…Or, The Romance of the Chartered Yacht

How enticing it all seems when you’re first reading the brochure welcoming you to the beautiful catamaran “Cat Poo II” and its charming crew, Rodney and Fiona.  He’s a former Navy man who used to run a small destroyer and whose interests vary from deep-sea diving to hot-air ballooning. She’s a former OR nurse with degrees in early-child education and culinary arts.  In her spare time, she paints.  They both run marathons and between them they speak six languages.  “Oh, they seem perfect!” you think and hurriedly sign over the $20,000 to procure their services, and their splendid yacht, for a week.
Imagine your surprise, then, upon arriving at your chosen rendezvous, only to find that Rodney and Fiona are no longer running CPII; instead you have Bruno and Agnes.  He’s a former shepherd from Patagonia and she was a stay-at-home-mom until she lost the kids as a result of the rehab thing.  They both have their STCW 95 of course and he can sail a bit but she gets awfully seasick when the swell gets up.

Off you go on your swing around Nature’s Little Secrets, somewhat alarmed as your captain drives the boat with his brand-new Guide to the Various Virgins propped by the wheel, right next to his can of Red Stripe.  Agnes can be heard shrieking in the galley, which she calls the kitchen.  Things go well, though, since the food is edible and the drinks potent.  In fact, the trip slowly devolves into a series of riotous bacchanals interspersed with ferocious hangovers.  The small annoyances, such as being dragged from your bunk at 3am to guide Bruno as he resets a wandering anchor or being ordered into the dinghy to push the boat off that reef that’s not supposed to be there will, upon reflection, seem charming adventures. Not so the time when a naked Bruno staggered into your cabin waving a butcher’s knife and a giant cucumber, bleeding from a series of small cuts.  “What happens on the boat stays on the boat, right?”  Agnes tearfully beseeches you.  As you leave, you press a few soggy $20 bills into her hand, insisting everything was “fantastic, really fantastic.  No, really it was.”  You leap into the taxi, the better to escape Bruno’s scathing and obscene response that begins, “You ******* ungrateful bastards,” before soaring into the realms of the operatic, if not psychotic.
On the other hand, there you are, Fiona and Rodney.  You’ve spent every waking moment squeegeeing and polishing your beloved Cat Poo into a sort of floating jewel.  You’ve provisioned the galley with hard-to-find parts of semi-endangered species and the drinks cabinet is resplendent with one-of-a-kind rums and juices hand-pressed in the wee small hours. Anxiously you await your new guests, the Grumpletons, all eight of them (plus the nanny).  They’ve sent a preference sheet and a list of required items but you are hardly prepared for the demanding, fastidious gourmands who eventually arrive.  Nothing is good enough for them.  Your finest sauces are scraped from the fish.  Every attempt to take them to a preferred snorkelling spot is greeted with a sneer and a quick discussion in one of the languages they’ve decided you don’t speak.  At night you run from glass to glass, pouring away your beloved 50-year-old port and that fabulous organic Armagnac you so assiduously pursued.

Day after day—and this is a two-week charter—you run after the charming guests with a smile, frozen into a kind of rigor mortis, threatening to crack your newly whitened teeth.  The boat reeks of cigars even though you’ve told them you don’t allow smoking.  The kids demand that you drag them around behind the tender all day long. You worry about your fuel supply.  All along, though, you remind yourself that the tip will make it all worthwhile.
As they leave, they press a few soggy $20 bills into your hand and tears begin to pop from your eyes.  “Yes, it was lovely,” you insist, secretly cursing yourself for not leaping into their cabin with the butcher’s knife and the cucumber as you’d been so tempted to do.  At least they signed your guestbook! And they said such nice things, too.
So there you have it, the romance of the crewed yacht life.  Oh of course there are fabulous guests who invite crew to their Aspen getaways and insist on treating them to the Dove on the final night before pressing $5,000 into the captain’s ready palm, sobbing that they’ll “never, never forget this amazing time” as long as they live.  You can bet the crew will remember too, in the long, long weeks ahead.