I’ve arrived at Cowes Week a few days early and for good reason. To begin, it’s near-impossible to gauge exactly when a boat will arrive, especially when coming from halfway around the world, and unfortunately there’s always last-minute work that crops up for a dedicated environmentalist like me. But I’m determined to enjoy the week and refuse to be pulled away for any crisis. That should be easily managed as my client has brought four of his own boats here for the various races and at least he won’t be pulling me in another direction.
Last year at this time, we had the dementia-inducing problem of getting his new mega-yacht to the sea from her up-river building yard in The Netherlands. Clearly an undertaking of this scale had to be built at a facility well inland, where nothing like this had ever been done or even attempted. So getting it launched required the rig be installed last, in a downstream wharf with clear access to open water and one slight reconfiguration of an already very broad bridge. Believe me the press could not get enough and the world’s ‘biggest and the bestest’ also became a masterpiece of publicity management.
Today the only thing I plan to navigate are the finger sandwiches and scones of a Mirabeau G&Tea. Even the faint pink bottle is exquisite, and just now it was hard not to believe God didn’t create this afternoon garden just for me. Very near I heard a faint buzz-buzz of what turned out not to be a pollinating bee… but the phone tucked into my bronze Fendi peekaboo bag.
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
BOO! It was a text from the great yachtsman himself asking if I could arrange security as climate activists had just vandalised a Walmart heiress’s yacht. ‘Impossible!’ I texted back. ‘You’re safe… we are the saviours of the planet!’ But the man my father calls ‘The Green Baron’ rang me anyway and so I picked up.
‘Impossible??’ he roared. ‘SHE provides $2.1 million jobs for people and they obviously don’t give a monkey’s…’
‘OKAY I HEAR YOU!’ I said, interrupting. ‘I’ll do something’.
UGH! This was becoming a problem. Extremists were hijacking our green movement and making us all look bad. It didn’t help that Greta had avoided jail despite being found guilty of disobeying police after blocking an oil depot just last month. I’d really hoped that finally she was going to get the spanking she deserved, but just now I was going to have to discuss security and yacht graffiti.
‘Okay but these were kids…’ I moaned.
‘THEY ARE CRIMINALS!’ he continued, his mouth so close to the phone I couldn’t make out the rest of what he was saying. I didn’t have a response. The last thing I wanted to do was tell him that half of our movement had been co-opted by crazies, lest he decide he’s not all that green to begin with and pull my bankroll.I hoped he couldn’t somehow hear the ice melting in the background and so I listened, quietly and waited for him to be done. ‘What about lobsters?’ he asked, catching me off-guard.
What the hell??
‘Find out where they’ve gone’, he said. ‘I need about a hundred’.
I wasn’t in the business of getting lobsters, but then he hadn’t asked me to get him any— just to find out where they’d gone. I hadn’t a clue. I googled ‘missing lobsters’ but nothing came up. I scrolled updates on my phone and found Michael Jordan was coming to Cowes this year. He’d been in France on his yacht since the $3 billion sale of his Hornets basketball team so of course it made sense for him to pop over to Cowes. I’d met him once and he’d been very kind. Not an environmentalist like the rest of us, but he’d wanted to be a weatherman when he was a kid, and we’d talked climate from his angle. Hmm…he had restaurants—surely he’d know about lobsters.
Something a bit more crustacean...
I sent out a few texts before I sourced his phone number and then sent him a text with my picture to remind him who I was. ‘Horsey-girl’ is what he’d called me when we met. We’d joked about combining polo with basketball for a new Olympic sport and then laughed that it couldn’t be worse than curling.
Forty minutes later he texted that he wasn’t aware of any problems getting lobsters and did I need some… Did I need some? Heck if I knew. I finished my tea and headed to my room where I could research on my computer. I googled everything that might show global warming was to blame. Surely it had to be. Especially if I wanted to keep my job! But it was looking to be anything but climate. Worse yet, it was looking as though it was all our fault.
- People were eating more shellfish since we started pushing people to eat less meat. (Ugh! our doing).
- Lobster had been ‘red listed’ because the nets and pots were thought to be a threat to one species of whale. (Us again).
- Covid lockdowns had banned fishing, and fishing village sales, and put many small-scale fishers out of business. (Us)
- Current Canadian fires (arguably us) were keeping fishermen from fishing in the smoke. And...
- Brexit had imposed stringent environmental regulations on what could now be caught and sold. (Definitely us).
I wasn’t going back to him with this. One last Google search turned up that lobsters are cold-water crustaceans and that warm water causes them to go into colder depths. OK, mission solved. Whew! I could blame warmer water. My phone rang again but it was a production crew member who couldn’t find the green baron for his scheduled interview.
‘Has he fled because of what happened to the Walton Yacht?’ A voice barked on the phone. ‘Are you behind the airport runway disruption?’ she continued.
How do they expect us to save the planet?
‘OH MY GOD!’ I shrieked and found myself the subject of the interview. I quickly began talking about the now-defunct ‘Cowes Week Ladies Day’ which saw women as only spectators and not participants but she pummelled me with the negative impacts of yachting… carbon emissions, water contamination, marine pollution … this was not going well.
‘We’re the good guys!’ I exclaimed over her claim that they’d analysed the carbon footprint of twenty billionaires and concluded that owning a superyacht was the worst possible asset to have.
I felt that dementia-inducing headache return. There was no pleasing these people. If they weren’t tracking our flights they were trying to stop us from traversing the seas, and yes, a security presence was going to have to happen...