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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

We have passed the hump so to speak. We are now without power for over 80+ days. Actually, longer than that if you count back to Hurricane Irma.

When Hurricane Irma hit us it knocked out power for 6 days. The power came back on for three days then, well you know the rest. Some of our friends call this adventure glamour camping. It is fun at times and maddening at other times. We play a lot more card games. We go to bed a little earlier than before. We watch a lot of shooting stars. So this is kind of funny.

We decided to invite several friends over to share Thanksgiving dinner with. We needed a generator so we borrowed one from a friend. Shortly after connecting the generator to the house I remember walking into the kitchen and saying, “WOW, that oven light is super bright!” Jenn then looked over to the oven and said the same thing. The best way to describe it is when the sun’s rays shine through the clouds. It seems like God is getting ready to say something to you. Then there is music in the back of your head. Tah duh….Something like that. You know the feeling.

At this point I knew something was severely wrong.

Then we saw smoke coming from behind the stove and dishwasher. Ok, maybe it was a small fire. Somehow the generator was producing too many Volts or Amps (whatever) and it ended up blowing up the stove, microwave, dishwasher and all the electrical outlets in the kitchen. We quickly turned off that generator and cooked the turkey on the BBQ grill.

Jenn (my lovely bride) held it together better than I expected. We opened a bottle of wine and made a toast to the dead stove, microwave and dishwasher. Nothing was going to ruin her day.

 

BTW: I thought the turkey was one of the best I have ever had. It was a little challenging cooking everything outside but overall it was a success.

So I guess we can add the kitchen items to the long list of items damaged by Maria, kind of. And now for some good news, the water returned last week.

Yes, we can take a shower in the actual shower. Sadly, no more rain gutter showers for us. I will admit I kind of liked scaring off the last few remaining neighbors as I ran under the rain gutters in my underwear. Plus added massage feature was amazing. I remember standing outside alone enjoying my rain gutter shower during a thunderstorm. I looked to my left and Madison was taking a rain gutter shower too. Like father, like daughter. It is the little moments we treasure, right?

I don’t know how true this is as we really don’t have access to any real news. I have heard that we lost over 450,000 residents so far to the states. It is predicted to be around 750,000 after all the dust settles. That will make a huge impact on the remaining residents. As for now we are seeing multiple stores, restaurants and bars (yes, the bars too) closing down for good. Most people say only the strong stayed. But honestly, if I knew the power, water, internet, cable was going to take this long to return I would have flown the coop too. The people that left were pretty smart.

So let me go back to the title, “The light at the end of the tunnel”.”

Unfortunately, this is a very long tunnel and the light is really dim at the end. But we can see things happening. We have water in our house. We can see lights in the far off distance and the mojitos have ice again. So, it’s not all that bad.

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The DEA Agents

Today was a great day. I had a visit from two DEA agents. They legitimately were checking on how we were doing. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I have never been more impressed with a government agency than I am with them. THE DEA ROCKS!!!

I wish the postal service cared that much. The Postal Inspectors really are not doing much other than driving around in an air conditioned car. Such a waste! The Postal service sent several agents to Puerto Rico from all over the states to drive around Puerto Rico and check on the offices. Nice thought, but give them the tools they need to really do something. Plus, they really don’t understand security at individual offices. I have asked them repeatedly to check on my missing employee and they seem to forget as they walk out the door after every visit. I know they are out of there element, but come on! A missing employee should be job one! I wish I had time to drive to Isabela to find my missing employee in an air conditioned rental car.

Anyway, My lovely bride finally cracked and asked for a hotel for a few nights. I agreed as it would be nice to take a real shower and watch the news. It is nice to step out of reality as right now it is completely, FU#%ed!

I saw on the news President Trump was in town and throwing out toilet paper to a crowd in San Juan. I thought, Ok, that’s funny. But in reality he was tossing out paper towels. Not sure why that made news. Maybe the news wanted him to throw out $100 bills. I am sure if he threw out $100 bills that would not have been enough and the news would have spun it another way. I really don’t understand the CNN News entertainment sensationalism. I understand it makes people watch news but do people really believe anything they see on the news anymore? I know, I don’t!

So back to the hotel. Yes, we left the house and we are at a hotel. We have spotty WIFI at best. The room at the Holiday Inn is very nice. The employees are great and the hotel is full of Homeland Security, FEMA, and National Guard members. We spoke to a few of them and they have all said this is a F’d up situation, and they also said Katrina was under control within five days. This situation is out of control and its over 16 days. They also cannot believe what is going on here.

You can see more of Anthony Dooleys Rebuild Puerto Rico photos here > https://anthonydooley.pixieset.com/mariareliefphotos/

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Hurricane Maria Continued….

It was a quiet night no street walkers, it was kind of strange. I can the see the glow of lights over Mayaguez and Aguadilla again. It appears both towns are starting to get power.

It is still possible to see the milky way and all the stars. They are so bright it lights our upper deck. All night long the wind has been blowing at 15 mph allowing all the lose roof tiles to smack around. It was actually a cold night in the 70’s.

The dogs continue to bark at nothing driving my paranoia. The smells are becoming more and more intense. The garbage cans all over are overflowing with rotting food. The dead animals are starting to smell as well. We noticed that the insects are in greater abundance. I think this is due to the lack of birds. The skies are empty of birds.

Every morning I used to have a wood pecker that would land on the hand rail and stare at himself in the reflection of the glass window. He was kind of vain. We haven’t seen him since the hurricane. The hurricane either scared all the birds away or the worse killed the birds.

I hope we start to see some progress today. It’s been a long two weeks…

Found Wifi YEAH!!!!! Today’s quest after cleaning the house was to find Wi-Fi. We drove to McDonalds about thirty minutes away in Mayaguez. Sadly, no Wi-Fi. So we ordered a couple of Mcflurry’s. Ok, I am not a fan of McDonald’s but that was one damn nice treat. We then sat down and enjoyed the A/C. The weather since the hurricane has been very strange. Some days are over 100 degrees and others are in the 80’s. But the even stranger thing is we all seem to get easily sunburned now.

Anyway, while sitting there we noticed a girl using her phone for FB and snapchat. So we asked, how are you getting through to the internet. She told us she had Claro (Mexican owned Cellphone Company) and she allowed us to piggy back onto it using something called hotspot. This was great! We all checked email, made some calls and were able to check the future weather forecast.

It has been very difficult not to be able to have any communication whatsoever. She ended up leaving after about ½ hour but told us where we also could get the same thing. Jenn was like the Tasmanian Devil and took off leaving a trail of dust. She returned about an hour later with a working hotspot.

We all ended up trying to use it for the rest of the day. It worked great in Mayaguez but when we returned to Rincon it did not work. I guess the cellphone towers over here are too far gone. We saw one twisted up on the road down the street from our house. It is unbelievable to see something that tall lying on the road.

Overall, it was a better day. Still no sign of the Military, the police, the National Guard, Red Cross, FEMA or anything. Despair is setting in all over Rincon.

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The Big Storm

Let’s start by saying it hasn’t been any easy 2 weeks Living in our Caribbean paradise. You may think living in the Caribbean is easy? It really should be! We all dream of beautiful beaches, sunny skies and endless tequila sunrises. And for me its Mojitos, something about the mint leaves drives me crazy. Sorry, I was imagining better days when Mojitos were easier to get. This will make more sense later.

Let me start with Hurricane Irma. She was a little storm that quickly developed into one of the biggest storms the Caribbean has ever seen, a CAT 5. Yes, a CAT 5! I did not believe it was possible for a hurricane to actually develop into a CAT 5. Hurricane Irma destroyed multiple islands on its way to PR and I mean destroyed! I will never be able to properly explain the devastation. The BVI, USVI, Martinique, St. Martin and many other smaller islands were completely destroyed. It will take years for them to recover if they can recover at all.

We have several friends who have lost everything. The charter boating industry will never recover over there. All (4) of the St. Thomas’s US Post Offices were completely destroyed rendering the island virtually helpless. Almost all Caribbean industries rely on the US Postal Service for mail, parcels, money orders, PO Boxes, etc. It is unknown when they will resume normal delivery services, if ever.

Remember with the success of Amazon Prime (Free shipping/tax free purchases) mailing is a primary way for residents of the Caribbean to receive goods. This will have a drastic impact on employment and the tourism industry.

Well, let me get back to my crazy story.

The island of Puerto Rico is only 30 miles wide and 90 miles long. Hurricane Irma was supposed to veer north but left us all with our pants down. She buzzed by, tearing roofs off of houses, cracking trees in half and leaving us with waves over 20-30 feet breaking on the beaches. It was a storm for the history books. Irma went on to devastate the Florida Keys and other parts of the US. Everyone in PR thought this was the worst of the worst. We lost power for days, internet, cable, water and cell service. It was all gone! But it all started to return one by one and in less than a week everything was back to normal. Even the Postal Service in the Caribbean was completely shut down for three days. I’m sure you all know that motto, “Rain, Sleet, Snow or Hail”. It was a crippling storm.

As things settled down and we all started back to our normal lives. We cleaned up and took storm shutters off. We moved the boat back to the dock and put all the sails back on, solar panels, Bimini and everything else we took off. We have some friends that told us a trick about anchoring in storms. The trick worked and our boat survived 15 foot seas, 100 mph winds and didn’t move an inch. I will be forever grateful to them.

We laughed and joked about how storms never seem to really damage the west side of Puerto Rico. We also started several disaster relief programs to help the islands that were damaged and sent water, generators and so much more to help out. Then just like that it was reported that we had another developing storm called Hurricane Jose.

It was smaller but on the same path. It was intensifying and we all thought, how is this possible? Lightening never strikes twice, right? Hurricane Jose finally veered north and meandered around before turning into a tropical storm. He never really affected PRother than some really epic surfing waves. So we all thought it was over. Again, thinking how lucky the west side is/was.

We all became relaxed and somewhat complacent. We all went back to our normal daily routines (eating Pinchos, drinking Mojitos and living the Caribbean dream). This didn’t last long. The history books show one of the most devastating Hurricanes to hit PR was Hurricane George about twenty years ago. That storm was a CAT 3 and it virtually crippled PR for almost six months. The island had no power, phone service and water for up to six months. So many lost their lives and now it was a distant memory. A storm like that could never happen again, we are so much more prepared now….

Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria was developing off the coast of Africa. Puerto Rico sent almost all emergency supplies, National Guard troops and power company employees to assist the islands hit by the previous two storms, Irma and Jose. Puerto Rico was not ready for what was about to happen next. Everyone thought Maria would go north and spare PR. It always goes north.

Don’t worry, lightning never strikes twice.

I will never believe that statement again. So most of us were not prepared for what occurred next. On Saturday the Weather Channel broadcasted/predicted a possible direct hit from hurricane Maria. No one really took it seriously, including me. I went to the boat. I cleaned the bilges, deck and stainless. I even enjoyed a mojito with a fellow sailor. It was a beautiful weekend. On Monday, 9-18-17 the National Hurricane Center announced that Hurricane Maria was developing into a major storm and could be a Cat 2 or 3 hurricane. We all thought, no way lighting never strikes twice.

This storm Hurricane Maria ended up growing into a CAT 5 with winds greater than 200 mph and was going to hit PR. Everyone still couldn’t believe it. We all started running around trying to get supplies. But the supplies needed were sent off to other islands the week earlier. It was unreal.

On Tuesday 9-18-17 we moved the boat back out to anchor (using the same anchor trick), removed everything again, sealed all windows and made a small prayer. The last hurricane buzzed by but it was not a direct hit. This one will be direct hit. I knew the boat might be a total lose. I just had a bad feeling about this one. Plus, this was the last day we had any form of communication with the outside world. It would be at least a week without cable, internet, cell service, phone service, power, water, fuel, ATM’s, credit cards and so much more.

We then focused our efforts on the house. We put hurricane straps on the wooden roof addition. It’s a small one bedroom, one bath unit wood structure (stick built) on the roof of our cement home. We thought for sure it would be blown away in this storm. But we were going to try everything possible to save it.

We then put all storm shutters on and tied everything else down. I know I am forgetting some of the other things we did. Let’s just say we were busier than I can ever remember being. The past two weeks were just a blur to begin with, then it was about to get real. Really, real!

Everyone was in a frenzy, getting boards, hurricane straps, food, water, gas/fuel and even dog food.

The hurricane was only supposed to last 10-12 hours. So as far as food, water and ice we didn’t need that much. Besides, this wasn’t our first rodeo. We were not worried and we were more prepared this time. I will admit staying up for over 48 hours preparing for this hurricane is not recommended. You really start to imagine doing things you didn’t do. It all was a blur anyway but the lack of sleep made it so much worse.

We sat down after dinner and started to watch the weather channel. We watched the path of Hurricane Maria change. I will admit I started to panic. Then the power went out. The power always goes out on this side of the island if the wind blows. This was not a problem as I had just replaced the fuel line and glow plug in our generator. I fired up the generator and went back inside to watch the weather channel. After about an hour later the generator started making a strange noise then turned off. I ran down stairs and found that the piston seized and the generator was rendered useless. Now I had no way of knowing where this storm was going.

I went outside and started to think about my options. I knew I could make it through the hurricane but I wasn’t sure about the other four people I was responsible for. I started thinking that maybe a shelter would be a good idea?..

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE NOW!

Then I received a call from my father in Maryland. He said, “Get out of your house now. That storm is on a direct path to you.”. Ok, I was already freaked out until that call. I was completely on the verge of a breakdown now. I know my role as a father and husband is to protect my family, but sometimes you just don’t have all the correct answers. I really pondered what to do.

I then called my friend Jerry. He lives in Mayaguez near our first house. He told me the same thing. Get out of that house now! Our house is on a mountain top on the west side of PR. We have an amazing view. But we don’t have anything around that blocks any wind. We literally are on top of the mountain. He invited us to go to his house in Mayaguez as it was going to be further south of the path of the hurricane. Everyone fought me about leaving the house as we have three dogs and a couple of cats. We ended up agreeing and locked up the animals in the house and drove to Mayaguez. Our group barely fit into the car with the few supplies we took. It was a fun drive as we laughed and joked about being crammed into a tin can with a cooler, pillows, a small bag of clothes and chips. Healthy food, huh? My lovely bride Jenn, my son Liam (17), my daughter Madison (20, and had just gotten knee surgery five days before) and myself we had no idea what we were getting ready to a part of.

We arrived there around 10:00 pm and Jerry and his wife had made some beds for us and we had a glass of wine or two? We talked and laughed until 1:16 am.

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Time Flies

It’s been sure nice talking to you…..

My father and I talk at least once a week on the phone. He lives in Maryland. So guess that’s like a million miles away? At least it feels like a million miles away. He was in the US Navy for almost thirty years. He is an amazing man and I have always hoped to be half the man he is. He commanded submarines and was gone at least six months out of every year. Can you imagine living under the ocean blue for six months without much communication with family, friends and current events? It took a very special and dedicated person to be able to do that. He missed a lot of my childhood due to his career.

Every once in a while he mentions a particular song that immediately brings tears to my eyes. The title of this blog is a line from that song. So maybe you have already figured out the song? I will drop a few more hints as I continue.

I have found myself living the same way he did. I am way too dedicated to work. And I spend less time doing fun things with my children. Song lyrics….. “My child arrived just the other day He came to the world in the usual way But there were planes to catch and bills to pay He learned to walk in the usual way And he was talking ’fore I knew it, and as he grew He’d say, I’m going to be like you, dad You know I’m going to be like you.”

I am bringing this up due to the new additions to the household. Last week my oldest daughter gave birth to twins. I have found myself just staring at these incredible creatures for hours and hours. In fact an entire week went by and I really did not do anything but hold them. Life is truly amazing. I am now a grandfather. Seriously, a grandfather! In my head I still think I’m only 25. Where did the time go? In the blink of an eye I went from being a child to being a grandfather.

So back to the song, have you figured it out yet? “My son turned ten just the other day He said, Thanks for the ball, dad. Come on let’s play. Can you teach me to throw? I said not today, I got a lot to do. He said, that’s okay. And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed And said, I’m going be like him, yeah You know I’m gonna be like him.” So as my life continues to blaze by I find myself struggling for time. This is the same for everyone, I am sure. I was just hoping living in the Caribbean would help slow things down a bit. But it seems it doesn’t matter where you live.

Time flies by regardless of where you hang your hat.

“Well he came from college just the other day So much like a man, I just had to say Son, I’m proud of you. Can you sit for a while? He shook his head, and he said with a smile “What I’d really like dad, is to borrow the car keys See you later, can I have them please?” Have you figured out the song yet? “I’ve long since retired, and my sons moved away I called him up just the other day I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind. He said, I’d love to, dad. If I could find the time You see, my new jobs a hassle and the kids got the flu But its sure nice talking to you, dad It’s been sure nice talking to you And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me He’d grown up just like me My boy was just like me.”

Here is the great reveal and my final thoughts.

It is said, that life passes by in a blink of an eye. It is true. So find the time to get together with the people you love, even if we are a million miles away. I have lived in the Caribbean for over three years now. I have not been able to travel back and forth to the states as much as I would like. But with Facebook, skype and cellphones it is a little bit easier. It’s not the same but it works for now.

Try not to blink and treasure each moment “you know we’ll have a good time then…And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon Little boy blue and the man in the moon When you coming home, son, I don’t know when But we’ll get together then, dad Were gonna have a good time then.” —— Harry Chapin, 1974

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Paradise Inside A Paradise

Mona Island. Yes, Mona Island……

I apologize; it has been a while since my last post. We have had a lot of visitors and the new grand babies take up valuable time.

So here goes the latest adventure.

We were sitting in the marina bar on a Sunday night talking about crazy sailing adventures with several other sailors. Some of the stories were harder to believe than others. Sailors always try to make the stories more interesting so others will actually listen with envy. This is why sailors are so interesting, right?

Then someone brought up the beautiful island called Mona in one of the most dangerous passages in the world. The Mona Passage is feared by many because of the crazy current, high seas and rogue waves. Mona Island has some incredibly unique animals, birds, turtles and is sometimes called the Galapagos Island of the Caribbean. Very few people actually get to go there because of the required permits and difficult location in the Mona Passage. This was one of those father son bucket list moments that I knew just had to happen.

Before we knew it we had a crew of five ready to leave that Thursday night. They all had the same enthusiasm as Liam and I. It started as a joke and snow balled into reality and in four days we were going, for real. The crew consisted of a DEA agent, retired CT SWAT Team Officer, an EMT, my amazing son Liam and me. I am leaving their names out.

Remember this is a sailor’s story. So as most of this is true some things are not. I will let you guess.

We all met at the marina Thursday evening to set sail that night.

Of course nothing is ever simple. The bolt for the alternator pivot point snapped off on the engine pre check that afternoon. That was not an easy part to find as Friday was Three Kings Day and every store closes early the night before a holiday. I was able to find the bolt in Mayaguez and replaced the alternator pivot bolt. I did another thorough check of the entire boat and concluded we were ready for crossing the Mona Passage.

I will admit I was a little nervous. We set sail at 11:30 PM under a full moon. It was a beautiful night. The wind was coming from the west at 10-15 knots and waves were only 3-5 feet high. Every hour of this ten hour journey the engine, batteries, gauges and bilges were checked. Like I stated, I was nervous. Besides I was responsible for four other lives.

During the first four hours of the trip the seas were calm. By 4:00 AM the moon had set on the horizon, the seas and wind picked up and my crew was fast asleep with the exception of my boy, Liam. It was pitch black. But in the far off distance I could see the occasional light from the northern Mona Island lighthouse. I actually loved the sound of the ocean crashing against the hull and the wind whistling by. Plus, the conversations you have with your son at “O” dark thirty while everyone else is asleep is priceless. The lack of sleep didn’t seem to bother either of us. We were too excited to care. He and I spent hours just talking. I don’t actually remember what we talked about but I am sure it was earth changing stuff.

At 06:00 the sun started to rise and the cliff face of Mona Island was lit up like the Cliffs of Dover. It was an amazing sight. The crew woke up and before we knew it, we had caught two five foot Barracudas.

As we sailed past the northern shore/cliffs another island became visible. It is a much smaller island just north of Mona called Little Mona, Original name, huh? That island is all cliffs all the way around and impossible to anchor next to and explore. I hear the fishing around that island is fantastic.

On the west side of Mona Island, the wind and waves had died down. The sailing became comfortable and calm again. The visibility below us was over 75 feet. Yes, we could see the ocean floor 75 feet below us. This made navigating a little difficult as you could not believe the depth meter or your eyes. It appeared to be much shallower than it actually was.

We then spotted a buoy about a mile away and sailed towards that. That buoy is the guide marker to make it into the mooring area. Once we rounded that buoy we could see the two markers on the beach. We lined them up with the buoy behind us and sailed right in.

The passage into the protected anchorage was about 50 feet wide. In high surf I don’t think our boat could make it in or out.   We tied up to the mooring buoy just north of the old loading dock in about 10-13 feet of water. The water was crystal clear with turtles swimming around everywhere. The beach sand was a bright white. We all sat there looking at the cliffs and the little beach for several minutes.

We just could not believe what we were seeing.

After we absorbed as much as we could we all dove into the water and swam to shore. We walked down the beach to the Mona Island Departamento De Recursos Naturales Y Ambientales or DNRA office. The Island has 4-5 armed rangers stationed there every week. They rotate out every other week. The DNRA employees do not have a working boat. They have several ATV’s and trucks but no water craft. We thought that was a little odd.

After introducing ourselves to the DNRA officials they asked us to help save 18 Cuban refugees that were stranded on a cliff about a ½ mile away. They told us that the refugees had been there for three days without food and water. Liam and one of our crew members jumped into the inflatable and made nine trips back and forth. They retrieved them all including a man with a broken leg and a four year old girl.

It is really sad to see what people endure to leave their countries for the American dream. Most of these refugees will pay $1500-2500 to have someone deliver them by boat to Puerto Rico. The worst part is most of these refugees get dropped off on a deserted island 46 miles away from Puerto Rico. They climb the sheer cliffs to find stores, cars, people and they find nothing. It is an expensive trip for people that only make around $5.00/day. The majority of them get sent back to their country after landing on Mona Island. The DNRA processes the refugees. They Photograph, fingerprint and confirm actual point of origin. Then they get picked up by police boat and returned to their country by air from Puerto Rico.

Later that day we decided to walk the beach and stopped to talk to one of the DNRA officials. He told us they find at least three dead refugees a week on the island. He also told us that they find abandoned boats at sea are without people on them. He was visibly shaken up as he told us this. He also stated that he fears 100’s of refugees lose their lives every month crossing the Mona Passage and they are never found. They simply run out of supplies, get affected by the high seas, lose direction and/or die from dehydration. The bodies just disappear in the Mona Passage.

So back to our first day on Mona Island, We rescued 18 Cubans, we explored the deserted beaches, did some scuba, snorkeling, floating and some much needed relaxation. It was a full day plus Liam and I had not slept. I decided to take a walk and sleep under a palm tree. After about twenty minutes I realized I would not be able to sleep on the beach. The hermit crabs and huge iguanas were just too curious to let me sleep. They don’t see many people so they are not afraid of us like they would be in more populated areas. I did not enjoy the curious visitors next to my face. So I headed back to the boat where Liam and the other crew members were out having fun chasing sharks and turtles.

That afternoon Liam caught a several lobsters for dinner. He even found a shark hiding in a cave which really freaked out one of the other crew members who was diving with him. We cooked the lobsters and some steaks on the grill that night. The sunset after dinner was one of the prettiest I have ever seen. After sunset the almost full moon came out and lit up the water. The glistening of the moon on the surface of the water made a dramatic reflection on the ocean floor below the boat. I wish I could describe this better. Then a huge shark swam under the boat. The moonlight shimmering through the water onto the back of the shark created a menacing black silhouette on the ocean floor. He swam back and forth under the boat for several hours.

I think this is what kept me out of the water the next day.

That evening I think I fell asleep around 8:00pm. I decided to lie down on the couch in the living room area of the sailboat. The next thing I knew it was 6:00 AM. I think the lack of sleep finally caught up to me.

Liam and the crew decided to watch a movie with surround sound. They also turned on the generator, turned on the air conditioner and closed all the windows. Then a huge thunderstorm hit with heavy rains and high winds. Somehow, I slept through it all and heard nothing………………

The next day I woke up early and made breakfast tacos and coffee. Everything tastes better on a boat. Cleaned up and away we all went again. We ended up doing much of the same as the day before.

I had to repair the Jabsco toilet. This is one of my favorite things to do. If anyone knows what a Jabsco toilet is I am sure they have repaired one. It’s a real $h!**y job.

I also had to remove the bolt I replaced the day before and install a shorter one. I have to make a side note here: Use anti seize lubricant!!! This makes working on a boat so much easier in the waves.

I finished the departure pre check for the return journey and decided to kick back and relax.

The Coast Guard arrived around 10:00 AM to drop off more Cubans that were stranded on Little Mona Island. I believe they rescued 14. This seems to be an everyday thing out there. Liam and I did some exploring on the trails above the beach. We also found a few caves but we did not have the right clothes to go into them. The other crew members spent the day snorkeling, taking pictures with a drone and exploring.

Around 6:00 PM we decided to set sail back to Puerto Rico. The weather forecast showed a big swell headed our way. Our timing was perfect.

If we would have waited any longer the waves could have prevented us from leaving safely out of the mooring area.

The next day we found out the waves were over 18 feet breaking into that mooring area. We made it through the reef without any trouble and headed south. Liam stood on the foredeck pointing out which direction to go to avoid hitting the reefs. As we got further from the island the waves on the south side of Mona were far too big to sail safely back to PR. We turned back north and watched the last sunset as we sailed past our anchorage. Of course we caught another Barracuda. Then the sun faded away.

On the north side of the Island the almost full moon came up over Mona. It lit up the sky so bright and just then we hooked a Mahi-Mahi. This was a beautiful fish. We would have loved to keep this one but due to the high waves it broke free. Liam still feels bad about losing that fish. We yelled at him and almost threw him overboard. It wasn’t really his fault but we needed someone to blame. Plus, he was the youngest on the boat and it’s always the youngest ones fault.

At about 11:00pm the entire crew was fast asleep except for Liam and I. He and I stayed up for the return voyage east. I was really nervous because the waves were increasing beyond my comfort level. The waves did not have any real pattern to follow either. Sometimes you can ride a wave like a surfboard but these waves were coming from all directions. It made for a very long night. Thank god for Auto Pilot and Liam for providing good conversation and back up confidence.

Around 2:30 AM a large power boat appeared about three miles behind us. We were going around 4-5 knots. The power boat was traveling around 20+ knots. We immediately woke the rest of the crew and got them all on deck. As soon as the Power boat got close enough to see the full crew standing tall on deck they broke off and went south. Not sure what that was about. But it was a little intimidating. We wonder if it was just a friendly visitor or pirates. I guess we will never know. That is probably a good thing.

At 3:00 AM I could start to see the lights of Puerto Rico. Then the almost full moon disappeared around 4:00 AM and it was pitch black again. The GPS was my only way home. The noticeable landmarks of Mayaguez and Cabo Rojo just were not noticeable. We sailed into Puerto Real with blind folds on. I swear I have never been that blind. We sailed into port without a hitch.

The sun finally came up as we were loading the vehicles for the road trip home.   We all were extremely excited to be able to say we sailed to one of the most unique places on earth. We did something very few people ever get to do and we did it without any real issues. And most importantly, I got to do this bucket list item with my son.

The older he gets I realize I will have very few of these moments left. He has turned into a very fine young man and be will starting his own life soon. I am so impressed by him. He has courage, knowledge, common sense, resilience and he is definitely his father’s son. He will never fully understand how proud I am of him. I hope he knows that these brief moments in time that we spend together mean more to me than anything else in my life.   It was an outstanding father/son bucket list adventure.

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Through the Darkness There is Light

The Islandwide Blackout, Zombies and Babies.

Wait, Babies? Seriously, it was a crazy week.

The power station in Salinas, Puerto Rico caught on fire and left the entire island without power. Shortly after that the water service, internet, cellphones and cable television all went out as well. We were completely in the dark in all aspects. Only a few radio stations were broadcasting.

The Puerto Rico governor called for a state of emergency as the power was not projected to return for several days. All gas stations ran out of fuel the first day and ATM and credit card machines did not work. It was a mini zombie apocalypse, without zombies.

I will admit the night sky was as bright as the Alaskan sky for those three nights. Another interesting observation during the blackout was everyone actually talked. No one buried their faces in their cellphone (like zombies, lol). In the waiting room at the hospital people actually talked to each other. In the elevators people actually talked. And so on and on and on. It was refreshing to see the interaction between strangers and friends. Some of us saw the power outage as actually a good thing.

Ok, back to the most important thing, the babies. My oldest daughter Berkley has never made things easy. During the first day of the power outage is when she and her babies decided to join us. The hospital was running on generators and they also had a backup water supply. It was a normal day inside the hospital except for the lack of internet and cable television. At around 9:45 the twins joined us in the world of the living. We did not get to see or hold them until around 5:00 pm. Berkley returned to the room around noon and went to sleep right away.

The day was very different from a normal day as outside the thunder and lighting lasted for most of the day. We watched the storm from the hospital windows while talking to total strangers. Yes, talking. It’s a form of communication that occurred before cellphones took over the world and made zombies out of all of us. These little incredible bundles of joy came into the world during what most called one of the biggest disasters in many years. The major energy blackout, water shortage, cellphone outage, internet outage, cable television outage and incredible tropical storm. I guess you could say they came in with a bang, so to speak.

As the days went on we noticed that no one really was upset about the lack of services. It was kind of like being on vacation for a week in a far off paradise. We all rather enjoyed it. The power was restored on Friday morning at 1:00 am. And the water, internet, cable all started working shortly after that. You could hear the neighbors cheering down the street. I guess before we knew it we were all back to the land of zombies?

Almost immediately my cellphone started to get text messages, emails and voice mail notifications. Chirp, beep, chirp, chirp, beep, beep and on and on and on. I could feel my anxiety level start right away. Three days without being connected. You should all try it. You might find you like it. I realized some very important things from the recent blackout and seeing the new bundles of joy. Maybe it’s time to let the zombies stay on TV and start living in the real world. Let’s turn these devices off. Let’s change how we communicate. Let’s play games, have dinner together, celebrate life and enjoy the land of the living. The recent mini disaster was a blessing just like my daughter’s little bundles of joy.