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Destination Paradise on a Yacht Charter with M/Y Northern Light

Northern Light will change course in fall 2006, heading east to new horizons

Following five successful years chartering in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, the sumptuous 151ft Royal Van Lent Feadship, Northern Light, will embark on her most exotic journey yet: the sun-drenched islands of the Indian Ocean.

It’s difficult to envision a more alluring destination, a tropical haven of unspoiled nature, rich with coral reefs and teeming with bird and aquatic life. An immense island chain where sparkling blue lagoons combine with sugary white sands, and trips ashore to ancient temples and tea, cinnamon and avocado  plantations reveal a colorful

culture, steeped in history. Even better, the intriguing Indian Ocean, the third largest of the world’s oceans, bounded by Asia, Africa and Australia, is also one of the few areas of the world that remains relatively free of large-scale commercialism and mass tourism. Lest you think its islands boast no modern amenities though, be sure that its beauty and tranquility have not remained secret. In the past decade, word of the natural splendor and the geographically diverse terrain has spread, and as a result, some of the most elaborate resorts and restaurants on the planet have emerged in the expansive archipelago.

Obviously, the preferred, if not the only, way to explore this idyllic watery paradise, is by boat—which explains why the area has become increasingly popular as a yachting destination for charter parties—especially for Europeans who have easy flight access to the Seychelles, Maldives and Thailand. Northern Light’s Captain Scott Johnson, who helped design the megayacht, and who has been with her since her launch in 2001, says the yacht’s expanded cruising area is based on several factors. He says he expects a longer charter season in the Indian Ocean than in the Caribbean, and also less yachts. (The Caribbean, he says, has become crowded with yachts, so a three-week season is about all you can expect.)  In addition, the family that owns Northern Light has never been to the Indian Ocean so “it seemed like a perfect opportunity to broaden the yachting experience for everybody.” The family plans to cruise through the Seychelle islands from late October to November. The yacht is then tentatively set to head toward Thailand prior to Christmas. The itinerary is still taking shape.

Currently, Captain Scott, a native of Australia and an experienced captain who has cruised all over the world, has immersed himself in studying the Indian Ocean. “I’m not yet familiar with the region,” he says,” so the fun and challenging part for me will be to gather all the information I can to ensure we have a great and trouble-free time out there!”

He says the climate at the intended time of charter is well-suited to cruising because it will be at the turn of the monsoon season, “when we should be afforded calm seas and light winds, with only a chance of showers.” One of the challenges he will face, he says, is provisioning. This is always a difficulty in a remote area, he says, so it’s important to check out what is available. “For example,” he laughs, “fish is not always guaranteed—even in paradise! So the chef, chief stewardess and I have to scout and plan accordingly, even learn the schedule of freight flights from Europe and the States.” Provisioning to the quality required by charter guests, he says, means combining locally obtainable products with the best from the rest of the world. Of course budgets have to also be considered, he adds, as freight and customs charges can be almost as expensive as the products themselves.

Long-range planning, says Scott, is key to a successful charter anywhere, and super-important when traveling to a new destination, as a busy charter season means a constant cycle of planning, provisioning, and cruising. “Logistics,” he says, “is a never-ending chore on a busy charter yacht.”

This is why crew plays such a critical role. Scott says he chooses each member carefully, and that they have been together for a long time and know how to “pull it all together.” He prefers to hire crew of different nationalities and interests to provide as wide a scope and interest as possible. He encourages them to interact with the guests, when appropriate, as a way to relax them. On the other hand, the crew also knows how to remain nearly invisible while providing the utmost in service. For example, a tiny CCTV camera overlooks the yacht’s vast oval dining table, and transmits to a small screen in the pantry, so staff can “magically” appear at the table when needed, instead of hovering behind the guests while they’re eating.

Northern Light’s crew is usually 10-strong, says the Captain, although they will occasionally add an additional member for a long charter or a particularly demanding season. As Northern Light charters for a maximum of 10 people, this ensures a one-to-one ratio—and a comfortable and relaxed cruise experience, not to mention a great time!

The Ultimate in Entertainment
Guests boarding Northern Light feel comfortable immediately. As the Captain says, she is decorated in a traditional manner, elegantly, to the absolute highest standards without compromise, yet she is not overdone. He says there’s no feeling of  “Oh I can’t sit there, it’s too nice.”

Captain Scott says that Northern Light was “designed from the outset to be an open/in the sun yacht.” In fact, they placed the tenders and toys on the main deck aft, a spot usually reserved for guest dining, in order to free up the bridge deck and sundeck for guest relaxation. “Here,” he says, “you’ll find toys, tenders and everyone having a great time getting wet!”

They carry a 19ft Nautica Rib (great for skiing, wakeboarding, towing all the toys, including a banana, donuts, U-tubes, knee boards, skis, wakeboard), two kayaks, two sailboards, two Yamaha GP800 wave runners and a Laser sailing dinghy. “We also tow a 30ft Intrepid tender, equipped with two 250hp Yamaha engines, side door and shower\toilet facilities, which is great for extended exploration or snorkel trips,” says Scott.

More Stories By Jamie Matusow

Jamie Matusow is a freelance writer based in New York. She was the long time managing editor of legendary Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine. Jamie traveled extensively throughout Mediterranean, Caribean, and the Bahamas where she filed many of her charter stories.

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