In Praise of Yacht Charters

Editor Mary South explores all the tantalizing vacation options at the Antigua Charter Yacht Show.

As I've mentioned before, I'm the subject of very little sympathy when I have to travel for work. Many of my trips are much less glamorous than they sound, but since I joined Yachting in 2007, one trip I make annually — and deserve no sympathy for — is the Antigua Charter Yacht Show (ACYS).

The ACYS is an annual gathering of roughly 100 charter yachts and is spread across three locations that are all quite close to each other on the island of Antigua. One of the treats of this show is that I attend with Terry Jacome, our European and charter accounts manager and (as her clients know) a truly lovely person, with a great sense of humor and a deep knowledge of our industry. Terry and I typically choose one location for the day and wander through a variety of yachts, learning about their layouts, amenities and crews. I glean ideas for future feature stories; Terry checks in with her clients to see if they need anything and to make sure they know about our biannual charter issues, one of which is this one, March 2013.

If you're fortunate enough to be invited to one, lunches are a highlight of the show. This year, Terry and I dined aboard Darlings Danama, a 197-foot CRN, and _Lazy Z_, a 168-foot OceanCo. Both repasts were exquisite, and lest you're thinking chicken Caesar salad or a simple grilled fish, let me say just a few words: Braised pork belly. Diver scallops. Mersault.

I guess that's some of the fun of the ACYS — we get a very small taste of what it's like to charter one of the finest yachts in the world. I find it opens my imagination's door just enough for me to stroll on through and get down to important work: selecting the stateroom I'd take for the week, assigning the others to my friends, homing in on a destination I'd like to explore with a yacht that's loaded with water toys, or built with an ice-rated hull. I always wind up secretly choosing a favorite boat and even rule out some that just aren't my style. (No, really. It's fun to silently dismiss a superyacht you could never afford anyway with a silent but arch no, not my cup of tea.)

Two of my favorite yachts this year were Seanna_, a gorgeous 213-foot Bennetti, launched in 2011, which charter editor Kim Kavin is writing about in a forthcoming feature for _Yachting, and the 118-foot expedition yacht Private Lives. The two vessels were about as different as can be. Seanna featured award-winning design and a sumptuous decor by Redman Whitely Dixon. An onboard cinema, a spa with dual massage areas, a fully equipped gymnasium that opens to the sea … Seanna was a knockout and is certainly one of the most impressive and luxurious superyachts in the world.

Private Lives is a 2003 build by RMK, designed by Vripak International. Her interior is old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word: warm wood paneling, wonderful oil paintings, books … I felt so immediately at home aboard this yacht that I think Terry was worried I was going to make myself a drink and stretch out on the salon sofa for a few hours with a novel. (She knows me well.)

I know that some people think chartering is not for them. I beg to disagree. Just as a vacation home rental brings you all the comforts of the ownership experience without the maintenance issues, insurance bills and landscaping worries, chartering is all the good boat stuff, with none of the bad. And there are as many different kinds of charters available as there are dreams to suit them. In my five years with Yachting, I have spent time aboard charters that range from Burma_ (a 58-foot classic wooden motorsailer in Maine) to _Pelagic Australis_ (a 74-foot aluminum sailboat in the Southern Ocean), _Helios, (a 115-foot Falcon motoryacht in the Cyclades Islands of Greece), Tucano_ (an 81-foot riverboat on the Amazon) and _Atalante (a Truly Classic 90 by Claasen Jachtbouw in the Grenadines). There are many more, but if I go on, at some point soon I suspect you'll hate me.

Choose your destination, check out your options and go. Remember that the main focus of a charter yacht’s crew will be your safety and happiness. You’ll have priceless and unforgettable memories long after you’ve paid the bill and returned to your routines ashore.