20 April – Meeting our future neighbours

Location: Santo Stefano Marina del Aregai

Antifouling Caroline is a big job because she’s such a big yacht. The plan is to sail her to the boat yard and pull her out of the water for at least a week while she gets prepared for the journey.

The old stone Wharf
Looking towards Monaco city along the old stone wharf where we are moored.

We will be living onboard while she’s “on the hard”, which is the term used to describe a boat that lives on land not sea, so it’s important for us to be introduced to the boat yard management and staff.

Antifouling requires pulling a boat out of the water and painting toxic chemicals on the underwater section to deter sea creatures from attaching themselves to the hull and either slowing the boat down or damaging its gelcoat. The gelcoat is a resin coating that protects the fiberglass hull.

Extending Monaco's shoreline rock by rock
On the way to Franco’s home we pass workmen extending Monaco’s shoreline rock by rock, beneath the Grand Prix track – now just a roadway.

The first part of this adventure involves meeting Franco at his home. We go through the long, underground, marble-lined tunnel leading to the station (no graffiti), up several flights of escalators, past the station platform (no advertising) until we emerge in daylight, climb heaps of stairs, cross a couple of streets and finally we arrive, 150m above our coastal starting point, just in time to see Franco packing the car in his open garage.

After some preliminary greetings we head off in the car, all of us excited and vying for each other’s attention. Being the outgoing creature he is, and having a host of fascinating stories, Franco of course dominates the conversation, but at one point while he is speaking I notice we are travelling 160km/hr down a one-lane tunnel past road-works, which makes it difficult to concentrate on his fascinating insights.

Boats along the old stone wharf
Our neighouring boats along the old stone wharf. Most of them are preparing for the Grand Prix. They will have prime viewing positions.

As we emerged into open sunlight I tune back in hearing him explain, “It is common practice for corrupt mayors to demand that the speeding cameras be set to 5km/hr below the speed limit or for red light cameras to be programmed to go off on the amber light, not red light, simply as revenue raising exercises.”

Being interested in property investment I ask him about the property market in Monaco.

“Real estate agents demand 3% commission from the purchaser and up to 5% commission from the vendor to sell a house. If the vendor is forced to sell, it is not uncommon for the real estate agent to actually buy the property themselves at a very low price, then sell for a profit.”

With 1,200m high ragged barren mountainous peaks on one side of the road and spectacular coastal views flashing by on the other, we discuss the hows and whys of the European class structure, and how heavily entrenched it is within Monaco, despite Franco’s views to the contrary about its importance.

It rams home that we may only ever refer to him by his first name in private but when in public, we are to use a more formal approach. (He reminds us that it’s just like he does during all the years he has socialised with “Albert”.) I realise he’s speaking about Prince Albert.

Google Maps predicted the trip would take us an hour and 10 minutes each way. We arrive after just 40 minutes.

As I unfold myself out of the backseat I whisper an aside to Bill, “Wonderful journey, but a little bit hair-raising. I thought at one point that if we did crash, at least I would die happy.”

“We wouldn’t have died because the car has so many airbags and safety features,” Bill says quickly as we catch up to Franco.

There’s an upside to hanging out with a smart guy and the rich and famous.

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