21 February 2023
There is, to borrow from Kenneth Grahame’s much-quoted line in The Wind in the Willows, nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. It’s true for all of us who have felt the call of the seas and enjoy exploring bustling city harbours and faraway paradisical wilds alike. But, like all things, there are levels – and superyachting is the highest of them all.
If ownership seems a pipedream, there is also superyacht charter, which offers the opportunity to enjoy a superyacht lifestyle within the constraints of modern life.
For many, the idea of luxury cruising or superyacht chartering stops with limited-cabin cruise ships, or day charters aboard an AMSA-certified yacht.
The former offers luxury cruising in the wilder parts of our Australian coastlines, and the latter is typical of the Sydney Harbour soiree. But neither captures the essence of a true superyacht charter.
“Consider the most unique and bespoke holiday, coupled with the highest level of service and attention to detail, and then tailor-made completely to your specific requirements,” begins Chris Santon, Head of Burgess Australia.
“That is the essence of superyacht charter – and that is what this experience is all about.”
Santon is in a good position to comment. Before joining world-renowned brokerage house Burgess, he spent 26 years as crew on superyachts, the last 14 of them as captain on yachts from 50 to more than 70 metres.
For him, there is a vital distinction between both the luxury cruise and AMSA charter sectors and true superyacht charter.
“There is a place for every level of charter in Australia,” he offers. “We work in the super-luxury sphere, with yachts that can normally only take a maximum of 12 guests and where all preferences for meals, beverages and any extra expenses are planned in advance and either tailored to, or designed by, the charter guests themselves.”
The charters, he says, are usually from a minimum of seven days to however long the charter is required.
“The itinerary,” he adds, “is planned to as much detail as possible between the charterer, the captain and the charter broker representing the charterer.”
And, it’s important to remember the charter usually starts long before you step aboard. Being met, for example, by the crew at the airport and transported to the yacht via limo on land and sea, or by helicopter in some cases, is all part of the seven-star-plus service that revolves entirely around you and your family or guests. Such differentiators only begin to describe being on board your own superyacht catered to by a dedicated crew that, particularly on the larger yachts, will significantly outnumber the guests but for whom the guests are their sole focus.
These are yachts that offer the freedom to go anywhere or nowhere, as you decide, and to create myriad bespoke experiences as part of the trip. Crews are specialists in being able to create extraordinary moments, from treasure hunts to spectacular onboard dining, and from leaving you to it to leading you into it, depending on what you’re after and how private you want to be.
All will have crew members trained in various skills, such as qualified water-sports instructors to help guests enjoy the vast array of water toys superyachts typically offer, and can also include anything from dive masters to masseuses, and beauty therapists to wellness specialists. It truly is the realm of if you can dream it, it can be made a reality.
What’s more, superyacht charters are not the single preserve of oligarchs – more and more they are being enjoyed by multi-generational families as a way to spend quality time together.
“When you consider that luxury charter yachts worldwide cruise with a restricted and small party of guests, in contrast to the other examples of charter mentioned before, it’s possible to use the various area of the yachts to cater for all different generations of charter guests in the same trip,” Santon enthuses.
“The older guests can enjoy the peace and quiet on the top deck, either in the shade or the sun,” he suggests, “while the younger generations can benefit from the myriad toys and activities down by the water.
“And when there’s a break,” he continues, “they can meet in the middle for a multi-course meal prepared by the onboard professional chef to all your pre-arranged preferences.”
Superyachts also offer a corporate escape that can be so much more than the day-on-the-harbour type of charter. The 90-metre, classically styled gentleman’s motor yacht Nero, one of the world’s great charter experiences, is just as at home with business groups as with families.
“She’s perfect for families,” beams Matthew Pownell-Jones, the yacht’s captain. Superyachts are especially ideal for families with children, and proper superyacht crews are well-versed in entertaining children of all ages.
“The kids just want to have fun, and the parents want to feel safe and comfortable that the children are going to be taken care of; that they can roam free without coming to any harm,” says Steve Osborne, Captain of the Australian-owned 60-metre Slipstream, a highly successful charter yacht.
“Some guests are more formal; others want a more informal charter, but we always make them feel comfortable, like it’s a home away from home.”
Both crew and yacht must be doing something right – Slipstream enjoys a high level of repeat charter, with one family coming back 17 times so far.
The key, says Osborne, is both in the attention to detail and the level of facilities and service that simply can’t be replicated in any other form of luxury holiday.
“For anyone who goes on holiday, you can go to the fanciest hotel, and have the most expensive suite in the world, but you’ll still be queuing at the beach to go waterskiing or out on the tow-toys, or you’ll be in the pool with hundreds of other kids. But a superyacht offers the ultimate time and ultimate place to have a holiday with your family, where all the focus is just on you.”
“For me, having children on board makes for the best charters,” offers Ayeisha Dyer McCutcheon, Second Officer aboard Nero, “because they just want to have fun.
“In 2021, we had charters where from 0730 to 2130, we were in the water playing with the kids.
“You build a friendship, then do something like a wild treasure hunt that we’ll set up or design a superyacht with them,” she continues. “If you can make the kids happy, the parents are happy. And we teach them things as well – they feel like they’ve really achieved something while they’re on holiday and haven’t just stared at an iPad.”
For Santon, Oceania is one of the best places on earth to enjoy a superyacht charter. “An itinerary in Australia and New Zealand needs to be on the bucket list of any superyacht enthusiast and charterer,” he states.
“There are so many spectacular cruising areas on offer that it’s impossible to experience everything in one charter alone.
“From Sydney, with her harbour and the world-class New Year’s Eve celebrations in December, to the beautiful tropical islands of the Whitsundays from March through to November; from the striking beauty of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in the southern summer, to the unique natural phenomena and topography of the Kimberley in Western Australia between July and September – there is just so much to experience across every month and season of the year.
“This,” he says, “is what stands out with chartering in this region more so than anywhere else in the world.”
For those who wish to immerse themselves in superyacht charter, whether first-timers or seasoned boaters, Santon has some key advice. Always seek the assistance of an experienced charter broker, who can help with the planning, and ensure that the investment in your holiday is completed with every detail considered and any questions answered.
“You may decide to rent a luxury villa for AU$60,000 a week and accept everything on face value from photos and emails,” he says, “but to do the same for a luxury superyacht at AU$600,000 a week is a completely different matter altogether.”
It’s true, not least because there are elements that are pivotal for charter – a charter can be made or broken on how good the crew are, for example – that can’t be judged in the same way that a villa or bareboat can.
“Burgess takes pride in organising over 800 charters every year,” Santon adds, “and our job is to ensure that everything is considered and handled ahead of the client stepping on board the yacht.”
That said, it’s important not to be intimidated by the degree of detail and due diligence when selecting the perfect charter superyacht. It’s all part of the fun and anticipation of what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience every time you do it.
“Superyacht charter is all about a completely bespoke charter experience that is uniquely tailor-made for the individual charterer to create unforgettable experiences they will cherish forever,” Santon concludes. It’s hard to sum it up any better than that.