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News from Puerto Rico

Power of a Hurricane

Finally received some detailed news about Good Karma today. The first was the bad news, the boat next to ours demasted in hurricane Maria and is now leaning on our boat. They had what is called a “deck stepped” mast, meaning the base of the mast is attached to the deck rather than what we have, a “keel stepped” mast attached down to the hull of the boat. A keel stepped mast is much stronger and is the norm for blue water boats.

You may notice in the above photo that not only is our neighbors mast broken off, it is also folded. I am impressed that the hurricane was so powerful it could break what was essentially a pole with a low profile to the wind. Yet it did break, as were many deck stepped masts in the marina. How the mast bent in half the way it did is a mystery.

The good news is that Roberto, the dock master at the marina, said our boat was dry inside and did not mention any other damage. From what we can tell, Good Karma is repairable though how and when is problematic.

Puerto Rico is in dire straights with this disaster. We have heard messages from friends all over the island and they say it is catastrophic. Long lines for food, gasoline, fresh water, the bank. Everything. And this is a week later. Communication is just starting to be restored though power is still out over most of the island. The airport in San Juan is a mess with only a very few flights coming and going. Very few supplies are reaching the island.

This is an American territory and they deserve the response that Huston and Florida have gotten for hurricane relieve, yet they are not. Trump FINALLY suspended the Jones Act, after a week, to allow faster shipping to the island from foreign ports. Shipping businesses have greedily lobbied against this suspension, which meant only American flagged ships could dock and unload in Puerto Rico to protect American shipping companies, the most expensive in the world, from free market shipping.

The Jones Act was suspended for Texas and Florida almost immediately for their hurricane relief, but it took a weeks worth of political pressure to make Trump change his mind about Puerto Rico, while the people there suffer. Unforgivable!

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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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Impending Irma

It’s Bad

Hurricane Irma is a cat 5 storm with winds topping 175 mph near the center. This storm is HUGE. Notice in the screenshot above that the eye of the storm is almost as wide as Puerto Rico itself, that is big. It is headed over the British and American Virgin Islands and will graze the north shore of Puerto Rico. Hurricane winds will extend a hundred miles from the center.

Good Karma is battened down and tied up as much as possible and we are both in safe places. I am very worried that PR will experience a devastation that will last a long time. The island is in poor financial health in the first place and this will make things exponentially worse. There are over three million people living there who cannot simply drive away.

The next 48 hours will tell, I hope it is not as bad as it looks now.

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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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Ten Year Anniversary of My First Book

My Critically Acclaimed First Book

This year is the ten year anniversary of the publication of my first book about search and rescue in the mountains: “Playing for Real.” It is a great book but unfortunately not marketed well. For example, the cover photo (not my choice) is about as boring as you can get for a mountain rescue group that performs high rock wall rescues on a regular basis. And the rescue group portrayed, Rocky Mountain Rescue, was still quite insular at the time, highly reluctant to embrace any public view of itself, whether positive or not. Lots of politics.

I wrote the book as many volunteer members experienced the rescue group: I ordered the sections into five seasons starting and ending with autumn. Members in the past joined in autumn and experience the different seasonal rescues in that order. Starting with the autumn rock climbing rescues, to the frigid winter rescues, next the springtime searches and then the summer busy season, circling back back around to the autumn.

It did impress those who read it. Hollywood producers contacted me in an attempt to get the rescue group to agree to a reality show (no go). Also, those impressed included Patricia Limerick, a MacArthur Fellowship  winner, as well as many other readers. So I guess it was pretty good.

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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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Coolest Patent Ever Granted

Sensor Privacy Mode, Granted the Day After the Eclipse

Today the United States Patent Office granted one of the coolest patents ever: Sensor Privacy Mode, on which I am the first inventor. It is a relatively simple yet powerful technique to put the control of privacy back into the hands of the users. Basically, it prevents your own phone, computer, mobile device or anything with a sensor from spying on you on behalf of someone else. And it does this in a way that is undetectable to the party attempting to spy.

Link to patent is here.

Do you know how to determine if a patent is of high value? One way is that you find there is a huge high-level corporate fight by people trying to get named on the patent as an inventor because the idea is so powerful. Yes, that happened with this patent.

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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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