Rich men with Big Boats are heavily burdened, a problem we common folk never have. Unlike us, they must find things to do with their Big Boats. You can’t simply take them into the bathtub, splash about with them and call it a day.
As I’ve told you, Malcolm Forbes used all of his successive boats (five of them, each bigger than the previous one) to advertise and promote his magazine, Forbes. In autumn, the Highlander was moored in New York and took CEOs up to West Point for Saturday football games. By winter, the Highlander had sailed down to Florida, where its promotional function had something to do with CEOs playing rounds of golf, although as I now type this, I can’t see what the boat had to do with golf. I mean, it didn’t have a miniature game on the deck.
Probably anyone who ever worked for Forbes has, as I do, a remnant of those promotional trips, a massive umbrella in what Malcolm determined were Forbes’ colors — the colors of money. All over the dark green fabric (dollar bills) are teeny word strings in yellow (gold coins), reading CAPITALIST TOOL, Malcolm’s chosen epithet for his company.
Very Malcolm, clever, brazen and self-mocking.
Later, when he had his boat designer refurbish a Boeing 727 into a private jet, the colors of the plane were green and gold. In fact, the 727 was called The Capitalist Tool. It said so, right on its fuselage. The Tool took a bunch of people including me and my friend Peg to Fiji, where we met a baby version of the 727, a prop plane which flew us to Malcolm’s private island, Laucala. The baby was called The Capitalist Tool Two (or Too, or II), but I like Peg’s name for it better: The Toolette.
Here’s The Toolette on Laucala:
Back to the serious problem of what to do with a Big Boat sitting in a marina and staffed by a large crew and captain. I mean, you gotta do something with that thing besides having your staff polish the brass 24/7.
But Malcolm was inventive, and I was a participant in his witty egotism.
We are summoned to wave Malcolm off
Malcolm traveled a lot and not always on his private vehicles. The day he was to sail off to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by one of the young men whom Malcolm selected to join him on his travels, we — his immediate office staff — were appointed to see the launch.
But not from the QEII pier, oh no. Nothing so plebeian for Malcolm Forbes. To the openly expressed uneasiness of the Highlander’s Cap’n Alex, a small bunch of us privileged serfs were driven over to board the Highlander for our latest peripheral assignment: publicly ramping up the ego of one rich man.
How? The plan, as laid down by Malcolm to Cap’n Alex, was that we were to sail down the Hudson to the QEII’s pier in the West 40s (while being served drinks and nibbles) where we were to spot Malcolm and his plus-one who’d be out on a deck and then we’d…do something.
Cap’n Alex was teutonically precise. The reason for his outspoken irritation became apparent when the Highlander turned its nose toward the empty berth next to the QEII. Alex wanted to hover in the Hudson, out of the empty berth, but his and our boss, Malcolm Forbes, wanted us to sail into the berth so that we were more or less parallel to him on the QEII.
Where was he? Way way way up high, a small yet recognizable figure posed on a private deck at the top of the QEII. As pointless as it may seem to state this, the QEII was enormous, thousands of feet long, thousands of feet high, while the Big Boat Highlander was a dinghy in comparison.
And Malcolm was waving Alex to move farther into the berth.
Oh Alex was so unhappy. Any untoward movement of the QEII — untoward being, like, backing out of the pier and turning straight into the Hudson, nose (or whatever that forward thing is called) pointed at the open Atlantic — could swamp us.
Yet Alex did edge us further in while managing to keep our hull as far away from the QEII’s hull as possible, without actually ramming into the left side of the pier.
Malcolm waved, we waved back, smiling, murmuring and muttering.
Then the QEII decided to go. I think it was only one tug that pulled it backward. (I’m assuming huge boats, like planes, do not have reverse gears.) So out, ass first, went the Gargantua of the Sea and so did wee us. Alex had managed to turn us around.
The QEII was tugged into the middle of the Hudson and shifted to its Atlantic-Ho! position. Alex positioned us parallel to the QEII, although not too near. And then the majestic ship began to move forward. Malcolm gestured. And we, too, moved forward.
For a minute or so, the two boats traveled alongside each other at an equal speed. And then — it was impossible not to believe the QEII didn’t squint down at us and say, “Who the fuck is that?” — the real Big Boat went into hyperspeed and zoomed away from us so quickly it did seem like a special effect in Star Wars.
Big sigh of relief. Alex turned the Highlander north. We had a few more drinks as we sailed back home.