Just the Sea and Thee: Chartered Yacht Getaways

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<<To sail where he wanted, Columbus had to beg for financing from two different royal courts. Today, while yachts are expensive, royal grants are not usually necessary to own one. And even if you can't afford to buy your own yacht, you can charter one. Indeed, although a chartered cruise may run around $2,000 per person, when you consider that the price often includes a complete crew, a chef who will design a menu with you, first-class accommodations, and your choice of where to go and what to do, chartering your own yacht to visit the same places Columbus discovered more than 500 years ago turns out to be much more reasonable than you thought.

To charter a yacht, just contact one of the many yachting companies that offer plush accommodations and a crew to wine, dine, and delight you. You can take a week on a 47' catamaran off the New England coast, sail the Caribbean in a four-bedroom ketch, or head to Alaska this summer in a 75' powerboat with a 13' Boston Whaler you can launch for fishing and exploring. Distinctive Voyages in Portland, OR, offers all three yacht vacations and numerous others in the U.S. and abroad.

The Shaitan of Tortola is an 85' ketch in the Caribbean that sleeps 10 in four queen-size spacious cabins. Each cabin has an en suite head and shower, and as a special feature, the dividers between the staterooms forward and aft can be removed to create two large suites. You will find a TV, DVD player, and a great Sony and Bose Surround Sound system, with many CDs and DVDs in the saloon, which also boasts a table large enough to comfortably seat eight for a formal dinner. Enjoy sunbathing on the deck or help join the crew for some great sailing experiences. And because there is a dive master on board, certified divers can enjoy diving tours. There is diving gear for four, snorkeling and fishing gear, water skis, and a 14' inflatable dinghy with 40 hp outboard. Sail through the Virgin, Leeward, or Windward Islands, exploring the beautiful pools, grottoes and beaches, or head onshore for great restaurants and shopping.

Your chef is Vincent Thomas, who attended chef school on the French side of St. Martin and prepares such delights as Creole fruit pancakes, seafood quiche, or grilled tuna with Calypso salsa. Enjoy happy hour on the deck, watching a splendid sunset while nibbling goat cheese tartlets with apples and sipping Piña Coladas. It's life at its best. One week runs $21,000.

Maybe you would rather try skirting around New England on the Swish, a 47' catamaran built in 1996. The boat can accommodate seven people in its four cabins. The master bedroom has a queen-size bed, shower, and head. Two of the other cabins have queen-size beds as well, also with showers and heads, and the final cabin has a twin-size bed. The boat is fully air conditioned throughout. There is a certified diver onboard, and if certified, guests can use one of three scuba tanks. If diving is not for you, discover the joys of snorkeling or fishing, take out the Caribe 14' dinghy for some waterskiing fun, or set out in the two-person kayak. Inside, enjoy their cinema, local television, DVD and CD library, the mini gym, and cappuccino/espresso machine. Matthew & Catherine O'Hayer make up captain and crew. Both are accomplished chefs. Their specialties include a wide variety of Italian, Asian, Mexican, vegetarian, and seafood dishes and desserts.

Suppose you want to visit several of the festivals that abound in New England in the summer, such as the Newport folk or jazz festival, and still stop at Martha's Vineyard, visit historic Nantucket, see Cape Cod, or sail to the Hamptons or Mystic Seaport? Just charter the Swish and plan your own itinerary. Prices run from $10,900 for one to four passengers, up to $12,900 for six people for seven nights. Food and liquor are not included.

Prefer the luxury of a power boat? Charter the M.V. Paul Johansen, a 75' vessel built in 1970 that was originally a rescue boat. Do not let that fool you. The boat offers three staterooms, each with a queen-size bed, en suite showers and heads, as well as ample cabinet space. All staterooms have portholes which allow for natural light during the day. The saloon has a comfortable sitting room area with table and large windows. There are two launches for fishing or exploring: a 13' Boston Whaler and a 17' Bombard. The boat is also equipped with a special vibration-dampening engine to ensure a quieter ride. Enjoy the stereo system and VCR. Beach towels are available, as is limited use of the onboard washer/dryer. Dinner fare includes a variety of hors d'oeuvres, entrees, salads, desserts, and excellent dinner wines. Lunches are buffet style, with fixings for salads, sandwiches, and desserts, while breakfasts include choices of fresh baked treats, juices, cereals, eggs, bacon, or sausage.

Cruise around Alaska for some glacier sightseeing, whale watching, and shopping in major communities, including Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. Or you can take the inland passage and visit smaller communities not accessible to large cruise ships. You will generally spend four to six hours per day sailing, which leaves ample time at each destination for beachcombing, fishing, sightseeing, swimming, or exploring bays and inlets. The trip is all inclusive and runs $16,000 for six passengers for seven nights.

There are many other yacht charters to choose from. Check out Richleigh Yachts at http://google.richleighcharters.com/destinations.asp, Huntley Yacht Vacations at http://www.huntleyyacht.com/, or a host of others. Planning your personalized luxury cruise is just a click or call away.

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