Our CharterWave Crewed Yacht of the Month for November 2006 is the epitome of what emerging-market luxury charter should be.
The 161-foot Feadship Teleost, cruising in the Indian Ocean’s Seychelles Islands, is the epitome of what top-dollar, emerging-market yacht charter should be
By Kim Kavin
It’s difficult to write a review of a yacht like Teleost without sounding like a paid advertisement. So often nowadays, marketing people create magazines full of glowing reviews. As a reader, it can be tough to determine what’s fact and what’s just plain old-fashioned exaggeration about how good a product actually is.
In the case of Teleost, I have so many good things to report that I know full well I’m going to sound like I’m exaggerating for the yacht’s benefit. All I can ask is that you take me at my word—and read other CharterWave features that prove I don’t always issue glowing reports about the yachts I review. With Teleost, I just don’t have anything bad to say. This yacht wowed me from the moment the crew greeted me at the airport—as any $195,000-a-week motoryacht should.
I had the pleasure of cruising with Capt. Nigel Burnet and crew in the Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa. The Seychelles have long been a haven for the wealthy in the Mediterranean, but now the islands aim to become a high-end tourism hotspot for worldwide vacationers.
The Seychelles locals have worked hard to add a luxury spa, several good restaurants, and now a second first-class marina in a way that maintains the gorgeous natural environment (a lesson they learned after watching parts of Mexico and the Caribbean overdevelop). One of the biggest attractions in the Seychelles is the Vallee de Mai, a tropical forest believed by some to be the actual Garden of Eden. There are also preserves on islands such as Curieuse, home to free-roaming giant tortoises with massive shells that look Jurassic.
The natural ecological state is one of the many things that Teleost’s owner likes about the Seychelles, and why he has made his yacht the first of any size to spend more than a single, shortened season offering charters here. He is literally bringing the outside world of luxury charter in as the vacation destination evolves.
“It’s not a volume-based destination, and hopefully it never will be,” Capt. Burnet explained as we cruised from the Seychelles’ main island, Mahe, toward the Inner Islands where Teleost typically cruises. She was one of just 17 luxury yachts that visited the Seychelles all of last year, and among those, one of only two or three that offered charters. “We’re the only yacht that has done two six-month charter seasons here. We use it as a base. The other boats tend to come through here, maybe stopping on their way from Australia to Europe.”
Teleost is outfitted for the place, too. While her interior has an elegant mahogany interior, her plethora of watersports toys practically screams adventure. The owner is into fishing, scuba diving, and all things active, and he wants to enjoy his hobbies with all the modern trimmings, even in places so off-the-beaten-course that few yachts ever follow.
It took me about 30 hours to get from my front door to Teleost’s passarelle in the Seychelles, and I must admit that during the trip—with the easiest connecting flights from New York in either Dubai or Paris—I thought more than once about how no cruising destination on earth could be worth sitting on an airplane for so many miles.
But during my time onboard, it occurred to me that I had truly never seen or even heard of anyplace like these islands. Even better, in terms of exploring their tropical delights and unique ecosystem, I realized I was in the hands of a megayacht crew with better firsthand local knowledge than any other.
Burnet splits the captain’s duties seasonally with Capt. Stephen Cartwright, which allows both men to maintain healthy home lives. Because of concessions like this by the owner, most of the crew are adventurous types who have stayed with the yacht for years, as opposed to the months-long rotations more typical onboard boats that have traveled, as Teleost has, to Alaska, Western Mexico, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Belize, the whole of the Caribbean and Mediterranean, the Maldives, the Red Sea, Egypt, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, and Hawaii.
To keep a good crew on a yacht with a schedule like this, Teleost’s owner knows he has to take good care of them. He invests in them, including Stuart Dunsheath, the spectacular three-star Michelin chef who travels regularly as the owner’s guest to the finest restaurants in New York and London.
That’s the kind of owner-crew relationship you want in a place like the Seychelles, because once you make the effort to get there, the yacht is not so much your home base as it is your 24-hour-a-day home. These islands are developing, to be sure, but they’re not like parts of the Caribbean where you can get off the boat and try new restaurants or party at discos at night. Your crew’s happiness is a condition of your own, because you will be with them morning, noon, and night.
That is, when you’re not off exploring what I found to be one of the most beautiful cruising destinations on earth. The water is clear, calm, and colorful, even more so than in much of the Bahamas. The waters are warm—nearly 90 degrees—but the white, sandy beaches are cool to the foot’s touch (something about fine bits of glass in the sand that reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it). The islands are so close together that they’re navigable by sight, as in the Virgin Islands, yet the remoteness of the place gives it the exotic feel of a charter in the out-islands of Fiji.
Teleost only adds to the grandeur of the charter experience, in ways small and large. The stewardesses await swimming, skiing, and Jet Skiing guests on the aft deck with chilled towels to cleanse salty eyes after every dip in the Indian Ocean. The captain leaves the yacht’s at-rest stabilizers on at all times, especially during meals underway, so guests can enjoy new scenery without their plates sliding around. The deckhands are generous with their water-sports skills, and even had me wakeboarding for the first time after just two attempts. First Officer Matthew Peak, the onboard dive master, offers scuba directly from the yacht for certified divers (a rare treat in the crewed yacht marketplace).
The only outdoor activity I missed during my few days onboard Teleost was serious fishing, for which the Seychelles are known. “The boss is a megafisherman,” Burnet explains, adding that a teleost is a type of prehistoric fish. “I back this thing down on marlin. We set five world records in fly-fishing just before Christmas.”
This level of modern comfort, high-end service, and adventurous activity in such a pristine natural environment is the epitome of what top-dollar, emerging-market yacht charter should be. As Burnet puts it, “We’re like an expedition yacht, but without the expedition look.”
What a wonderful combination.