Oi Vey Maria !!!

This has been a very active hurricane season on the Texas gulf coast.  As many of you know my son Jonathon lives on a boat and was currently in Puerto Rico when Maria came through!  Long story short Jono lost his home / boat to the 180 mph winds.  She was blown sideways into the mangroves dragging all three anchors with her.  He did a very good job of storm preparation, but mother nature just…. won.

Jono rented a second story room on shore to ride out Maria off the boat, which was basically a 12 hour tornado.  “Miss Adventure” his 33′ Irwin sailboat didn’t stand a chance… but endured better than some that went to the bottom sometime during the night.  Jono had taken as much gear off the boat as possible before the it got bad, but looters got to her before he could get her re-floated.  They tore off the hatches and stole everything they could carry or unplug.  The batteries, the anchors that were still tied to the bow, radios, etc.  Hurricane Maria was utter chaos for Jono and vile uncertainty for me, not being able to contact my boy for over a week.

Jono carries a satellite locator device on his boat called “spot” that is capable of transmitting his location every 10 minutes.  The “ping” or location is available for viewing online, it shows where he is, as well as the date and time of the mark.  Wisely we devised a plan of “communication” before we lost all contact.  Knowing all services would be down, Jono was going to physically turn spot on and off during the storm so we would know he’s OK and capable of manipulating the switch.  The day after it passed he was to turn it on before lunch if his boat made it, or after lunch only if she didn’t.  As you know she didn’t so we were able to understand he was OK, but his home was destroyed on that second day after the storm.

For days Jono kept us semi sane by cycling spot on and off.  It also showed us his movement from the marina to a home several blocks from shore, back to the marina etc. so that was encouraging.  It was almost a week before Jono was able to get us a text from someone who had a cell phone signal.  Nobody had a signal on the coast where Jono was, but a new friend let my boy type me a text… then went back home so the message could transmit.  Poor communication but at least SOMETHING…  While it was great to see text evidence in his own words that he was mostly OK, a daddy needs more than that.

Jono had taken the solar panels off his boat so he set them up onshore and found some old batteries that worked well enough to charge cell phones.  He was the only resource for electricity for days, he had the only way to have 12 volt lighting or charge anything in the little torn up fishing village near Salinas.  Soon his food got low, but luckily he had stored fresh water in the tanks of his sailboat.  He could fill jugs and bring them ashore for drinking water.  We knew none of this when it was going on.. my fears of how hard his life were during that time were pretty much spot on.

The “marina” owner allowed him and two others to stay free in the room he rode the storm out in, they traded their labor rebuilding the docks for the room.  By day they worked hard outside, at night they took 3 hour shifts sitting out in the night heat among the swarms of the relentless mosquitoes with a flashlight and machete running off looters.  After days on end of that routine Jono was mentally and physically drained, now with no home, no contact with the outside world, no way to get money to buy food or travel.. he was just stuck.  Strong resolve slowly dissolved into despair.  When we finally got to talk over a sketchy cell connection where I could hear every third work, he was totally wiped out.  He didn’t know what to do, and for a competent sailor that’s saying a lot…

Over the next few days I got him a message via text to salvage all he could off MA and that we would see to it that he got another boat.  I’m sure that raised his hopes again.  He finally got a ride to San Juan where we could text him directly for short bursts.  Linda kept calling the airlines trying to arrange a flight out but everything was booked or cancelled for weeks.  We were working all avenues trying to get him out of there with no joy, finally Linda lucked out and got a flight confirmation for this past Friday 10/6/17 to Atlanta Georgia.  I was waiting at the airport in my car when he landed.

Jono severely injured his back during the event in Puerto Rico.  I’m glad we didn’t know that until I could physically touch him in person.  The injury was caused by heavy lifting, and exacerbated by the constant stress he was living under.  With no meds to fight the inflammation he was a ball of pain when he walked out to the car in Atlanta.  Jono literally fell into my arms… he was home.

There are many side stories to tell regarding our efforts to get him home that I’ll post at some point.  We drove through the night… straight home from Atlanta only stopping for gas.  I was a tired puppy by daylight Saturday morning but that was just fine by me.  He slept some and we talked some on the way.. it was worse than we knew.  But finally I was able to feed my boy real food, clean and comfort him at my home.  Unless you have been denied that possibility like I was.. you don’t know how good that felt to dear old dad to have Jono back.

Karen, Jono’s sister put up a paypal link because some of his sailing buddies wanted to throw something in the hat to help get him a new boat, so that’s going on.  Jono had finally found his groove in life with the sail boat, and through no fault of his own lost that dream… but we are going to fix it.  Boat shopping has had it’s highs and lows the past two days.  So far we have looked at two boats and ruled them out… too much work to be done before heading back out to PR.  We have some possibilities working but it will seemingly take everything we have allotted to make it work, leaving no buffer for the unexpected… so we are working that out.

I’m “back in my own skin” with my arms and heart around my prodigal son… Daddy is adding plus’s to his days now rather than dreading the unknown minus’s.  Not all parents got that lucky, I’m thankful.

Jono has witnessed true desperation.  Political correctness means ZIP to the boy, it’s all about “actual correctness” these days.  Jono was never political but he was distracted by now trivial thoughts and events that steered his life.  He is different now… It is my belief that you’re not truly grounded in life, until you embark on an adventure that carries at least a slight risk of unintended bloodshed.  What we deem important (that seems all encompassing in the moment) often turns out to be something really silly doesn’t it?  When the worst thing in your life is getting the wrong color nail polish at the manicurist…. that just wrecks your day.  uhhh, yeah…..? no..  not even close.

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