Ask Peter Kissner where to go for the best calamari in Cádiz, Spain, or how to pinpoint your whereabouts on a map using only constellations, and he won’t skip a beat. The 50-year-old Bavaria native has become a veritable encyclopedia of boating and global culture. During his 20 years as a crew member, he has learned to appreciate the unique pleasure of discovering the world’s most popular, and most remote, destinations by boat.
What’s your favorite destination?
I always prefer the journey. A big beautiful boat doesn’t belong to a harbor. It’s like a bird in a stinking cage.
But sooner or later, every vessel stops in a harbor or offshore near an exotic place. Any favorites?
Thailand. It has history, culture, beaches. One of the most exciting areas is Ao Phang Nga, a huge bay with hundreds of tiny islands. When I first stopped there, we made our own sea charts, going out in dinghies with measuring sticks.
Sounds like you enjoy traditional cruising.
Sure. Charting our position with sextants is itself like a journey back in time. It’s why I like places like the small islands along the coast of Turkey, where people live as they did 50 years ago, subsisting off agriculture and winemaking.
How many nautical miles have you covered over the years?
I have no idea, but I’d say to the moon and back.
Thailand’s Similan Islands
Who’s been your most interesting guest?
We had somebody pretty much at the same level [religiously] as the Dalai Lama. It was his 75th birthday. For his charter, we had to disembark all female crew, then remove all tobacco, garlic and fish. They brought their own cooks and crew, plus someone who walked ahead of this man, throwing rose petals. I regretted when he left — the food his people made was so good.
What’s it like to work and live nearly year-round on the sea?
You’re living two lives — one at home and one on the boat. You cannot compare them. When you leave home, you’re crying. When you leave a yacht, you’re crying.
Standout Moments At Sea
Most Interesting Yacht I’ve Encountered: Perini Navi’s Maltese Falcon, built by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and owned by a Greek businesswoman. You can turn the whole mast around. I don’t usually like modern designs, but that’s one I appreciate.
Most Interesting Food I’ve Encountered: During inspection in Burma, I was traveling with local fishermen. You eat what they eat: sea cucumber and jellyfish. Jellyfish tastes like squid. It’s nice enough. You get used to it.
What’s the hardest part of being away so much?
I miss homemade food. When friends come, I ask them to bring something from home: Bavarian bread, sausage and sweets. When you travel so much, you want to have your normal toothpaste and your normal lotion that you can’t get everywhere. Little things at home become luxuries. It’s a treat to read my village newspaper in my own bathtub.
You’ve mentioned a dislike for giant ships.
Cruise ships are like floating hotels where you watch the sea with binoculars. That’s not for me. I want to feel like I’m at sea.
What’s your favorite part of being at sea?
It’s always unique when we make swimming stops in the middle of the ocean. It’s 5,000 meters deep and 500 miles to the next coast. That’s something you can’t experience anywhere but out here.