Update – 8 Weeks After the Storm

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Status Report by Jennifer's Dad:

The family rode out the storm in a CBS home that had a concrete roof. The home, owned by Tomas's aunt, is located in an area that was not threatened by potential tidal surge nor mudslides.

Tomas was able to salvage the solar panels from the Nauti Mermaid wreckage. Jennifer's mother and I flew down to Vieques a few weeks ago with some critical supplies as well as a birthday cake for Milan's 3rd birthday.

Eight weeks after the storm, the living conditions in Vieques are still a great challenge. The only electricity on the island is from a modest number of small generators and a few solar panels. After sunset, roughly 5% of the occupied homes have visible electric lights. Candlepower is the norm for lighting at night.

Keeping the generators fueled is a problem. There are only 3 gas stations on the island and only one of them actually had available fuel when we arrived. There were over 50 cars lined up waiting their turn to try and get fuel. When a station runs out of fuel, many people leave their car where it is in line and return the next morning hoping that a fuel truck will arrive on the morning ferry. When you do get a turn to get fuel, you're only permitted 10 gallons for your vehicle and fuel for two 5-gallon "jerry cans" for a generator.

The gas stations, grocery stores, and the two restaurants that were open were "cash-only" since, without power, credit or debit cards cannot be processed and no ATM machines were operational.

The bank had a 3-hour wait in line to make a cash withdrawal and withdrawals were limited to $100 since even cash is in limited supply on this small island.

The main grocery store on the north side of the island was only about 50% stocked when we were there. Baby food and diapers were extremely hard to find.

With time spent waiting in lines for cash from the bank and long lines to get fuel and food, much of the productive capacity of the people of Vieques is spent just trying to survive.

Some low-elevation parts of Vieques have had municipal water restored, but pumping water uphill to the many homes located in the elevated parts of the island requires power and power continues to be a limiting factor for a great many things.

The home where the family is living has a cistern for collecting rainwater. It's used for bathing only. They have bottled water for cooking and drinking.

Communications - 8 weeks after the storm - continues to be extremely problematic. By going to the highest hill on the eastern end of the island, they can occasionally get a cell signal from the main island. We've been able to make 4 cell phone connections in the last two months. None of the connections could be sustained for more that a couple of minutes. Internet service has thus far been non existent.

Jennifer did have a workable AT&T cell service connection for two or three days, but it went down again and has not returned. We succeeded in getting satallite text messaging communicator hand delivered to her about two weeks after the storm that permits 160 character text messaging, but the message/response cycle times are slow and a bit awkward as the hand-held device has to have an un-impediated view of the sky. Thus, you have to go outside to communicate.

The loss of the Nauti Mermaid was considered a loss for the community by many residents and was even mentioned in a CNN news report. Here's a link to the full report and here's a link to just the segment about the Nauti Mermaid.

It appears that the insurance settlement on the boat will repay the bank loan and, at best, about half of what they put into the boat for the required upgrades as well as the business startup costs and the costs of sailing the boat from Saint Augustine, FL to Vieques, PR.

Jennifer's sister, Heather, has started a GoFundMe page to enable the many friends and supporters who have enjoyed The Cat & The Mermaid  "tales of adventure, a sailing business, parenting & love" an easy way to help them get back on their feet.