Chartering a superyacht in the Mediterranean is such a magnificent experience, however it can feel a little daunting trying to decide which ports to stop in on. Charterfleet caught up with superyacht captain Ben Baylis of the 36m Bennetti Classic charter yacht Giorgia to discuss one of his favourite places to sail: Elba a yacht charter in the Italian Riviera.
Baylis has been in the sailing industry for 30 years and a captain for over 15 now. His knowledge of sailing destinations and what to do in them is almost unrivalled. Add this to his professional yet friendly manner and this makes him a pleasure to be in the company of.
Baylis recently stepped onto terra firma just long enough for Charterfleet to prize some invaluable information on his favouite charter destination. Welcome to Elba.
We tell them [the guests] it's your holiday you tell us what you want out of the holiday, and then we try and make their dreams come true
What makes Elba so special?
Elba seems to be missed off many itineraries. I think this is due to the fact that you can't easily fly in and out, and it does involve a long daytrip or overnight to reach its shores. However, when you do reach the island, white sand beaches and quiet harbours await. At the minute I just don't think people are really aware of what is here.
Another reason it is so special is due to its geographic position. It sits just outside harms way when the summer Mistral Winds hit its more popular neighbours such as Corsica. Elba is fairly well protected, in fact in the north, south and east, the bays regardless of the wind direction always have a calm spot.
What are your top anchorage spots or bays?
There are three huge bays and many other smaller, private ones. So depending on what the charterer wants, I can make a decision where to go. For secluded beaches, I take them by tender to a smaller, less crowded beach and for something with a little more life then we have the choice of either Biodola Bay, Procchio or Viticcio. Each, infact all of the bays on the island, offer picture perfect beaches of course in the summer these can become very busy.
The main port is called Portoferraio, and it is a charming place. Now it isn't as polished as say St Tropez; it's eclectic a calm, old port. It has plenty of charm and character and I often advise guests to take a walk to the top of citadel where an old residence of Napoleon sits. There are also many quaint restaurants that serve local delights such as seafood (caught on the day by the fisherman that can be observed as they come in on their old wooden fishing boats) or pizza and pasta.
Now, Elba doesn't have the pounding music or nightlife it really isn't a place for a wild scene, instead it has a more sedentary pace.
I would say Elba is a family destination, or an older group who want to relax and enjoy the tranquility.
What would you recommend to guests to see around the island?
The harbour of Porto Azzurro is by far my favourite marina on the island. It was refurbished maybe two or three years ago. In my opinion the old town is even nicer than that of Portoferraio. It is home to a few nice bars/restaurants that look out over the harbour. I often recommend Enoteca, which is a wine bar that serves tapas and wine or even Tamata Wine Bar to enjoy fresh local seafood with an Asian twist. Why I like this place is because it feels very traditional Italian. You find the locals taking an evening stroll around the marina. Italian's like to dress up and promenade around the harbour, it's very sophisticated.
Marino di Campo is located in a horseshoe-shaped bay crisp azure waters meet a powdery yellow sand beach. It is perfect for families.
How much time do guests want to stay on land?
To be honest I find that with most of our guests like to stay, and eat onboard our boat we have always been blessed with very good chefs. Guests pay a lot of money for the experience and most of the restaurants are not usually as good quality as onboard the boat. You don't have the high service levels, and the food is not as good. But of course if guests would like to take in authentic Italian cuisine then we will take them to wherever they wish to dine and of course always arm ourselves with a grand selection for them to chose from.
It is the same with the beaches; I have found that they do not want to go on a busy beach. We have a dedicated swim platform onboard where guests can sunbath, come in and out of the water and basically use it as a beach (without the sand).
It is very hard to find secret beaches nowadays unfortunately, most are very busy in the height of summer. We also offer a watersports package onboard that surpasses anything offered on the beach. That is one of the elements of Giorgia we heavily promote we are very proud of our water toys
When is the best time to visit?
It depends on how warm you would like the water to be but we are on stand by ready for charters from May to late September. Although, we are available for static charters in the winter too during the exhibitions in Cannes for example.
What advice would you offer to a first time charterer?
Relax, don't be afraid to request something from the captain or chief stewardess. If guests have researched the area before then ask the captain to go. If a guest has dreams of going somewhere, come and see me, don't keep quiet and hope that I will just go. In some respects they are mini owners of the boat for the duration of the charter. So we tell them it's your holiday you tell us what you want out of the holiday and then we try and make their dreams come true. Obviously there are some limitations but we will always try our best.
It should be simply a matter of relaxing and enjoying their holiday.
What should guests bring on their yacht charter?
Pack lightly. The broker will advise them on what is available on the boat so they should know what to bring before hand. The boats are so well kitted out these days with toiletries etc that it is only clothes that the guests need to pack.
Describe what guests can expect onboard M/Y Giorgia?
It depends on the charter guests. The crew can be (and need to be) very versatile. For a younger party crew who want to use the Jacuzzi, all of the watertoys etc, then they usually want the crew to get very involved and this creates quite a buzz about the boat.
The quiet bunch, which is usually the older sect like to sit there, have a cuppa and watch the world go by. They don't like to use Jacuzzi or watersports so the crew are a little redundant but then we have to devise ways of making it special for these types of guests too.
The family charter is a mixture of both the parents like to relax while the kids play on the watersports. However, usually they want to go to bed early.
Every charter is different so you have to size the guests up very quickly. That's why repeat charters are great- as you are already ahead of the game to customise the charter.
Tell me about the crew
Our chef Lee Easden's speciality is seafood. He is an excellent chef. Infact it was his first season on a yacht last year, and it was my first time hiring a chef with no yachting experience and he has turned out to be my most successful chef ever in yachting and I have been yachting 30 years and captain for 15. My wife was my chef for eight years, and she helped me pick him out. He is a humble man who lets his food do the talking. A very talented chef.
The first mate has been with me for four years , Chief engineer for one season and his daughter who is the chief stewardess has been with me for two seasons now. We have a great family atmosphere onboard.
Enquire about a luxury yacht charter on M/Y Giorgia this summer in the Mediterranean