An Unlikely Power Outage – or Two

As relatively new islanders, we now experience a sense of gratitude like never before for all of the times we successfully switch on the lights, run the water, etc. Power outages are such a regular disturbance of island living, unfortunately so common that every islander has his/her own array of electricity-related inconvenience stories. We’d heard many of them, though were somehow still left a bit dumbstruck by our most recent run-in with the Island Power Gods…

It was a sweltering Sunday in late September, just minutes after 1pm. We had just flipped on the A/C, tuned into Game Pass, and settled down with icy cold beers and snacks to enjoy the kickoff of the day’s NFL action. Suddenly, the power went out.

*Cue expletives*

A power outage on a Sunday rarely ends well.

Though we were pleasantly surprised, relieved, and grateful when someone from the electric company actually answered the phone. They were unaware of any power outages in our area, but took down our location (note that I did not say address) and promised to send a crew. Another island miracle: the crew arrived shortly thereafter and simply reset the breaker at the meter. We were back in business by half time! However, before we considered ourselves too lucky, the crew informed us of a potentially dangerous fire hazard that required our immediate attention. So we immediately called the landlord.

Our island apartment building, population 2.

Our island apartment building, population 2.

A little background: We rent the 2nd floor apartment in a building with 18 units, though we are the only tenants as the building is not finished. (This is an island first, right?) There is only one electric meter and it is in the owner’s name, so we pay him for the monthly electricity usage for the entire building. We never knew where the meter was until this happened, even though we had conducted several walkabouts in search of said meter.  As it turns out, the meter is located on a crumbling, abandoned structure behind our building. The meter and its riser were hanging off the building, almost level with the ground. There were small trees, grass, and bushes growing around and through the riser, making it nearly invisible unless you were standing directly in front of it.

Hide-and-seek meter

Hide-and-seek meter

And that’s when the fun began! On Monday morning, the owner met with the electric company and informed them that it was their responsibility to replace and correctly hang the riser and meter. The electric company countered that it was the owner’s responsibility. After some back and forth in the traditional Island Blame Game, the owner reluctantly agreed to replace the riser, after which the electric company agreed to come back and hang the meter.

So, that being settled as far as everyone present was concerned (except us, the actual people effected, of course), the crew removed the meter and drove off leaving us both literally and figuratively powerless (not to mention, sweaty). At around 5pm on Monday afternoon, the landlord came back to work on installing the new riser and assured us we’d have power back that evening. So, like all seasoned rock dwellers do, we went to the bar to wait. By 7pm, after we’d had several drinks and raucous conversations with our local barflies, the owner dropped by to tell us that we would not, in fact, have electricity that night after all. He bought us a round (as though that would make up for a night without power!) and went on his way.

One miscommunication after another between the owner and the utility company compounded with the sudden requirement of a Government inspection of the owner’s work by the Planning Department that took all of Tuesday to arrange, left us with no power again on Tuesday night. It was late September, the hottest month of the year. At this point, we were seriously uncomfortable – the sweat oozing from every pore making us more than a little cranky. We wanted our A/C back. If only we had enough energy to form a proper protest…

*click for image credit

Wednesday dawned hot and humid. The owner called and promised that the power would be restored in the early morning. Island note: promises of energy restoration should never be made by anyone outside of the utility company! Finally, many hours later, the meter was reinstalled and we had power again shortly after 6pm. By then, we were exhausted but rapturously giddy to be back in charge of our own comfort.

Fast forward to 4:15am Saturday morning. A massive lightning and thunderstorm was in full force. Suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning struck, traveled through the telephone line, and lit up the cable router and… thunder drum roll… the power went out again. We mourned not only our returned powerlessness, but also our two routers and my favorite printer, which travelled with us all the way from California only to be fried in the islands.

Lessons learned: We were new to island life when Hurricane Gonzalo struck last year. Our (then) landlord was off-island and we were clueless about things like storm shutters (as in, were there any?), the horizontal rain that blew through the jalousie windows, the need for auxiliary power… everything! This year, we wised up and bought a small generator to power the refrigerator and water pump during emergencies. However, we did not expect to have a 3 day power outage without the drama of a tropical storm or hurricane, but Mother Nature had her way with us in the end! That little Honda generator has definitely paid for itself and was totally worth the bureaucratic paperwork shuffle of Customs and payment of duties to have the peace of mind that running water, cold beers, and ice provide, not to mention saving all that food in the freezer!

As for the NFL Game Pass Package and the internet?  I’ll save that for another post.

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Susan Valentine

About Susan Valentine

Susan retired to Anguilla on July 1, 2014 with her other half, Frank, and their 11 year old Whippet, Izzy, arriving with five suitcases, a carry-on bag, a guitar case (with guitar), a printer, a huge dog crate, and of course, the dog. She gave away every single thing that she owned except what could fit into those bags. Who does that?

Susan determined that having long been a vagabond at heart, she had to wait for the right person to travel this journey with, the right time to do it, and the heart for the challenge of starting over in her 60s. She has no regrets, no sorrows over "things" given away, and no sense of loss.

Having vacationed in the Caribbean for many years, Susan thought she had an idea of what life would be like in retirement on an island. Everything was so charming for those two weeks in paradise every year. There were no tropical storms, no hurricanes, no power outages, and there was always an abundance of food on the grocery store shelves. She has learned many, many things since moving to her rock.

Every day still brings indescribable beauty and new experiences, while the mysteries and humor of island life continue to be revealed.

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16 thoughts on “An Unlikely Power Outage – or Two

  1. Over the last 17 years, my wife and I have lived on eight islands. From the Florida keys to St. Lucia, and now we are mainlanders once again. Loved your story, as you now know island living is full of surprises. I’m ready to head back to the islands as soon as we can.

  2. *No one* is allowed to make comment on when the power is to be restored, especially the power company! Years of living on St. Croix and the joys of WAPA taught me this lesson well. Miss island life thanks for all the lovely tales!

  3. I have to laugh, as I sit with power currently, but knowing it will go whenever it chooses. Here it isn’t always the power company though. People are known to drive into power poles and knock them down! Or cable poles and lines, although, we live on the one short stretch that has no cable poles or lines. Thank God for Netflix and wifi. When that happens, it does take a long time to come back on. We cook on a gas stove, so at least I can still cook as long as I don’t need the oven. Also, too bad I didn’t come with just 5 suitcases, we came with a 4o” container, one dog and 3 cats to Nevis. Now we have more!

  4. Love the “Island Blame Game” – can’t tell you how often that happens here on my rock! Seems like a national sport – if half the energy was used to solve a problem that’s used in placing blame, a lot more could get done!

    • Ha! Island dream & reality collide. While we’ve had no significant power outages in Grenada,, negotiating anything with anyone is a true test of one’s frustration tolerance. Still, we do love our rocks.

  5. I thought about this again last night as I sat on my verando watching a movie on Netflix. Out goes the power! Now, thank god for back up drives and dogs, as I was home alone. I was able to keep watching until the power came on and my dogs kept me feeling safer. (we’ve been having robberies lately, unfortunately.)

  6. I have a question for those who gave away “everything” before moving to their rock…What about photos??
    We sold, gave away and donated a lot of our stuff and still stuffed a 20′ container full and shipped it to our rock in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. I could not part with a lot of photos. I “digitized” (took a picture with my cell phone) what I could, tossed what I couldn’t define and brought the rest. For now they sit in storage. I didn’t want to bring them. I didn’t expect they would survive the humidity here, but what is a girl to do? Any other old family photo keepers out there? What did you do?

    • I think you were smart to leave them, Wendi. I’ve known many people who have had important photos ruined down here. The humidity sticks them together, mold eats away at them, etc. I’d digitize whatever you can if they’re important to have access to.

      • Thanks Chrissann. I hope I can get the rest that I did bring digitized before it’s too late. They are old ones that were my grandmothers.
        What rock do you live on?

      • I wish that I had read this post in October as we shipped a container and my husband shipped all my books and photo albums. They are all currently bagged in clear plastic bags and sitting in milk crates in our smaller house awaiting the day that they can be put into the house we are building. I wish that I had asked my parents to babysit them now .
        I wonder if I can find a photo place that is still semi in the dark ages that would scan them all for me.

    • Wendi-
      I, too, had boxes of old family photos. Like you, I threw out the ones that I couldn’t define, gave others to people who were in the photos, and scanned the ones I wanted to keep onto a flash drive. If ever I get sentimental, I just load them onto the computer and take a trip down memory lane!
      Thanks for your post!

  7. As an expat on Grand Cayman loved the story, thanks. And so true, on islands you give location and landmarks, no addresses. I was so annoyed by this at first, but now I do the same!!

  8. Susan, first of all I love your style of writing — a true storyteller! And secondly, I enjoy reading those stories from someone in my age bracket!! We relocated to St. Croix last year — I’m retired, my husband is not. But, given a computer and phone, he can work from anywhere!!

    • Thank you, Diane!
      Congratulations on your move to the islands! It is a challenge sometimes, but just looking out at the beautiful Caribbean Sea makes it all worthwhile.

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