June 30 2010
For first-time charterers, it is difficult to know the optimum size of motor yacht. After some enjoyable experimentation I have now established a clear preference: 60 metres, or around 200 feet in old money. There are sound practical reasons for this. Such yachts accommodate up to a dozen guests (plus crew), but any yacht that sleeps more than 12 guests needs to comply with elaborate SOLAS regulations. So why pay the very considerable extra for a larger boat?
Sixty-metre vessels used to be considered superyachts. Today a sleek new boat such as Cloud 9 is barely half the size of the largest afloat. Yet what I loved about it was the space – enough on four decks for everyone to spread themselves, with some left over for privacy. In addition to a dramatic owner's cabin with its own observation lounge there is also a VIP stateroom with private balcony. Plus four double or twin cabins, all with en suite bathrooms.
The attentive crew served healthy, Asian-influenced meals in no fewer than five places aboard. For in specifying Cloud 9, the Australian owners instructed London-based designer Andrew Winch to use their beach house as inspiration. Quite a chic and spacious beach house evidently, as the panoramic upper saloon sports a six-foot cinema screen. Sure enough there is a barbecue up on the sun deck beside the whirlpool where we found lobster and filet mignon grilling aromatically: surf’n’turf will never be quite the same again.
A yacht this size proves big enough – and with state-of-the-art stabilisers sufficiently comfortable – to cruise well beyond the eastern Mediterranean. Instead of joining the November convoy across the Atlantic, Cloud 9 will be heading south to the Indian Ocean, there to cruise the lesser frequented waters of the Seychelles, Maldives and Thailand. To me that is infinitely more original than the now overcrowded Caribbean. With RIBs, jet skis, glass-bottomed kayaks and two Seabobs, 60 metres also seems the minimum size for a truly self-contained luxury holiday with exploration potential. Optimum indeed.