A charter captain once commented that if the ocean were a dirt road, he wouldn’t need an autopilot because his yacht would just settle into the well-traveled ruts and steer itself to all the same old charter destinations. There is a well known circuit in the yacht charter world: Caribbean in winter,Med in summer, back and forth.But how many times can you do St. Barths? Do you really want to go back to Monaco or Cannes again this year? Perhaps it’s time to break out of that rut.
We talked to many leading charter brokers and polled them on new destinations.What’s new, what’s fresh and what’s about to become a new charter hot spot? The votes suggest that there is both good news and bad news.
First the good news: yes, there are some new and emerging charter destinations. Now the bad news: there aren’t many. The problem is the classic chicken-or-the-egg. A charter yacht owner is not going to reposition his yacht to a new destination unless he is convinced that there are potential clients
who want to go there. And there are no clients unless they know there is a yacht at that destination. Impasse. The one exception to this is the growing number of yachts doing global adventure cruises. By the very nature of their wanderings, they have to pass through off-the-beaten-path destinations regularly and charter brokers can put guests aboard in those places. But in that situation, as Matt Emerson of Burgess points out, “You have to plan six months ahead. It’s
not like suddenly deciding you want to charter in an existing hot spot, where a charter broker can put you aboard a yacht as early as tomorrow morning!”
One trend seems to be creating “new” destinations within range of where yachts are currently positioned. For example, rather than following the usual Mediterranean route along the French Riviera, take the charter yacht to offshore islands that are off the grid.
So with that in mind, here’s a look at seven charter destinations that don’t yet have well-worn ruts leading to them.
Before you garb your passport and phone your charter broker, understand that this is an “emerging” charter market. At present, convoluted Brazilian laws make
it a nightmare for foreign-flagged yachts to charter in Brazilian waters. There is a movement in the charter industry working to turn that around but, for the time being, the charter fleet is strictly Brazilian, offering mainly Ferretti and Azimut yachts that are built in Brazil.
“Brazil is easy to reach from North America and Europe,” says Nick Trotter of Meridian Yacht Charters, “yet it feels far, far away.” The primary charter area of Angra dos Reis (Bay of Kings) is about two hours south of Rio de Janeiro on the Costa Verde (Green Coast) and, with 365 untouched islands, has
been called “the Caribbean of the 1950s.” Here, charterers can swim in waterfalls, snorkel in clear turquoise water and explore sleepy villages by horse-drawn carriages.
Ami Ira of C U Yacht Charters adds, “Brazil hasn’t yet been discovered, which makes it a rarity in the world of chartering.”
This French island in the Med has long been overlooked as yachts from the Riviera speed past, bound for the jet-set playgrounds of Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda just 10 miles away. But Corsica offers the same climate and balmy waters, plus ancient villages, wildly beautiful scenery and protected harbors. There’s even a spectacular national park that is accessible only by boat. “Corsica is one of those wonderful charter destinations that just has to be visited,” says Alev Karagulle of Burgess.
Almost as common as the colorful wildflowers on the hillsides are the white kepi hats worn by the French Foreign Legionnaires who train on Corsica. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus, the island has been compared to Tuscany before “Under the Tuscan Sun.” A luxury tax imposed on yachts in Sardinia proved a windfall for nearby Corsica, which has worked to create the infrastructure to handle the influx of visiting charter yachts. Corsica also has its own cuisine that draws on French and Italian as well as North African influences for a unique combination.
An easy hop from Athens, these islands are best known for the cruise ship destination of volcanic Santorini and the tourist-crowded Mykonos. But there are 37 other islands and only 24 are inhabited, all with treasures to discover. There is Sifnos with its medieval castles, Finikia with incomparable beaches and Amorgos with its Byzantine monastery. Wherever you go, you’ll find narrow cobblestone streets, blue-domed churches and tiny waterfront pubs for sipping ouzo. If you need nightlife, it’s nearby on the party islands, but the real beauty of these islands is the silent splendor.
“This one is so far off the map that many people ask, ‘where?’ Hard as it is to believe, there are yachts positioned in Patagonia,” says Patty Wilson of International Yacht Charter Group. Located at the southern tip of South America and shared by Argentina and Chile, this is a land of dramatic landscapes that has remained untouched since the explorations of Magellan and Sir Francis Drake. Tierra del Fuego has the famed Cape Horn, but the Straits of Magellan and Beagle Channel are cruising areas literally at the end of the earth, where guests have opportunities ranging from fly-fishing to glacier exploration.
Until recently, these islands were off the charter grid, but yachts of all manner are beginning to offer charters among the more than 17,000 islands that lie between Asia and Oceania. Destinations of note include Bali, Komodo (home of dragons), Sulawesi and Raja Ampat, all with incredible diving opportunities,
superb scenery and Indonesian/Asian cuisine. “Indonesia is simply breathtaking,” says Fraser’s Liz Howard.
Mention chartering in Italy, and everyone thinks of Portofino or Amalfi or the Italian Riviera. “But, there are fascinating islands to be explored just off
Italy’s west coast,” says Kim Vickery of Sapphire Seas Charters. The Pontine Islands include Palmarola, uninhabited but stunning, as well as Ponza, said to be the remains of Atlantis, plus a cluster of others all with attractions ranging from superb snorkeling to blue caverns. The Tuscan Archipelago, known as the Seven Sisters, is a chain of islands that includes Elba (made famous by Napoleon) as well as several that are protected as a national park. Off the coast of Sicily are the eight Aeolian Islands including Stromboli, whose active volcano often provides nighttime fireworks. With a cuisine drawn from the sea and the rich soil, these islands’ charms too often are overlooked by charterers.