A Question of Taste
- Part 2
few weeks ago, after an al fresco dinner at a marina on a
well known Mediterranean island, I took a brief stroll past
the assorted motor boats that were silently and statically
engaged in some sort of unspoken competition with each other
for both size and opulence. The monotony of glass fibre,
overdressed crew members and enormous plasma screen
televisions on the decks was broken only by the occasional
sailing boat, sitting almost incongruously between the vast
gleaming hulls of the latest 37 metre Sunseekers.
Why is it, I thought, at the time, that large motor boats
paint such a vulgar picture of their owners, yet sailing
boats of a similar size and cost do not? Or, to rephrase, is
there something inherently tasteless about large motor boats
that simply does not apply to sailing boats?
In pursuit of an answer to these questions, I risked the
unwanted attention of marina security and took a more
detailed look at some of the vessels. Close up, the large
motor boat resembles less a glorified floating caravan and
more a second (or maybe third, fourth or fifth) home.
Expensive looking teak furniture is watched over by original
artworks in rooms that would shame most upmarket Chelsea
apartments. But despite this, the overall impression is of
something that is trying too hard to impress; the often
tasteful minimalism of the interior design being ruined by
the presence of crew wearing ridiculous epaulette-adorned
uniforms, or lighting systems that seem to have been
borrowed from a Vegas show.
Large sailing yachts, in comparison, tend to conceal their
luxury beneath deck. That which is viewed from the outside -
the mast and spars, the decking and the controls - is
generally purely functional, even on super-yachts. And it is
this discreetness that ensures that sailing boats are not
tarred with the same poor taste brush as their motor driven
Returning to the Golden Mean rule, espoused in my previous
column, here is a clear example of how this varies in two
different circumstances. The motor boat is not essentially
vulgar - it is just that the Golden Mean for this kind of
vessel is significantly lower than for others. Because
everything is so clearly on display, simplicity and
discreetness must be overplayed in order to compensate.
Conversely, on the sailing boat, where the object itself is
fundamentally less frivolous, the need to tone down excesses
is reduced; the boats themselves can be larger and more
imposing, without their being deemed 'gin palaces'.