Sublime Surprise

The 137-foot Lady Jenn offers elegant charter in southern St. Vincent

Restaurateur David Dunn knows the Lime 'n Pub will never attract the crowds of neighboring Kingstown, on St. Vincent's southern tip. On a warm, late afternoon in February, the Briton's tables were empty and his bartender looked bored.

"This place is undiscovered, unheard of and unbelievable, he said of Villa Harbor, whose 3,500 residents live across the cut from Young Island, an exclusive enclave that draws the rich and famous more than occasionally.

He spoke while walking past waterfront tables that offered a sun-drenched view of the 137-foot Palmer Johnson Lady Jenn, the lone motoryacht in a harbor bustling with sailboats. He described his adopted hometown as a fantastic stop for charter guests on their way to tony Mustique and nearby Bequia. He mentioned his menu, which ranges from escargot and pumpkin soup to baked lasagna and pigeon sauté, and he lamented the area's infrastructure was too small to support major tourism, that it was "too far backwards to go forward.

Dunn can be forgiven for pining away at the thought of more foot traffic. He is, after all, standing on the ground floor of a destination that may never reach a higher level.

Yet, simply because something isn't designed to become a favorite place of respite for travelers doesn't mean it can't evolve into just that. One step inside the yacht that had brought us to the Lime 'n Pub is proof of that.

Lady Jenn, a 1994 launch, was built by her current owner and designed to accommodate the way he likes to live on the water-in comfort, in seclusion and in style. She was a private yacht until last year, when she entered charter with a layout and décor that stand out in the market. Like Villa Harbor, she may not appeal to the crowds, but she will charm anyone seeking an environment just far enough removed from the mainstream to be considered a sublime secret.

I can say this only because I spent a few days on board, getting to know the boat and learning to appreciate the wisdom of her design. Today, I wish more motoryachts with her features were available for charter.

Yet upon boarding, I had reservations, some that charter guests who frequent midrange motoryachts may share at first blush.

For example, the afterdeck on Lady Jenn's main level is used for dinghy and water-toy stowage, not the more common dining area crew members dress up with flowers and table settings for charter guests' arrival, particularly when docked stern-to in the Med. Between the stowed items, a wide passageway with waist-high barriers on each side cuts right through the afterdeck's middle. This entryway left me with an odd first impression, one that was reinforced when I stepped through the passageway and into the boat.

A good portion of the megayachts available for charter have an open arrangement, with the main saloon and formal dining area blending into an expansive space that greets guests who board from the afterdeck. I expected the same of Lady Jenn, but came face-to-face with a 4-foot-high bar topped, at its far end, by a prowling bronze tiger big enough to serve as a lawn sculpture and part of the owner's safari décor.

Again, as first impressions go, these were bold. But after a few days on board, this owner's wisdom and the luxuries the yacht's design afford became readily apparent.

Take the eating arrangements I had expected to find on the main level's afterdeck. These were actually one level up, on the second level's afterdeck, which is partially shaded by the flying bridge level and high enough off the water to keep guests sheltered from the goings-on below. As locals approached in skiffs, shouting about the fruit, vegetables and fish they hoped to sell, I heard nothing but the clinking of champagne glasses over lunch.

I also quickly grew to appreciate the arrangement of the main level. The formal dining area, forward of the bar, is more intimate than those aboard yachts designed with open views from the afterdeck to amidships. Even better, keeping the bar on the main-deck level opens the second level, abaft the pilothouse and captain's quarters, for a sky lounge I found more comfortably elegant than the main saloons on many charter yachts.

The sky lounge's twin curved sofas are positioned between the six large windows on each side of the yacht, creating a sun-filled space that offers views a level above any activity on the water. At night, guests can choose hors d'oeuvres in the after sofa or sit closer to amidships, where the view of the flat-screen television is enhanced by surround-sound THX theater and a hardy complement of new and classic DVDs.

As with the second-level dining space, the sky lounge provides all the amenities most main-level saloons provide, but with the benefit of being insulated from any commotion below. It is a truly secluded space.

Every inch of the yacht is well-kept by a crew whose core members have worked together for years and are adjusting to the boat's new charter schedule. They are dedicated and fun, getting the job done with a twinkle in their eyes.

"We offer whatever you want, said Capt. Scott Miller, who served as a mate aboard Lady Jenn for several years before leaving to skipper a private 75-footer and returning in 1998. "If you want formality, we'll make it formal. If you want to relax, that's easy. If you want to party-to a degree-we're there.

Miller sets the tone for the seven-member crew, who are laid-back, funny and highly skilled. They have already won the respect of several repeat clients, with less than a year in the charter trade.

Chef Patrick Brennan is undoubtedly one reason for Lady Jenn's success. He moved as a child to Vancouver Island, where he grew up working in a marina and serving as an apprentice in his family's restaurant, which specialized in French and West Coast cuisine. He enjoys focusing his efforts on what he can cook well, from scratch, with local ingredients.

Brennan is more creative with taste than presentation, a nice change from chefs who dress up mediocre dishes with a gala of garnishes. This chef serves plates that have a simple, thoughtful, homestyle elegance. Portions are human-size, and tastes are varied and delightful.

Brennan's talent is most apparent in his desserts, which are common with an exquisite twist.

His coffee soufflé, for example, is served in a chilled, white, 3-inch-wide bowl with thin strips of brown sugar and butterscotch sauce that cling to the tongue like honey, then linger like molasses. Black-and-white chocolate mousse is presented in an old-fashioned ice cream sundae dish, layered to hit the tongue in alternating surges of sweetness and richness. Apple tarts are presented on small dessert plates, with each slice of fruit bonded to the next by nearly carmelized sugars instead of excessive dough.

Of course, such indulgences make it impossible to forgo a good night's sleep in one of the five staterooms aboard, and again, Lady Jenn's design offers some differences from many other charter yachts.

The master stateroom is forward on the main deck, spanning the yacht's 26-foot beam. A private office is just abaft the stateroom, next to a stairway that leads down to one of the yacht's two VIP suites. A second stairway, this one spiral and a touch too narrow, leads belowdecks from amidships to the second VIP and two guest cabins, one with a queen berth, the other with twins.

With the master and separate VIPs, three couples could charter this yacht with no qualms about getting "the big stateroom". The guest cabins are more than comfortable for friends, children or staff.

On nice evenings, however, most guests will do as I did: retire to the flying bridge deck, which includes a jacuzzi, a bar and grill, and a square sunpad that fits eight or 10 people at once. From high above our mooring in Young Island Cut, the view of St. Vincent was spectacular, from the Lime 'n Pub up the mountainside and into the distant lights of Kingstown.

David Dunn was right: The place is unbelievable. Yet with motoryachts such as Lady Jenn now mingling among the local sailboats, the land won't be unheard of for long.

Contact: Fraser Yachts Worldwide, Monaco, (011) 377 93 10 04 62; fax (011) 377 93 10 04 61; charter@frasermc.com; www.fraseryachts.com; Fraser Yachts Worldwide, Ft. Lauderdale, (954) 463-0640; fax (954) 462-1028; charter@fraserfl.com; www.fraseryachts.com, or any charter broker. Lady Jenn charters for $75,000 per week, plus expenses, for 10 guests.