One perk of being a charter broker is getting invited aboard yachts for a few days of cruising, sampling the cuisine and meeting the crew. Top brokers get to have extraordinary experiences in destinations where most yachts don’t go: They get the invitations to the best insider parties around the world, so to speak. The following three charter brokers have had the good fortune to enjoy the best of the best opportunities. Of everything they’ve seen and done during decades on the water, these are their singularly best memories.
The Galapagos Islands aboard the 124-foot (37.8-meter) Picchiotti M/Y Stella Maris
By Missy Johnston, Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters Newport
I found the Galapagos to be extraordinary. Because the wild marine and bird life is so unafraid, given their limited exposure to humans, we were able to sit right next to a sea lion who had just given birth. We watched the sea lion pup nurse for the first time. The mother moved, because another young pup came over and wanted a snack as well; she reared up and, with her nose, pushed the other pup away.
We were watching all of that, and we were also watching on the beach. Once the pup is a little bit older, the pups stay on shore, trying to be hidden, and mom has to go out and search for food. They can be gone a day or two. We watched one sea lion pup as her mother was returning. The pup was calling out for the mother, and in the waves, the mom was surfing in. It was really quite something. And it’s terrific because you have the naturalist with you, explaining the entire thing and all the dynamics of why the pup is on the shore, hidden in the seaweed and undergrowth, waiting for the mom to come surfing in.
Then at a different anchorage, the juvenile sea lions love to play in the volcanic formations from where the lava hits the water. There are a lot of caverns and tunnels above and below the water. The juveniles love to play hide and seek, and they include people in the games. I swam over—you really shouldn’t ever touch the wildlife—but I got to be there, and we had three juvenile sea lions, and they were frolicking and playing in and out of the tunnels and caves. They saw me and came over, and I had to swim backwards because one of the sea lions got right in my face. It wanted to sniff my snorkeling mask. It just wanted to play. I was part of its playtime. That went on for about 20 minutes. You could swim and swim with them.
It was the coolest and the most interactive experience of anywhere I’ve been.
Costa Rica, aboard the 125-foot (38.1-meter) Delta M/Y Centurion
By Agnes Howard, Camper & Nicholsons International
We would move along the west coast of Costa Rica with the yacht and then go for the day into the interior, on excursions. It’s an unusual thing for a yacht charter to include excursions deep in the interior of a destination, but this yacht had it all worked out. We got to see the coastline and a lot of what Costa Rica had to offer beyond that, too.
One of the days, we went whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River. I remember going through these high caverns, these really high rock walls. It wasn’t fast at that point; it was peaceful. And then it opened up, and you saw this beautiful area. That was after the fast parts with the rapids. I remember being pushed around in those parts; the maneuvering of the guide at the back of the raft really helped. That’s the only reason all of us stayed in that raft. It was totally fun, not scary. It was invigorating. Exciting. For a yacht charter, it’s really unusual to go whitewater rafting. Costa Rica may not offer the white-sand beaches, but the interior is just fascinating.
There was a really long footbridge that we crossed, and that was really cool. And there were some spectacular birds to watch. For people who love bird-watching, it was great. There were red macaws, all kinds of things. They had binoculars when we went ashore in this beautiful, huge flat bay. So there was all this scenery surrounding us, and then a guide who helped us find the birds. It was wonderful.
St. Lucia, aboard the 142-foot (43-meter) Palmer Johnson M/Y Lady J
By Lara-Jo Houghting, Churchill Yacht Partners
We started off one of the mornings with a sunrise hike going up along the Tet Paul Nature Trail. It was easy enough, pretty simple for all kinds of people, and we went up to an area where you could actually see the Pitons in the distance. You could do those put-your-finger-on-the-top-of-the-mountain photos, which was fun. Our guide pointed out all the flora and fauna, and then we went back to the yacht and moved to another anchorage.
A tender took us to shore, and we drove about 600 feet up to Jade Mountain Resort. It was like no place I had seen before. It was exquisite. Very special, very organic, very healthy with a beautiful view of the Pitons and very good service—just absolutely magnificent.
After lunch, we went to a chocolate factory, and the head chef taught us how to make our own chocolate bars. We were tempering the chocolate ourselves, and we laughed a lot. We made our own truffles and customized chocolate bars for our loved ones. How often do you get to temper chocolate? It’s not a natural thing that you can just do it. You have to learn the technique. It’s like going to a painting class when you’ve never painted before. We wrapped the chocolate and everything. It was really fun.
Then we went to the Ti Kaye Spa, which is also up in the mountains overlooking Lady J, anchored in the bay. It was all alfresco. All the windows were open, and there was a hole in the floor so you could look down at the water while you got a massage. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
After the spa, we ended up on the sundeck of Lady J in the Jacuzzi, drinking Moscow Mules and watching the sun set over the Pitons. It was just absolutely spectacular. After that, we had a seven-course food-and-wine pairing aboard the yacht.
I’ve done some really cool things, but this day was very special. It was breathtaking. It was fun. It was educational. It was healthy. It was everything.