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 top-shelf 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 self-serving, 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.
Dream is available for charter through Burgess: burgessyachts.com