Eagles soaring through blue skies over the Aleutian Islands. Ten-foot manta rays swimming up to you in Yap. Papua New Guinea dancers in traditional costumes.
Although many enjoy the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, a growing number of cruisers have been there and done that and want to visit places farther afield.
“Trends are changing slightly, as the fleet becomes more adventurous and moves away from the increasingly overcrowded popular cruising zones,” according to last year’s Superyacht Intelligence Report.
This year, there are only 25 to 30 quality yachts for charter in far-flung places, says Diana Brody, a charter broker in Camper & Nicholsons’ Palm Beach office. “A yacht is not like a hotel. Where a boat is chartered depends on where the boat owners want to travel. If they take the boat to a faraway region, they might make it available for charter there.
“For example, two boats will be down in Antarctica for the very short Antarctic season, Dec. 15 through Feb. 1, and they are available for charter from there. Places like this are difficult to get to, and it’s expensive to take the boat there.”
Also, a few boats have home ports in Tahiti and Australia, she says. “They spend the Western Hemisphere summer there, and are in Fiji the rest of the time.
“But, seriously, this is only a handful. The demand for charters like these is not that great, but we do have clientele who like these kinds of places — maybe one every year or two.
“These charterers would be adventure travelers, and they will take a dozen guests along,” Brody says. “Usually, they have specific interests. Maybe they want to do research or special diving. They aren’t into clubbing, dressing up in haute-couture clothing or going to restaurants at St. Tropez.”
Alex Dreyfoos, owner of Silver Cloud, a 135-footer, adores long-range cruising. “Silver Cloud is a catamaran in that it has two hulls, and it is a SWATH (small waterplane area twin hull). The important words are ‘small waterplane area,’” Dreyfoos explains. “It has very thin struts that connect the submarine hulls to the boat. That’s what gives the boat its exceptional performance.
“The rocking is what happens on the surface. Underwater, there is no activity, so with a boat that has twin submarines, there is very little motion.
“See that vase over there?” he asks, pointing to the credenza in the salon. “It is not fastened down, and it doesn’t move when we are under way.”
The upshot is that people don’t get seasick aboard the SWATH, thereby making cruising, even over long distances, a joy.
Last season, in between cruises, Silver Cloud was at Rybovich boatyard in West Palm Beach to undergo changes to the swim platform and to upgrade some of the electronics. Dreyfoos has used his boat extensively, traveling 70,000 nautical miles (80,556 statute miles).
Ports of call have included Alaska, Japan, Yap, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, the Galapagos Islands, Brazil and Scandinavia. (Just for a point of reference, consider that the circumference around the world at the equator is 21,638 nautical miles (24,901 statute miles).
“The Fiji islands are very anxious to have us come back,” Dreyfoos says. “I love Papua New Guinea, and I’d love to dive in Truk Lagoon.
He calls yachts such as his previous boat, a Feadship, “shiny white cocktail lounges,” with most charterers flying to the boat once it reaches its destination. “The charterers sleep aboard, but they only go out to cruise on nice days.
“Very few people travel with the boat from place to place. My boat is the exception, and I, of course, love to travel with the boat. I’m up for the adventure.
“We had more charters than we wanted on our Feadship, and I’d like to charter more. But I’ve always wanted to use the boat.”
Silver Cloud has served as a “shadow yacht” (a second boat that travels with the main yacht, carrying “toys” — in this case, a helicopter), cruising 1,000 miles up the Amazon River to Peru. This type of charter was exactly Dreyfoos’ cup of tea. “Silver Cloud fit the charterer’s needs, since it has a heli-deck. We made the arrangements and the charterer paid the delivery fee, which covered the fuel.
“I wanted to go there, too, so we took the boat all the way up to Peru, and the charterer brought it back with the current. Then he got off, and I got on again.”
And the icing on this cake? Flying is the next best thing to cruising, according to Dreyfoos: “The helicopter was the one that Queen Elizabeth charters. It had been boxed up, shipped to one of the British islands, and it was island-hopped to Brazil. After the charter, on its way back, I had a chance to fly this wonderful machine.”
Recently, Dreyfoos received a request from charterers who wanted to go to Greenland or Iceland, “but they chickened out,” he adds.
Five years ‘nonstop’
David Clarke, former captain of the 240-foot Laurel, traveled to faraway places with its previous owner. “For five years, we went nonstop,” Clarke says. “We left Seattle, where the yacht was built. We went over the horizon and kept on going.”
They cruised 135,100 nautical miles (155,355 statute miles), visiting Alaska, Canada, Tahiti, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, up through the Amazon River, Argentina, the Chilean fjords — and the list goes on.
“The owner had a thing about rivers,” Clarke explains. “We went 120 miles up the Sepik River (in New Guinea). I was navigating on a road map. It was quite an adventure. We had boats in front of us sounding depths.
“It was like stepping back in time 500 years. Those people have nothing but what they find in the bush. I saw three children paddling across the river in a dugout canoe. It was quite a sight.
“The Amazon was another adventure — catching piranhas, and seeing sloths and massive pythons.
“We anchored in the lee of Horn Island, where there’s a lighthouse. It was freezing. We stopped there, got the owner and crew ashore, met the lighthouse tender and his family, and walked to the southernmost point. So I’m able to say that I stood on the southernmost piece of land in the world, aside from Antarctica.”
Clarke planned the itinerary, forecasting dates and places a year in advance. Every area has its own little jewel, he says. “There are highlights. For example, in Alaska, we had the ability to position Laurel a quarter-mile off the glaciers and watched them ‘calving.’ There would be a crack of ice and waves rolling under the hull. That’s a pretty special experience.
“The wilds of Alaska are unbelievable. We saw a mother bear and her cubs coming out of the forest, and she was teaching the cubs how to catch salmon.”
Laurel’s owner died two years ago; and last March, the superyacht was sold to new owners. At that time, the boat was based at Rybovich. The new owners plan to tour the world as well, says Laurel’s new captain, Mark Diekmann, who also creates the itineraries for his cruises.
“This summer, we will cruise the Mediterranean. Then, in September, we’ll cruise in New England. In October, we’ll come back to Palm Beach for a yard period at Rybovich. For Christmas and New Year’s, we’ll be in the Caribbean, then go to Panama for transit to the Pacific. By February 2014, we’ll be in Patagonia, and during the winter months, we’ll round Cape Horn and complete the winter cruise in Rio de Janeiro,” Diekmann says.
Shannon McCoy, a retail charter yacht broker with Worth Avenue Yachts, says, “Places like Patagonia and Rio de Janeiro are less frequented in charter-yacht markets. New hot spots — Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey — have become more popular over the years, and more charter yachts are becoming available in those areas. So when yachts like Silver Cloud and Laurel are mapping out new territories, we see this as an opportunity for new markets and growth in our industry.”
The itinerary of Silver Cloud, on the other hand, is set by Dreyfoos and his captain, Stephen Martin. They work out the most efficient routes. Martin also works with yacht managing agent Lisa Greenberg, owner of Pacific Bound Yachts, who helped him to research the Amazon and Baltic trips.
“Lisa coordinated with agencies in each port so that our arrival would go smoothly,” Martin notes. “She helped me with timing, pre-clearance documentation, and pilotage (the pilot who brings the vessel into port).”
She also helped with the itinerary, he adds. “She arranged for guides, museum tours and car services. When we went to the Amazon, she set up a trip to an Indian village, untouched by civilization.”
When asked for suggestions, Greenberg likes to find out the country’s hidden secret — or, as she says, “Where’s that door that opens for the queen?
“I talked to the only living member of the original Jacques Cousteau team, who told me that there was life on Easter Island 500 years earlier than its accepted historical date, and he could prove it,” she says.
To arrange such an adventure, she would, of course, have to get helicopter and vehicle permits — after locating the adventurous cruisers. But she’s ready, willing and waiting.