Romance and Adventure of a Yacht Charter
else in the world, it's morning. But I can't imagine one as stunning as that which
I'm witnessing from the deck of my chartered yacht in the lee of a sheltered cove
along the island of Anguilla's unspoiled Shoal Bay.
emerging Caribbean sun announces the arrival of dawn in slow, delicate movements,
brushing away the last vestiges of night like a summer wind dispersing a reluctant
morning mist. The sun's stealthy rays slender, blazing arrows of light persuade
the plants, flowers, trees and shrubs to erupt into a radiance of color as they
gently touch each one on their way out to sea and the horizon beyond, heralding
the start of another glorious day.
Not far away, over the ridge of the
cove, I can see the masts of other sailboats standing tall like silver columns
holding up the roof of heaven. There's a faint hint of a breeze that meanders
down the western face of the hillside and nudges our 48-foot catamaran, encouraging
it to tug against its anchor, as if to say it, too, was ready for another day
This was only the second day of a week-long sail aboard
this luxury cat, part of a large fleet of cruising sailboats of every size and
description meticulously cared for by The Moorings, a world-renowned yacht charter
company with bases scattered on virtually every continent.
have become an integral part of my life, beginning some 25 years ago with my first
experience on a single-hull 50-foot sloop from a Moorings' fleet in Tortola, British
Virgin Islands. Six close friends were eager for an uncommon holiday and what
grips the imagination more than the sea? Tales of pirates and treasure, of white
whales, menacing sharks and bold seafaring men had kept us spellbound as children
and young adults, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to create our own myths
That first sail developed into a love affair with chartering
that remains undiminished to this day. In the years that have rolled by like so
many waves on a deserted beach, this annual rite of passage continues to stir
our collective souls.
Each cruise experience has been as diverse as the Caribbean
waters and notable islands we've explored, beginning
with the Virgin Islands at the crown of the Caribbean
Sea, down through the Leewards and Windwards to Grenada.
On this occasion, with long-time friends Dennis and
Carol Sanchez and a captain and cook aboard, we set
out from the island of French St. Martin in the twin-hulled
yacht instead of the more common sloop or ketch that
we typically chartered. The catamaran is quickly becoming
the charter guest's first choice, and some of its advantages
become apparent early on. It's fast and loves the wind's
kick, responding to its slightest breath, like a thoroughbred
reacts to the whip. That speed and agility in any type
of sea is appreciated, especially when you're island
hopping and trying to discover as many unique anchorages
as possible in one week's time. With favorable winds
and a following sea, Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin
and St. Barth's are within easy reach.
The cat's also roomier inside and out, with a living room-sized salon and four comfortable cabins that aren't in the cruise liner class, but decidedly more intimate. The interior is air-conditioned a desirable amenity for first-time cruisers but usually not necessary unless you've mistakenly chosen to charter in the Caribbean in the torrid month of August, when the air is as motionless as a predator and the temperatures never fall out of the nineties.
On this early day in May, we began our venture as we had on other occasions with a customary morning swim. In the jade-colored waters of the bay, only yards from the gleaming white yacht, we encountered a green turtle, several rays and throngs of schooling fish in multi-hued colors seemingly unconcerned with our presence. Even our shouts and frantic pointing failed to alarm these unassuming creatures. We reluctantly swam back to the yacht, but our disappointment quickly faded when we were greeted with a lavish breakfast and steaming coffee prepared quite carefully by Nicky Edwards, our talented cook and first mate.
What she created in the Yacht's small galley would draw accolades from any well-known chef. And this was only the beginning of our first full day aboard. For the next five days and four nights, there would be countless hours of laughter, engaging sights day and night underwater marvels, incredible food and drink and, of course, the indescribable thrill of sailing.
Most captains and Captain Bill Grindell was no exception will encourage you to try your hand at the helm, or to help out with raising and lowering the sails, setting the anchor, or learning how to tie various knots valued by every sailor. You're certainly not required to take part, but if you do, youll readily understand why sailing and the sea are so mesmerizing.
When you get underway and the sails are set, the only sounds are the wind filling the white canvas and the saltwater crashing against the hull as it slices its way through the endless waves. It can be a time of excitement, when you¹re heading downwind under full sail and the cat reaches its maximum sailing speed of 14-17 knots, or a time of quiet reflection, should you choose to lie on deck, eyes closed, feeling the sun caress your skin and the salt spray occasionally cooling your body as it moves almost imperceptibly to the boat's gently swaying motion. Those are privileged moments, to be savored long after they¹ve gone.
Finally, there are the islands where you decide to make landfall. Where you can linger for as long as you like, where you are the master of time, for there are no schedules on a yacht charter.
In St. Maarten/St. Martin you can take pleasure in two
cultures - Dutch and French. In Philipsburg on the Dutch
side, you can shop in the myriad stores on Front Street,
or stroll the newly constructed boardwalk along the
beach and stop at an outdoor café for a cool
drink. In French Marigot, market day on Saturday brings
locals and visitors from around the island to browse
for handmade crafts and fine art or to sample fresh
fruit from island vendors. The French shops offer an
abundance of European clothes and distinctive French
The island also is blessed with numerous beaches, some
only accessible by boat. Tintamarre, a tiny uninhabited
island off the eastern coast, is a yachtsmen's paradise.
We dinghied ashore, then went inland just a few yards
beyond the beach, where the captain promised us a refresing
experience. With a bucket of saltwater in hand, he found
the perfect area of dried mud, which he promptly wet
down. Then he instructed us to cover our entire bodies
with the goo and let it dry. After it was sufficiently
caked on, we waded into the surf and washed the mud
off, exfoliating our skin and enjoying a Caribbean version
of a spa treatment.
In St. Barth's, you're able to tie up at the dock in
Gustavia and simply step onshore rather than taking
The red roofs of this typical French island gleam in the intense sun, and after a leisurely stroll around town, it's obvious why St. Barth's is a favorite haunt of the rich and famous. There are great restaurants and bars, upscale boutiques, and patisseries where French pastries will tempt even the strictest dieter.
The beaches in St. Barth's are among the finest in the world, with St. Jean considered the most unusual. Beach goers are treated to small aircraft flying in and out of the tiny airport just yards above the beach. Sunbathers, considered foolhardy by most, lie alongside the end of the runway and apparently get some type of adrenaline rush from the planes soaring so low over their heads.
Most cruise ships don't call on Anguilla, so the only way to explore this British-oriented island is to arrive by yacht or fly there to stay at hotels, villas or guesthouses. We maneuvered our cat into several different bays, including Shoal Bay and Rendezvous Bay, both noted for their marine life and colorful reefs. Undoubtedly two of the most memorable experiences were a swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery and later, lunch at Gwen's Reggae Grill, a charming little restaurant that featured seafood from surrounding waters served on an outdoor patio covered with a thatched roof.
After lunch, you can laze on a hammock at the edge of the water and forget your worldly cares, or simply take a nap. As the late afternoon light started to fade, and the sun began its customary descent into the waiting arms of the sea, we refused a ride back to the yacht in the dinghy and swam to our floating hotel, wondering what Nicky had fashioned for our return. We were eager to reflect on the events of the day and speculate on what tomorrow might bring. Whatever it was, it was sure to leave an indelible mark in our minds as it always has.