Craig Cohen was sitting in the tender, scanning the horizon off Mo’orea in the South Pacific’s Society Islands. It was about 11 a.m. on his first day of charter aboard the 208-foot expedition yacht SuRi, and he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“We’re watching the horizon looking for the spout, and finally we see one,” says Cohen, who is a charter broker with Burgess. “We jumped into the water with our snorkeling gear on, and there it was, right in front of us, this huge humpback whale. Everyone was in awe. She was big. We watched it slowly come toward us and go up for air, and then slowly go down and disappear. I’ve never seen anything like that, an experience like that with Mother Nature that was so intense.
“Then, they were everywhere — full breaches,” he says. “We took the tender over, and I was up on the bow, and you could see the whale come closer and closer to the top of the water, and then the whole tail came out and splashed us. It almost waved at us. It was absolutely spectacular. We’d been on the boat for hours, and we’re all thinking, How do you even top that?”
Such are the experiences that SuRi was built to enable, with her crew of 20, her never-ending list of toys and tenders, and her home bases in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean. She is a luxury charter yacht on the inside and a go-anywhere machine on the outside, built to be self-sufficient for weeks, anywhere off the beaten course.
“It’s not the prettiest of boats to look at from the exterior, and a lot of clients get scared off by that,” says Nick Heming, a charter broker with Y.CO. “Clients don’t want their friends to think they’ve chartered some kind of commercial ship, but it’s good to be different. SuRi is built for exploration. It has a huge hangar that stretches two-thirds the length of the yacht as home to their numerous toys — it’s pretty extensive. You can’t have a charter like this without that kind of storage. If you’re going to do extraordinary things in amazing parts of the world, you have to have that, to bring it with you.”
Toys include a helicopter that delivers guests to the yacht upon arrival. Heming described the experience of flying over the Society Islands as feeling like a scene from the film Jurassic World.
“You have these vast mountains of green, lush rainforests, and there sitting at the bottom of it all is SuRi, ” he says. “You have to pinch yourself and say, ‘I’m really doing this.’”
Katie Macpherson, a charter broker with IYC, says she felt the same way after seeing the yacht’s water-toy setup. In addition to the toys themselves, SuRi has an oversized inflatable swim platform with four parking spots for Jet Skis.
“You can detach that whole thing and bring it to the beach with all your water toys on top of it for the barbecue,” she says. “I’ve never seen anything like it before on a boat. Everything about this trip was unbelievable from start to finish. Every night, we’d sit down for lunch or dinner, and I’d say, ‘I can’t believe we just did that.’”
Heming and Cohen say they felt the same way, especially after trying so many new water toys — activity that the crew encourages, with instructors at the ready. “They spent hours teaching us stuff,” Heming says. “I tried pretty much everything. I did the one where you put your feet in the boots and it’s connected to the Jet Ski, and you levitate. We were like a bunch of kids trying everything. If you had a bunch of 15-year-olds on there, you could wear them down all day long.”
Heming is recommending multi-week charters for his clients who want to go well beyond the usual Mediterranean and Caribbean charter experiences.
“I did it for one week, and I came back brimming with excitement,” he says. “If you’re going to experience the extraordinary, you have to look farther afield.”