Destination Fun

Crew members about the 98-foot Destiny make every stop special

While piloting Yachting's Mainship 30 through a bustling Key West Harbor, I spotted Destiny towering over the fleet of sailboats. A swarm of smaller boats, ready to harpoon the pristine Westport 98 at the bump of a throttle, buzzed around her stern. Blank-faced spouses perched on many a bow, white knuckles holding boat hooks with a death grip.

The dockmaster, overwhelmed by the melee of boats at Yachting Key West Race Week, had told us to raft off Destiny. I pulled up to the bow prepared for a rightful verbal lashing from the captain, whose yacht was now working double duty as a bulkhead.

I could not have been further off base.

"I think I have another fender that should work better," Capt. Matt Braisted said. His mellow south Florida accent calmly complemented the watchful eye he had affixed on the boats in disarray at his stern. He seemed more concerned with damaging our boat than with scratching his. He offered his hose for a washdown and opened the boarding gate, eager to accommodate our every need.

We had not yet introduced ourselves as his guests.

Matt's attitude filters down through his crew, making Destiny a yacht whose first priority is fulfilling guests' every need. This crew, including first mate Chad Wickham and his wife, Ingrid, who serves as chef, works to make sure your trip is your trip, not a pre-packaged plan you buy into for the week. Matt works with guests to create an itinerary that's special to them, keeping just a few rules in mind.

"No shoes, and no red wine (indoors)," he said. "Other than that, have fun."

Having fun on board Destiny is not a problem. She carries two Wave Runners, knee boards, water skis, a 15-foot Novurania, a 27-foot Contender, and fishing and snorkel gear perfect for playing in any crystal harbor.

There are plenty of those in South Florida and the Bahamas, where the Miami-based Destiny cruises. She spends a fair amount of time in Harbour Island, Nassau and Staniel Cay, and she travels as far south as Rum Cay. Charter guests can choose to hang close to civilization and hop along Florida's Gold Coast, or go island hopping while looking for secluded beaches and good fishing.

"If we're in the Exumas, we can take the Contender 50 miles out for some fishing, and Chad and Ingrid will take the inflatable and set up lunch on a secluded beach for the guests," Matt said.

That kind of service helped make Destiny the most successful 100-footer managed by Bob Saxon Associates in 2000. Of course, her comfortable interior probably was responsible for a chunk of the 40 percent repeat clientele. Fresh from an interior refit, this yacht has a light, airy ambience that feels like an upscale beach house where a little sand on the feet is no cause for a public lynching.

"You can walk in here with wet bathing suits. We don't care," Matt said.

The main saloon was pushed aft during the refit, eliminating the small afterdeck but providing an enormous gathering space where a sunken bar, an L-shape settee and a dining table are finished in comfortable, neutral tones. It is here that charter guests tend to gather after a long day in the sun.

"It's not unusual for us and the guests to be camped out on the floor with blankets watching movies," Chad said.

That's no surprise, thanks to Destiny's new surround sound system. It is, of course, impressive in the saloon, but it's just as ear-popping in the master stateroom. While showering in a guest stateroom one afternoon, I heard what sounded like a drive-by shooting and almost hit the floor. Regaining my composure a bit, I reasoned that perhaps the captain had finally had enough of the whining leeches tied to his stern. Coming back to reality, I realized the noise was just "The Jackal" screaming through $4,000 worth of speakers.

It was nice to know I could calm my nerves in the master stateroom's jacuzzi tub, installed during the interior refit in space previously reserved for a fourth stateroom. Hot, en suite showers will do almost as nicely in each of the remaining two staterooms, all of which have TVs, VCRs and CD players.

We hosted a few cocktail hours on the flying bridge, which provided a nice stage to watch the Key West sunset and street life. A wet bar with stools and a settee with table are the perfect spots to view an anchorage during breakfast.

Everyone, whether inside a 4,000-square-foot home or aboard a 100-foot yacht, seems to gravitate to the kitchen, but Destiny's chef makes hanging out in the country kitchen-style galley especially fun. Her presentations are worthy of any five-star hotel, her wide range of recipes is daunting and her fruit carvings could stand alone as sculptures.

Ingrid is just as impressive at 7 a.m., about the time I walked half-asleep into her galley one day. She greeted me with a bubbly smile and asked what I would like for breakfast. With one hand in a cast (she broke her wrist horseback riding with guests on Harbour Island), she whipped up scrambled eggs and country ham with just the right amount of spices to get my morning going.

On our final night, we enjoyed a down-home cookout that would have put any North Carolinian's to shame. Perfectly seared tuna with wasabi was pink on the inside and melted in the mouth. The beef tenderloin could be cut with a fork and blended beautifully with the red wine. After sampling the garlic and onion mashed potatoes, I gave in to temptation. (To hell with the Atkins diet; bring on the carbs!) The salad was fresh, and the homemade dressing brought out the natural flavor of the vegetables.

The family-style dinner was indicative of the comfortable atmosphere Destiny's crew works hard to create.

"We're like family," Chad said. "We didn't like working on bigger boats because you never saw the guests. But on a 100-footer, it's different. They're like family."

We enjoyed the few nights we spent dining around Key West with the crew. The captain spins a great tale, and his stories of life after pre-law working aboard a host of boats are entertaining. One word of warning: My romantic visions of life working aboard a chartered yacht were dashed after Matt explained how he and Chad had stood inside the fuel tanks on a 173-foot yacht to clean them out.

On our last day, we released the Mainship from her mothership before sunrise and headed out into the dark harbor. Destiny was heading back to Miami to prepare for her next guests. As Matt maneuvered her with finesse around the harbor, Chad brought up the Contender. Neither spoke. They worked with each other like synchronized swimmers, completely familiar with their jobs, with each other and with what had to be done.

I pulled the Mainship into the fuel dock and felt a breeze of disappointment as I watched our comfortable home and new family disappear around the point. I was jealous of the next guests who would spend more than a week cruising with Matt, Chad and Ingrid.

Contact: Bob Saxon Associates Inc., (954) 760-5801; fax (954) 467-8909; www.bobsaxon.com. Destiny charters for $27,500 per week for six guests, plus expenses.