The 5,000 HP Thrill Myth

The Skipper and I have been enjoying a couple of days off from work. Our owners (and I know we sound like faithful Labradors here) have left us on our own for a week. Repairs completed, all chores done, boat washed down, chrome polished and the laundry lists completed and dispatched, we are free to discover a little of Turkey, so we have joined friends from England for a few days of coastal sailing on their Beneteau 45’ yacht.

It is so good to be sailing again. The tranquility and peace of cutting quietly through the water under sail bears no comparison to our recent noisy trips, rattling and bouncing along at 25 knots in a power boat.

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Now, I know I’m a sailor at heart and so I may not be the best person to extol the probable joys of luxury powerboating. But frankly – compared to sailing – powerboating is just boring. Or at any rate, getting around by powerboat is boring.

At first, I thought it would be at least glamorous.

All that sunbathing on the plush designer covered cushions on the foredeck; serving ice-cold champagne on the aft deck maybe, whilst jetting between one exclusive marina to the next, or dropping anchor in a fashionable anchorage. Trips to the shore in the tender for gourmet meals in expensive restaurants. Twinkling candlelit dinners under the stars at tables set on decking with the sea lapping at the sand along the shore; beautiful women with perfect skin being charmed by wealthy powerful men and gifts of sparkly diamonds…

You might have thought that too. But let me tell you: it’s not like that at all.

Oh yes, the exclusive marinas are there. With their designer over-priced goods and designer interior bars and exclusive fashion franchises for designer clothes at fancy prices. The very well-off can linger under the bougainvillea of an open air trellis-roofed bar with smoochy French music playing in the background, like the soundtrack of a soft-porn film that is pushing its luck in a claim to be Art. The young rich can go clubbing in exclusive nightclubs. (The price of a couple of bottles of champagne in one of these places is the equivalent of a month’s wages for the average European rural worker.)

The thing is, you’ve got to arrive at these places – by boat. And this is where a powerboat stops being a glamorous experience.

Ah, but, you say: didn’t you mention sunbathing on the foredeck – and surely there is the glamour of champagne on ice and canapés served while the owners and guests relax on deck and the boat powers across the waves…? Well, it’s true that the champagne is generally there. Or at least on standby. The icemaker is primed to deliver as many crystal-clear rocks as you’d like, the Dom Perignon is in the chiller, the champagne flutes wedged next to the bottle with bubble wrap and scrunched balls of kitchen roll to protect them from the ups and downs of wind and waves while we bounce along.

The trouble is serving it. And drinking it. At 25 knots over even a slightly bumpy sea, the champagne is more likely to land in the guests’ laps than on their lips. Always providing the delicate flutes don’t hit the deck before the slopped champagne does.

There have been some die-hards recently though. I was sent out on deck by the skipper on a recent trip to persuade a guest to come back into the relative protection of the saloon where the rest of the guests were wedged into the sofas, shuffling gingerly on their bottoms along the slippery white leather, and nestling under mohair blankets in the 14 degrees of air conditioning. During the current temperatures of 40 degree plus outside I have the utmost respect and affection for the cheery rotund guest of a certain age, who with waves pouring over the aft deck and into the cockpit where he was lounging in a pair of bathing shorts, getting a regular soaking from ice-cold water, held up the glass he had protected from shattering and joyously requested “more champagne, my dear”.

I like to at least try to oblige so I opened the 4 foot long chiller lid on a downward wave and plunged in for a bottle, letting everything fall back on the return swell. I did a sailor’s quick-step over to him and tried prodding him with the champagne bottle, carrot like, to persuade him back in to the saloon. He was having none of it, took the bottle from me and and beamed all the way back to our berth with bubbles spilling onto his chest and his comb-over flying gloriously in the wind.

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