Monks, Jedi and Charter Yachts
Iplay a little game when I’m at the movies. I try to guess where exterior scenes are shot. Often they’re obvious, but those crafty Hollywood types are adept at leaving us believing New Mexico is Afghanistan and a city street in Toronto is the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I’m almost always in my seat when the kids come around sweeping up the popcorn and candy boxes, waiting for those last lines of the credits that reveal the shooting locations.
Like millions, I was at the cineplex before Christmas taking in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It was clear the filmmakers spanned the globe for locations, and when the final scenes started to roll, I perked up. It occurred to me that I’d climbed those hundreds of stone stairs 20 years ago on the craggy, wind-lashed island. When the heroine reached the top and found the character she’d sought among a nest of stone huts occupied by monks in the Dark Ages, I was sure.
The island was Skellig Michael, one of two severely vertical rocks that rise from the sea off southwest Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula. In addition to giving the monks all the peace they could stand and serving as a movie set, the Skelligs achieved renown as the first land Charles Lindbergh saw after he left Long Island on his solo crossing in 1927.
Why does any of this matter to yachtsmen? Because Skellig Michael is reachable only by boat (the smaller Little Skellig is only open to birds). The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your choices for landing are: a) book a ride from a tour operator on the County Kerry mainland or b) go by private boat. My visit there two decades back was during a memorable charter on an 80-foot sailing yacht. The brokers and captain who set up the Skelligs stopover got the necessary permissions and arranged for us to meet a naturalist who walked us up the 600 steps to take in the scenic and historical treasures. Among the many unforgettable places I’ve been to by boat, the Skelligs rate near the top.
Yacht charter, to which we’ve devoted a substantial number of pages in this issue, can be a gateway to riches around the world in places you may never take your own boat, both on the beaten path and way off the track. Charter can be in tropical climes, as are our three destinations—Panama’s islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Belize—the great coastal cities of the Med, the intimate harbors of the northeastern and northwestern United States or the high latitudes where you’ll definitely feel like you’re not in Kansas. Wherever you go on a crewed charter yacht, you’ll do it in the highest style.
The monks on Skellig Michael had it rough, living on seabird eggs and fish after walking down and back up those 600 steps to cast a line. No so for us. We went back to the yacht, were pampered like princes and ate like kings.
Back in the theater, the heroine in “Star Wars” found her man at the top of those stairs. I got to recall a magic moment on Skellig Michael—and I won my little game, which I’d never have been able to play had I not had a boat under me.