Yachts International - - Contents - by An­drew PArkin­son

Run­ning a char­ter busi­ness comes with trade-offs. Spo­radic use by the owner, in or­der to main­tain a heavy char­ter sched­ule, can mean more wear and tear on the boat. An owner may also be rel­e­gated to less fa­vor­able dates while char­ter­ers en­joy peak sea­son. Either sit­u­a­tion can wear down the yacht, the crew and the owner alike.

After 15 years of char­ter­ing as a client prior to buy­ing his first yacht, the owner of the 197-foot (60-me­ter) Abek­ing & Ras­mussen Dream (who prefers his name not be used in this story) was well aware of those dy­nam­ics—fore­sight that to­day al­lows him to run a top­shelf char­ter pro­gram while en­joy­ing his yacht, and his pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy, to the max.

He calls Dream’s char­ter pro­gram his pride of pas­sion: “The boat has to of­fer the ut­most ex­pe­ri­ence for any char­ter guest. Char­ter helps de­fray some of the cost, but more im­por­tantly, it keeps the crew mo­ti­vated and en­gaged. Their in­ter­ac­tions with our guests help us know what could be im­proved, so we can stay on the cut­ting edge of ameni­ties and ser­vice. It also en­hances my own fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ence when we’re on the boat.”

As for sac­ri­fic­ing prime char­ter dates, the owner takes a fam­ily-first ap­proach. He says the se­cret to a suc­cess­ful char­ter pro­gram is more about qual­ity than the num­ber of weeks a yacht is booked. Some years, Dream char­ters more, and other years, she char­ters less.

“My wife and I use it when we want to use it, and we book char­ters around our sched­ule,” he says. “We’re se­lec­tive about our guests, from back­ground checks to ref­er­ences from captains and bro­kers. The well-be­ing of our boat and our crew comes first.”

His out­look has be­come a mar­ket­ing tool for char­ter bro­kers, who tell clients the own­ers use their boat so fre­quently, and are so metic­u­lous about choos­ing guests, that the ex­pe­ri­ence aboard Dream will be equally as metic­u­lous.

The owner also en­gages with char­ter pro­pos­als and itin­er­ar­ies, with the goal of help­ing his guests get the most out of their va­ca­tion.

“There’s a creative side to ac­com­mo­dat­ing our clients, which I also en­joy,” he says. “I’ll look at the pro­posed itin­er­ary and make rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove it, based on my own ex­pe­ri­ences, as I’ve been to most of these places al­ready.”

The owner’s en­gage­ment paid div­i­dends for Dream’s clients after the dev­as­tat­ing 2017 hur­ri­cane sea­son, which forced some yacht own­ers to write off their win­ter book­ings com­pletely. With his deep knowl­edge

of the south­ern Caribbean, which was largely spared from the storms, Dream’s owner had many al­ter­na­tive itin­er­ar­ies in mind, and Dream en­joyed a busy sea­son.

The owner is also thor­ough when it comes to up­grades and main­te­nance. Only a year after tak­ing own­er­ship of Dream, he com­mis­sioned a ma­jor re­fit by Ban­nen­berg & Row­ell De­sign.

“First, we did a com­plete in­te­rior re­fit,” he says. “Dream was al­ready in great shape, but de­sign-wise she needed bet­ter ac­cess to the swim plat­form. Pre­vi­ous ac­cess was through the lazarette, where guests had to ma­neu­ver through a crew space. So, we length­ened her about 12 feet to add an el­e­gant ex­te­rior stair­case down to the swim plat­form. In 2017, based on our guests’ feed­back, we added new teak decks and a larger Jacuzzi on the bridge deck, and re­con­fig­ured the bar with stun­ning Ital­ian mar­ble and up­graded chairs. I’m al­ways look­ing into new up­grades—what­ever it takes to en­hance the guests’ ex­pe­ri­ence on board.”

To be cer­tain, his in­vest­ment has been equally self­serv­ing, and right­fully so. He ex­pects noth­ing less than the ut­most en­joy­ment when he uses his yacht.

“We’ve cov­ered the Med pretty ex­ten­sively, from the South of France to the Ital­ian coast, Sar­dinia, Si­cily, the Adri­atic, Croa­tia, Greece and Tur­key,” he says. “The Ae­o­lian Is­lands are my fa­vorite spot in the Med... and Mon­tene­gro. We’ve done the Ba­hamas and all of the Caribbean. Panama was also a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Dream ven­tured to the South Pa­cific last year, via the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, to visit French Poly­ne­sia’s So­ci­ety Is­lands and Tuamo­tus, and Fiji.

Such free­dom to roam has fu­eled an­other pride of pas­sion for the owner: pho­tog­ra­phy. Self-taught as a teenager, he honed his craft along­side pro­fes­sion­als. To­day, some of his most dra­matic snap­shots are on dis­play through­out Dream. One of those works was re­cently fea­tured in the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s “Na­ture’s Best Pho­tog­ra­phy” ex­hi­bi­tion.

“Mine was the great white shark,” he says. “The most amaz­ing fish in the world. The shot was cho­sen as one of the win­ners among 26,000 photo sub­mis­sions from 59 coun­tries. I took the por­trait from a cage in about 20 feet of wa­ter at Guadalupe Is­land off Mex­ico’s Pa­cific Coast.”

What could be more ex­hil­a­rat­ing than div­ing with a great white shark?

“Div­ing with a school of sharks,” he says. “Watch­ing ham­mer­head sharks cruis­ing above me once was like be­ing on the side of a high­way and see­ing a group of sports cars race by, dis­ap­pear­ing in an in­stant. Ex­cept the sharks did it silently and seem­ingly ef­fort­lessly.”

Once again, he nailed the shot. Now it’s on dis­play for Dream’s char­ter guests, who may won­der how he got it.

“It’s about know­ing and ob­serv­ing the an­i­mals. If they get too close or rowdy, we get out of the wa­ter. Also, I’m al­ways cau­tious and dive with pro­fes­sion­als and lo­cals.

“My wife and I just love to travel and see the world,” he adds. “The boat makes it all pos­si­ble. It’s like a lux­ury bed and break­fast you can take wher­ever you want. If you like a spot, stay. If not, you can move. For me, own­ing Dream means flex­i­bil­ity, free­dom to ex­plore and pri­vacy.”

And he hopes his char­ter guests get to ex­pe­ri­ence those things as well.

The owner ex­plores a cenote, an un­der­ground fresh­wa­ter cave, in Yu­catán, Mex­ico.FAC­ING PAGE: The 197-foot Abek­ing & Ras­mussen Dream is ex­pected to char­ter in the South Pa­cific and new Zealand this sea­son at a weekly base rate of around $420,000.

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