If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know we put together a hurricane stash last summer, with the plan to use up the old and replenish it each season. It’s island hoarding, and there’s a really solid reason for doing it. Even though we aren’t big on having a lot of stuff, we’re completely fine with this. Like our solar backup power system, it gives us one less thing to worry about.
Since the 2018 hurricane season passed, we’ve been whittling away at our hurricane stash, using up the more perishable things like UHT milk, cookies (nice combo there), pancake mix, fruit bars, the sort of things that are only good for months, not years. We also had cans and jars of things that were going to expire in the next year, like fruit, jelly, tomato sauce, so we ate those. BTW, we had canned mangoes in the stash, which we thought would be a nice treat after a storm. We were wrong, so wrong!, those things were like some strange candy-like goo marinated in toxic chemicals. So they are gone now, so gone! – this season we’ll replace them with something actually edible.
We also lost a bunch of oats from what we think was a leaky soda bottle. All we know is that three large cartons of dried oats were moldy and although they were dry when we found them, they were in close proximity to a soda bottle that had gone flat (but since it was still “full” it was hard to prove). Anyway, the horses down at the baseball field got some slightly old oats for a treat that day. We also drank down our hurricane beer stash, but I always keep restocking it, you know, in case of emergency like hot weather or if we have to go to the beach.
I went and checked the big stash the other day and told Deb it sure looked like we’ve done a good job of using it up, there wasn’t much left! She told me I ought to really keep her around, reminding me that most of it is under the bed. If for some strange reason she goes first, I’m obviously going to starve to death shortly thereafter! We also discovered, much to our surprise, that this isn’t really a hurricane stash. I should say that it isn’t only a hurricane stash.
In way of explanation, let’s just start by saying that in Puerto Rico, sometimes things don’t work. Those things could be power, or water (the nectar of life), or maybe cell service or the Internet. This is a place with 3 million people who expect to live in the modern world yet are also used to the basic necessities disappearing on a moment’s notice. From that point of reference, now go over to a remote island, still part of Puerto Rico, but accessible only by ferry boat or small plane. At this point I’ll note that the small islanders feel like they get only lip service from the mainland PR government machine. The reason is that they often only get lip service from the mainland PR government machine!
Exhibit A is the ferry boat system, which is run by a public entity called ATM (Autoridad de Transporte Marítimo). As great as it is living in Vieques or Culebra, the ferry system wins the prize for the worst part of island living (which is why we avoid it). In this system, residents of the islands rightfully get priority because they use the ferry to go to jobs, doctor appointments, and other important functions of life. This ferry system is the “road” to and from the small islands and is a critical function of small island life.
That’s all fine, and normally there is plenty of capacity for tourists as well, who enjoy the ridiculously affordable $2 per ride, each way. Unfortunately, the system is not designed or managed to maintain a state of “normal”. Boat maintenance and repair is not counted into operations planning so when a boat inevitably breaks down, or even needs an oil change, there is no backup plan. The boat is pulled from service and the capacity of the system drops. Then, when a second boat goes out (this is surprisingly common), they run the dreaded “triangle” between the mainland, Culebra, and Vieques. When the capacity drops below the demand, people can even get stranded on one side or the other.
A few weeks ago, both of the cargo boats were out of service and things got bad pretty quickly. There are only a couple of days of gasoline capacity on Vieques so immediately, long lines formed at the two gas stations. Shortly after that, the fuel ran out and there was no gas. There was also no food in the stores because there’s only a few days of food on the island, and people grabbed it all. The fresh veggie truck couldn’t come over, and neither could the beer trucks – we almost had a beer shortage! People were sending out messages on the local Facebook groups, telling their neighbors where they had or didn’t have a stock of beer. (this kind of love makes me tear up a bit…)
Normally, tourists don’t get affected much by island problems but empty store shelves and no gas for rental cars can put a damper on even the most jubilant of snowstorm escapees.
I bet you didn’t know that vacation is not vacation without gin. I always thought that it was beer, until I read this:
In any case, we end up in a place where the power & water can and will go down, AND the “road” to civilization just got cut off. Finally getting back to my point (you’re welcome), you can now see why our hurricane stash is more than a hurricane stash. We keep it stocked up on beer, that’s a given, and during this mini-crisis, we also started to strategically plan our food consumption in the fridge and freezer, then in the cans, in the jars, etc.
Fortunately before it got too bad, the Governor of Puerto Rico declared an emergency (undoubtedly because of the beer shortage!) and got the National Guard hauling gas and supplies over until the cargo ferries were restored. I hope that all those tweets we sent to the Governor had an impact, but if not at least they made us feel better. Of course, the system today remains exactly the same as it always was – maybe the National Guard actually is the backup plan? But for now everything is back to normal. In fact, we went shopping the other day and found everything on our list; that never happens!
Scarcity is a real thing on islands, and this rock can be worse than others at times. By having that
hurricane stash island stash, I guess we got a little lucky. They say “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. No wait, that doesn’t apply here, but I think we’re gonna be OK anyway! We’re going to call it our island stash and pretend it’s been in the plan all along.
For now, we’re going to the beach and thanking our lucky stars.
TODAY’S SPECIAL: “Middle of the Ocean” by KBong, because “on an island that’s where I’ll be, no worries, no way, no worries, no way.”