What is the secret formula that makes one charter yacht more successful than another? The 157-foot Christensen Lady Joy seems to have all the right ingredients.
A charter yacht cannot rest on its laurels. To compete with the increasing number of private yachts being offered for charter, a yacht has to be impeccably maintained, dynamically run and offer all the amenities and toys possible. And perhaps most important of all, the crew has to be on top of its game. I spent several days aboard Lady Joy, circumnavigating Antigua. She offers the complete package: an elegant and comfortable vessel plus a highly professional and energetic crew of 11. From the captain, to the boson, to sous-chef to third stewardess, this young group of individuals is masterful at making you feel special. On and off the yacht, it was a great experience
Antigua, in the Leeward Islands, is the classic launch pad for charters. Its central location in the chain of Caribbean islands makes it easy for yachts to sail north or south to other ports of call. Antigua itself is steeped in maritime history from British colonial days. English Harbour, Lord Nelson’s bastion, is full of Georgian buildings and relics from the mid-18th century. While we were touring Nelson’s Dockyard, we caught a colorful demonstration of the Antigua police band’s “Beat the Retreat.”
Both the Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour were abuzz with activity as it was the tail end of the Antigua Charter Yacht Show. There was plethora of vessels on display. Lady Joy too had participated in the show and was docked in a visible location at the Antigua Yacht Club. We boarded her there bound for Barbuda, Five Islands and beyond.
First impression entering Lady Joy’s main salon is one of classic elegance. What makes the cabins and common areas pop is the ubiquitous contemporary art that adds a decided zing to the ultra-high-gloss mahogany-paneled walls. The artwork reflects the owner’s personality and makes you feel like a guest in her home rather than a traveler in a hotel. Anje, one of the stewardesses, ushered me to my cabin and asked if I would like my bag unpacked. I felt a bit squeamish about someone wrestling with my rumpled unruly mess, but she made it seem completely second nature to unpack for me, so I left her to it. After a bit of brunch, which consisted of healthy homemade yogurt and granola with grated apple and walnuts and hot passion-fruit muffins—hold the eggs any style, please—I returned to my cabin and lo and behold, linen blouses were ironed and my random unprepossessing tee shirts were folded in a pleasing palate of sorbet colors looking more purposeful than I had intended. My dresses, wraps and capris were organized as ensembles. For an abysmal folder and inefficient packer, this humbling gesture of order set the bar for additional guilty pleasures to come.
There is a distinct difference between obsequiousness and authentic service with a smile. The crew spirit aboard Lady Joy is genuine. The captain is eager to have you on the bridge to patiently explain what all the monitors mean and to show you the charted course for the next few days. While maintaining the authority that comes with his position, he obviously enjoys a copacetic relationship with his crew. He is directive without being insistent. Our initial brief to him was that we wanted to go to Barbuda, but the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, the waves were slightly choppy and some of us were wrestling with a touch of mal de mer, so he gave us the option of changing course. He suggested we forgo Barbuda and head for an easy anchorage in Five Islands in order to have a suitably calm late lunch and an afternoon of watersports. It was the right decision. Being a good captain is figuring out what makes your group tick. Do they want to travel for several hours in misbehaving seas to “get there” or do they wish to simply “be there”?
The beauty of being on a luxury yacht is that, for the most part, you are always “there,” especially when you are in the Caribbean’s turquoise waters. Lady Joy is ready when you are. She carries every conceivable water toy—Seabobs, paddleboards, Sea-Doo watercraft, water skis and even the new jet surfboards. Lady Joy’s 42-foot Nautica is the mother of all RIBs (rigid inflatable boat); fast and comfortable, it feels like a second big boat. It followed us or preceded us, doing reconnaissance for good parking places in out-of-the way anchorages. For more immediate fun on the water, it is necessary to get in the water, and first mate Joey is most helpful in coaxing you to do so. With an eternal smile and endless patience he demonstrates how to maneuver the Seabob so that you don’t feel as if you will plunge to 20 leagues beneath the sea never to surface, or how to stand more vertically on the paddleboard.
After mastering all the toys, we all felt like we deserved our sundowners in the hot tub on the top deck where an array of decadent drinks accompanied delectable hors d’oeuvres. Mealtime on board is tantamount to an evening at the theater, with every table setting designed to delight an each of a dozen different place settings to tell a story. Today, a tableau of seashells, fishermen’s nets, starfish and driftwood set the stage for plates and napkin rings in cerulean blues.
Australian chef Sandra creates dishes to appeal to all palates. For the vegetarian in our group, she transforms her lamb tenderloin stuffed with spinach and dates au jus de tamarind into a vegan delight with similar visuals. Chief stewardess Shelly, the consummate hostess is a perfectionist who (gently) insists on indulging or intuiting your every whim. You have a mojito in your hand before you even know you are craving one, or a welcome cup of ginger tea with a biscuit just to tide you over.
At anchor at Green Island, we knew the crew was planning a beach barbecue while we were exploring the far coastline on Sea-Doos, but we were unaware of the extent of the preparations. When the crew urged us back to shore, this deserted sandy spit, now set with a tent and chairs, had a Treasure Island flair. Written in seashells on the beach was an artistic “WELCOME,” and “LADY JOY” was spelled out in a swoop of dark green kelp. I felt as if I were the “chosen one” on the TV show The Bachelor as the stewardesses, decked out in South Sea shifts with tropical flowers in their hair, greeted us with true Polynesian hospitality. The crew’s delight in surprising us was infectious. A highlight for me was seeing the boys arrive in the smaller tender holding pitchers of frozen piña coladas in outstretched arms.
It is the spirit of the Lady Joy charter that lingers in my memory. I can still savor the sheets, the chocolates on the pillow, the bottle of Fiji water in a sterling-silver holder on my bedside table, the fresh figs stuffed with Stilton, but I will long cherish the crew’s unbridled enthusiasm.
Our last day, we all decided to jump in unison off the bow, our yelps and shouts of glee representing the apex of an exuberant charter experience.
A tablespoon of sun, a cup of saltwater, two measures of hospitality, a pinch of joy and, if desired, a soupçon of rum—it’s a no-fail recipe for success. ■
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LOA: 157ft. (47.85m)
Beam: 29ft. 6in. (8.99m)
Draft: 8ft. 3in. (2.51m)
Interior design: Carol Williamson & Associates
Naval architect: Christensen Shipyard
Number of cabins: 6
Total guests: 12
Cabin configuration: 4 double, 2 twin
Classification: Commercial/MAC/ISM Status
Flag: Marshall Islands
Tenders: Nautica 42ft. chase boat, Nautica 15
Toys: 2 Sea-Doo PWCs with brake system, 3 Seabobs, 2 paddleboards, 2 sea kayaks, 2 jet surfboards, 6 sets scuba gear, 1 wakeboard, 2 water skis, 4 sea biscuits, 1 banana, fishing gear
Stabilizers: zero speed
Air conditioning: Whisper air-conditioning system/Nautica Easy Purification System
Entertainment: Kaleidescape with Crestron and iPad controls, integrated Apple TV, state-of-the-art audiovisual technology throughout the vessel
Builder: Christensen, 2007