Why I long for my old boat

Boats are a lot of trouble. But there's always something romantic about owning one.


Boats are a lot of trouble

The Axioma is a £50m superyacht that spends the winter months in the Caribbean and the summer ones in the Mediterranean. If you want to rent her for a week it'll set you back £420,000 not including fuel (another £15,000-odd), or food and drink (another £40,000 at least, possibly much more, depending how much Cristal champagne you pre-order). Then there are the tips: have at least another £10,000 spare.

Tom Rawstorne has just spent a week on the Axioma. It was luxury all the way, he says in the Daily Mail. There are 22 crew and staff, including the captain, though they're very discreet. "Staff pop out of nowhere offering towels, drinks, sun cream or whatever you need before you even realise you need it." Most of the time, they're invisible, using their own network of staircases and corridors.

They are wired up with earpieces and walkie-talkies, telling each other what guests are up to. Most of the crew are "young and gorgeous" as if "plucked from a Ralph Lauren advert" and well paid, too: the lowliest member of the crew gets £2,300 a month, while an experienced captain can earn up to £20,000 a month.

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If you want an "old-fashioned British brekkie", you can have it and many guests do. The chef, Stephen Paskins, "who's on call 24/7", says fry-ups are also popular in the middle of the night, as are burgers. Main meals are more sophisticated you can have what you like and all sorts of things are flown in, from Beluga caviar to Japanese Wagyu beef. "We dined on red snapper, prawn, quails and steak," says Rawstorne.

It's a world away from the ups and downs of "Captain Calamity" back here in Britain. Captain Calamity is what the tabloids have christened Steve Shapiro, 71, a Californian widower who has had a series of mishaps at sea and is now in Cornwall. Shapiro and his friend, Bob, bought an old wooden boat called Nora and, last July, set sail from the Norwegian port of Floro, bound for the US. Yet so far they have only got as far as Hayle, a distance, as Quentin Letts says in the Daily Mail, "some sailors might have covered in a fortnight".

The journey so far has included "various prangs and engine failures". Then, last week, the fire brigade was called when the 19-ton, gaff-rigged Nora was tied to a harbour wall. While her crew was ashore, she was blown on to her side and a smouldering candle in Bob's cabin set alight a pile of clothes. Now the two sailors have been advised to end their adventure and there is a possibility that Steve's insurers may revoke his cover. He's undeterred, though. "Would I prefer to spend my days trying to catch the eye of the prettiest nurse in the nursing home? Hell, no."

I see his point. Not long ago, I sold my own boat in Cornwall. I miss it a lot. Boats are trouble, and at least some of Steve's mishaps can be put down to bad luck. But there is something romantic about his quest, though I doubt the life he leads on the Nora would appeal much to the owners of the Axioma.

Tabloid money: the stench that clings to George Osborne

David Cameron is thinking of sending his son to a top prep school, says The Mail on Sunday. He and his wife have discussed obtaining a place for Elwen, who turns ten next month, at £18,000-a-year Colet Court, which is part of St Paul's School in Barnes, southwest London. The decision to contemplate sending Elwen to a private school is "intriguing as they chose a state secondary school Grey Coat Hospital in Westminster for [daughter] Nancy".

"Google's derisory tax deal recalls the row over F1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone's hefty donation to Labour before they lifted a ban on his lucrative racetrack tobacco advertisements," says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. "That scandal, early in his premiership, would have destroyed Tony Blair if the Tories had not been so unpopular.

In the same way, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn can't lay a glove on the government today, no matter how much this shabby deal stinks. But Blair was indelibly stained by the Ecclestone affair and never quite trusted again. A similar stench clings to Chancellor George Osborne. His only hope of removing it is to clean up the way firms pay their taxes and making it fair to one and all."

"Good on Esther Rantzen!" says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "When a bunch of celebrities Helen Mirren, Michael Parkinson, Lord Bragg told the over-75s to give up their free TV licence and send the money to the BBC, Esther rightly said b*llocks to that. I don't mind donating the equivalent of a TV licence fee to good causes like Cancer Research or ChildLine,' she stormed. But is the BBC saving anyone's life?' Quite. The BBC already gets enough of our money and, for hard-up pensioners, many of whom have to live on a measly £120 a week, not having to pay £145 for a TV licence is a huge help."