About Kim Kavin

Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of six books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, and is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine www.CharterWave.com.

New Vidcast: Motoryacht VvS1 in Fiji

If you’ve seen the new edition of Yachting magazine, then you know it contains my feature article about the fantastic couple of days I spent in Fiji aboard the 111-foot Alloy motoryacht VvS1. We visited the Mamanuca and Yasawa chains, where some people still live in homes that have thatched roofs, and where the night’s starry skies seem incomprehensibly bright because the island villages have no lights of their own.

One of the things I did during this charter was attend a meke, which is a celebration performed for important visitors. (I guess VvS1‘s guests qualify!) The locals wear traditional garb such as grass skirts, and they perform rituals, chants, and songs for the better part of an hour. The meke begins somberly but ends joyously, with locals and guests dancing and singing as one. It is, perhaps, the most memorable cultural experience I’ve enjoyed during a decade of covering the yacht charter industry worldwide.

I was able to get the local chief’s permission to videotape part of the meke, including one of the songs in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it in the video below, which also includes some of my photographs of the beautiful part of Fiji where VvS1 is available for charter.

Special thanks to management company 37 South for inviting me aboard VvS1 and making this experience possible.


Charter Yacht Latitude Aids with Gulf Oil Spill Research

charter yacht LatitudeNews media here in the States, taking their cues from the federal government, have been saying since early August that the “vast majority” of the spilled BP oil has been cleaned up or dispersed from the Gulf of Mexico. A handful of more recent reports, such as this one from earlier this week on CNN, have included contrary voices who claim that the truth is being hidden, literally underwater, and that the majority of the oil remains in the Gulf’s ecosystem.

The only way to discern reality from spin is of course to have scientists perform research and gather data. That’s why I was so happy to learn this week about the research partnership between Oceana, the world’s largest international organization focused wholly on ocean conservation, and the owner of the 170-foot expedition charter yacht Latitude.

You may remember Latitude from this article that I published after spending a few days onboard during a charter in Panama’s Las Perlas Islands. As I told you then, Latitude is a wonderfully different type of charter yacht, a true expedition vessel that is uniquely designed for fishing and scuba diving in some of the most remote locations on the planet.

Right now, though, requests for immediate charters are being turned away–because Latitude has become the temporary home of Oceana’s scientists. The owner of Latitude has agreed to let his yacht spend the next month mapping the underwater oil plume with sophisticated sensors. Scientists also will use a remotely operated vehicle to investigate a deep-reef complex off Alabama’s shore that is an important habitat for food and sport fish.

“Latitude is not a white swan,” the owner’s representative told me yesterday. “It’s a rugged boat that can go anywhere in the world. The owner built it that way because he loves the ocean, to go where other boats cannot go. When Oceana came along, it was a natural thing for the owner to get involved. His personal love of the sea made him want to help.”

And help in a big way, I’d say. The owner negotiated the yacht’s usual charter rate to make the Oceana effort possible, and he agreed to let the nonprofit paint its logo on the side of the vessel, which will be known as the Oceana Latitude for the duration of the effort.

Celebrities Ted Danson and Morgan Freeman helped to announce the effort earlier this week in Mississippi, where Oceana Europe Executive Director Xavier Pastor said reports that the oil has disappeared have been grossly exaggerated to mislead the public. He quoted two new studies published this month that show nearly 80 percent of the estimated 200 million gallons of spilled oil is still present, and that oil from the spill has been found on the sea floor.

Kudos to the owner of Latitude for being a yacht owner with a true desire to do what’s right by the sea. Latitude is expected to return to the charter market in early October, with bookings available this winter in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. If you’re an eco-minded charter client, then I urge you to support this yacht by contacting management firm Neptune Group Yachting, or any reputable charter broker.

The Jetstream: Interesting New Media Option for Charter Clients

The Jetstream media systemFirst, it was Crestron systems. They were the media device of the moment aboard charter yachts, allowing guests to access everything from their television to the air conditioning from a single remote control. Then came Kaleidescape, a server system that every charter yacht had to have because it allows access to thousands of movies and TV shows from an onboard server as opposed to a satellite receiver. During the past couple of years, I’ve heard rumblings about Apple TV, which some captains still think will become the Next Big Thing in yachting media systems. But Apple TV hasn’t come to dominate the luxury charter market yet–and now there is a new player coming out of Monaco, joining forces with one of the world’s leading superyacht companies.

The newest edition of Antennae, a promotional brochure from Edmiston and Company, has a substantial feature on a service called The Jetstream. The Jetstream offers remote access to your favorite TV channels through a single portal, wherever you are in the world.

So, for instance, if you are a Russian-speaking charter client aboard a charter yacht with English-based Kaleidescape movies and television shows, you can loop into your Jetstream system and watch your favorite Russian shows instead. Or, if you’re an English-speaking client on charter in a place like Abu Dhabi, where the local satellite signals are in Arabic, you can connect to The Jetstream to get your favorite U.S.- or U.K.-based programs. The signals are delivered across the Internet, so the only hardware that you need to access The Jetstream is a decent laptop computer.

As the FAQ section on the company’s website explains it: “The age-old problem which The Jetstream aims to solve is that of what happens when you sail away and leave the reception area of your favorite media service. Before The Jetstream, yachts were basically out of luck when they voyaged off to foreign waters. With The Jetstream, you have the flexibility to ‘snipe’ in content from anywhere, to anywhere, provided you can get a reasonably good data link.”

Sounds nifty to me, and apparently also to Edmiston and Company, which is now supplying The Jetstream to its managed fleet of yachts. Edmiston says it can also install the system on any chartered yacht for its clients who book vacations, presumably even if those vacations are aboard yachts in competing companies’ fleets. “We can also provide charter clients with monthly contracts,” Edmiston states, “meaning that the system can be enjoyed on a shorter trip, as well as longer term.”

Edmiston says The Jetstream will announce a new upgrade at next month’s Monaco Yacht Show that combines the service with control systems like Crestron. So maybe we are going a little bit “back to the future” with charter yacht entertainment systems, but at least, it appears, our reception will be improving.

Sailing Cat True North to Charter in Belize, Panama

charter yacht True NorthI love it when a well-known charter yacht moves out of the normal cruising areas and into exotic locales. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a chance for charter clients to enjoy the best of both worlds. You get a yacht whose program has been well-honed in competition for charter business over the years, and you get it in a setting where few, if any, proper yachts are ever available for charter.

Recent examples span the gamut from the smallest to the largest yachts, with destinations all over the globe. The 45-foot sailing catamaran Two if by Sea, a longtime fixture on the Virgin Islands market, is now offering charters in Tonga. The 228-foot motoryacht Sherakhan, which is well known in Caribbean and Mediterranean waters, will charter this winter in Antarctica.

And now comes word from management company Nicholson Yachts that the 65-foot sailing catamaran True North–for years one of the most respected charter yachts in the Virgin Islands–will be available for charters in Belize and Panama during the summer 2011 season.

Belize dates will be available from mid-May through the end of July, while charter dates in Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands will be open from August through October.

Even better, Capt. John White and chef Maxine White, who have helped to keep True North‘s reputation sparkling in the Virgin Islands, already have local knowledge of the cruising grounds in Belize and Central America. They previously chartered their own yacht there, including stops at Ambergris Caye, where True North is expected to be based.

And, as if that’s not enough, True North is keeping its Virgin Islands policy of offering free scuba to certified divers as it cruises areas like Belize’s famous Blue Hole.

Nicholson says that some dates for next summer’s charters are already taken. Any reputable charter broker can help you snap up the week of your choice while the getting is still good.


Editor’s Note: Nicholson Yachts is a sponsor of CharterWave, where this blog originates.

A New Phase in Yacht Charter Discounts?

charter yacht MondangoAnyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have been inundated all summer with news of discount offers from charter yachts worldwide. Even the most serious motoryachts in the Western Mediterranean have been dropping their weekly base rates by 15 percent to 40 percent. The fact that yacht charter is currently a buyer’s market is apparent. The only question has been just how low the discounts will go.

It is still too early to say whether such deep discounts will be offered en masse during the upcoming Caribbean season, as only a few early offers have come to my attention thus far. They include price breaks aboard the 115-foot Crescent motoryacht Kapalua and the 254-foot motoryacht Samar. Those discounts have followed the traditional pattern seen this summer, with either a straight percentage discount or an extra day onboard for free.

Which is why I am so intrigued to receive a new announcement from management house Edmiston and Company regarding the 169-foot Alloy sailing yacht Mondango (that’s Mondango‘s main salon in the photograph at right). The yacht’s owner, instead of offering a traditional discount this winter in the Caribbean, has instead decided to include the crew’s gratuities in the yacht’s lowest weekly base rate of €185,000.

Since clients regularly tip charter yacht crew anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent of the yacht’s base rate, this offer amounts to a savings for the charter client of €9,250 to €27,750.

Could this be the first in what will become a new trend in charter yacht discount offers? I’m certainly staying tuned. I can see why yacht owners and management companies would prefer this type of discount, for sure: It helps to retain the value of the yacht’s regular base rate for when the global recession ends.

And on that same topic of discounts, if you’re interested in learning more about how to negotiate a great deal in the current economic climate, then check out my article in the new edition of Yachting magazine. It includes, among other things, charter yacht managers talking pointedly about what kinds of offers they are most likely to seriously consider for the yachts under their control.

Facebook Post Leads to 10-Day Charter Booking

yacht charter broker Shannon WebsterA little more than a week ago, I was invited to speak at a Florida Yacht Brokers Association seminar for luxury yacht charter brokers. My topic was publishing law, requested by a good number of brokers who are now using blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like to promote the message of yacht charter. I helped them understand things like copyright law and libel, so they can comment and Tweet without worry.

One of the brokers raised a point during another speaker’s talk that day, a point that left me shaking my head in amazement. This broker had recently attended a meeting of the Luxury Marketing Council, where discussion included the possibility that using social media denigrates luxury brands.

That attitude continues to amaze me. In my opinion, it’s like saying, “Why should we use e-mail to promote yacht charter? Isn’t e-mail full of spam?” Social media—like e-mail, blogs, magazines, snail mail, the Pony Express, and town criers way back in the day—is simply a form of communication. It’s a channel through which a message can be delivered. Yes, some people use it to spew nonsense into the world, but savvy businesspeople are now using social media to connect with serious clients, including those in upper financial demographics.

The most recent example from the world of luxury yacht charter is Shannon Webster, who owns Florida-based Shannon Webster Yacht Charters. (That’s Webster in the photograph above.) On August 13, she uploaded this post to her company’s Facebook page: “New England is booking very quickly as the summer is coming to a close. There are very few available larger motor yachts that have an open calendar. Many owners are using their boats at the end of August, causing further lack of inventory. Northern Lights, the 132′ Westship, and Sovereign, the 120′ Broward, still have open time on their charter books. Inquire today before they are gone!”

Less than a week later, Webster announced a 10-day booking as a direct result: “It pays to use Social Media. Just booked Northern Lights yesterday for 9 nights, only 4 days after posting her availability in New England on my FaceBook wall.”

Northern Lights is a charter yacht with a top weekly base rate of $90,000. If securing a 10-day booking from a Facebook post equals “denigration” of its brand, then I’ll eat my keyboard.

Kudos to Webster for her smart use of social media, and to the fruit it has borne for her company. I hope that charter brokers who fear and avoid social media (and the Web in general) will learn from the example that Webster is setting.


Editor’s Note: Shannon Webster is a sponsor of CharterWave, where this blog originates.

Want to Race in Les Voiles de St. Tropez?

charter yacht CrackerjackEach autumn, the South of France plays host to Les Voiles de St. Tropez, a regatta that typically attracts about 300 of the world’s finest modern and classic sailing yachts. This year’s Les Voiles de St. Tropez will be held September 25 through October 3, which means there is still time to book a charter yacht either for racing or for use as a spectator.

BCR Yachts tells me that two of the serious sailing yachts in its fleet are being made available for charter clients who want to race. (Racing charters include different stipulations than regular charters because of the extra wear and tear on the yachts, and the potential for collisions. Not all racing yachts are made available to charter clients.)

The first BCR offering for Les Voiles de St. Tropez is the 82-foot Swan sailing yacht Crackerjack, a 2008 launch whose captain, Nik Pearson, holds multiple world titles, has sailed in two America’s Cup races, and has coached sailing at the Olympic level. That’s Crackerjack in the photograph at right.

Second is the 62-foot J&J sailing yacht Tucana PJC, whose carbon-fiber hull was designed specifically for offshore, high-speed sailing. Its captain is Patrick Maflin, who has raced on the Swan circuit and was part of Team Delta Lloyd’s shore-based operation during the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race.

Each of these yachts will charge premium base rates for clients who want to race. Crackerjack is being offered at €70,000 per week, while Tucana PJC is listed at €24,000. Charter clients who want to use these yachts as spectators only can book them for base rates of €35,000 and €14,000, respectively.

Other sailing yachts in the BCR fleet that are available for spectator use at Les Voiles de St. Tropez include the 72-foot Shipman Geometry at a base rate of €24,000, the 97-foot Chantier Moonlight II at €26,000, the 107-foot Wally sailing yacht Wally B at €54,000, and the 76-foot CNB Sunday Morning at €23,000.

Any reputable charter broker can tell you more about racing at Les Voiles de St. Tropez, or help you book a week onboard these yachts as a spectator.



Sherakhan to Charter in Patagonia, Antarctica

charter yacht SherakhanYes, I know, the image at right is a masterwork created by a graphic artist. But the concept will soon enough become reality, when the 228-foot motoryacht Sherakhan begins offering charters in Patagonia, Antarctica, and more.

The current plan is for Sherakhan to head toward South America in late October, with charter availability beginning in the Cape Verde Islands on November 11. The yacht will then become available from Montevideo, Uruguay, or from Buenos Aires, Argentina, beginning November 25.

Sherakhan will stay in those regions as long as charter inquiries require, moving no earlier than December 1 to Patagonia. There will be charter availability in Patagonia as well as in Antarctica until late February 2011.

The yacht will then head north, arriving in Central America’s Panama region as of mid-March. Sherakhan will offer charters there, as well as in Costa Rica, until late April 2011.

This is exciting stuff–a well-known charter megayacht with a strong reputation moving into a location other than the Caribbean or Indian Ocean for the winter season. I spent several days cruising aboard Sherakhan in the Caribbean and can personally attest to the yacht’s high quality of service, cuisine, and decor. I also know the yacht’s owner (an adventurer at heart) and can imagine that he will make every necessary effort to show guests the charter of a lifetime in this most unusual locale.

Sherakhan is part of the charter fleet at Camper and Nicholsons International. Any reputable charter broker can help you book a week onboard in Patagonia, Antarctica, or beyond.

€60,000 Discount on an East Med Feadship

charter yacht EclipseJust when I think the discounts can’t go any deeper for serious charter yachts in the Mediterranean this summer, another offer lands in my in-box that makes my jaw drop.

Earlier this week, I told you about Ocean Independence announcing a €40,000 break on the weekly base rate for the 152-foot Feadship motoryacht Jana in the Western Mediterranean. That price reduction represents a nearly 35-percent discount. Now comes word from Fraser Yachts Worldwide that it, too, has a Feadship offering a serious discount. The 141-foot Eclipse is dropping its weekly base rate in the Eastern Mediterranean from the original €150,000 to a summer-season low of €90,000. That is a discount of 40 percent.

Eclipse is willing to give the discount for itineraries in the popular Greek Isles or along the southwestern coast of Turkey, Fraser tells me. The yacht is currently in Marmaris, Turkey, a thriving port city in a lovely cruising region that I have visited several times and always enjoyed.

Eclipse is a 1993 build that was most recently refit this year. She takes 12 guests with 10 crew. According to Fraser, the yacht has “open availability,” meaning you should be able to get this newly announced discount on the remaining summer charter dates of your choice.

Any reputable charter broker can tell you more about Eclipse or help you book a week onboard.


Christensen Motoryacht Lady Zelda Drops Rate–Again

charter yacht Lady ZeldaI’ve been telling you all summer about the 130-foot Christensen motoryacht Lady Zelda and her escalating discount offers. First, there was the mid-June announcement that if you booked two weeks of charter in the Western Mediterranean, you could save 25 percent. Then came news of a more ambitious discount offer, for a single week of charter, dropping Lady Zelda‘s weekly base rate from $125,000 to $100,000.

Now, I’m told by management company Northrop and Johnson, Lady Zelda is dropping her weekly base rate yet again, this time to $85,000. That represents a nearly 35-percent price break compared with the usual weekly base rate in the Western Mediterranean.

This is the second West Med discount of this percentage that I’ve written about in as many days. It may be just a coincidence, but I have a feeling that it’s more likely the initial public signs of a trend–a trend that tells me a 10- to 15-percent discount is no longer enough to secure charter bookings, even aboard yachts like Lady Zelda that have long track records and good reputations in the charter industry.

Some prominent people in the industry continue to argue that charter rates have not yet adjusted enough to compensate for the global recession. One might say that 35-percent discounts in the West Med during August are clear evidence that their argument is correct. I’m not quite ready to say it yet myself, but I’m also not ready to dismiss the argument, either.

I’m eager to see what other yachts send word of similar discounts in the near future. Stay tuned.


Editor’s Note: Northrop and Johnson is a sponsor of CharterWave, where this blog originates.