Where Eagles Soar
I half expect to see Frances McDormand weeding a flowerbed as I turn the corner on the freshly swept sidewalk. It’s 8 a.m. in Charlottetown, on Atlantic Canada’s Prince Edward Island, and the few voices I hear have an almost Fargo-esque accent. A couple of priests await the opening of the church door. A grocery worker unloads blueberries into a bin. The corner coffee shop is called Linda’s. I’ll bet she’s inside, starched white apron around her waist, grinding fresh beans right now.
All had been quiet at Charlottetown Yacht Club when I left, but now, a crowd surrounds the 161-foot Destination Fox Harb’r Too. The Trinity trideck is taller than any nearby building. Folks seem as though they’re at an air show, staring up with open mouths and politely asking the occasional question of crew who are working on deck.
Then I see what’s really happening: The gawkers, dressed casually in T-shirts and flip-flops, aren’t so much looking at the yacht and crew as at the boat-show-style placard the crew have affixed to the superstructure. It itemizes the builder, speed, and specs-all the things that people who have never seen a boat of this size might wonder about.
It’s an unusual thing for a crew to do outside of a boat show, and yet oddly, the sign does not seem pretentious. It’s just the yacht’s owner, Ron Joyce, telling his fellow locals about this amazing feat of engineering he’s had the good fortune to buy and bring home. The crew has placed the placard with his blessing, almost as a surrogate for the man himself. If he were here, he’d probably put his arm around the mayor’s shoulder and say, “Can you believe a boat could weigh so much?”
Joyce, you see, is a legend in these waters. He is well known as a single mother’s son who fought in Korea in the ’50s before partnering with Canadian hockey player Tim Horton to expand Horton’s doughnut business into a franchise with twice as many Canadian storefronts as McDonald’s. Ever since Wendy’s bought the franchise and made Joyce wealthy beyond most people’s dreams, he’s been quoted as saying he sees giving back as an obligation-and he put his millions where his mouth is by founding the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation. Every year, it helps about 15,000 disadvantaged kids forget their worries. Joyce also recently gave $10 million to McMaster University in Ontario, to launch a new campus.
It never occurred to him to buy a megayacht-he’d always had sailboats-until he chartered a Feadship to watch the St. Barth’s Bucket a few years ago. Not long after, he took ownership of Destination Fox Harb’r Too when it was about 80-percent complete at the Trinity yard. He made few changes to the stunning Patrick Knowles interior; the master’s nanny cabin is now a study, and there’s no longer an aquarium in the main saloon. Other than that, the yacht is just as it was intended from the start-except that instead of being one of the most talked-about motoryachts in the Mediterranean each summer, it’s north of Maine in a place where large-yacht charter otherwise does not exist.
The reason for the unusual location is Fox Harb’r Resort, a Graham Cook-designed golf course with spa, sporting clays, restaurant, boutique hotel, and luxury residences set on about 1,100 acres that Joyce bought in the 1980s as undeveloped land. “He wasn’t even a golfer at that time,” his son, Steve Joyce, told me as we chomped on salads and French fries at the clubhouse restaurant. “He was about 55 years old, and he was looking for something to do.” Today, that something is entertaining guests aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too as it sits at anchor overlooking the 15th tee, and cruising to places like nearby Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton to play the best courses there, too.
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I was indulging in a bit of that lifestyle, watching my husband line up a putt on Fox Harb’r Resort’s front nine, when the whir of a golf cart battery jolted our gazes upright. It took us a moment to realize it was Ron Joyce himself sidling over from the cart path-just to shake our hands and make sure we were having a good time. He didn’t so much beam with pride as furrow his brow with genuine concern that we might have some unmet need or desire. He was playing host, as opposed to owner.
That’s when I realized exactly how different this particular charter experience is from others: When you book Destination Fox Harb’r Too in Nova Scotia, you’re not buying a week’s immersion into a yachting culture like the one in St. Tropez. Instead, you’re buying into the vision of a rollicking good time as seen through the eyes of a local-boy-made-good: a bar on every deck, a birdie on every green, and the ability to literally stop traffic with your megayacht and various other toys.
“We have a 5,000-foot runway,” Steve Joyce explained as he showed me around the club in a golf cart of his own. “Any corporate plane can get in. Tiger Woods brought his G5 when he came to play Fox Harb’r Resort this past summer. Even he said he was surprised at how beautiful everything was, how well organized. I think there’s a general misconception of this region, that it’s all blustery and cold. That’s not the case at all. It’s a remarkable place.”
Indeed. My visit was during August, and the water was warm enough for swimming. High 70s. No joke. (The cold Labrador Current holds no sway in this part of Nova Scotia. Instead, it’s warm waters from the St. Lawrence River and Bay, coupled with shallow depth and bright sunshine.) I hesitated when the crew suggested that I hop on a WaveRunner, but there I found myself, skin protected by nothing more than a bathing suit, revving my way past the dock’s onlookers and screaming toward the horizon, as comfortable as I would be in the Bahamas. The same was true during our activities on land. Sunscreen was as indispensible on the courses as a nine iron.
And the golf-oh, the golf. Fox Harb’r Resort is among two dozen area courses, meaning you could book a two-week charter and play a different course every day. One, Highland Links, made Golf Digest’s 2009 list of best courses outside the United States. Remember: The Scots settled this region. They know about whacking a white ball around green hills.
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Their descendants in Canada also know about growing lobsters the size of small dogs, blueberries so sweet they make your eyes water, and maple syrup as thick as a foggy morning in Halifax. Luckily, chef Benoit Mercier knows what to do with all of that and more aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too, offering lobster bisque as well as tails, homemade jams alongside fruit-filled croissants, and eggs with a side of maple syrup-glazed bacon (yes, that last one is good). Mercier’s take on lobster tails, actually, took second place in his category at the 2008 Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting. I can still remember the homemade, liqueur-filled chocolates he served at that boat show, and I was thrilled to see them next to my pillow every night while on charter. Each chocolate is maybe a quarter-inch larger than a Hershey’s Kiss, and still I took three or four bites to eat it. That’s how much I wanted to savor the flavors before letting my head sink into my pillow each night.
“This boat-not just the service, not just our style, but the boat itself-has a feeling that is so welcoming and inviting, it’s unlike any other motoryacht,” says Capt. Bill Hawes, who has been in the industry since 1983. “When I saw it in the yard for the first time, I said, ‘This is what I would want if I was building a boat.'”
I have to wonder if the local folks at the marina were thinking the same thing that day as they looked up at the specs. For anyone interested in combining luxury charter with great golf, the Destination Fox Harb’r Too program in Nova Scotia is also a supreme vision come true.