Pssst...come closer. I want to show you something," says Chief Engineer A.J. Browne.
I inch forward and peek over his shoulder. We are deep within the cavernous engineroom of the 169- foot Alloy sailing yacht Mondango, far from the luxurious linens and fabulous foods that are my typical finds when reviewing charter yachts. Mondango's engineroom is so much more sophisticated than what I have seen aboard other sailing yachts that I might as well be in the bowels of a newly classed aircraft carrier. I feel like a treasure hunter in a foreign land; Browne is a gearhead in paradise.
"These," he beams, "are aeronautical-grade hydraulic fittings." He waves his hand before the row of machinery à la Vanna White, as if begging me to buy a vowel so he can keep the show going. "I mean, you just don't see things like this. It's the finesse of a yard that has gone over the top to produce a beautiful boat. I notice every little detail as the engineer, and there really are a lot of different details on this boat."
I couldn't agree more. Buzz has surrounded Mondango's entry into the international charter fleet since she launched from the New Zealand shipyard in September 2008. She made a beeline for the Caribbean that winter, but because her owners spent about four and a half months onboard (including most of the crossing), Mondango missed the chance for a proper introduction at the December 2008 industry-only charter shows in Antigua and St. Maarten. Buzz continued to build until she made her formal debut in advance of the summer Mediterranean season (again, with her owners having done the crossing—including taking turns on watch). When I stepped aboard in Italy in May 2009, many brokers and press were seeing Mondango for the first time. She nevertheless already had four weeks of charter booked, but the crew had yet to actually perform one.
Capt. Mark Chaverot had been in command just one month, starting with the most recent transatlantic crossing. He told me his previous experience included doing charters aboard an 82-foot powerboat as well as 60-foot sailing catamarans before spending 12 years with the ocean-racing Mari-Cha program. There, he worked his way up aboard multiple boats as deckhand, mate, first mate, and captain/engineer. Chaverot did three circumnavigations with the Mari-Cha yachts, helping set a North Atlantic sailing record, and then breaking that same record.
"I've always been dedicated to owners, but I'm looking forward to charter," he told me. "And this boat is made for people who love a proper sailing boat."
Mondango is also made for charter clients who appreciate tactile luxuries. Reymond Langton did the interior design with input from the owner, who, according to Browne, made his fortune in textiles and a line of leather gloves. That explains the dark-chocolate leather trim that adorns some walls, handrails, door handles, and stairs. One main deck wall is covered in papier-mâché, while bottom-deck guest cabin walls include suede coverings. When I stepped onto the carpeting in the main saloon and master cabin, my bare feet felt as though they were sinking into millions of tiny, fluffy pillows.
The eyes, as well, are treated to a swirl of sensations on this yacht. In addition to flashes of reds, oranges, and golds throughout the interior, Mondango's exterior features include no fewer than 24 underwater lights that make water glow positively aquamarine. You can see it through the large, square portholes in two of the guest cabins. Each porthole is constructed from two panes of glass separated by nitrogen filling. It's a safety design that is classed as a dead light, Browne told me, but that serves double-duty by providing aquarium-style views.
"When we're heeled over," Browne says, "we all come down to whichever side of the yacht is in the water, and we actually see fish through this glass. We've seen flying fish moving with the boat beneath the surface."
Those aren't the kinds of fish that Belgian chef Odile Ploudier told me she enjoys cooking, thank goodness, but fish and seafood are among her selfstated specialties. She also loves to experiment with local produce, herbs, and spices, and she makes her own sorbets, yogurts, and ice creams.
Given all of these nifty features and the high level of crew enthusiasm, it seems to me that from nuts to soup (or from hydraulic fittings to homemade yogurt, as it were), Mondango and her crew appear to be a recipe for charter success.
Mondango is part of the Edmiston & Company charter fleet. She takes 10 guests with nine crew at a lowest weekly base rate of €185,000. www.edmistoncompany.com