We don’t really rely on the barge but it makes life so much easier and we like the guys who crew the boat. They are coming with a load of lumber and our semi-annual fuel delivery today or tomorrow. Which is good. We want to get back to the ‘shop’ construction and, of course, we want to continue our pampered, lush, exceptionally satisfying way of life without having to work too hard to get it. The barge helps us do that.
The barge is huge. A bit over 100 feet long, maybe 35-40 feet wide and it sports a hy-ab lifting arm that can drop a ton (literally) of stuff with each lift. That is important because the company charges by the lift. It costs about $160 a lift but I have concluded that carrying and schlepping 2000 pounds of lumber (factoring in gas and ferry and not just a little blood and sweat spread over several trips) is well worth that sum. And schlepping gas and propane is some kind of enclosed-in-the-car hell that I gladly pay to have done by the barge. In other words, I think the barge is a great deal.
They don’t make any money off of us or any of the local residents. Not really. We are break-even at best. Our average purchase twice (maybe three times) a year is about $12-1500 but most of that sum goes to the fuel companies. Amongst residents, we are a medium-to-large delivery. They do a lot of smaller-earning deliveries. It takes them about half an hour once we are ‘in their sights’ to dock, unload and head off again. They have three crew and the boat would cost at least $5M to build if it was replaced. Any kind of simple business math says ‘there is no profit in servicing residents’. The barge makes a ‘go’ of it servicing the camps, resorts and fish farms along the coast. We benefit simply by being ‘on the way’ to somewhere else.
By way of explanation: some of the more industrial customers go through $100,000 worth of fuel every month!
And we get the same considerate and prompt service as they do. The crew doesn’t even really need us to be there when they come. But we like to see them. They know where everything is, how to get at it and what to deliver. We mostly just stand around getting in their way. But part of that hour spent is cracking a few jokes, catching up on any new neighbours arriving and learning about how busy the season has been for each other.
But the service is now threatened. For all of us.
It is hard to argue with the threat. We want the coast to be as pristine and unpolluted as possible. That is why we are here, after all. But in order to achieve that, the government has mandated that all such commercial ships be double-hulled. They want to reduce the risk of oil spills. And a barge full of fuel is a risk. No question. But to double-hull the barge will cost millions and the current customer base simply couldn’t shoulder the cost which the barge compnany would have to pass on. Plus, they have been plying the same waters serving the same customers for decades. They are the least likely of ships to hit something and be holed.
Makes no difference. They will be forced to comply. Probably. Or go out of business. More probably.
The net effect of this ‘better eco’ standard (again: which I find hard to disagree with) is that the service will be less affordable or withdrawn altogether. And that will impact those who live here greatly.
The overall effect will be to further ‘push’ people from a rural environment into an urban one. And one more indirect, subtle force will be levied that results in conformity and controlled living as determined by government. We can’t have the barge but we can get on transit. And we can no longer walk in the forest but we can go from one little box to another. Working for the system that put us there.
“Dave, surely you don’t think there is a plot afoot to drive people to urban living?”
No, I don’t. Not really. Not a conscious one, anyway. But there are decisions being made constantly by Big Brother and the Holding companies that have that effect. The desire to make things cheaper, to make people conform, to limit freedoms and to concentrate services has the effect of pushing people into concentrations and we call those concentrations cities.
I suppose we could call them camps but concentration camps has a bad connotation.
As for me, I will resist. I will pay the barge more if they continue their service or I will resign myself to doing the hard work and heavy lifting in a fuel-smelling confined space (the car) if I have to. It is still worth it. I will never return to the concentrations.