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Nov 27, 2023

Whose Island Is It, Anyway?

“Casualty Friday” is now a daily occurrence

By Ed Goldman

Apparently not satisfied with causing COVID outbreaks only at sea, cruise lines are now buying private islands. 

“Norwegian, Carnival, Disney and others snap up secluded spots in the Bahamas and Caribbean,” according to the Wall Street Journal, my go-to source for all things maritime.

Edgy Cartoon

Donne and done

“Industry analysts say major cruise lines have spent tens of millions of dollars to snap up and beach-ify island properties in the Caribbean and beyond,” the Journal reports.

I’m not sure why anyone would need to “beach-ify” an island in the middle of an ocean—it already has (or is) a beach, no? But I imagine it means making the strand more tourist-familiar, maybe by adding grass-hut saloons (with tiki torches at night), gift shops featuring the world’s ugliest shirts, less-than-authentic hula dancers (who got hired away from Hooters), electric-ukulele players who can cover songs from such late greats as Don Ho, Jimmy Buffet and Jerry Garcia, and boar roasts that always prove festive for everyone except the boar.). 

Well, why shouldn’t businesses buy islands? Individuals have been purchasing their own islands for decades, including such celebrities as recording artists Shakira and Beyonce, film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp, and world-domination aspirant Dr. No. 

I imagine having your own island could complicate your life. Instead of worrying about plumbing leaks, as all homeowners do, you’d have to consider buying insurance policies for such oceanic risks as tsunamis, home invasions by pirates and the occasional Jehovah’s Witness wearing SCUBA gear. 

You’d worry about playing fetch with your dog, who may prefer biting the surf to munching on your pathetic Spaulding and never come back. Meanwhile, letting your cat out at night without water wings would be perfectly safe. (Contrary to myth, cats can actually swim. They just hate hate hate the water. As a result, if they fall into the ocean they’ll blame you for the rest of their nine lives.)

If you like solitude, of course, owning your own island could be a godsend since your nearest neighbor might be 60 miles away or more. On the other hand, so might your nearest medical clinic, dry cleaners and Starbucks.

If you decided to employ a gardener, you may need to reimburse him for travel. Since this would be in nautical miles—each one of which is equal to 1.151 freeway miles—some savings might actually accrue. But this applies only if you pay your gardener mileage in the first place, which you know damn well you don’t and never would.

Other thoughts of having your own island:

  •  You can rewrite John Donne’s famous lines “No man is an island/No man stands alone” as “I own my own island/Just leave me alone.”
  • You can rewrite Paul Simon’s famous lyric, “I am a rock/I am an island” as a singles bar pickup line: “I’m into rock/And own an island.”
  • You won’t have to get up early to get the best tanning spot on the beach.
  • You can try to start your own desalinization plant when your shipment of Arrowhead Spring Water is delayed by the arrival of a monsoon or the kraken.
  • If you want to make your own saltwater taffy all you’ll need is taffy.
  • When you start getting fed up with the monotony of the view you can qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records as the only person who ever got seasick on shore.
Looking for a Great Gift?
  • You can start a mail-order used-shoe business called Island of Lost Soles.

I always thought having my own island could be cool. I’d want to ensure it had zero viable crops or resources to harvest or market, no tourism and no other people. I’d call it Nothing Atoll.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).