In ancient Hawaiian mythology, Kanaloa was the god of the ocean, a healer often found with his close companion Kane, the god of creation. The two journeyed together, creating springs of fresh water and generally spreading the best of both their worlds.
On his own, Kanaloa was described as unconquerable. His name became synonymous with "the great peace and "the great stillness. He was the definitive god of the sea and all within.
I was halfway around the world from where these stories originated, but it took only a second after stepping aboard the 158-foot CRN-built motoryacht Kanaloa for one thing to become clear: This floating version is a direct descendant of her namesake.
After handing off my bags to a crew member, I spent a moment alone in Kanaloa's main saloon. Looking around, I felt as if the décor of my favorite spa had collided with the comforts of my favorite hotel suite, and I hadn't even made it to the sofa. Neutral hues were accented by funky, yet unobtrusive, South American art. No particular piece of furniture, nor any singular painting or color, leapt to grab my attention.
Understatement paired with comfort is always a successful charter duo, and its effect at that moment left me feeling as if the god Kanaloa had wrapped his arms around me.
I didn't have too long to take it all in before Capt. Jeff Guymon and First Stewardess Page Hanson really brought the boat to life.
As first impressions go, Guymon's and Hanson's perfectly complemented my first impression of Kanaloa. The two of them (and, I would later find out, the rest of the crew) are a mix of professionalism, friendliness and approachability. Their actions and attitude make it clear that they are part of a team whose priority is creating a charter experience that exceeds guests' expectations.
This attitude was made all the more impressive by the fact that the Kanaloa crew had dropped off charter guests just hours before my arrival.
"With this crew, 24-hour turnarounds are possible, Guymon said, referring to the team's professionalism.
There's no doubt in my mind such turnarounds are not only possible, but frequent, as this crew takes the art of charter seriously. It's a trait Guymon seeks when choosing crew.
His background certainly gives him authority to be a fair judge of such things. Although I have no research to prove it, I'm willing to guess that Guymon is one of the few charter captains in the business who grew up in Iowa. That said, his family did spend a significant amount of time boating on the Mississippi ("to this day, my Dad still doesn't let me drive his boat), but Guymon didn't really get hooked until he worked on a dive boat one summer in college. From there, he moved to the Keys and continued working on dive boats for a year or two, then moved to Ft. Lauderdale and eventually got a job as a second engineer on a charter boat.
Shortly thereafter, Guymon met the owner of a 61-foot Hatteras, for whom he would work as captain through four boats and 11 years. His time spent learning the different levels of charter service, coupled with his easy Midwestern manner and a desire to perfect the practice of charter, is the driving force behind making Kanaloa the complete package.
Guymon isn't alone in the endeavor.
"This crew came for charter, he said. "Not just for the boat and not just for the owner.
Hanson, the first stewardess, has been in the charter business for more than 15 years, having been a stewardess aboard sailboats and powerboats throughout New England and the Mediterranean. The first mate, chief engineer and chef have more than 30 years' charter experience among them.
The crew is largely responsible for the degree to which a charter is successful, but there are other elements, including the food and the boat, that round out the equation. On some charters, you might have to sacrifice standards in one category to have the best in another, but this isn't a concern on Kanaloa.
Barry Orr, a confident and energetic chef from Auckland, New Zealand, has been a professional for 12 years and in the charter business for six. This self-described "three-pot, three-pan man specializes in Pacific Rim cooking.
"My meals are clean and sharp, he said. "I don't like fingers in my food, so guests aren't going to get that, either.
I can attest to the clean and sharp, and I operate on faith with the finger-free assurance. After Orr's meal, I adjusted my standards upward in terms of what I consider exceptional food.
Our first course was Kumera soup, freshly smoked using Manuka wood flown in from New Zealand. The dish had one goal: expression of clarity and bold flavor. Mission accomplished.
Pan-fried grouper on a square of oven-roasted pasta sounds simple, but Orr intertwines its clean flavor with a bed of pomme puree that incorporates hand-crushed ginger and lemon. The dish is finished with a lemon-infused olive oil and balsamic reduction. The gentle flavors of grouper and the slightly brash vitality of the pomme puree take turns on the palate, but no single element shouts. Rather, they work together in an unexpected, artful arrangement of taste.
Speaking of artful, the dessert did not disappoint. Chocolate mousse was bound between circles of moist chocolate sponge, accompanied by crème anglaise and a petite quenelle of vanilla ice cream. All of the above was imprisoned by a spun sugar cage. Its rich, but very clean flavor was the perfect finish to the meal.
Presentation does not end with the food, but continues with the layout and amenities of the yacht herself. Eleven or 12 guests can be accommodated in six staterooms, but following the captain's recommendation of a maximum of 11 will result in the greatest amount of luxury.
Guest cabins include a full-beam VIP on the lower deck that will be as sought after as the master suite. A sliding door separates the bed and sleeping area from the sitting room, which offers the comfort of the saloon when a little more privacy is desired. The décor from the saloon is carried through this and all of the guest cabins. Woodwork is warm, textures are plush, and walls and rooms are tastefully decorated, but they don't stage an assault on the senses.
A walk-in dressing room and his and her heads, one with a bath and one with a shower, complete the VIP package.
If privacy is a priority, the master will not disappoint. Side decks do not surround the master, so the view outside (and in, for that matter) will be exclusively your own. The marble head here is nearly the width of the stateroom and boasts a bath and steam shower. His and her dressing rooms are spacious enough for nearly a season's worth of clothing.
An office just off the stateroom includes separate lines for fax and modem, enabling guests to work from sea.
If leisure is the only thing on the agenda, hundreds of DVDs, CDs and videotapes make up Kanaloa's library. In addition to several entertainment areas in the common areas, each stateroom has a satellite TV, VCR, CD player and radio (the master and VIP cabins have DVD players). A closed-circuit channel on the television displays Kanaloa's heading and speed while under way.
Outdoor activities both on deck and off are made possible by an extensive list of water toys and a tender-free sundeck that has an elliptical machine, a stationary bike and free weights. The jacuzzi with wraparound bar is an option for post-workout relaxation.
The god Kanaloa must have been whispering in somebody's ear when Kanaloa was being constructed and her crew chosen. Although my experience on board was abbreviated, I suspect a longer journey will be one to make the ancient Hawaiians proud.
Contact: Contact Camper & Nicholsons International, (011) 377 97 97 77 00; (011) 377 93 50 25 08; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.cnconnect.com, or any charter broker. Kanaloa charters for $145,000 a week, plus expenses, for 11-12 guests.