Seaworthy

Chapter Eight – The Economy

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“Zack, the banker, I questioned bluntly? Why would Zack the banker say such a thing?”

“Hey, I don’t know. It was just a thought. Anyway, since I’ve got nothing to do today, I’m headed down to Schooner’s. Why don’t you come down later, if you can get away?”

Why would my banker be discussing my time status with anyone? I mean we aren’t blazing the trail here, but we’re staying afloat. Well, sort of afloat. Okay, we’re taking on water, but should Zack be telling everyone else?

Ever since I started this business, it’s been a struggle. Even during the good times five years ago, when we couldn’t seem to work fast enough to keep up with demand, it was a struggle. It’s like no plan that you make can be comprehensive enough to keep up with the changes.

When we started, we had one boat. Our island has always attracted tourists, even though we are off the beaten path. The first two years, we worked everyday it seemed trying to establish ourselves. We contacted travel agents all over the world, we placed ads in fishing magazines, and we made friends with the concierges at the hotels on the island with the hope that they would encourage their guests to give us a try. We even developed a pretty neat person-to-person email referral program that provided discounts to the friends of our patrons and an additional free trip to the patrons who forwarded it and returned to the island on their next trip. Our business started to grow and the future looked bright.

The real kickoff for our business was after our island was written about in one of the top notch travel and leisure magazines. The magazine article impressed upon its readers the great value and beauty of our island. Once that article came out, people came from all over the globe. The island was not the top destination, I believe that’s Las Vegas, but we were up there.

After that article, the sky was the limit. We bought two more boats and we were running up to nine excursions a day. It was a lot of work, and there was a lot of time spent managing the inflows and outflows, but it was exciting and it seemed for a time that we were in the process of building the island dream.

Then just when things were almost on cruise control, Callie hit. It was the biggest hurricane to hit our island in the twenty-five years that I have experienced. There were a few old-timers that said that Marlene was worse, but that was fifty-eight years ago. By the way, who names these hurricanes? Why does it seem that all of the really mean ones are women?

Anyhow, Callie wiped out the island. The hotels were all but destroyed, only one resembled its former structure and they took a year of remodeling before they were able to reopen. Those of us in the business of catering to tourists were quickly faced with the new reality of meeting our bloated payrolls and bank notes with no business to sustain. The only business that seemed to be working was Schooner’s, that’s the local bar in town.

I take that back, Admiral’s company kept their business growing during this time as well. It seems that the boss had developed a plan in case a hurricane ever hit the island to take his boats over to the Pacific coast. Admiral’s company also had made investments over the years into a couple of construction companies; Scott’s being one of them. With all of the reconstruction work, these construction companies were working twenty-four seven. Of course, this work only occurred on the structures whose owners had been fortunate enough to get their settlements from the insurance companies. Most of us had been denied settlements because we weren’t covered for flood damage, only wind damage. Who could have predicted that the flood surge would clear our protective walls and inundate the island?

By the time we got the island back to a somewhat working version of itself; it seemed as if the tourists had forgotten us and had moved on to new locales. Ever since, my business has been downsizing. We were once a company with three boats and fifteen employees, and now after Hector and Juan quit, we are down to one boat and four employees. To be honest, I’m not too upset that they quit, expenses are killing me and I’m not even sure how we will survive this summer. Without help from the bank, which based on the comment by Scott seems unlikely, we are facing dire circumstances. And people wonder why my mind is always on business.

Boy, the rain is coming down now.

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