In my debut novel “Water Music,” the four gay athletes at its core explore their relationships during a vacation on Mykonos, the home of tennis player Alex Vyranos.
Alex is the son of a man who has made a fortune working for an Onassis-style shipping tycoon. At one point, Spyros Vyranos lends his son a company yacht, the Semiramide, to pilot his three friends to the neighboring isle of Delos, birthplace of Apollo. Spyros has warned Alex that the Semiramide is not a toy. He doesn’t want him drinking and sailing. He doesn’t want the four winding up on TMZ.
Of course not, papa, Alex remembers telling him as he takes a swig of Dom Perignon at the wheel of the Semiramide, feeling all the power, freedom and escape that a yacht has to offer.
You’ll feel some of that reading teNeues’ new “The Stylish Life: Yachting’ (176 pages, 138 photographs), with texts by Kim Kavin. There are sleek boats (the superyacht Hyperion) and sleeker people (model Carly Taylor sporting a fetching white halter swimsuit from the limited edition “A Place in the Sun” collection at the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club in Point Piper, Australia in 2013).
There’s a spectacular panorama of Sydney Harbor – one of the greatest natural harbors in the world – so studded with sails that they look like whitecaps. There are pictures that while make you feel as if the salt spray is caressing your cheeks, like that of a sailboat tilting into the wind during Antigua Sailing Week in 2000.
Many of the photos capture the eternal party atmosphere of the yachting world as the big boats follow the rhythm of their own water music from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and up and down the East Coast. But perhaps the most memorable are the images of the celebrities who have peopled these yachts – a young Audrey Hepburn looking nautical but nice in a striped T and short white shorts as she swabs the deck; Grace Kelly setting sail for Monaco and a new life; Natalie Wood and husband Robert Wagner smiling on their yacht, arms around each other.
What gives these photos their poignance is the realization that all these people are gone. (Wood herself would drown during a boat trip in 1981.) Yet they are so happy in these pictures, oblivious to what lies ahead – as we all must needs be.
This is never truer than in the photograph on Page 59, which shows Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, with Diana, Princess of Wales on the Royal Yacht Britannia at the start of their honeymoon cruise in Gibraltar, 1981. Charles looks to be the picture of solicitiousness as he gazes toward his bride, who appears dreamy and content, smiling, cheek in hand.
Contrast this with the picture opposite this one on Page 58, which shows the daughter-in-law Diana never knew – Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – racing her husband on America’s Cup yachts in Auckland Harbor, New Zealand last year.
The duchess, in navy cap and athletic pants and a navy-and-white stripe shirt, leans in, looking straight ahead, eye on the prize. You can just glimpse the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that also appears on her mother-in-law’s hand on Page 59.
Those photos illustrate not only the changing attitude toward women, inside the monarchy and out.
They also prove Emily Dickinson was right when she wrote, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”