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Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Sues Yacht Captain After Nightmare Christmas Vomit Cruise

Eugene Melnyk, cast here as Thurston Howell III in a remake of Gilligan's Island.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In a universe similar to but more just than our own, Eugene Melnyk might still exist. The Ottawa Senators would exist, but he would not own them. This other Melnyk might be the same sort of person in that universe that he is in ours, but he would not be wealthy in the appalling, unethical, world-warping way that he is. Eugene 2 would have an ordinary job and live an ordinary life. He would still be relentless and vengeful and narcissistic in relentless and vengeful ways, but also he would drive a KIA to a boring job that more or less suits him. He would do more or less whatever nasty shit he feels like doing to other people whenever he feels like doing it, and tell weird obvious lies about things that are barely worth the effort, and be grandiose and dishonest and desperately vain in the same ways that highly public billionaires pretty much always are. But the other Eugene would just be a guy, and so everyone around him would merely notice how he is and give him a wide berth. “That’s Eugene,” they might say to each other by way of warning. “Kind of an asshole.”

In our world, though, Eugene Melnyk does own the Ottawa Senators and possesses that world-warping wealth, and there is no need for anyone to quietly warn anyone else about what he’s like, because everyone already knows and because Being The Way He Is is more or less his entire debased function in society. He is ridiculous, and for sure kind of an asshole—a man, as Barry wrote, “who, when sued by a casino that had accused him of bouncing checks to cover his gambling losses over a St. Patrick’s Day bender, claimedActually, I was winning too much and they wouldn’t let me cash out“—but he is also a much larger and more permanent obstruction than the little Melnyks a person tends to deflect off of in ordinary life. They are all unappeasably and aggressively aggrieved, always and everywhere, and they lie and bully in their picayune ways, but the little Melnyks stop being your problem the moment they’re out of earshot. The bigger ones are bigger.

And it was Big Melnyk—one of the biggest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of Melnyk, quite frankly—who rented a $500,000 a week superyacht over Christmas, with the intention of cruising around the Bahamas with his girlfriend, Sharilyne Anderson, and, later in the trip, some friends and family. You will probably not be surprised to learn that Melnyk did his level best to ruin the trip by repeatedly clashing with the vessel’s captain, first for refusing to navigate the 196-foot craft through a passage that would’ve presented significant risk of shipwreck and then for … not preventing bad weather or seasickness. You absolutely should not be surprised to learn that the reason anyone knows about what happened on this miserable billionaire’s yacht-bound plague vacation is that Anderson and Melnyk’s mother, Vera, have both filed lawsuits in Florida seeking a combined $10 million in damages from the captain and the charter company “for negligence, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” 

The lawsuits, which the CBC first reported on Friday, seem more or less like an attempt to get a combined eight figures in monetary damages for getting seasick and having a bad time. Or maybe not having a bad time: The yacht company’s lawyer produced a note, which they said was written by Anderson, that read in part: “Thank you so much for making this such a great experience! This was an amazing way to start the new year.” But people definitely did get seasick, presumably in large part because they were on a boat, in the ocean. “I understand that Mr. Melnyk was upset that the charter didn’t go the way he envisioned,” the yacht company’s lawyer told the CBC’s Zach Dubinsky, “but every day there was 35-mile-an-hour winds.”

Filing a lawsuit because you got upset is for sure Some Melnyk Shit. But it is an approach available, within reason, even to the world’s Little Melnyks. The difference, here, what we might call The Melnyk Factor, is the way in which the lawsuits create a conspiracy between the yacht’s captain, “an odorous, ill-tempered man who was curt and dismissive with the guests,” and the angry sea to totally ruin Eugene Melnyk’s fun yacht trip. Had there been a way to sue the region’s high winds—to haul the briny deep itself into a courthouse in Palm Beach County and absolutely take it for all it was worth—Melnyk surely would have done it, and then this post would be about that.

Sadly, though, the natural world cannot yet be sued in a Florida court of law for refusing to honor a rich man’s every idiot whim. This is why Melnyk’s girlfriend and mother had to settle for suing everyone else. The suits allege that the captain refused Melnyk’s request to follow a more sheltered route between the islands not out of a very justified fear of running up onto the area’s shoals and reefs, but because he was more or less a hater. Both Anderson’s and Melnyk’s lawsuits allege that the captain “appeared angry and resentful that a charterer would deem to intrude on his alleged specialized knowledge, experience, and authority … and sought instead to punish the charterer and his party for their insolence through intentionally piloting the yacht into the open ocean.” This is where those “violent bouts of vomiting and illness” come in; the false imprisonment charge was when, instead of allowing passengers to disembark due to concerns about safety, the captain sailed the boat back to Nassau.

There are some valuable lessons, here, but they are ones you most likely already know—basic stuff about how sometimes you might get seasick when on a boat at sea, and also how boats need enough water to float in lest they get messed up. There are some other lessons, too, but you have likely lived long enough to know all these. The world is full of Melnyks, and every one of them believes that they deserve more from it. The big ones have bigger demands—for more control and obeisance, for more convenience and better service than even a billionaire can buy. It is the nature of Melnyks to demand, just as it is the nature of the ocean to be rough at certain times of year. The wind will always blow, and the Melnyks will seek their vengeance against it for daring to do so without permission.

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