A slowly brightening pre-dawn light filtering in through the starboard set of three portrait windows awakened me from a deep sleep in the master cabin of the Mooring's magnificent Fairline Squadron 78, swinging gently at anchor in Gorda Sound. Flowing over Biras Hill, the trade winds rustled the palms of The Bitter End's lush grounds just onshore. Moved by the desire to take photos of the anchorage, I summoned the energy to dress, slipped quietly through the door and climbed the cherry paneled companionway. Although the rest of the yacht was quiet, the smell of freshly-brewed coffee greeted me at the top of the stairs, where Capt. Dave Kennedy was sitting in one of two Recaro helm seats, studying charts. First mate Emilie Olivier was busy making crepes for breakfast in the galley to port, which is well camouflaged from the saloon by a sliding panel over a sleek granite bar.
Grabbing a mug of coffee and heading aft, I walked through the saloon with its large windows, lustrous cherry furniture and bulkheads, comfortable sofa and state-of-the-art entertainment system, making my way through wide stainless-and-glass doors into the cockpit. Silky smooth hand-laid teak felt warm under my bare feet. Though the comfortable bench seating across the wide transom and behind the magnificent cockpit table beckoned, I turned to starboard and climbed the teak-tread stairs to the flybridge. If there is a sweet spot on every yacht, one that appeals to every person aboard, for a whole host of reasons, then the flying bridge is that place: the center of attention, the universal gathering spot for guests and crew.
On board the Fairline Squadron, 78 there is seating for a crowd, a large teak table for meals and card-playing, an open-air kitchen with outdoor grill, fridge and icemaker. Although many large yachts were anchored in Gorda Sound the Fairline retained its sense solitude and space. From my seat on one of the comfortable lounges I took stock of the tropical beauty and clear waters surrounding us, the real attractions that make the British and U.S. Virgin Islands a prime destination for boaters. The sight of two large square-rigged vessels anchored out in deeper water reminded me that ships have been calling on Virgin Gorda (literally "the Fat Virgin") since their discovery by Columbus in 1493.
During the years of Spanish exploration, it was the home of pirates Captain Kidd and Bluebeard. Originally settled by various tribes of Ciboney, Arawak and Carib Indians, it was taken over by the British in the late 1600's and became the center of a booming sugar cane industry that supported a trade triangle touching Africa, America and Europe. By the time I descended to the cockpit, Emilie had set a bountiful breakfast table with imported meats and cheeses, crepes, hot croissants, cereals, tea and coffee and a large bowl of fresh fruit ripened to perfection. Soon thereafter, the occupants of the three other cabins forward-Yachting Art Director Dave Pollard, photographer Pam Jones, stylist and model Danielle Atwood-found their way to the full daylight of a brand new day. We planned the day and talked about dinner the night before, a feast of lobster and fish, fresh vegetables served on custom bone china and free-flowing wine in ship's crystal stemware. It was a meal to remember, and just a hint of things to come. We had talked long into the night, strolled the wide side decks to enjoy the stars from the sunpad on the bow, and finally succumbed to a sated exhaustion.
Tired as we were, the luxurious and peaceful ambiance of our staterooms did not go unnoticed. The accommodations deck on the Fairline Squadron 78 begins with a forward guest stateroom with private access to an en suite bathroom to port, king-size island berth with innerspring mattress, plus individual entertainment electronics. The guest cabins also have entertainment systems, two single berths and enough stowage for a week aboard. The master stateroom I was privileged to enjoy spanned the full beam and was furnished with a king-size berth, surround-sound cinema and entertainment center, and windows on each side that bring the outside inside. The head featured freshwater vacuum MSD and bidet, vanity with twin sinks and a large walk-in shower with glass door, solid teak gratings and body-jets.
Placing a fast, sleek $4 million luxury yacht like the Fairline Squadron 78 in the Caribbean for owners and charterers was a good move for The Moorings. Its top speed of 33 knots let the charter guests spend the night in the well-protected confines of Gorda Bay, dash down to The Baths mid-morning and still get there ahead of the crowds for snorkeling and grotto exploring, then shoot across Sir Francis Drake Channel to pick up a late-arriving guest at Beef Island airport, drop the hook behind Marina Cay for more snorkeling and a bite of lunch, and finally tie up at the Peter Island marina for dinner reservations at that resort's renowned Tradewinds Restaurant.
That described our first day on charter. Our visit to the Baths was eventful. Before leaving the anchorage, we launched the RIB and picked up Dave Pollard's aunt, Maggie Rogers, his daughter Zoë and her cousin Phoebe from The Bitter End docks to share the beauty of this famous snorkeling destination. A modest swell was running in from the north, and breaking waves on the beach meant well-timed landings for Dave, Pam, Danielle, and the two young girls, who had to swim in from the dinghy mooring line 50 yards off the beach. (This was, by the way, their first snorkeling experience.) All of them made it into shore, explored the cool, shady grottoes beneath The Bath's enormous boulders, and returned with stories of colorful fish and coral they saw in nearby waters. When it was time for our guests to return to The Bitter End, I ran them into the harbor at Spanish Town, where they did a bit of shopping. Dinner ashore at the Tradewinds Restaurant on Peter Island was memorable. This privately-owned island is home to the Peter Island Resort (www.peterisland.com), an all-inclusive destination with rooms, suites and villas, plus a spa and a top-notch marina for guests. Of the several restaurants on the premises, Tradewinds is the most refined. Executive Chef Andrew Niedenthal and a talented staff deliver palate pleasing courses, including the cilantro-and-avocado-laced Grouper Ceviche that I tried, followed by a coconut-and-mango spiced Shrimp Curry that tingled with every bite. The sommelier selected a white and red suited to our dishes and preferences from a of U.S., French, Spanish and Italian vineyards. How does such a blissful cruise come about? The Moorings Fractional Yacht Ownership Program divides time aboard the Squadron 78 into week-long memberships, starting at $75,000. Owners can buy multiple weeks, giving the owner one or more weeks of cruising aboard the yacht every year, for five years. A professional captain and gourmet chef, chosen and managed by The Moorings, are part of the package. The Moorings also manages the scheduling, insurance and maintenance. Each owner, based on his membership share, pays for annual operating expenses, such as crew salaries, repairs and maintenance. Variable costs include food and beverages, dockage, fuel, and cruising taxes during owner's usage. The Moorings concierge service attends to every detail of your, travel arrangements included. After five years the yacht is sold; the proceeds are distributed among the owners. The other option, of course, is owning a Squadron 78 outright, and the thoroughgoing professionals at Fairline are certainly standing by to build and customize this stunning yacht to your own taste. Contact: www.mooringsfractional.com; www.fairline-yachts.com