What’s That Stash For Anyway?

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.

And there’s a lot more where that came from!

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…)

Medalla is the beer of Puerto Rico – you can’t be without it!

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.

Umm, this is no bueno

I bet you didn’t know that vacation is not vacation without gin. I always thought that it was beer, until I read this:

We reassured her that indeed, VQS has gin, & rum, & vodka, etc.

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.”


  1. Betty on March 26, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Every time I almost decide that maybe someday in the distant future, I just might get up the nerve to visit you, you send news like this (with no mention of the availability of wine, BTW), and make me rethink that possibility. Maybe that is why you do it. That thought just went through my mind!

    Seriously, good blog. Keep them coming.

    • Norm Pyle on March 26, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      Deb says there was a red wine shortage at the restaurants, but not at our house! 😉 If you come, we will keep you stocked!

    • Mark on March 27, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      it’s what keeps me away, that’s for sure.

      • Norm Pyle on March 28, 2019 at 10:11 am

        I thought it was the power going out. 🙂

  2. Paul B on March 26, 2019 at 10:58 am

    What about MREs? I hear those and cockroaches will survive even a nuclear bombardment..

    • Norm Pyle on March 26, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      The U.S. government passed out a ton of MREs in the couple of months after the storm, when we weren’t here. In fact, some people here do use the leftover ones as their hurricane stash. But we’re trying to get stuff we would actually eat on purpose, for our stash. I’m planning to just hunt cockroaches after the nuclear blast. 🙂

  3. Kevlar on March 26, 2019 at 11:54 am

    So, in a sense, you found a way to make your stash multi-task! (Alton Brown would be proud!)

    • Norm Pyle on March 26, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Yes! Now if I could just get Alton Brown to come to the island and cook for us…

  4. Anonymous on March 26, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I guess I am mistaken. I thought an Island Stash was similar to a Colorado Stash.

    • Norm Pyle on March 26, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Hey, you can stash whatever you want, I’m not judging!

  5. Oscar on March 27, 2019 at 12:35 am

    You can also keep a stash of veggies in the ground in VQS with a bit of work. It may come in handy

    • Norm Pyle on March 27, 2019 at 6:51 am

      Good point. We do this to some extent. Our yard came with a carambola tree that gave us fruit for a year. It’s on a hiatus right now but it’ll be back. We have lots of bananas and breadfruits on the trees right now, and some tiny papayas. Still waiting for mangoes and avocados to come from their trees (and a coconut palm that’s years away from delivering).

      In the ground we only have tomatoes, basil, garlic, and culantro. Oh we also planted pineapple but I think those are a long way off. We might consider growing taro or yuca. Our soil is rock and clay, not too bad really. The only problem is the chickens and iguanas like to chow on our plants so that’s a battle, but we have been getting eggs lately! (chicken, not iguana)

  6. Perry on March 29, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    Re: beer. It’s not just for breakfast anymore! This the season of Lent. The Trappist monks of Belgium made an especially strong beer (Westvleteren 12) to get them through the Lenten fast. (“12” refers to alcohol%.) Apparently, if it’s liquid bread, it’s not actually food – thus spake The Pope! The monks want $15/bottle; I make five gallons (48 bottles) for about $30.

    Re: chumming for chickens. Plant your plants and get an air rifle. This may be controversial, but if the chickens are on your property, they’re yours. If you’re squeamish about butchering a chicken, you may not belong on the islands.

    Re: canned fruit. Not a good idea. Fruit is acidic and it eventually reacts with the can. Tomatoes, too. Use glass for acidic stuff.

    Re: prepping. YOU are the grocery store. Once you understand this concept, you are good-to-go. Rice, beans, and a propane burner will keep you alive. I’ll assume you can find water after a hurricane.

    Re: electric. With the solar and batteries, you’re already there.

    Re: other (controversial) issues. Details upon request. Send e-mail.

    • Norm Pyle on March 31, 2019 at 7:18 am

      Well, I guess I’m set now! Need to find, or brew, some 12% beer though. Drink enough of that, with no food, and you will feel like you’re talking with God. ?

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