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Contributors: Off to See the Sea

The accommodations, ame­nities, and destinations that Bruce Leonard and Jill Bobrow spotlight in this month’s feature on charter yachts, “Chartered Territories” (page 88), presented fresh experiences for even these two well-traveled writers. Leonard’s journey aboard Absinthe was his first yachting adventure, but, as someone who writes frequently about nature for other publications, he is familiar with the great outdoors to which the yacht’s helicopter transported him.

After heli-skiing and heli-fishing, and enjoying impromptu lunches in the most remote locations of British Columbia during his voyage, Leonard says the yacht’s adaptability is what makes it so special. However, he notes that skiers who charter Absinthe are more at the mercy of Mother Nature than are anglers. Inclement weather can postpone heli-skiing trips, but it is less likely to affect passengers’ fishing plans. “You can fly up river channels in the helicopter [in poor weather]. You’re much more likely to fish because you don’t have to fly as high,” he says. As a lapsed skier, Leonard preferred the fishing expeditions over the heli-skiing trips. After all, aside from the prospect of hooking himself with an errant fly cast, even a novice angler faces no real danger in the rivers.

Leonard also recognizes that Absinthe’s appeal is not limited exclusively to adventure seekers. “Having the Jacuzzi on board is certainly a nice feature,” he says. “To be soaking in a hot tub while enjoying the view of a pristine canyon is very nice.”

Bobrow, the editor-in-chief of Robb Report’s sister publication ShowBoats International, enjoyed the uniqueness of each yacht charter experience she writes about in this issue. “Charlatan is one of the most superb yachts I’ve ever been on—everything about it is quite perfect,” she says of the 110-foot sailing yacht. Bobrow was equally, if not more, impressed with the South Pacific setting in which she sailed Charlatan. “There’s just a sense of exploration,” she says of traveling among the Tahitian islands of Bora-Bora and Tahaa. “It’s one of those dream places, where a lot of people always dream of going but never do.”

Mirabella V, the world’s largest sloop, made more of an impression on Bobrow’s palate than on her sense of exploration. “At least half of the charter had to do with food,” she says, noting such culinary creations as pancetta-wrapped scallops with a kaffir lime leaf sauce and Caribbean spiced mahimahi served with papaya salsa. “It’s all fusion and gorgeous to look at, and each flavor is intense unto itself.”

Christina O, which once belonged to Aristotle Onassis and hosted such luminaries as Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy, appealed to Bobrow because its $50 million makeover preserved the yacht’s historical aura. “When you pull into a harbor, especially in Greece, everyone knows the boat,” she says. “So there’s a lot of fanfare. People think you must be someone.”

Michael Schulze recently joined Robb Report as a senior editor covering aviation and boating after a two-decade stint with H.W. Wilson, a New York City company that primarily publishes reference materials for student research. Schulze sees parallels between the issues he confronted in his former position and those chronicled by contributing writer Patrick Smith in “First-Class Struggle” (page 114), which suggests that low customer expectations are responsible in part for inferior first-class service aboard U.S. airliners. “For 23 years I was in the business of creating reference works,” Schulze says. “And over those years, it really struck me how the editorial content in my industry as a whole declined.” The cause of that decline, Schulze believes, is the Internet, which has greatly reduced the consumer’s expectation of quality; but librarians are also to blame, he says, because they have failed to demand a better product.  

Demand for a better product from the airlines, he says, could reverse the decline in first-class service. “Customers don’t understand what first-class service could be,” Schulze says. “They don’t understand their power. Customers have enormous power, but they often don’t exert it.” 

Photo by Darin Schnabel
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