Four days on a boat with a bunch of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and 150 Ukrainian “hostesses”: this is what passes for real life in 2018. Luckily, Breaker magazine commissioned Laurie Penny to go on the CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise and report back, and we all owe her for taking one for the team.
A huge bitcoin price crash occurs a few hours before we set sail. As I board, I am surprised to find that nobody seems to be particularly worried. CoinsBank, the company organizing the cruise, has left little welcome gift boxes in each of the rooms. They contain painkillers, Alka-Seltzer, several condoms, the world’s flimsiest pregnancy test, and a half-bottle of Jägermeister. It’s the kind of thing you’d leave at the bottom of the chimney for Skeezy Uncle Santa, hoping he’ll stuff a new sex doll under your tree.
The women on this boat are polished and perfect; the men, by contrast, seem strangely cured—not like medicine, but like meat. They are almost all white, between the ages of 30 and 50, and are trying very hard to have the good time they paid thousands for, while remaining professional in a scene where many thought leaders have murky pasts, a tendency to talk like YouTube conspiracy preachers, and/or the habit of appearing in magazines naked and covered in strawberries. That last is 73-year-old John McAfee, who got rich with the anti-virus software McAfee Security before jumping into cryptocurrencies. He is the man most of the acolytes here are keenest to get their picture taken with and is constantly surrounded by private security who do their best to aesthetically out-thug every Armani-suited Russian skinhead on deck. Occasionally he commandeers the grand piano in the guest lounge, and the young live-streamers clamor for the best shot. John McAfee has never been convicted of rape and murder, but—crucially—not in the same way that you or I have never been convicted of rape or murder. I do not interview John McAfee. He interests me less than he scares the shit out of me, though his entourage seems relaxed. They’re already living in the crypto-utopia behind his strange pale-blue eyes.
The only genuinely happy person I meet on this trip is Femi, a forklift driver from Birmingham who wears a Dogecoin T-shirt and proudly shows me videos of him practicing with the samurai sword he bought with his bitcoin stash. I ask him why he’s so proud of his selfie with McAfee, given the guy’s not-unmurdery reputation.
“Well, yeah.” says Femi. Then he grins. “But he’s just a legend, isn’t he? And his wife’s really nice.”
I cannot fault this reasoning. Over the next four days I find myself drifting back to Femi and his unstoppable optimism whenever I get the urge to throw myself overboard.