|Destination Fox Harb'r Too in Nova Scotia|
|Crewed Yacht Charter Reviews|
The 161-foot Trinity motoryacht Destination Fox Harb’r Too offers spectacular itineraries for golfers from the unusual charter base of Nova Scotia
All had been quiet at Charlottetown Yacht Club when I left, but now, a crowd surrounds the 161-foot Destination Fox Harb’r Too. The Trinity trideck is taller than any nearby building. Folks seem as though they’re at an air show, staring up with open mouths.
Then I see what’s really happening: They’re not so much looking at the yacht as at the boat show-style placard the crew have affixed to it, itemizing the builder, speed, and specs—all the things that people who have never seen a boat of this size might wonder about.
Oddly, the sign does not seem pretentious. It’s just the yacht’s owner, Ron Joyce, telling fellow locals about this amazing feat of engineering he’s had the good fortune to buy and bring home. If he were here, he’d probably put his arm around the mayor’s shoulder and say, “Can you believe a boat could weigh so much?”
Joyce, you see, is a local legend. He is well-known as a single mother’s son who fought in Korea in the 1950s before partnering with Canadian hockey player Tim Horton to expand Horton’s doughnut business into a franchise with twice as many Canadian storefronts as McDonald’s. Ever since Wendy’s bought the franchise and made Joyce wealthy beyond most people’s dreams, he’s been quoted as saying he sees giving back as an obligation—and he put his millions where his mouth is by founding the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation. Every year, it helps about 15,000 disadvantaged kids forget their worries. Joyce also recently gave $10 million to McMaster University in Ontario, to launch a new campus.
It never occurred to him to buy a megayacht—he’d always had sailboats—until he chartered a Feadship for the St. Barth’s Bucket a few years ago. Not long after, he took ownership of Destination Fox Harb’r Too when it was about 80 percent complete at the Trinity shipyard. He made few changes to the stunning Patrick Knowles interior; the master’s nanny cabin is now a study, and there’s no longer an aquarium in the main saloon. Other than that, the yacht is just as it was intended from the start.
Except that instead of being one of the most talked-about motoryachts in the Mediterranean each summer, it’s north of Maine in a place where large-yacht charter otherwise does not exist.
The reason for the unusual location is Fox Harb’r Resort, a 27-hole, Graham Cook-designed golf course with spa, sporting clays, restaurant, boutique hotel, and luxury residences set on about 1,100 acres that Joyce bought in the 1980s as undeveloped land.
“He wasn’t even a golfer at that time,” his son, Steve Joyce, told me over lunch at the clubhouse restaurant. “He was about 55 years old, and he was looking for something to do.”
Today, that something is entertaining guests aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too as it sits at anchor overlooking the 15th tee, and cruising to places like nearby Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton to play the best courses there, too.
Thus, when you charter Destination Fox Harb’r Too in Nova Scotia, you’re not buying a week’s immersion into a yachting culture like the one in St. Tropez. Instead, you’re buying into the vision of a rollicking good time as seen through the eyes of a local-boy-made-good: a bar on every deck, a birdie on every green, and the ability to literally stop traffic with your megayacht and various other toys.
“We have a 5,000-foot runway,” Steve Joyce explained. “Any corporate plane can get in. Tiger Woods brought his G-5 when he came to play Fox Harb’r Resort this past summer. Even he said he was surprised at how beautiful everything was, how well organized. I think there’s a general misconception of this region, that it’s all blustery and cold. That’s not the case at all. It’s a remarkable place.”
“This boat—not just the service, not just our style, but the boat itself—has a feeling that is so welcoming and inviting, it’s unlike any other motoryacht,” says Capt. Bill Hawes, who has been in the yachting industry since 1983. “When I saw it in the yard for the first time, I said, ‘This is what I would want if I was building a boat.’”
I’m going to amend Capt. Hawes’s quote just slightly and tell you that when I saw this yacht at a boat show for the first time, I said, “This is what I would want if I was chartering a boat.” Destination Fox Harb’r Too, out of the hundreds of charter yachts I see each year, is hands-down one of my all-time personal favorites.
Interior designer Patrick Knowles focused this yacht on raw materials as opposed to glitz and gimmicks. The wood grains are everywhere (see photos of the interior), and they are naturally stunning. In places where other yachts might have high-gloss marble, Destination Fox Harb’r Too has lovely, natural stone. This yacht is the epitome of comfortable elegance. When I sit on the sofa, I feel simultaneously enveloped by luxury and welcome to put up my feet.
And the guest spaces are terrific, too. Even with a full complement of 10 or 11 guests onboard, there is always somewhere you can go to find privacy outside of your cabin. The sky lounge itself has multiple seating areas, so one group can be watching television while another chats at the bar—both uninterrupted. The outdoor dining area on the bridge deck has sunpads nearby, so you can retire for a look at the view even if the other guests are lingering at the lunch table. Everywhere I stepped on this yacht, I felt as though I had choices and personal space. Absolutely fantastic.
Capt. Bill Hawes has decades of experience in the yachting industry, and it shows in the way his crew operate during a charter.
Not only were we always made to feel safe, but we also had everything we needed and wanted before we could even think to ask for it. I am aboard charter yachts all the time as a journalist, but my husband came with me on this trip, and he had only been on a yacht once before—and 10 years ago, at that. He said he cannot think of a single thing that he wishes the crew had done differently, because to him, the service was perfect.
And this crew have personality, too. Their “pirate night” barbecue on the sundeck was filled with costumes, rum specialties, and memories to last a lifetime.
Local delicacies in this part of Canada include lobsters the size of small dogs, blueberries so sweet they make your eyes water, and maple syrup as thick as people’s dreams. Luckily, chef Benoir Mercier knows what to do with all of that and more aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too, offering lobster bisque as well as tails, homemade jams alongside fruit-filled croissants, and eggs with a side of maple syrup-glazed bacon (yes, that last one is good).
Mercier’s take on lobster tails, actually, took second place in his category at the 2008 Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting. I can still remember the homemade, liqueur-filled chocolates he served at that boat show, and I was thrilled to see them next to my pillow every night while on charter. Oh—and if you get the chance, request Mercier’s sushi as a midday snack. He put out a spread of rolls, sushi, and sashimi that rivaled what I have eaten at high-end Asian restaurants in Manhattan.
And just as good as the cuisine is Mercier’s personality. He welcomes curious guests into the yacht’s galley for cooking demonstrations, should you want to learn his secrets of the trade.
The master suite aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too is an example of what Trinity yachts calls its split-level design, which owners typically choose when building these 161-foot models. And the owners have a good reason: It’s one heck of a master suite. The bed is up one level from the dressing area and bathroom, on a platform that lets you look out a spread of windows and over the yacht’s bow from the comfort of your king-size mattress. You literally are making memories with the first view you see every morning, and the last view you see at night.
My husband and I stayed in one of the four bottom-deck guest cabins, three of which have king-size beds. (The other has two twin-size beds and a bunk-style Pullman berth.) We could not have been more comfortable, with plenty of space to move around, lots of drawers and closet space, and a surprising level of privacy thanks to the yacht’s soundproofing in the walls.
One afternoon, while the boat was under way for several hours, my husband chose to nap in our cabin with its surround-sound stereo system. He got so comfortable and relaxed, we almost couldn’t wake him in time for dinner.
My visit was during August, and the water was warm enough for swimming. Temperatures were in the high 70 Fahrenheit. I was shocked, given the area’s latitude. Of course, the weather is one reason why the locals call the Nova Scotia area one of the best-kept travel secrets in the world, especially for anyone who wants to combine boating with golf during a vacation.
Now, I’m not the world’s best golfer, but I am married to PGA member Sean Toohey, the head golf professional at New Jersey National Golf Club. I brought him to provide a professional assessment of the three courses we played as part of our charter aboard Destination Fox Harb’r Too.
Fox Harb’r Resort, he says, offers a nine-hole par-3 in addition to the 18-hole course. The driving range is worth noting, too, with a good number of targets at multiple distances. “The 18-hole course is not going to beat you up,” he says. “It can be challenging, depending on which tees you play, but it’s going to be fun out there. You can play 7,253 yards from the blacks or 5,260 yards from the front tees, which means that golfers of all levels can have fun. I don’t want to confuse ‘fun’ with ‘easy,’ but the fairways are generous and the greens are big. It’s also pretty great to putt on the 15th green, overlooking the water, with your charter yacht right there at anchor. That’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort, he says, is like Fox Harb’r Resort in that there’s a little bit of woodland and a little bit of waterfront, plus lots of beautiful scenery—but it’s a tighter course with narrower fairways, more visual intimidation, mounds that are a little bit higher, and a couple of holes with forced carries over water if you’re playing from the back tees. Thus, “you have to be a good golfer to play this course in the 70s, especially when there is wind coming off the ocean. And it is wind—not a breeze. The couple of forced carries will rattle some golfers, but it’s still possible to work the ball up most of the fairways all day if that’s what you’re used to doing at your home course.”
Bell Bay Golf Club, he says, has a noteworthy front man in Ted Stonehouse, who was the 2002 Canadian PGA Professional of the Year. He has developed an expansive junior program and has a large practice facility, plus he has four additional professionals on staff. That means you can get serious help with your game here in addition to playing a round. “This course can be more challenging than Fox Harb’r Resort depending on which tees you play,” Toohey says, “but Bell Bay will always be easier than Crowbush because the fairways are slightly wider and the wind is less of a factor. The last four holes are absolutely gorgeous, especially 17 and 18. It’s an Audubon course, too, with some lovely scenery along the cart paths as you move from hole to hole.”