Monks, Jedi and Char­ter Yachts

Yachts International - - From The Masthead - Kenny Wooton Editor-In-Chief

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.

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