I have written about the general cost of things on Catalina, mostly as a point to suggest that we pay a price for living in paradise. It is a real issue that effects all of us. Never has this topic been more in focus than in the last few months as we struggle to deal with big issues, water, food and shipping. It is time to delve further into "The Island Effect." First, a little history to make sure we are all on the same page. I built a home on an empty lot in Avalon. It is a 2,500 square foot house with an additional 1,000 square feet of decks and balconies. We broke ground in late August of 2001 and had a party with 47 overnight guests on July 3, 2002. Before construction, I was told by Islander friends that I should add a 35 percent “cushion” to my budget in anticipation of the “Island Effect.” In my world, 35 percent is not a cushion, it is a line item, and a big one! I was on alert from day one. The actual construction may have broken all construction records on the Island. I had a secret weapon to overcome the “Island Effect:” Afishinado. She is a 40-foot beast of a boat that can run in any weather and at any time of day, and she did. I learned early on that the biggest challenge can be the smallest things. The plumber could not progress without a vent; the framers would be brought to a halt without Simpson ties; the roofer had to have bird stops; the tile guy needed spacers. I knew a loss of momentum would allow the Island Effect to overtake the project. I would fire up the Secret Weapon (Afishinado) and get to the Home Depot in Long Beach before closing time and would be back at the job site early the next day with all the parts at the ready. My subs learned to trust that they would have what they needed, and thus they kept on task. I remember a very foggy morning when I loaded aboard three cement workers and their gear on loan from a mainland contractor friend. My guests were very nervous, visibility was pretty much zero all the way across. I emerged through the mist to find Jimmy Hoffmann standing on Float 5.
“I just came down here to see if you would show up in this fog,” he said.
“I guess you were serious about pouring your pad today. Let’s do it,” he said.
If you are reading between the lines, you might notice that the “Island Effect” cuts both ways. Yes, it cost me additional time and money to make the runs to Home Depot, and that is part of the effect. However, Jimmy was at the dock and ready to go. That is the positive side of the “Island Effect.” A newcomer mentioned how expensive things are on the Island, he suggested,, “Avalon businesses and restaurants should have a local’s price.” I told him, “They do, but you will never find it on the menu. People do things for people here. Once you have proven your worth you will see how the “Island Effect” works for you.” So, here we are facing some very difficult challenges. We have the California Public Utilities Commission coming to the Island in June and July to discuss tariffs for transport and for water. We need to help these regulators see the "Island Effect." We do not fit into most of the boxes on their forms. We do need special treatment. We are unique. The “Island Effect” leaves us with more monopolies per capita than Russia, using less water per household than the Sahara, paying more for fuel than perhaps anywhere else in the world and being responsible for the water habits of 800,000 to a million people who do not live here. Thankfully, we have a giving community and some great perks. The Department of Motor Vehicles comes to us; we do not have to report for jury duty; we do not have a lawn to mow or much weeding to do; we are never really stuck in traffic; our friends own the restaurants; and Vons has given us mainland prices for most items, including water and wine. What more do we need when in paradise?
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and can be reached at 888-613-7770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.