fourth richest man in the world

Paul Allen’s yacht was in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, so on an impulse he offered to have it steam up to San Francisco so he could throw a cocktail party for Jeremy’s company on Thursday. We were instructed to dress up a little, but wear flat shoes.

“You be Randolph Hearst and I’ll be Marion Davies,” I said.

“It’s The Cat’s Meow,” said Jeremy.

At the gate of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Gina offered to send us up to the yacht in a golf cart. “It’s a fair walk,” she said. It was about two hundred metres. Lesson one about the rich; they’re lazier even than I am.

At the gangplank we were given bunny-slippers to go over our shoes, to protect the teak decks. And so trippingly up onto Tatoosh, which is about the size of the Manly Ferry. The ship herself is a stunner, sleek-ass lines and beautiful open decks like verandahs at the rear and a helipad for the jetcopter and a bridge that makes you itch to take the big chair and intone: “Make it so.” All the frou-frou decoration, meh, not so much, although there was a quite handsome Pollock over the fire.

The staff were lovely, all Australians and New Zealanders and one big red-headed ex-British Army officer who’d only been on board for two weeks, and who showed us around the immaculate engine room with frank glee. I talked to him a little later and discovered that his last gig was building schools in Kosovo. He told us about a little girl who had offered to sell him her baby sister, and had to stop the story because he was choking up.

Gallons of champagne and vast trays of beluga caviar later, the rich dude himself upped Fender Strat and gigged mightily for us (he’s a huge Hendrix fan). So what’s he like? Well, imagine if Stephen Fry and Linus Torvalds had a love-child who dreamed of playing in the band Wyld Stallyns from Bill & Ted. It was kind of endearing, in a way.

Tatoosh is his old yacht; he’s having a new one built, the size of a frigate, which will have its own submersible. One of Jeremy’s coworkers offered to take Tatoosh off his hands, and Mr Allen said: “You’re welcome, but the maintenance’d kill you.”

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