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Offshore investments: chartered yachts offer a private resort on the serene high seas.

Les Biller, the now-retired chief operating officer and vice-chairman of Wells Fargo, was headed for vacation with his wife when he learned that he was scheduled to attend several upcoming board meetings. Fortunately, the couple had chartered the luxurious 95-foot motor yacht "Nicole Marie" for 10 days to cruise through pristine Alaskan waters. Biller was able to meet his business obligations via the yacht's on-board communications equipment while finding time to fish for halibut and salmon.


"Chartering a yacht is the most wonderful way to see any part of the world and recharge your batteries," says Biller, who rose early every morning of his trip to watch the sunrise. "Each day, I gazed out on something different along the rugged Pacific Northwest shoreline--sometimes bears, or swooping bald eagles. For dinner one night the chef barbecued a salmon we had caught that afternoon. When it occasionally came time to dial into a conference call, I did so--and undoubtedly, had the best view."


Biller's experience illustrates why the yacht charter industry has grown so quickly over the past decade. Charter yachts serve as mini floating five-star resorts, complete with private chefs and crews devoted to fulfilling your every whim. Services and amenities vary depending on the style you prefer, as well as what your wallet will bear, but all provide executives with what many crave most: privacy, luxury and freedom. Unlike guests at land resorts or on large cruise ships, charter guests have complete flexibility and can change their plans instantly, waking up each morning, as Biller did, to a new vista. What's more, yachts can access secluded bays and coves that large ships just cannot maneuver.

Ken Kies, managing director of the Federal Policy Group for Clark Consulting, Washington, D.C., says he and his family were able to visit 10 islands in 10 days during a recent trip to the Caribbean on the 120-foot Broward "Sovereign." "My wife hates to pack up and move every few days, so it was ideal. Each location offered something different, so everyone in the family had plenty to do, whether it was shopping or snorkeling." Like Biller, Kies appreciates the satellite communications, which he says acts as "a security blanket." "My BlackBerry doesn't always work on a boat out in the water," he says. "When you run a company, you can't just walk away and hope everything goes well."




Kies became hooked on the yacht vacation lifestyle and chartered "Sovereign" twice more. On a recent trip to the Bahamas, Kies gushes, "Every morning was the same--perfect!" Each day he work up to a new spectacular setting, and then he was served his breakfast of choice while selecting from a full range of activities for the day, from water sports to golf. He also chartered for corporate purposes when he entertained guests during the 2004 Republican Convention in Manhattan. He and his staff stayed on the yacht and ran 11 events in five days. "It was something different," he says. "Whereas other groups held parties in museums or hotels, we could sail out past the Statue of Liberty and view the skyline."

Chartering Your Yacht

Until recently, yachting was primarily the pastime of the very wealthy, and only those who knew someone who owned a yacht were able to spend time onboard. According to Jonathan Beckett, president of worldwide yacht specialists Nigel Burgess, it was generally frowned upon to put your yacht on the charter market 10 to 20 years ago. But the cost of maintaining a yacht (as much as $2 million to $3 million per year for a 200-foot yacht) has now made chartering revenue very attractive, especially since there is a growing market of people who can afford it. The income from charter has enabled owners to upgrade, and Beckett says the trend continues for newer, bigger yachts. Where 100-foot vessels once seemed large, many of today's "super yachts" reach 200 feet or greater and are often now called "mega yachts." The charterer benefits because he or she enjoys all the yacht has to offer, but only pays for the time aboard.

Steven Johnson of Luxury Yacht Group, which specializes in yachts longer than 100 feet, attributes the rise in charter to an increased supply of yachts and the aging, affluent population who demand luxury afloat. He says privacy and anonymity are key factors for famous people who want to get away from the public eye. "For the non-famous affluent," Johnson says, "chartering provides a chance to get the extended family together with an entire crew catering to each person's wishes."

While most of his clients charter once a year and tend to stick with the same vessel, repeat client Denise Rich, a songwriter and music industry executive, enjoyed charter so much she recently purchased a yacht. The 145-foot "Lady Joy" is now completing a major refit, and will be offered for charters when Rich is not using her. "The best part of chartering a yacht," says Rich, "is that I can completely relax because all the details have been attended to before my guests and I arrive."

Rich also cites the benefits of a great crew. "A good chef is important to me because I sometimes bring on guests with dietary restrictions, and a good chef will not only adhere to them, but will make fantastic meals for everyone with seemingly little effort. Also, a good stewardess will somehow magically know what I'm about to ask for and have it waiting for me." Although Rich has occasionally chartered a yacht for informal business meetings, where she "quite literally [has a] captive audience," she primarily reserves it for quiet vacations with family and friends. "The solitude of the sea relaxes and recharges me," she says.

While some yachts are now being built with corporate functions in mind, most charters are reserved for family and friends because there's something for everyone. Guests can do whatever appeals to them individually during the day, then have their meals together in the evening.

David Van Denburgh, chairman and CEO of American Fence Co., has been chartering for eight years. He and his family favor the British Virgin Islands and the Pacific Northwest, where the 85-foot Hatteras "Jamal" cruises through areas such as Desolation Bay to provide "quality family time." "I find with young adults and teenagers that it's really fun for us to have one central location, with everyone playing board games, cards, water sports," Van Denburgh says. "But the best is when we're seated around the dinner table enjoying great food and maybe a bottle of wine or two. We really get to communicate as a family."

With about 1,000 yachts available for charter, clients have a multitude of choices. Of course, prices vary too. Expect to pay a couple of thousand dollars a week for a bareboat, or do-it-yourself, charter on a small sailboat, while a trip aboard the 280-foot mega yacht "Annaliesse" runs about $840,000 per week plus expenses. Bear in mind, however, that "Annaliesse" carries a 34-person crew to serve 36 passengers, features full his-and-her spas with two masseuses, a beauty parlor, gym, giant aquarium and children's playroom. She is not the largest available for charter though; that record is held by the 325-foot Christina O. There you can swim in the same tiled pool that refreshed Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, and can sip a martini on the famous bar stools that Aristotle Onassis had covered in whale foreskin to amuse his guests.

Yacht interiors range from sleek, minimalist and zen-like, with light woods, pale leather couches and white carpeting, to the more opulent, with mahogany paneling, rich brocade draperies and plush velvet sofas edged in heavy fringe. All feature multiple bars and outdoor dining areas. Many are equipped with fine bone china, crystal and sterling, and showcase fine sculptures and paintings.

Master staterooms on super yachts are often full-beam lavish suites with a separate office, a lounge and a dressing area. Enormous en suite bathrooms are crafted of the finest marble with inlaid designs, Jacuzzis and his-and-her fixtures with gold-plated faucets. At a moment's notice, a bath can be drawn and topped with floating candles and flower petals. Water "toys" are always provided and can include everything from snorkeling and diving gear to tubes, Waverunners, small sailboats and 40-foot fishing boats, which are towed along.


On the largest yachts, full-service spas, multiple plasma TVs, baby grand pianos, gyms and super-sized Jacuzzis or mini plunge pools have all become de rigueur. A number are equipped with dance floors, movie theaters, game rooms and mini submarines. Helicopters can whisk guests away to a nearby airport or a favorite historical site, where the crew will be happy to arrange a customized tour. Many yachts also offer accommodations for guests' personal staff, such as wardrobe consultants, hairdressers, manicurists, personal trainers, nannies, doctors, nurses or bodyguards. "Occasionally," says Beckett of Nigel Burgess, "if there are additional staff, the client charters a second yacht to follow along."

With so many variables, how do you decide which yacht is right for you? It's best to rely on word of mouth or contact an experienced broker; there are about 400 worldwide, ranging from one-person agencies to corporations with international offices. According to Jennifer Saia, president of The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals, a broker must first know the yachts and the crews that are doing well in the market. Saia says she "keeps her car to the ground" and visits the yachts every chance she gets, then works with the client to narrow their proposed expenditure, desired location and time of year for travel. At that point, she says, "I recommend the destination, find out their interests, determine if we need a kid-friendly crew or one with a higher level of service, and pinpoint the basic decor preferences and a comfortable cruising speed." The most desired amenities? An outside on-deck Jacuzzi and a towed tender.

Beckett stresses that each charter is hand-built and, depending on the level, he may fly to meet with the client several times to determine the specifies, then actually greet the client as he or she arrives at the airport or boards the yacht. Brokers will also arrange travel services associated with the charter such as private planes and limousines. The broker's role continues even during the charter to handle special requests such as finding a seaplane to fly in a special flavor of Haagen-Dazs to a private bay in Turkey, or deliver another case of Cristal champagne to a remote island in the Bahamas. Welcome aboard, indeed.


Jamal Yacht Charters

Kirkland, Wash.


Luxury Yacht Group LLC

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Nigel Burgess Ltd.



The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.



* Enlist a qualified broker who belongs to an official yacht charter regulatory group (CYBA, FYBA or MYBA), and be aware that contracts are binding. Charter brokers have access to all available yachts.

* Be prepared to pay 30 percent above the charter rates for yachts quoted as "plus expenses."

* Book well in advance for popular destinations during holidays or summer. Hot spots include the coasts of France and Italy, Croatia, New England, Alaska and the Bahamas.

* Determine your preferences. In general, Mediterranean charters are more cultural, with frequent trips ashore, while those in the Caribbean are more oriented toward water sports.

* Charter with friends or extended family to reduce per-person rates. In some cases, this may work out equal to the price you'd pay at a luxury resort or for the best accommodations on a cruise ship.

* Remember to tip the crew--their sole purpose is to honor your every whim.
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Title Annotation:EXECUTIVE LIFE
Author:Matusow, Jamie
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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