That's when I realized exactly how different this particular charter experience is from others: When you book Destination Fox Harb'r Too in Nova Scotia, you're not buying a week's immersion into a yachting culture like the one in St. Tropez. Instead, you're buying into the vision of a rollicking good time as seen through the eyes of a local-boy-made-good: a bar on every deck, a birdie on every green, and the ability to literally stop traffic with your megayacht and various other toys.
"We have a 5,000-foot runway," Steve Joyce explained as he showed me around the club in a golf cart of his own. "Any corporate plane can get in. Tiger Woods brought his G5 when he came to play Fox Harb'r Resort this past summer. Even he said he was surprised at how beautiful everything was, how well organized. I think there's a general misconception of this region, that it's all blustery and cold. That's not the case at all. It's a remarkable place."
Indeed. My visit was during August, and the water was warm enough for swimming. High 70s. No joke. (The cold Labrador Current holds no sway in this part of Nova Scotia. Instead, it's warm waters from the St. Lawrence River and Bay, coupled with shallow depth and bright sunshine.) I hesitated when the crew suggested that I hop on a WaveRunner, but there I found myself, skin protected by nothing more than a bathing suit, revving my way past the dock's onlookers and screaming toward the horizon, as comfortable as I would be in the Bahamas. The same was true during our activities on land. Sunscreen was as indispensible on the courses as a nine iron.
And the golf-oh, the golf. Fox Harb'r Resort is among two dozen area courses, meaning you could book a two-week charter and play a different course every day. One, Highland Links, made Golf Digest's 2009 list of best courses outside the United States. Remember: The Scots settled this region. They know about whacking a white ball around green hills.
Their descendants in Canada also know about growing lobsters the size of small dogs, blueberries so sweet they make your eyes water, and maple syrup as thick as a foggy morning in Halifax. Luckily, chef Benoit Mercier knows what to do with all of that and more aboard Destination Fox Harb'r Too, offering lobster bisque as well as tails, homemade jams alongside fruit-filled croissants, and eggs with a side of maple syrup-glazed bacon (yes, that last one is good). Mercier's take on lobster tails, actually, took second place in his category at the 2008 Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting. I can still remember the homemade, liqueur-filled chocolates he served at that boat show, and I was thrilled to see them next to my pillow every night while on charter. Each chocolate is maybe a quarter-inch larger than a Hershey's Kiss, and still I took three or four bites to eat it. That's how much I wanted to savor the flavors before letting my head sink into my pillow each night.
"This boat-not just the service, not just our style, but the boat itself-has a feeling that is so welcoming and inviting, it's unlike any other motoryacht," says Capt. Bill Hawes, who has been in the industry since 1983. "When I saw it in the yard for the first time, I said, 'This is what I would want if I was building a boat.'"
I have to wonder if the local folks at the marina were thinking the same thing that day as they looked up at the specs. For anyone interested in combining luxury charter with great golf, the Destination Fox Harb'r Too program in Nova Scotia is also a supreme vision come true.