday and are aboard a ship and scheduled to arrive here on St. John on Wednesday. While we originally thought they would fit on one 40’ rack container, in fact they ended up on one 40’ rack and a second 20’ rack. We have arranged to truck them to a yard where they will be off loaded and we will begin to move them to Sundancer for installation.  Hooray!

There will be a lot more excavation and concrete work beginning soon as a new retaining wall will be built along the driveway as well as the new concrete pool.  Plenty more to come!

End of Month Two

Another week or so passes. Progress is steady but not as fast as we may have liked. But we try to avoid the use of the notorious (and to me a bit derogatory) term “Island Time” After the initial excavation was completed, the masons had a series of very challenging tasks which took a good deal of time and even more experience and skill.

As noted earlier we were fortunate to secure the service of the most highly recommended mason on St. John. Jimmy, from Puerto Rico has been a mason here for 30 years. Everyone we spoke to advised that if we could get him, he was the very best. While Jimmy, who is 80, doesn’t touch a form or tool, he maintains a committed crew of men from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic who have worked with him for years and know exactly what to do to follow the dimensions of the engineering and architectural plans but they follow their own instinctual interpretation of the structural elements of concrete construction. This includes the all important rebar layouts, and necessary walls and footings to conform to Sundancer’s severe topography. They came up with 80% of the decisions on how to pull it all together with little guidance from Rob or the drawings. It has been fun to observe.

So, all of that extemporaneous artistry has consumed a good deal of the time as well as trying to coordinate delivery of concrete from the one and only concrete plant on St. John.

This past week was eventful. Following about a week delay getting scheduled for concrete, the crew arrived on Tuesday along with the prerequisite pump truck to pour the slab of the new lower level bedroom and the remainder of the footings as well as the slab that serves as the floor of the new cistern on the west side of the old basement.

The first concrete truck came and the pour was flawless. The second truck came and the site became chaotic! The concrete was a different mix of small and large stones and the pump simply could not force it through their pipes. I won’t bore you with the details but the pump truck crew scrambled for hours trying to get the concrete to the first slab while Jimmy’s crew leaned on their shovels and rakes waiting. Eventually we sent the concrete truck away and the concrete yard sent another truck with the same results. In the end they got enough concrete to finish the cistern side, but it was too late in the day to begin the bedroom side.

The drama continued on Thursday while Rob and I enjoyed a long planned vacation day to Jost Van Dyke. When we returned the crew was wrapping up with a successful, but painful send day.


As I write this I am returning to Florida for a week with Carol Ann followed by a short business trip overseas. Rob is holding down the fort and finished up mounting a pipe in the old cistern wall to connect with the new cistern so they balance the amount of water in them when one is full.  It was a challenge because he discovered that the old cistern walls are 12″ thick!


He will continue the task of installing the first lumber on the bedroom slab which entails drilling holes to lock in the anchor bolts and installing threaded rods with epoxy in the slab to eventually hold down hefty steel brackets that will anchor the actual wall panels. All of this is necessary to accommodate the dictates of the intense engineering we commissioned to make sure Sundancer II remains stationary to 185 miles per hour!

Hope I didn’t bore you too much, but all of this work is preliminary to the more “sexy” stage when the SIPS arrive and start going up. We were advised that the panels are nearly done and will ship on time. The order for the windows and exterior doors goes in this week as well.  Here are a couple of photos sent by the factory in Virginia.

Below is a story I shared with our “Family Chat” last week that seemed to be enjoyed by our family.  Perhaps you might too:

I missed a great photo op today but maybe I can give you all a word picture.

For the past few days, we have been hooking up the water pump in the old basement. The masons need water on Tuesday to spray down the concrete slabs they will pour.

We had to move the pump to the opposite side of the basement and I had to remove the pipe that went through the floor into the cistern which holds our water. As the pipe was too long to pull out, I had to cut it. Because of something glued to the end of it, I couldn’t pull the rest of it out of the hole and I let it go and it dropped into the cistern.

Turns out I needed that part to put on the end of the new pipe on the other side of the basement. (It was a screen and check valve.)

Rob and I discussed how we might retrieve it using a pole or rake and Rob volunteered to go into the cistern and get it.

So,  (here comes the photo.). We go to the house and up to the basement (which is now reached by climbing a ladder because of the excavations). We take the cover off of the cistern hatch and I look inside with a flashlight and see the water is pretty clear and I can see the dropped part on the other side at the bottom.

Son Robert strips down, puts on his dive mask, takes his dive light and slides into the 5 feet of water! I knew at that moment I should have brought my phone! Damn!

I hear him splashing around and shortly after, he returns with the pipe and sticks his head out of the hole. “Click!”

Now he tries to lift himself out but can’t. “Click!”

I give him my arm and he lifts up and pulls himself across the concrete. “Click!” ( Gotta delete that one…..rated X)

Turns out the piece on the end of the pipe that I needed was destroyed when I dropped the pipe. Had to go buy one anyway.

Still made for a good story!


More Concrete Progress!

January 12.
Another brisk period with lots of progress. We are still in the hands of the masons but they are here most days and trying to wrap up as soon as possible as they have some huge projects coming soon. Recall that we are adding rooms on both sides of the surviving basement. On the east side will be a new bedroom and on the west side will be a new cistern below a combination storage/laundry/utility room.

After the first concrete pour on New Year’s Eve, they are now finalizing a very ambitious second pour in the next few days.  They have formed out the walls and slab for the new bedroom and once poured, that east side will be the last concrete needed on that side.

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I am the official “plumber” of the crew and we had our first plumbing challenge needing to install a “tree” under this slab to eventually connect the four toilets and other drains to the septic system.  The 4″ schedule 40 PVC assembly had to be very precise so the toilets could be placed exactly as planned.  There will be two baths on the lower level and another bath and powder room on the upper level and for ease of installation, the toilets will be back to back and directly on top of one another.  This allows them to be plumbed very simply.  Nice design job Rob and Na’ama!  It was tricky getting this assembly exactly where it needed to be located in the form so the concrete will be poured around them.  Took a lot of measuring, digging, plywood cutting and gluing but finally nailed it.  That was a full day of work for Rob and I and the masons gave us a lot of help too.

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This is Rob standing on the slab floor of the new east side bedroom.  You can see the view that bedroom will have.  Recall that it is next to the surviving basement which will be converted to another bedroom next to this one.

The are also forming the final footings and floor slab of the new cistern which is next to the old cistern and the new storage/utility room will be above that.  Thus, this level is below the basement next to the original cistern.  This will grow our water storage capacity a good amount.img_0898 (1)

The footing for the new cistern.

Next week should be exciting with all of the concrete that will be poured.  Once that sets and the forms are stripped, the only remaining house concrete will be the walls and top of the new cistern.  That top will serve as the floor of the new storage/utility room next to the old “basement.”  Will keep you posted.    Bob & Rob

“Mud” in the Ground!

I’m not really sure what week this is but let’s call it “Month One.” We arrived Nov 27th and got folks working a few days later. Today (New Year’s Eve) was the first delivery of concrete to fill the first set of footing forms. Required pump truck, and two truck loads of concrete plus the Mason’s crew. All and all took about 2 hours once the concrete showed up. Very rewarding!


This is “Jimmy”, the most highly recommended mason on St. John.


Next step is to remove those forms on Wednesday or Thursday and start the next set of footing forms and start building the new bedroom foundation walls and the cistern foundation. Probably three more concrete pours to go.

Rob was back home for the holidays and Carol Ann joined me here. She returns to Florida tomorrow and Rob comes back on Thursday. As we will not be together for our anniversary on January 4th, we celebrated our “Double Nickel” anniversary last night at The Terrace. Very pleasant.


We wish you all a wonderful new year and will keep you posted. Thanks for your interest in our project.



Sundancer Rebuild Week 3

Week 3. (Saturday December 22). Rob left Thursday to spend the holidays with his family and Carol Ann joined me the same day. (Nice trade!)

While the footings excavation wrapped up early this week, we had some no show days from the masons but they gave a full court press for the past two days with 7 or 8 men both days and made great progress. They installed an incredible amount of forms filled with steel (rebar) and they may be done today or Monday morning.

Then we wait for concrete. There is only one concrete plant on Island and they were shut down for two weeks for repairs. Now that they are back operating we are told that they have only one truck out of four operating!!

We are in pretty good shape though. SIPS (walls and roof panels) were finalized this week and ordered. They tell us about 4 weeks to make them and another 2 weeks to get them here.

Lots of other work in the meantime. We need to build a huge new retaining wall to replace the stone wall along the driveway parking area that has been moving inch by inch for 35 years because it was built on fill dirt.

Plus we have a pool to build and footings and posts for about 50 posts to support the many decks surrounding the house and pool.

Here are some photos and a link to a new video shot this afternoon.

Click here for Week 3 Video (Still sideways, sorry)  You can hear the Dominican Republic Masons singing in the background!)