Tonight we hung a light off our stern. We wanted to look like one of the big power yachts nearby. We call the biggest of them ‘Fornicatoriums.’ Based on the Lord Power Boat Classification System, there are four types of power boats:
- Stink Pot – any kind of small powered vessel.
- Cigar Boat – larger and designed purely for speed and show. Originally, “cigarette” or go-fast boats were about the speedy running of rum from someplace else to the United States during prohibition. More recently, any kind of contraband will do. These boats are at their most amusing when something breaks and the ruffians driving them are marooned at sea.
- Gin Palace – bigger than cigar boats, these find their origins in the prohibition era when larger boats would sail outside the three mile exclusion zone, and US laws, for a full on, rat-faced, let’s-get-drunk-for-the-sake-of-it outing.
- Fornicatorium – the kind of money that incites a man or woman to go ‘all Harvey’, and also buy a boat. Because, when you have the money, you can buy anything.
Life on a Fornacatorium is pretty good. For around $150,000 a week you too can hire a boat that will sleep 11, with a crew of nine to look after every whim. You can move from cay to cay and anchor where you wish, just like Aleta. For the price of a small house you also get a waterslide, trips abroad on the tender, and unlimited use of the jet skis, the snowmobiles of the seas. As sailors we find jet skis as appetizing as a cigar smoker in a sushi bar. Worse, they’re about as dangerous as a poorly prepared fugu, so we keep a careful watch while snorkeling. It’s a very different approach to enjoying the Bahamas. Ours is a slower, more minimalist style. We have the time. Apparently, the denizens of the Fornicatoria don’t.
Most Fornicatoriums have brilliant white or cobalt blue stern lights illuminating the water behind the boat. It’s a bit like the custom hot-rods in South LA with their neon blue lit undercarriages. All these yachts need is to play La Cucaracha and jump up and down a bit.
Our aspirational attempt at matching all this money and size is a dive light bright enough to cast a refractory circle all the way around Aleta. It makes us look rich beyond our means, plus it attracts the fish. Little tetras, baby yellowfin, small rays and even a good-sized nurse shark have shown up. At least we thought it was a nurse shark, might have been a black tip reef shark, they’re also pretty common around here.
Anchored wherever we are, we get a fisheye view of the neighborhood. According to the locals, we’re hanging out right next to a bunch of rich folks, and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it! Property rights in the Bahamas end at low tide. Sure, if you’re the Aga Khan you can hire a private security force to patrol your personal beach, intimidate the prols, and generally make things challenging, but there’s still nothing you can do to stop the cruisers from enjoying a little slice of your paradise.
You see, out here in the Exumas there’s lots of privately held islands. Whole pieces of land surrounded by water that belong to an individual or family. Johnny Depp has one. He flies a pirate flag when he’s in residence. The Aga Khan has a nice one, with a private army and custom lagoon that’s only accessible with the right password and properly attired mega-yacht. The very rich fly to and from their islands in their airplanes, never having to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, or wait for taxis at an airport, or engage in any social way with anyone who’s the slightest bit ‘non-U’. The result is, given that you’re stuck in your compound having been transported there under the watchful gaze of armed guards, it seems very much like a prison. Not that I’m judging.
Perhaps that’s what unlimited wealth buys you: a deep sense of paranoia and a chokey of your own making. There’s only a couple of places I know of around the world that let ‘stars’ roam freely. London is one. It’s a town where the well known are so thick on the ground that it’s commonplace to the point of tediousness. New York is another, for many of the same reasons. And, then, well, there’s Paris. A city that defined the phrase “Gallic insouciance.” And we’ll always have Paris, right? In the rest of the world the wealthy cower in their gated communities trying to lock out the rest of society while also telling it what to do. (I conjecture. Frankly, it’s been years since I was behind a community gate.)
It hasn’t escaped me that we’re on a boat in our own little bubble – our mobile slice of heaven. Is there parallelism? Perhaps. We’re happy to receive visitors, especially if they know how to service diesel engines. But we like to think that there’s nothing but goodwill and camaraderie on offer on Aleta.