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DoodleBug Reloaded!!

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Her Vital Statistics

 

DoodleBug 2015 Trip Logs  Australia 2013 Trip Logs  Cruise Trip Logs  eBooks

 

 

 

September 2016 -- Website Update: DoodleBug has been "reloaded" and has made the transition from rental boat to cruising boat. I have moved all of the 2015 "blog" to "trip logs" which you can accessing by clicking the catamaran picture to the right. I finally ADDED PICTURES to the trip logs. I also just completed updating all of the e-Books so that the pictures display properly when using Apple's iBook app. I have tested these on an iPad3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2016 -- Website Update: We have bid Australia a sad farewell for a while and our Toyota Coaster RV HAS BEEN SOLD!!! Thank You Ray at Koolah Kampers!! (see www.koolahkampers.com.au). I have re-ordered the daily entries into time order, moved the trip-logs to a new page and ADDED PICTURES!!. You will find the link to the right (click on the white bus picture).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The logs of our sailing circumnavigation were moved down a level and you will find the link to the right (click on the S/V DoodleBug picture to get to the "old" web-site).

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have also "cleaned up" the sailing logs and reformatted them into .epub files, so that they may be downloaded and read at your convenience on an iPad or Kindle reader as "e-books". Because there are about 6,000 embedded photos in the original website, I needed to split the log of the cruise into 18 "volumes". To date, I have tested these eBook files on both a "Kindle Fire" and an "iPad3". Click right on the "books" icon to access the files for download.

I have also finished the task of converting the Australia "Walkabout" blog to 11 volumes of "e-books", also accessible here.

 

 

 

 

 

Irma and Maria!!

The first hurricane, Irma was a bust. We had everything ready, water, beer, candles, flashlights. The car had been topped up with gas, plus we had a spare can with another 2 1/2 gallons of fuel. We had extra propane cartridges for the barbeque and our “bug-out” backpack contained passports, checkbooks, cash, medicines, computers. We were set! Irma swerved slightly north at the last minute and our first indication was a squall line with a solid wall of cloud and rain. The wind howled for about ten minutes and the palm trees thrashed. On several occasions, we had been in worse conditions at sea. That was it. The wind died down, the sun even briefly reasserted itself. A few hours later it began to rain and the wind stayed from the north as the center of Irma made its way along the north coast of Puerto Rico. At noon that day the building generator came on, indicating that the city power had failed and around 7:00 p.m. we lost cell phone, cable and internet connections. We were hunkered down in our apartment at the southern end of the east coast and the shoreline here runs at an angle, south west to northeast. For us the result was that the wind was blowing from the land and blocked by the El Yunque mountains laying in a solid barrier between us and the capital San Juan towards our northwest. When we were bored of movies, books, television and “Mexican Train” dominoes, we made the pilgrimage down the inner stairwells (the elevator had been shut off for safety reasons) to the basement garage and parked our golfcart just inside the entrance, so that we could watch the storm with its flying coconuts and storm debris.Irma Radar image

Our apartment is on the northeast corner of the third floor of a five story concrete building. From our balcony, you can pitch coconuts into the Caribbean Sea and ten miles off to our east lies the island of Vieques, the southernmost of the Spanish Virgin Islands. Today the island was obscured by bands of rain beating down on an angry sea, yet Neptune’s wrath was directed away from us by the wind and we were in the lee of the building. Puerto Rico has strict building codes and these require that the modern homes be built of steel reinforced concrete with concrete roofs. Older homes may have wooden roofs but these are no longer allowed for new construction and we were told that the banks will not provide mortgages for other than concrete construction. Our apartment building is located inside a community called Las Palmas del Mar, a development of several square miles extent, that was begun over thirty years ago and contains a golf course, yacht marina, tennis club, equestrian center, bank, school, stores and restaurants plus 3,500 homes and apartments. The association has its own restrictions and regulations and these require that all buildings be roofed with terra-cotta roofing tiles, just like Mediterranean homes have been traditionally clad for the past several thousand years. The difference between the Roman version and these, is that the latter are cosmetic only. The sloped concrete roofs are sealed with a heavy tar like roofing felt and the roof tiles are then glued to this impervious substrate with giant dollops of “mastic”. The significance of this as far as we are concerned is that if these tiles blow off with the hurricane force winds, the waterproof integrity of the roofs will be unaffected but the ceramic tiles will form lethal projectiles before spraying shards of ceramic shrapnel in all directions. We watched from the safety of our concrete bunker as the storm worked its course.

The following day, we emerged from our slumber to blue skies and sunshine once more. We wandered out into the complex to discover that there was again cell-phone coverage and by noon, we could receive calls in the comfort of our apartment, plus the cable and internet sprang back to life. The Las Palmas complex has its own water treatment plant and we never lost service throughout the storm, who’s evidence of passage was just a few trees down here and there. If this wasn’t a five star hurricane it was at least a three. On the second day, the city power was restored and the giant diesel generator that had been thundering for days, providing power for the three resident families, was finally silenced. The landscape workers had begun their clean-up operations the morning after the hurricane had passed and by the third day, there was little evidence of the event. Then came Maria.

The week of respite between the storms, was spent in an effort to “get back on track”. We were wrapped up in the process of buying a house here and the various inspections were scheduled for Thursday. In addition, Puerto Rico’s recovery was not equally shared, in that although the nearby town of Humacao had power and was back to normal operations, the next coastal town north, the town of Fajardo, was still without electricity and this was causing additional hardship in that few gas-stations and grocery stores were operating from portable gas generators, if at all. Our catamaran “M/Y DoodleBug” was being stored at the marina Puerto del Rey on the southern outskirts of Fajardo. I knew that our vessel was undamaged by Irma since I had received e-mails to this effect from the boat tending company we were using but I was also concerned that the batteries would degrade without their weekly charging. Over the next two mornings I drove to the boatyard, installed the last two solar panels on the fly-bridge roof of Doodlebug and completed their wiring. The solar array fired up immediately and began to output 30 amperes, so much power that I turned on the refrigerators to give it some load.

Every morning I have checked the internet news, our e-mails and the marine weather. We had watched Irma head north towards Florida with the US media gleefully predicting tens of thousands of deaths, “much worse than the 1900 Galveston hurricane” and howling triumphantly that this was proof positive that global warming was real. When Irma missed the peninsula and the predicted deaths failed to materialize, this apparently was not due to global warming. Out to the east Maria was forming southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and looked low enough to possibly impact Puerto Rico. As each day passed, the predicted cone seemed to have Puerto Rico and in particular, Las Palmas del Mar, directly and firmly in its sights. Although we were a little complacent, we had filled the car up with gas, bought an extra couple of cases of beer and some groceries. The truth is, we were still ready from Irma, with storm shutters in place and our “bug-out” bag still packed. We had talked with a neighbor, a long term resident and one of the two other apartment occupants “sheltering in place”, who recommended moving our golf-cart and car out of the basement garage to the surface parking lot, as she assured us that the garage had flooded in the past and would do so again. We gauged the sea level, eyeballed the parking lot and estimated the altitude of the basement garage before deciding to leave the vehicles just where they were parked. If the basement began to flood, we thought we might have the opportunity to move them up the slope of the entrance ramp while still maintaining some level of security from flying objects. And so we waited.

Maria passes St. CroixMaria South of ViequesWater under doorThe dragon poolThe kitchen drawer

The weather forecasts had predicted that the eye of the hurricane would arrive just slightly south of Palmas del Mar at around 5:00 a.m. The winds which had begun to blow from the north as the hurricane approached, would strengthen, swing to the east as we caught the top rim of the “eye” and then go to the south as the eye passed overland. Our apartment faces towards the southeast, matching the angle of the coastline and this would mean that we would take a direct hit on our most vulnerable windows from around 4:00 a.m. onwards and even after a couple of hours, we would still be getting the backside of the hurricane winds at an angle to the balcony with its four section sliding glass door. These doors are floor to ceiling and 15 feet across but protected by an accordion type storm shutter, bolted above and below the doorframe. Each of the three bedrooms plus the kitchen were protected by shutters, built into the walls, power operated and these slide down from the overhead, just like the security shutters at a shopping mall. In addition there were other smaller windows in the apartment but we had been assured that they were fitted with safety glass that could withstand 150 mph. winds.

We went to bed with the wind blowing from the north and a smattering of rain. At 2:00 a.m. the wind had increased significantly and we got up, fixed coffee and tea but could see nothing outside in the darkness. The internet and cable were off but our cell phones would still receive some signal when held near a small unshuttered window facing into the inner courtyard of the apartment building. The cell phones showed that the eye of the storm was still east of us, SSE of the island of Vieques. We decided that a tour of the basement garage was in order to see if it was flooding and sure enough there was about 4 inches of standing water when we arrived. Minutes later our next door neighbor also arrived in the garage with the same goal in mind. He however knew where the manual override switch for the sump pumps lay and he threw this to start the pumps. Together we raised the floor inspection cover to see the huge pumps emptying out to the storm drain.

By 4:00 a.m. the eye was due south of Vieques, a mere 10 miles away and assuming it continued to move in a northwesterly direction, we would receive the full brunt of the eye winds within 40 minutes. At this point two things happened. First we lost all cell phone signal and then minutes later, the impressive looking accordion shutters protecting our most vulnerable window blew away. We could not see how the unprotected patio doors would survive and retreated to the back room of the apartment. This has a single small window opening to the inner courtyard and a single door. It was also adjacent to the front door and assuming we were able to open that, where our escape route from the apartment lay. From the doorway we could see the patio windows bowing with the force of the wind. Then Annette pointed out that the furthest door had slid open a few inches admitting a fire hose of water and plant matter. Water fountained from under the door and began to flood across the floors. I did not want to walk in front of these doors in case they blew out so I detoured through the laundry room and guest bedroom to approach the open section from the side. Somehow I managed to retrieve the curtain that had blown outwards and slid the the door section back in place. It would not lock as the lock was defective. Twice more it slid open but on the last occasion, it also jumped out of the lower track. What was holding it in place I don’t know but we abandoned all attempts to keep it closed and retreated to our redoubt in the back room, fully expecting to hear it give way. We could hear crashing, banging and the sound of breaking glass all around us. We had moved a large couch into the most protected corner of this room and with our backs to a reinforced concrete wall, we waited out the storm.

Then we smelled electrical burning. The Gulf Coast hurricanes in Texas are often accompanied by burned buildings, impossible to save in the high winds. We were in a concrete building which couldn’t burn but the huge diesel generator was still thundering away and we had power for lighting and air-conditioning. We likely weren’t going to burn but it was probably prudent to take a look. That is when we found out that the door would not open. It was not wind pressure. The window in the room had already blown open on its hinges since the frame was skewed and the top latch did not engage but we could push on the door to relieve the pressure on the lock. The bolt would not retract however and the handle just turned uselessly. I had a large box of tools from Doodlebug, safely on the other side of the substantial door. What then? We were trapped in a room with a single window that opened above a thirty foot sheer drop to the courtyard below. The open window was occasionally admitting shrapnel from the roof tiles that were blowing off the roof and shattering on the walls above us. Not a pleasant prospect. Then I remembered that we had brought the “bug-out” rucksack into the room with us. In the side pocket was a flashlight and a stainless steel multi-tool from the boat’s abandon-ship bag. The Phillips screwdriver attachment removed the doorhandle but the bolt slide would still not move. With the pliers I dismantled the lock mechanism and was finally able to grab hold of the doorbolt. We were free! It was a short piece, spring loaded into the “locked” position and to prevent further mishap, I unscrewed the mechanism completely from the door. The wind was still howling but amazingly, the patio doors still held. We threw all of the power breakers into the “off” position, just leaving the lights on. By now the wind had moved to the south and although there was still a torrent of water and plant material coming into the apartment, we knew that the eye had passed and we were on the downhill slopes.

Throughout the storm the only light outside was from the underwater lights in the nearby children’s swimming pool. This was visible from one of the few small windows that held through the storm and provided a rain streaked view of a frothing, wind whipped pool that still sprouted three ten foot tall dragon heads. I don’t know if the dragon heads are made of concrete or fiberglass but these serpents were in their natural environment and presented an eerie scene of defiance that only magical reptiles can manage.

Dawn brought a scene of destruction. The angry sea still threw itself at the shore but the line of flotsam on the lawns showed that the surge had never exceeded a few feet. The trees were shredded but most of the coconut palms were standing, albeit a bit light on coconuts. Most of the other trees did not fare so well and were either snapped like twigs or if standing, without a single leaf. Every surface was covered in shattered roof tiles as well as palm branches, pieces of windows and patios. None of the buildings showed structural damage, just missing roof tiles on the windward sloping roofs. The cars and golf carts parked in the above ground parking lots were a sorry sight. The golf carts were tumbled by the wind and crushed by falling branches and trees. The cars all showed multiple impact damage with shattered windows. As we gazed around in wonder, a single human figure approached us. It was an elderly lady, clutching a very large plastic bag of carrots and weaving slightly. She looked shell-shocked and Annette asked her is she was OK. She insisted she was and stumbled off to see a friend, her carrots still clutched to her bosom. She did not look OK and we hope that her friend perhaps raised rabbits.

Our apartment was still about an inch deep in water but we unclogged a utility room drain and began to squeegee the water in this direction. We still had water and power, no communications capability however and we began to clean up.

In mid-afternoon we drove the golfcart carefully between the piles of debris, over the fallen palm fronds and shattered roof tiles until we made it to the main drive way. Here I walked ahead of Annette who was chauffering the cart, through the standing water so that she could see how deep it was, pulling the limbs and palm fronds to the side to clear passage. From the entrance to the Marbella Club complex, the road became four lane and someone else had already cleared away a path through the debris, presumably the security patrols. We drove over to see our prospective home on the far side of the Las Palmas development and apart from a few roof tiles missing, the property looked intact. The landscaping was another story however and most of the trees were damaged or rather shredded. We continued our exploratory “walk-about” to the “Palmanova Square”, the commercial center that houses the various real estate offices, restaurants, bank and post office. The grocery store was open, as was a gift shop with racks of clothing outside. I could smell food cooking and amazingly enough, one of our favorite restaurants was open for business. The menu choice was limited and we ordered flank steak with fries and salad, always a good hurricane standby. We discovered that Puerto Rican law does not permit the sale of alcohol until 48 hours after the passage of a storm and although they would not sell us beer, they were able to provide shots of tequila to go with our Sprite and ice. We sat at a table outside the restaurant, discovered that it lay just off the beach and we enjoyed the revised ambiance now that the storm had removed all of the vegetation that previously blocked the view. The shattered ceiling and light fixtures which would have previously been above our heads had been stacked against the far wall. Puerto Rico was already back at work.

September 27, 2017

Today we visited DoodleBug, laid up at the Puerto del Rey marina. She was undamaged by the hurricane, just covered with dirt and weed.

 

 

June 20, 2017

DoodleBug is currently laid up "on the hard" in Puerto Rico for the balance of hurricane season.

I have relocated all of the 2017 trip logs and they can be accessed by clicking on the catamaran picture at the top right of this page.