Superyacht owner Alan Dabbiere talks to BOAT International editor Stewart Campbell about his adventures on board the 60 metre motor yacht Constance, which saw him cruise from Florida to Fiji with his family.
“We lived on a 35 metre Benetti, the old Constance, for two years after my daughter was born. We convinced her that we found her in the ocean floating on an oyster shell and that she was descended from mermaids,” Dabbiere begins.
A rapidly growing family made him doubt if he would ever be able to enjoy such an epic adventure again, but when the opportunity arose ten years later, the Dabbieres were suddenly looking at much larger yachts. The new Constance, a 60 metre CRN, proved to be the ideal family-friendly explorer — her eight cabins allowed enough room on board for the owners, their four children, two teachers and two nannies, as well as a naturalist from National Geographic.
“I thought that if you get beyond 45 metres you’re not really on the water any more, I never thought I would go to a boat of 1,250GT,” Dabbiere confessed. “But when you’re in rough seas, size matters. We started passively looking and then I stumbled into the CRN — it was just absolutely the perfect size for the trip that we wanted to do.”
Over the course of 12 months, Constance was put to good use, cruising more than 20,000 miles from Florida to Fiji. It was this journey that would help Dabbiere win the Voyager's Award at the 2018 edition of the World Superyacht Awards. Her first port of call was Cuba, where she was moored for a month. Dabbiere describes the island as “so welcoming and warm, wonderful and beautiful”. Passing through the Panama Canal, Constance then headed west to the Coco Islands for one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.
“I actually thought the diving there was even better than the Galapagos,” Dabbiere enthuses. “It was one of my daughter’s first dives, we went down and we were surrounded by 30 reef sharks and sting rays and out of the blue came four big hammerhead sharks that started to circle us. We were about 120 feet down and I was thinking to myself: ‘What is my daughter going to say when we come back up?’ Luckily she said: ‘That was the most amazing thing in the world, I can’t wait to go again!’”
Over the course of the trip, the Dabbieres did around 70 dives, swimming with whales in Tonga and turtles and dolphins in Cuba. Such encounters had a profound impact on the younger generation, imbuing them with a passion for diving, photography and fishing.
However, life on board Constance wasn’t just an extended holiday. Dabbiere was keen to keep a sense of routine and didn’t want the children falling behind on their education. “We kept to a strict schedule: school from 8am to 12.30pm every day with the kids in their uniforms and tutoring every night. Although we did let them have a spring break.”
It wasn’t just the Dabbiere children who were benefitting from Constance’s focus on learning: “We brought about 30 boxes of school supplies with us. Everywhere we went, that was our calling card, that was our introduction to the local schools.”
After months on board Dabbiere is well placed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his boat’s design and he insists that if he had to build it again, he would only make small tweaks rather than wholesale changes. “When you’re on board for long periods, you don't want tenders on the decks and we were fortunate not to have that. If an owner’s going to use it extensively and you’re in motion this much, you should build the boat to maximise the beauty of the views and the seas, so getting those tenders off is a very important thing.”
The second lesson was more to do with location, as Pacific storms often confounded Constance’s sundeck design. “You’ve also got to make the assumption that water will get everywhere,” Dabbiere continues. “The way the water flowed off the boat was fantastic for the Med, because it hardly rains there. Designers don’t always think about flat surfaces and water flow. We’re reworking all of that now.”
Niggles aside, Dabbiere is unequivocal in the value of such a trip and urged other owners to try something similar. “A boat is not an end in itself,” he said. “It’s a means to an end.”