Superyacht Laurel in Korcula, Croatia
‘Kangaroos! Kangaroos! Kangarooooos!’ was called out in excitement, startling us from the quiet of our drive from the Cairns airport to the marina. Within seconds we were scrambling out of our vehicle and into an open field, where we quickly came upon over 30 wild kangaroos grazing on the dew-soaked grass in the morning sun. We were, after all, in Australia, and what better way to begin another exciting adventure aboard the 73m expedition yacht Laurel than with a breakfast with marsupials?’ – excerpted from the Laurel logbook.
It was 2008 and Laurel was already two years into her 120,000nm global expedition. Discovering the Great Barrier Reef was the focus of this itinerary for her owners and guests. An overnight passage brought them to Lizard Island, where the anchor was dropped and they enjoyed a sunrise hike to Cooks Lookout, the vantage point from which Captain Cook first took in the magnificent reef. The following days were filled with diving and snorkelling adventures in the world famous Code Hole and along the Ribbon Reef sites Pixie’s Pinnacle, Andy’s Post Card and the Clam Gardens, discovering an underwater world that was teeming with colours and curiosities. A local nature cruise in the World Heritage Daintree River brought guests into contact with wild crocodiles and a lively Aboriginal Show in Cairns punctuated the ‘Dreamtime Culture’ experience.
The journey had begun in the early summer of 2006, when the 73m steel/composite Laurel slipped into the Squamish River at Delta Marine shipyards in Washington, USA and headed to Puget Sound for sea trials. She then made her way down the western coast of the US and Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and crossed the Atlantic for her first guest experience in the Mediterranean.
Purpose-built for remote, expedition-style cruising, Laurel was the vision of experienced owners who assembled an expert team to design and construct a yacht that met their exacting criteria. Planned and fitted out to the smallest detail, Laurel’s mission from the start was to take her owners and guests around the world in ultimate comfort, with the utmost of ease and efficiency. The owners were already quite adventurous, having cruised Alaska, Russia, the Baltic Sea, the Galapagos and Canada in their 45m Feadship. Laurel would provide a larger platform where their exciting itineraries would not be compromised by weather conditions.
So it was, in 2006, that Laurel’s owners came aboard in Venice, Italy and departed for the Croatian Adriatic to discover the enchanting ports, sun-kissed islands and ancient coastal towns that dot the Dalmatian Coast. Uncovering the best-kept secrets of this corner of the world, guests meandered through the cobblestone streets of medieval villages, visiting Roman ruins and enjoying fresh local seafood and produce.
Laurel cruised through the Kornati archipelago to the small fishing town of Viniš?e and then on to the beautiful and historic towns of Trogir and Split. Ending the Croatian visit in the romantic, walled city of Stari Grad in Dubrovnik, Laurel made her departure for Greece and the Greek Islands.
Fraser Yachts in Fort Lauderdale is offering Laurel for charter in the Mediterranean this summer. For more information contact:
To access the Greek isles, however, Laurel had to pass through the three-nautical-mile-long Corinth Canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. The canal cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth that separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland. At its base, the canal is only 21 metres wide, which meant that navigating the 12.26 metre-wide Laurel through this space required extreme concentration on the part of her captain, David Clarke.
From Greece, Laurel travelled to Turkey and cruised along her western coast, through the Sea of Marmara and the 20-mile-long Bosporus Straits that separate Europe from Asia. Upon reaching Istanbul, her guests toured the Old City, The Blue Mosque, the 6th century Hagia Sofia and the amazing spice market.
Rounding out 2006 and her Adriatic and Mediterranean adventures in Italy and the south of France, Laurel crossed the Atlantic once again and spent some time in the Caribbean before making her way back through the Panama Canal, up the western coast of the United States to Alaska.
Navigating in and around ice flows and enormous icebergs in the fjords of Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, Alaska, Captain Clarke positioned Laurel to within a quarter mile of the face of a glacier and launched the tender and kayaks so the owners and guests could feel the experience of ice calving and catch a close glimpse of speckled white harbour seals sleeping atop the icebergs. Humpback whale sightings were daily, and the crew discovered a pod of 15-metre+ humpbacks feeding on the small fish and krill. Once again the guests took to the water in the tender and kayaks to experience the thrill of the whales breaching and feeding around them.
The time passed quickly, and Laurel headed back through the Panama Canal, stopping along the Yucatan Peninsula before departing in early 2008 for the Society Islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Tahaa, Huahine and Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Here Laurel’s owners and guests experienced the perfect South Pacific island experience, from the bustling markets of Papeete to the tranquil family Black Pearl farms, to tracing the steps of Captain Cook in this area that is so rich with nautical history.
Then it was on to the Tuamotu Archipelago. Laurel navigated into the protected lagoons throughout this group of 78 atolls, through narrow passages in the reef that were formed by prehistoric rivers that flowed from ancient volcanoes. The drift diving experiences here were amazing, with schools of dolphins, large predator fish, giant clams and current-riding turtles. The highlight of the Tuamoto experience was a shark-feeding drift dive in the southern passage of the Fakarava Atoll. Each dive was more breathtaking than the previous, and when the guests were ready to come aboard they simply surfaced at Laurel’s stern and climbed out of the water into her beach club.
After Fiji, Laurel went on to experience Australia, the kangaroos and its ‘Dreamtime Culture’ before travelling on to Papua New Guinea, 160km north of Australia, where the guests arrived onboard in the port of Alotau. Home of the largest intact rainforest outside of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea is comprised of more than 600 islands and boasts over 800 indigenous languages. Exploring the many villages and islands illustrated the warmth and friendliness of the Papua New Guinean people and their adeptness at handicrafts. Villagers often flocked to Laurel in their dugout canoes, selling their produce and fresh catch along with artifacts and carvings. The village children were treated to tender and jet ski rides with the crew and the guests even enjoyed a game of rugby with the villagers.
Laurel spent several days cruising up the Sepik River where ceremonial painted faces, welcoming smiles and laughing children running along the water’s edge will forever be embedded in her guests’ memories. ‘Papua New Guinea was the most amazing cruise we had ever done,’ says Captain Clarke. ‘The villages were very natural; the people were wonderful.’
Across the Atlantic once again, Laurel made her way to Santana, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon River, to begin a 1,100nm trek to Manaus and up to Belém. The dichotomy of this area – remote farming villages showing signs of commercialisation with concrete structures and incongruous satellite television antennaes – was in such stark contrast to the experience in Papua New Guinea that this expedition paled in comparison. ‘Perhaps if we had gone to the Amazon first,’ says Captain Clarke, ‘it wouldn’t have been such a letdown.’
Laurel performed her best in Patagonia in South America in challenging conditions in early 2009. The guests came aboard in the Straits of Magellan and Laurel then departed for the Beagle channel and the Chilean fiords in the area known as Tierra del Fuego. They lunched near the face of a one-mile-long glacier beneath a 3,000-metre-high snowcapped mountain amidst sea lions and penguins.
Hiking, fly fishing, canoeing and whale watching were daily events here, but the power of the Southern Ocean in the famous Cape Horn region were indicative of just how unforgiving Mother Nature could be. ‘We experienced very rough, windy conditions,’ says Clarke. ‘It was brutally cold, with a lot of fog, blowing 50 knots every two to three days. And then some days it was absolutely beautiful with blue skies.’
This kind of efficiency was well planned from the genesis of the Laurel build. ‘From the very beginning we knew we would be adventurous and we had to get an operation in motion that would allow us to be extremely efficient,’ says Clarke. Each and every itinerary was planned in 15-minute intervals and executed without fail to accommodate the owners’ very busy schedule.
Laurel carried about $700K (400,000GBP) worth of spare parts on board, but utilised a lot of local provisions during her travels. Fuel was easily accessible, although outrageously expensive. During Laurel’s busiest year of travel, 2007-2008, the fuel budget hit $2M for the nearly 40,000nm travelled.
Beyond Chile and the Galapagos, Laurel spent the remainder of 2009 cruising Panama, Columbia, and the eastern seaboards of the US and Canada. By 2011 she was across the Atlantic again for a trip to the British Isles, then back to Palm Beach and across once again to Malta, Genoa, Monaco and Valencia.
Laurel spent the first months of 2012 staying relatively close to home, apart from a crossing to the Genoa show in Italy. Now for sale, she stands at the ready to take her new owners on the journey – or journeys – of their lifetime.