The 48th annual Antigua charter yacht show closed about two hours ago. I had planned to tell you tonight about two or three of my favorite yachts from the event, but as I walked back to my hotel and looked out over the jam-packed marinas, I realized that the bigger story is the sheer variety of yachts that were on display this past week.
As recently as 15 or 20 years ago, the vast majority of yachts available for charter in the Caribbean were monohull sailboats, many of them in the 40- to 60-foot range. This week, those yachts comprised perhaps 20 percent of the boats on display. Yachts are evolving into all kinds of styles and sizes, and the opportunities are in turn expanding for a virtually never-ending list of possible charter experiences.
Still want that “small” crewed sailing yacht? There were a number of great ones here, including the 64-foot Gadget, 78-foot Swallows and Amazons, and 72-foot Pacific Wave. A larger sailing yacht? Some head-turners included the 82-foot Inukchuk, 90-foot Atalante, and 106-foot Liara.
Sailing catamarans are another option, with some of this week’s best nearly doubling in overall length compared to what was available just five years ago. My favorite sailing cats from this week’s show include the 72-foot Matau, 73-foot Wonderful, and 92-foot Rafoly. And if you like the idea of a catamaran, but want power instead of sail, then feast your eyes on Damrak, a brand-new 70-footer.
On the monohull powerboat side of the charter world, I saw lovely charter options in all size ranges, too. The 68-foot Wilpower, which is ideal for one or two couples, enjoyed as much of my attention as the 254-foot Samar, where state dinners have been held with some 300 security guards alone. In between those two ends of the powerboat size scale, I especially liked the 150-foot Vita and the 198-foot Cloud 9.
Charter activities, too, continue to expand beyond what used to be a standard menu of water skiing and snorkeling. Want to spearfish while aboard a yacht owned by the Hooters corporation? The 97-foot Hooter Patrol IV is ready and waiting. Need a Hummer or a helicopter to get you around a favorite island after your yacht anchors? The 220-foot Allure Shadow can oblige. Consider day trading a sport? The 124-foot Perseverance II has a four-screen setup with WiFi in the master suite. Want to race on a J-Class sailing yacht? The 136-foot Ranger will turn heads at your next regatta.
Choosing among these yachts to determine my favorites is like choosing among mushroom pizza, barbecued ribs, and chocolate ice cream. I love them all equally, but sometimes prefer one to the next.
It’s outstanding that the world of yacht charter now offers so many excellent choices as well. Kudos to the yacht owners and crew who participated in this year’s Antigua show. I can honestly say that, after a decade of covering the industry, I will fly home tomorrow with several new ideas for charter vacations that I’ll be dreaming about for a long time to come.