Ever wondered what it’s like to spend a day on a super yacht? Jake Kavanagh gives us a taste of how the other half live.
Well, it’s interesting, especially if, like me, you have spent your entire motorboating life on boats of (usually) less than 50ft.
Along with a few other journalists, including 78-year-old Dag Pike – recent winner of the Round Britain powerboat race (a different kind of dementia) - I was invited out to Bandol near Marseilles for a day on the new Gulf Craft Majesty 125.
Whilst your motorboat may be crewed by your partner, or your (sometimes reluctant) teenage children, this beast had a crew of seven.
Assisting the 32-year-old French skipper, Florent Maillot, was a Russian chief steward, a French engineer, an English stewardess, an Israeli chef (no problems with kosher meals) a French deckhand, and a Costa Rican chief engineer. Instructions were in French, with English as a fall back.
There was some confusion when one of the staff greeted us with “Hi, I’m only the deckhand.” I smiled back and said I am sure he would get promotion one day, which left him a little bemused. I later discovered his name was Amaury, the deckhand. Ah well…
I’ve seen one gravitate to watch small craft arrive or depart, but it’s usually attracted by shouting and screaming between husband and wife.
But with a superyacht, everyone comes to watch, even when nothing is happening. The crew, fully uniformed and wearing ties and epaulettes, rushed efficiently around the deck as Florent teased the electronic throttles from his flybridge.
With no direct view of the stern, he monitored the deck work via a large TV monitor beside the wheel. ‘Only’ the deckhand was busy with the powerful foredeck winch that pulled the yacht forward on the main anchor. This anchor had originally been dropped (under the harbour master’s close supervision) some distance from the quayside mooring.
As the Gulf Craft slid out of the massive marina at Bandol, and somehow squeezed through the tight, ninety-degree entrance, Florent opened the throttles to an ‘economical’ cruise. Even so, that still equated to the fuel consumption per hour that an average motorboat would use in an entire season.
As the stewardesses busied themselves with serving us drinks, the yacht romped along the coast towards an idyllic anchorage between two sheer cliffs. Once there, the anchor splashed down and we were treated to lunch.
As the sun blazed from a cloudless sky, my lack of sun cream wasn’t as issue, as dotted all around the yacht were small baskets crammed with every factor imaginable, along with logoed towels lovingly positioned nearby.
We also had a resident florist, the delightfully artistic Lionel Roche, whose colourful shirt rivaled some of his lavish designs.
The tall conifers he had placed on the foredeck had been removed for the journey, and now a new theme of twisted lilies in large glass bowls took their place. Great to look at, but at deck level they became something of a trip hazard. I accidentally put my foot into one of them, but Lionel was fussing over a tortured vine, and didn’t notice.
Lunch was held on the large table under the Majesty’s generous aft sunroof, sheltering us from the rays, but not from the envious gaze of the day trippers who were visiting the anchorage by ferry.
Dozens of faces peered at us from the ferry’s deck, hoping to spot someone famous (other than Dag) as we tucked into nouvelle cuisine washed down with a chilled local rosé. It was all skillfully served by the stewardesses, and even the captain ensured that the placings were perfect.
After lunch, it was time to make a nuisance of ourselves on the jet-skis. Two were deployed from the yacht’s huge garage, along with a jet-driven inflatable. Being RYA qualified, I was allowed to drive the powerful Yamaha around the yacht and (responsibly) into a few nearby coves, the four-stroke engine remarkably muted in such a striking environment.
The crew always had a smile, and a respectful and helpful demeanour. They also seemed to vanish when not needed, and quietly got on with their jobs on deck so you hardly noticed they were there.
Heading back in to port, Florent had to pivot the yacht in an area not much longer than the yacht’s own length. Bow and stern thrusters of 13hp apiece were not optional – they were essential.
The anchor clattered down a good 250ft out, and once again, a small crowd gathered to watch us squeeze between two other large yachts. The gangplank went down, and the engines rumbled to halt.
It was a remarkable outing but for me however, it was back to my unfinished 40ft ferro-cement yacht, and the knowledge that no crowds will gather in envy to watch me enjoy my day out. Sometimes, though, that can actually be a blessing….
Jake Kavanagh, Marine journalist