Superyacht owner Sharon Lessard tells Grace Trofa about turning her 46 metre Benetti Lady S, a grand dame built for a sheik, into a yacht fit for adventure and charter...
My husband loves yachting. For the past two years I’ve been flying to Fort Lauderdale from Washington, DC, to look at yachts, but it has always been “No, no, no” – until this one. He’s pretty much put this project in my hands. Is it a gift from my husband? I guess so. After all, it is called Lady S. We’ve been married 22 years and he’s a good guy.
Our first boating experience was on a sailboat. I was like, “I can’t do this.” No air conditioning; my face was up against the porthole searching for air. But then we enjoyed our first motor trip with Captain Jack McKay on Harmony and chartered with him for 15 years.
We plan to use the boat about four weeks a year, and then about four months in charters, promoting her as an adventure vessel with scuba diving and snorkelling equipment, kayaks, jet skis, all the toys. I’d like to see families charter, and use her to get kids off their phones and iPads and gadgets and get out and enjoy life. We have three sons, who are 17, 19 and 21, and they have grown up on yachts. It is a totally different lifestyle.
When we started chartering, my husband Chris, who is an architect, would always bring along his briefcase and do his work, but then gradually he stopped bringing work and instead spent more time with the kids outdoors, engaged in sports. I would bring a book and constantly read. I always say “I don’t get off the boat.” I love it; there is no reason to get off. Our favourite cruising ground is Croatia. My goodness – it’s so beautiful and not tapped yet by American commercialism.
We bought the boat in June and our first boat trip was to Cuba for an overdue family vacation. The island felt like a step back to the 1950s but the people were lovely and so appreciative. So much is lacking in Cuba. On our last day, we started handing out simple things from the boat, like toiletries. It makes you really appreciate what you have and to see how even a small gesture can make someone happy.
We have had our moments on board. One of my sons, then three, once fell overboard. The blood-curdling scream brought us all running, and we witnessed Captain Jack’s nephew pulling him out of the water. I fell to my knees in grief and gratitude. Captain Jack wisely advised me to not make a big deal of it, but I haven’t forgotten the experience.