Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Article excerpt

On Board S/Y Bushido, off Corsica For the past three days I've been watching people aged 110 years old prancing around bareheaded under a sun so fierce no Taleban warrior would ever emerge from under his camel. I tried to speak to the captain of one of these megaships, but he mistook me for a reporter and looked quite nervous until I pointed towards Bushido and told him I was the owner. He looked a bit less nervous but remained suspicious as I had no bling on me and my clothes were not Dolce & Gabbana. He told me that these 'ships' are so perfect that they no longer pitch or roll in heavy seas, and the folk on board can dance to their heart's delight even if there is a 10 Beaufort storm raging. The captain is obviously a loyal employee because, to my gimlet eye, these tubs look as though they would be death traps were they ever to roll over.

'Travel is like adultery, one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one's own country, ' wrote the elegant American academic Anatole Broyard. And for good measure he added, 'To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live.'

Mind you, travel nowadays does not constitute adultery because people never arrive at any new place. They have all the cities they want in a package tour they need never open.

Those really big white tourist ships that look like horizontal apartment blocks provide all the comforts of home to leisure-suited, blue-rinsed folk with fluorescent sunglasses who sometimes even venture out from the ships to shop. They are nice folk, Germans, Americans, Brits, Japanese and South Americans.

They have liver spots, warts, potbellies, varicose veins, bad dye jobs, and they creak when they walk. Many have walking sticks, some even jog on the spot. These megaships disgorge their cargo at times when only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, yet very few of those brave souls ever collapse with sunstroke.

I sailed from the crowded Cote d'Azur and its polluted waters through the Gulf de Lyon to Corsica, rolling as we've never rolled before. Commodore Hoare had ordered all boats to Porto-Vecchio for the Pug's club annual regatta, although the defending champion, Bob Miller, could not compete because of a bad back. Then the commodore's boat suffered an electrical fire on her way from Spain, and suddenly it looked as if Bushido would finally emerge a winner. But it's all up in the air, literally. Tiger Lily, Roger Taylor's swift schooner, is leading me on the upwind leg by her bowsprit as I write, but if I can ever finish this damn column I will relieve the commodore and start a tacking duel that will confuse and discombobulate the Queen drummer and lead me to my first victory in five tries. …

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