June 29, 2012

ONBOARD S/Y BUSHIDO OFF CORSICA—For the last three days I’ve been watching people 110 years old prancing around bareheaded under a sun so fierce that no Taliban warrior would emerge from under his camel to face it. I tried to speak to the captain of one of these mega-ships, but he mistook me for a reporter and looked nervous until I pointed toward Bushido and told him I was the owner. He 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 onboard can dance to their heart’s delight even if there is a storm raging that’s a 10 on the Beaufort scale. The captain is obviously a loyal employee because to my gimlet eye, these tubs look like death traps if they ever roll over.

“They have liver spots, warts, potbellies, varicose veins, bad dye jobs, and they creak when they walk. Many have walking sticks. Some even jog in place.”

“Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one’s own country,” wrote the elegant American academic Anatole Broyard. He added, “To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live.” Mind you, travel nowadays does not comprise adultery because people never arrive at any new place. Those really big white tourist ships that look like horizontal apartment houses provide all the comforts of home to leisure-suited, blue-rinsed folk with fluorescent sunglasses that sometimes even venture out of 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 in place. These mega-ships 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 from sunstroke.

I sailed from the crowded Côte 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 Pugs Club’s annual regatta, although defending champion Bob Miller could not compete due to a bad back. Then the commodore’s boat caught 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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