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Saturday, February 25, 2017

When You've Got a Lot of Lemons

Beach on Treasure Cay, north end of Great Abaco Island

Paradise!  Nope, that is not where we are, but it’s not far away.

Northern Star sustained a lightning EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) one month ago, January 23. It occurred just two days after arriving in Green Turtle Cay (pro. key) in the Abacos of the Bahamas.  Ironically, the day before, we had congratulated ourselves on getting a mooring in White Sound on Green Turtle Cay precisely so that we could be safely tucked away ahead of the big storm that was coming.  We were tucked away alright, although “safely” would prove to be the elusive adverb.  
Island of Green Turtle Cay, after the storm

A few days after the EMP, during which we discovered more and more electronics that did not work, we motored to Marsh Harbor on the island of Great Abaco to begin the recovery stage. The marine electrician that had been recommended to us met us upon our arrival.  He was efficient and very bright.  He and Carl spent the next two days crawling around every part of the boat, tracking down every piece of electronics that no longer worked.  It was becoming a very long list but by Friday afternoon, the evaluation phase was over.  He spoke to our insurance rep by phone with Carl at hand, and the plan was that he would send us the list of parts to be ordered on Monday morning.
Emptied our lazarette to make room to work
And…… that’s where things fell apart.  Our wonderful electrician vanished.  Monday came and went.  Tuesday…Wednesday.  We called.  We texted.  No responses.  He had just up and abandoned us.  No parts had been ordered.  That long list of things needed was left incomplete.  We had given him some cash as partial payment toward his work.  The receipt for that was supposed to be emailed to us along with the long parts list. Neither was received. 
Friends picked us up for a day visit to Little Harbor, southern Great Abaco

So here we sat.  Two full weeks.  Every day wondering, is this the day he’ll call or come back and we’ll get things moving again?  Vacillating, should we try to find someone else?  Options are few here in the Abacos, the northern part of the Bahamas.
Marsh Harbor, on Great Abaco Island

Frankly, we’ve been going through a very low period.  A bad patch, as it were.  What to do with ourselves while we’re waiting and wondering if we are going to spend the entire winter in Marsh Harbor.  
"Mangoes", a well known restaurant in Marsh Harbor.

My brother wisely counseled me to “make lemonade.”  Lemonade? Marsh Harbor is not the place one goes for the beautiful beaches and pristine waters of the Abacos.  Visitors come here to stock up on groceries, fix their boats and enjoy the restaurants. 
Island of Lubber's Quarters

Because of its very large natural harbor protected from all but the northwest winds, it is a place sailors go to wait out storms.  
Island of Elbow Cay

From here, they sail to less protected islands— islands, however, that vie for the title of “paradise.” Marsh Harbor is not in the running for the title.

Island of Guana Cay

 Marsh Harbor is the third largest city in the Bahamas at ~8,000 people, more than a thousand of which take the ferries to Guana Cay every morning to work.  These are the Bahamians who provide the work force for an enormous private gated community there called Baker’s Bay.  People who do not carry their own luggage own second (or third or fourth?) homes in Baker’s Bay. 

Northern Star is dwarfed by this luxury yacht at Harbor View Marina
We happen to be privy to the little parade of well-heeled folks going to Baker’s Bay via their private jets or commercial airlines because they are brought from the airport to the very marina where we are docked, Harbor View Marina.  From here, the rich (and sometimes famous) are transported in a very large, shiny speed boat which happens to dock next to Northern Star. I surreptitiously peer at the boats’ occupants to see if I recognize any movie stars.
Designed these to be shower bags

What could I do but try to sell them some of my bags?  

When I moved aboard Northern Star, I came equipped not only with my powerful SailRite machine, but also with sail materials, rope for handles, grommets, zippers, buckles, Sunbrella fabrics….you get the picture.  
My giant beach bag holds my fabric rolls

I’ve made a few bags over the past year and a half.  I made bags for our children and two of their significant others for Christmas.  I agonized over those—they had to be bags they’d really want to use.  
Small beach bag for a child with wealthy parents

But making those also gave me some practice at designing and choosing the kinds of things that are most fun to make. 

First attempt at a label

Last year, I toyed around trying to come up with a design label to sew on my bags, pillows and other projects.  I have no intention of starting a business, mind you, but I figure that nice bags always have a tag or label of some kind on them.  
getting closer to the final product

Without giving it any serious consideration, the phrase “a li’l fishy” popped into my head and since it wouldn’t leave again, that’s what the labels would have to read. It’s a phrase that lets people know I’m not taking myself too seriously.  I tried designing some labels to make by hand but they turned out too big and bulky. 
It wasn't the fish design I wanted but it works

I finally gave up and ordered some from one of those online companies. 

With that bag making history behind me, I furiously launched into bag making, even before I realized that we’d been abandoned by our electrician.  
A large, lined, canvas handbag.  Carl knotted the zipper pull.

We knew we’d be here for at least a month anyhow. I had a little rash of bag sales right at the outset.  That was due to having been “bumped” off the boat when it was all torn apart for the electrician’s explorations.  
Pool and covered patio where I set up my sewing machine

During those two days, I set up my sewing operation under a covered patio which happened to be located right by the entrance to the marina—an ideal location to attract attention. 
Pleased new owner of sailcloth bag

The first bags I made were sold before I finished them!  After I moved my operation back onto the boat, however, sales slowed down to a snail’s pace.  

Then I happened upon a strategy to display the bags to passers-by.  
Bags of all kinds and sizes.

Every morning, I hang them across the bow of the boat and from the foresails so that people can see them up a bit closer.  It’s not an ideal “kiosk” but I can’t exactly set up shop here in the Bahamas, either.  
Waterproof roll-top duffle with strap

Everybody in the marina seemed to hear immediately about the first bags that I sold.  I was a bit worried that I could get into trouble since I don’t have a work permit so I’ve told anyone who is interested that bag making is my art/hobby/therapeutic past time to help me get through the thumb twiddling weeks after the lightning. It is not a business.

Design idea for child's bag
Boat update: we did find another electrician and he did come back after the evaluation was redone.  Carl has been ordering parts all week.  When they arrive from the U.S., we will begin Stage 2 of the Recovery Phase; another one to two weeks from now, at least.  
Jax has to go below when people want to look at bags.

On average, I can make one bag per day if I am working at it. There are fifteen bags hanging on the bow so far.  
Bags are made from old sails, canvas, Sunbrella and Pfifertex.  Designs by " a li'l fishy'." That's me.
Eventually I’ll run out of materials to make bags. I hope we are out of Marsh Harbor before that happens or there will be no more lemonade.
Sunset from the stern of our boat in Marsh Harbor

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