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Hurricane Maria: Forecast Calls for Pain

Last Radar Image of Maria Before Loss of NWS Radar

And so, less that two weeks after feeling lucky to have survived cat. 5 hurricane Irma, we suffer a direct hit from cat. 4 hurricane Maria: 155 mph winds as it came on shore with the eye passing directly over our marina. The National Weather Service radar located a bit east of the marina went offline just before the eye made landfall. Officially it landed “near Yabucoa,” which is only a few miles from the Yacht Club marina and inland a bit. But because the radar died prior to landfall of the eye, I’m not sure how accurate anything is. Either way, the eye passed over the marina.

We have no clue as of yet to the state of things but to be realistic, we’re not holding out much hope that the boat did not suffer catastrophic damage. You never know, of course, and it was tied up as securely as possible. We probably won’t have any definitive news for days as the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power now as the hurricane rakes over the interior.

But hey, just to reflect on the mind boggling fact of being hit dead on by the largest hurricane to hit PR in 80 years RIGHT AFTER dodging the largest Atlantic hurricane in history, here is the Weather Underground hourly forecast today for the marina:

“Rain will continue with 100 percent chance of rain throughout the day. The morning commute should see quite breezy conditions, with winds from the north at 97 miles per hour. Look for winds to shift to the south and increase to a brisk 122 miles per hour by noon, and then decrease over the afternoon to around 95 by dinnertime.”

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In the Path of the Monster

Good Karma Survived!

Hurricane Irma was the most powerful hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic. With sustained wind of 185 mph, it far surpassed the Category 5 rating of 157 mph. There were stories of gusts in excess of 230 mph in the eye wall, on the order of an F5 tornado. The eye was at least 50 miles wide as it approached Puerto Rico after destroying Barbuda, St. Martin and the Virgin Islands.

But it went north of PR and spared this impoverished island major destruction. Good Karma and almost every boat at the Yacht Club Marina at Palmas del Mar was spared, with great thanks to Shelly who took care of the multitude of last minute details in preparation (I am in Colorado). We suffered no damage at all. Shelly said one guy estimated there were 80 knot winds at the marina, which is 88 mph, cat 1 hurricane wind speed. This was 100 to 150 miles from the eye of Irma. This storm is truly a monster. We didn’t simply dodge a bullet, we dodged a thermonuclear bomb.

It is now churning up the island chain toward Florida where it may mellow a bit but still remain highly destructive. Hurricane Jose is threatening next. A harsh welcome to hurricane season in the Caribbean.

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Hurricane Irma

Jib Sail On Deck

We spent the last couple of days prepping Good Karma for a potential encounter with hurricane Irma. Right now the weather is great in nearly calm wind with little rain. It’s very hot and muggy making the labor of getting the boat ready difficult. But it’s about done now.

Irma is looking to pass north of Puerto Rico but as a major hurricane with winds over 110 mph. The Marina may get up to 45 mph winds, we’ve been in those but not as sustained and not with a bunch of other boats around us. Good news is the marina workers are great. We won’t be on the boat if the winds get that high.

Irma is projected to pass over the Marina between Wednesday and Thursday. More to come:

Projected Path as of Noon Sunday

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Spanish Virgins

Approaching Culebra Island

Today we arrived at our anchorage at Culebra Island. Actually, we are at Culebrita, a small island just off Culebra. We had an excellent weather day, almost no clouds and light wind and waves. Got here in 4 hours from Palomino Island where we anchored yesterday.

The snorkeling is supposed to be good here and so we jumped off the boat to check it out this afternoon. Yep, best snorkeling yet. I’ll try to get some video shot tomorrow, but there was much more coral and fish than we’ve yet found anywhere along our journey so far.

Did you know there were Spanish Virgins? You’ve probably heard of the British and U.S. virgin islands. The Spanish Virgin Islands are Culebra snd Vieques, and the small surrounding islets. They’er all U.S. territory, but they apparently acquired this moniker when Puerto Rico was Spanish territory.

Ahoy, or Arrr! for today!

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Crescent of Sun in Pinhole Viewer

At around 3 pm today I noticed that the sunlight was kind of dim and thought there must be another rain squall coming. I looked outside and no, not a cloud in sight. It was the eclipse. Even in Palmas, PR it was an 84 percent partial eclipse, enough to make the lighting really weird. The photo above is a pinhole viewer, basically you punch a pinhole in a piece of paper and project it onto another surface, like a piece of paper. Completely safe viewing though not like viewing it directly.

Today we went to the marine supply store and the grocery store in anticipation of going for a sail tomorrow. We waited out the last set of potential tropical weather systems and things look good for the next few days. In the meantime we fixed our shower sump pump, changed the fuel filter and added some waterproofing to the shore power cable. Systems are looking good, or at least good enough to head out for a few days. Hopefully we will finally get to Culebra Island.

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Palomino Island

Mooring Off Palomino Island

Today we are anchored off Palomino Island, which is off the northeastern shore of the main island of Puerto Rico. We left our slip in Palmas yesterday morning intending to sail (motor really) all the way to Culebra Island, about thirty nautical miles away. Over the day we were making such slow progress beating against the waves and easterly wind that we wouldn’t get to the anchorage by nightfall, so we opted instead to make an overnight stop here at Palomino.

As is the norm on a weekend where the local boaters party, the music from shore was phenomenally loud until around 10 on Sunday night. Seriously, I don’t see how anyone could have communicated with anyone else there on shore under such intense sound. And this is typical of Puerto Rico. Today it is quiet, parties are done until Thursday (or maybe Wednesday).

Anyway, this morning I lobbied for us to return to the marina due to the threatening potential tropical weather systems east of us. The map below is the current 5-day outlook. You can see TS Gert north of

of us off the southern east coast. The system I am worried about is shown in the lower part of the pic with the 5-day path headed straight toward our area. But why cut short our trip when it is at least 5 days out? Because this is weather and like all weather predictions, 5 days out is an eternity. It could move and develop faster and since we are entering the height of tropical cyclone season, I figure it is better to be prudent, at least for our first season here. Even though they appear to move slowly, it is pretty much impossible to outrun a tropical cyclone in a sailboat.

In the meantime, we had yet another system fail on our boat, one of the sump pumps that drains the shower. It isn’t critical and we discovered it before we left the marina actually, but we need to fix it. Also, it was exceedingly difficult to start our generator today, it hasn’t run for over six weeks. Like the engine, we need to exercise it to keep it happy (apparently).

Meanwhile, back in Palmas the iguanas were out in force the other day. Saw at least 6 of them:

We hadn’t seen them for a while and were wondering where they were hiding. Must’ve been an iguana party somewhere..

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A Colorado Cowgirl in San Juan

I noticed it’s been about a month since my last post so I thought an update was due. We haven’t taken the boat out since the end of June due to maintenance of both our boat and my knee. We are still attempting to get our anchor light and navigation lights up and running before heading out again. Hopefully they will be working early next week.

After suffering for 4 months with some extraordinary knee pain, I scheduled an appointment with a knee doc during our visit to Colorado. Got an MRI and am getting it scoped in September, hopefully that will clear up the current problems. In the meantime they gave me a cortisone shot and that helped immensely. My knees have held up extremely well over 40 years of intense pounding from running, mountaineering, skiing and biking. I’m not surprised that I’m starting to have a bit of trouble with them and expected it to start many years ago.

While in Colorado we visited friends and went to my family reunion. We also visited Steamboat where Shelly found the cowgirl hat she’d been looking for (pictured above). It was just as hot in Colorado as it is here in Puerto Rico, but at least the humidity is reasonable in CO. It’s been over 90 degrees with close to 90 percent humidity since we’ve returned.

Other than that we’ve been working on our SSB radio app for IOS devices. One of Shelly’s IOS apps is going to be demo’ed at a conference next week, and soon I am about to be issued one of the coolest patents ever. More to come!

Below is the cemetery on the coast in old San Juan between the two forts:

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Tropical Cyclone Prep

Full Moon Rises Over Good Karma

We spent the last couple of days prepping Good Karma for tropical cyclone. There is no imminent threat, but we are getting ready to leave for the mainland tomorrow for a while and these weather systems can develop quite fast. A hurricane could form and move through here in the time we are away, so we want to be prepared.

We took down the jib and stored it below. We’ve arranged for a double set of dock lines to be installed and also have the dock master look after our boat. We took the canvass off. Fenders on both sides. The chances of even a low level tropical storm hitting here are not that great, but you never know.

And as a matter of fact the remains of tropical depression #4 are currently passing just north of us, which ironically are causing extremely calm and clear weather. I took the pic below this morning, one of the few times I’ve seen the inland mountains without cloud cover.


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More Never-ending Maintenance

Bluetooth Hack for my Radio Mail Service

Been a while since I’ve posted anything due to the long holiday weekend as well as trying to get some maintenance done. Plus a cool hack of my shortwave radio email system.

I mentioned that while we were anchored at Vieques, we found a few things that were not working. One was the anchor light and another was the navigation lights. It was strange that they both stopped working at about the same time so I looked around and found the terminal block below had corroded:

 The block is at the top of the photo above the wires. This terminal block was put into place so that the mast could be removed without ripping out all the wiring. All the wires connected to this block go up the mast, this includes the deck lights, a steaming light that you turn on while under power at night, and of course, the anchor light that is located at the top of the mast. The connectors were pretty much corroded from the seawater and salt air.

I had to find another terminal block somewhere and so we rented a car for a couple of days. This part can be found in the most out-of-the-way hardware store in the states, but the only store that had it here was a marine supply store. After I finally acquired the part I removed the old one, shown below:

I then cleaned or replaced all the wire endpoints and installed the new block shown below. When compared to the one removed you can see how much corrosion is evident:

After replacing this block, the mast mounted deck lights worked again! They haven’t worked since we bought Good Karma. Unfortunately, the anchor light still didn’t work so something else is wrong. This did not fix the navigation lights either, which makes sense because they aren’t on the mast. Oh well, this needed to get done either way. So I still need to fix the anchor light and the navigation lights.

On another subject, the photo at the top of the posting is a serial-to-bluetooth adapter that allows me to send email from my Mac computer to my radio without being wired to the radio. The previous system used a  wired USB port, this is wireless as it should be in the modern day. Why do this?

Well Shelly and I are working on a secret project that, if successful, will revolutionize radio email! Well, perhaps “revolutionize” is a bit strong, but at least it will bring radio email into the modern world. More on that as we progress.

Until next time, continuing to hang out in the marina and watching for tropical cyclones…

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Anchored at Vieques

We spent the last three nights anchored off Green Beach on Vieques. Very calm and isolated. Yesterday we had a rainstorm move through in the morning and it cooled things down to a very comfortable temperature.

We took the dinghy into the beach and snorkeled a bit. Saw a sea turtle hanging out in the underwater rocks. At night we saw some bioluminescent critters, some way below the surface of the water.

it was great to get out on the ocean again but we had a few minor electrical problems and another issue that made us try out our other anchor. I traced the electrical problems down to a corroding junction terminal. Can’t fix it here so we’ll head back to the marina. The second anchor worked great. We were a little cautious with it because it is on a rode (rope) rather than a chain, but we had no problems.

should be a great sail back to Palmas, going west!

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