June 17, 2014
“Summertime, and the livin” is easy,” as the song tells us. Or it used to be, as my father complained when confronted on his boat by the “vacances payÃ©es,” the socialist French system that ensured all working people could invade the south of France for a month and still collect their salaries. Old Dad was a very fair employer”he owned textile factories and tankers”but he liked his Riviera beaches empty so he could swim off his boat with various friends and picnic undisturbed. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the rich, they were enough to drive old Dad to drink and put on weight. He died of a heart attack at 80.
Unlike my father, who at times employed as many as 10,000 people”5000 in the Sudan alone”I”m always taking the side of the workers when they dispute the bosses, except during summertime. There is nothing like waking up in one’s house and walking down to its tiny beach to find a large group of hairy men and women eyeing one as the capitalist oppressor while filling the sand with garbage and covering it with oil. Here’s the problem. The EU law says that there are no private beaches anywhere in the Med, yet in Greece all restrictions on the use of beaches and the seafront have been removed. I.e., refreshment stands, hotels, and restaurants can be built right on the water’s edge. Worse, landfills may now be extended, so even the natural shorelines will soon disappear as greedy developers build private nightclubs right on the water, depriving poor Greeks of the right to even get out of the sea.
Let’s take it from the top: It is typically a European conundrum. The EU law says one thing, but turns a blind eye when private individuals and enterprises do another. Mind you, in the good old U.S. of A., it isn”t much better. Florida boasts of its miles and miles of beaches, not to mention California, beaches available to all and sundry. Yet there are property owners on Florida and California beaches who claim them as private and have the fuzz remove the great unwashed who stage occasional sit-ins. For example, Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach is a private one for very nouveaux riches vulgarians, and its private beach will not allow anyone to cross it or use it. It also abuts the veddy, veddy private beach of the Bath & Tennis Club, a WASP haven for those with impeccable credentials who have been sunning themselves there for almost a century.
As a young man I used to go to the B&T, as insiders call it, and I remember nonmembers respecting the sign that read Private, and turning around. Some more independent souls just jumped in and swam around the private beach, then resumed their walk on the sand. In Southampton, Long Island, everything is private and nothing is as far as the beaches are concerned. It is a gray area that depends on the good manners of both the owner of the house on the beach and the tourist. It works most of the time, the tourists keeping close to the water and not coming right up to the private house and picnicking a yard away. But this is America, where class warfare has never caught on and private lands are respected. It can play funny tricks, though. Like, say, a member of the Bath & Tennis Club walking toward the club on the beach would be trespassing when crossing the Estee Lauder House because its surrounding walls and property totally block the way and go into the water. On the other hand, the Lauders are not welcome to the B&T because of their religion.
In Europe, of course, I can anchor my boat off any hotel or private house, but am not welcome when I swim ashore. I have tested the system and it works. Unless one is staying at the hotel, all establishments turn back the swimmers that come onshore off yachts, however rich or poor they are. The law of the sea means nothing. Better yet, try to swim ashore on a private villa’s beach”they”re now mostly owned by Russian crooks”and you”re taking your life in your hands, as the heavies they employ to keep hoi polloi off their properties are far more inclined to actually shoot than shoo people back into the sea.
The Greeks, needless to say, have gone one better. They are building permanent structures for private profit and to hell with vacationers. The rights of access come in second best where private profit is concerned.
What is to be done? That’s an easy one. Get yourself a boat with a short line anchor and drop the latter right in front of the ritziest house on the beach. Play very loud music and smoke a lot. Sooner or later someone will come and offer you money to leave. Better yet, if you can afford it, buy a big boat and never go anywhere near the crappy people who now own the grandest houses on the Riviera or Southampton or Palm Beach. Living away from such individuals is the best revenge. Yippee!