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High-Seas Luxury: Charter Yachts

Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94

(continued from page 1)

After determining that Fifty One is the yacht for you and is available where you want it when you want it, it will be time to start ponying up the considerable dollars it will take to "own' the boat for a week. Typically 50 percent of the base rate is due upon contract signing. The balance will be due a month in advance, along with about 25 percent of the base rate for the provisioning allowance, which depends on how many guests there will be and how elaborate the tastes.

The fun, and the sense of privilege, really begin when you and the captain of the yacht start planning an itinerary well in advance of the trip. The captain, who has been to many places you haven't, can take you anywhere you would like, and most captains know immediately that charters usually like to go where they haven't been.

Shaun Preacher is the captain of Fifty One. He has been a charter captain for 12 years, guiding various vessels around the Caribbean--and guiding various clients through the world of yacht chartering. He has seen all the pristine bays, the secluded beaches, the best spots for sailing and fishing, all the best sites for eating and shopping. He does far more than steer the boat; he's your guide to adventure.

One-week charters generally explore one of four areas of the Caribbean islands, with guests embarking near the closest international airport. St. Thomas is the starting point in the northern part of the Caribbean, with charter yachts exploring St. John, St. Croix and the British Virgin Islands. Those charters sailing the central part of the Caribbean leave from St. Martin; with Anguilla, St. Bart's, St. Kitts and Saba within short cruising distance. Moving farther south in the island chain, Antigua is a favorite port of departure for yachts cruising to Guadeloupe and Montserrat and Barbuda. Farther south still, some charters leave from St. Lucia to sail to St. Vincent, the Grenadines and Grenada.

The nature of cruising is dictated by the time it takes to get from island to island. Fifty One cruises at 16 knots, or somewhat less than 20 miles per hour (and she burns 75 gallons of diesel fuel an hour while cruising). "Most people who charter motor yachts aren't out for extended voyages and rough water," says Preacher. "We don't make long passages. Two, three-hour trips are the norm."

Preacher's ideal one-week cruise for a novice charterer begins at St. Martin, an island with two cultures. Its Dutch side is ideal for all kinds of water sports, and onshore there is easy access to golf and tennis. The French side is favored for fashionable couture shopping. St. Martin might be the finest place in the Caribbean to shop for duty-free cigars. Fifty One's chef, Patty Lindsey, will make a picnic lunch to take ashore at Orient Bay, then you can make a short hop to Tintamarre Island to see the German submarine pen from the Second World War.

Just a quick run to the north of St. Martin is Anguilla, an island that will not overwhelm you at first with majestic beauty. You must look for it. Anguilla has 30 different beaches, exceptional coral-reef diving and, should you wish to dine ashore, a collection of superior restaurants. From Anguilla you could sail south and stop at the side of St. Martin you didn't take in the first day or two.

To the south is St. Bart's. Here you might spot a few celebrities; Sylvester Stallone owns a home on the island. You might spot him; or better yet, he might spot you. An eccentric couple of hours might be spent anchored in Baie de St. Jean, watching light planes trying to land at the airport. The little devils have to clear an elevated roadway, then dive for the runway and somehow brake before sliding into the bay. Just one of the little diversions that the Nordic Princess Fantasy of the Seas isn't likely to take any time soon.

True explorers would then take off to Saba, a volcanic island with no beaches or trendy resorts, only a few shops and hardly any people--all of which make it almost ideal for getting away. The island is only five square miles and its volcanic cone, Mount Scenery, rises 2,855 feet from the shoreline. Its capital is intriguingly named the Bottom, which is at the top, not the bottom, of a hill. This striking, little, extinct volcano may be the prettiest island in the Caribbean.

You still have time to get in another island before the week is up, and St. Kitts is an excellent choice. It, too, is beautiful with a small rain forest and a mountain range within its 65 square miles. After a long day at St. Kitts, it's back to St. Martin for one last chance at duty-free shopping.

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