I was sitting in a dentist’s waiting room in Kingsbridge when my eye fell upon a motor boat magazine. It was glossy and full of wonderful pics of motor boats with their shiny chrome and glistening varnish and white leather seats and cocktail cabinets and king-size beds. Each and every one of these dream boats cost as much as a house and some as much as several houses.
Every one seemed to be able to go as fast as a car, making a deep trail of wash across a clear blue sea. It was then that l started to wonder. As I know from my electric outboard, the power you need to drive a boat increases in proportion to the cube of the speed. So if you want to double your speed, you need eight times as much power; if you want to triple your speed, you need 27 times the power, and so on. Whilst the multiplier may not be quite as large if the boat can plane, that is scarcely the point.
For the unavoidable reality is that these lovely boats need hugely powerful engines and therefore drink prodigious quantities of fuel. So much fuel, indeed, that it “is beyond absurd”, in the memorable words of Greta Thunburg. This raised in me two alarming questions: the first is: now that we look to be at or near a “climate emergency”, what view should we take of this kind of use of climate-damaging resources? We have always known that the more money people have, the higher their carbon footprint and that many of the super-rich have a super-high carbon footprint. These are the people who own a huge share of the world’s resources: will they, by the same token, be contributing disproportionately highly to “climate extinction”?
The second point is this: what is the future for the industry which produces these lovely boats? The skilled craftspeople whose jobs depend on it have devoted their lives to maintaining a respected tradition of boatbuilding; but for how long can this carry on unchanged? (I should add that I did see one firm offering electric power as an option but I am not sure this would cut the mustard).
Please don’t think that I can answer these questions. My (increasingly frantic) musings were brought to an abrupt end by the receptionist announcing that the dentist was ready to see me as she ushered me in to have my teeth sharpened.