Icons of our time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am

Name: The Salty Old Sea Dog.

Or: The dirty-minded tycoon who buys a mind-bogglingly expensive luxury launch so he either can whisk starlets off for naughty liaisons or impress the living daylights out of business associates. Sometimes he does both at the same time of course.

Age: Let's just say he's got to the stage in life where he looks like every sleazy businessman you see in a cognac advert.

Money: He's got lashings of the stuff. Enough to pay for a gaudy villa somewhere, a flat for his mistress, several cars with multi-million-dollar number plates, and of course all those luxury items that Hong Kong adverts tell him he ought to own. The luxury yacht is a Lexus without wheels - just another toy that shouts 'conspicuous consumption'. He's got about as much love for life on the ocean wave as does for life on the open road.

Sailing skills: Zero. He hasn't a clue how the thing works and instead relies on his neatly turned-out boat boys to do the whole sailing thing for him. Everyone now and then, though, he does like to stand at the steering wheel and look powerful as he goes past a launch owned by someone he wants to impress.

Most commonly found: Anywhere but the boat. But on those rare occasions when he does take it out, he resolutely plots a course for Tai Long Wan or Repulse Bay and then insists on mooring right next to the only other boat in the bay. That done, it's time to crank up the karaoke, get the mah jong tiles rattling with thunderous volume and generally annoy the hell out of the neighbours. Hey! This is Hong Kong after all.

Weekend routine: Once he's got the boat boys to park the thing, he has a few options. He could join the mah jong game (often, though, wifey and her mates spend the whole day playing), he could drink booze with his mates, occasionally glancing over at the rest of the flotilla to see whether or not he's still got the biggest penis substitute of the millionaire set or perhaps send time with his sons (who usually are a little uncertain about their sexuality) as they putter disinterestedly around on jet skis before moaning that they want to get back to the big city so they can throw on some Versace and go out.

Closely related to (1): His wife, the tai-tai, who attempts to manoeuvre her huge BMW or Mercedes Benz around town when she hasn't got the faintest idea how to drive.

(2): Fat, cheesy businessmen on Harleys.

(3): Robert Maxwell.

Not to be confused with: Anyone with a Greek surname. They tend to at least know a little bit about boats and boating.

Classic Hong Kong boating tales: (1). The time one of Li Ka-shing's sons managed to run the family launch aground some years ago, much to everyone's embarrassment.

(2): The bizarre period a few years back when no squillionaire's luxury launch was safe from being thieved by mainlanders who would then re-fit them and set them to work as luxury high-speed ferries in China.