Just your typical, extraordinary morning…
We normally love nothing more than a lie-in on holiday but, on a yacht charter, the whole family seems to be giddy with anticipation at first light. It’s as if every day is Christmas morning: we hear our two youngest giggling in their cabin and making deals on the activities they should be trying out first today. Dad is no-doubt already pestering the Captain for our day’s sailing options and Mum, if instincts don’t fail me, is already soaking up the sunrise scenery from outer deck. I can’t begin to tell you how many times she’s mentioned ‘lifelong dream of mine’ over the last three days! Gifting her and Dad this family vacation has truly been a blessing for us all: time to reconnect away from the humdrum of everyday life but also to share all these amazing experiences, together. The kids are getting older, as are my parents – chances for these kinds of memories really are few and far between.
Dad had always wanted to sail the big boys of the sea and it’s just wonderful to see him pick straws with the kids to have a chance at the helm. The Captain is an absolute sport and a real charmer: they all think they’re his ‘favorite’ 2nd-in-command.
After a shower in our incredibly decadent en-suite (is living on a boat a thing? Must remember to ask hubby over breakfast), we head to the outdoor dining deck and are greeted by beaming smiles all round and the delicious wafting smell of fresh coffee and what will undoubtedly be a noteworthy brekkie. I wonder what Chef Houdini has in store for us this morning…fresh waffles? Home-made scones? Poached eggs and smoked salmon with her out-of-this-world hollandaise?! Oh, the decadence! I’m just glad we chose a yacht equipped with a gym although, just between us, we have yet to actually use it given we’ve been so busy with jet skiing, kayaking, SUP boarding and water skiing. Also, sunbathing burns calories, right? Hmmm…this is definitely a gym morning, I feel it!
We’ve anchored just a few swim-strokes away from a ridiculously beautiful little island. It’s uninhabited, lapped by gentle turquoise waves and framed by a stretch of powdery-white sand.
I know exactly where I’ll be heading after breakfast. Oops…I meant after the gym…
I hadn’t even realized my eldest was not on-board until I see him return, on the tender, with the First Mate. Apparently, they’d made a late-night plan to get up super early to go mahi-mahi fishing. My teenage son got up at 5am! The last time he did that he was still in nappies! I try to act nonchalant as I greet them, and their huge catch – I can see from Jake’s face that this has been an unforgettable outing for him.
As our breakfast is served (huevos rancheros for me – how does she remember all our favorites?!) the day’s plan is made: the kids will be driving Chloe crazy on the inflatables, Mum and Dad have opted for an on-shore hike to spot some elusive birds with the Captain and John and I will be hitting that sandy beach until lunch.
Because snorkeling counts as sport, right?!
An afternoon to remember…
It’s amazing how swiftly everyone reconvenes on the yacht when lunchtime nears. I know I’m not the only one delighting in the personalized cuisine: little Joshua’s been feasting with abandon and, any parent with a picky eater will tell you, that’s like winning the lottery. For lunch, Chef whipped up no-less than three sensational dishes with Jake’s freshly-caught mahi-mahi. I tuck right into the steamed fish with coriander and shallots and I’m ecstatic when Josh is presented with his own beautiful plate of home-made fish fingers – which he devours in under a minute. The table looks amazing and I find myself taking yet another photo of our family meal – will this culinary indulgence ever end? I hope not!
Satiated and content, we linger at the shaded table, refreshed by a glorious breeze, sharing our morning discoveries and having (just one more) chocolate-dipped strawberry. Talk soon turns to the afternoon possibilities, as the Captain lays out his wicked plan: if we sail for just under an hour, we could reach one of his favorite coves, the ideal playground for wakeboarding lessons. The kids have been busting to learn and, I soon discover, so have Mum and Dad. So off we go! Dad settles into the Jacuzzi, John takes to the recliner with that spy-novel he’s been meaning to finish for ages and Mum and I find our lounging spot: seating side by side, admiring the cruising view, wine-glass at hand.
We’re happy to see only two other yachts anchored in ‘our’ cove and, after settling in, the wakeboards and tender are prepared. John grabs his video-camera (yes, those things still exist) intent on capturing every moment of Gramps and Grandma learning to wakeboard with the kids – oh dear…I pour myself a little more wine to steady my nerves.
The kids are naturals on the wakeboard yet, when it’s Mum and Dad’s turn, the whole cove bursts with laughter. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad laugh so much in his entire life – the kids are in absolute hysterics and ever Stuart, who’s an absolute master-guide of patience and poise, can barely keep a straight face. We get the whole thing on film and something tells me it’ll be relived for many, many years to come.
After an hour, everyone’s exhausted although if it’s from wakeboarding or laughing, is anyone’s guess. Chef offers a snorkeling outing and we all agree with gusto – her trademark fruit popsicles are in the freezer and will be ready just as soon as we return. Mum’s beat and decides to stay on the yacht but Dad has plenty of energy left for yet another swim.
We spot a myriad of colorful fish on the barrier reef and for a moment, as I see the kids, John and Dad floating about this incredible underwater aquarium, time stands still. I take a mental picture of my family enjoying paradise, thinking I’m also experiencing mine.
The late afternoons are perhaps my favorite time of day on yacht charters – the excitement of the day etched on everyone’s face. The kids have asked the crew for the BIG slide and as they jump, bounce and dive, we sit back in awe at the magnificent scenery before us, and the delicious cocktails coming our way.
An enchanted evening…
Refreshed and re-energized after our pre-dinner showers, we head to the salon for our Pirates of the Caribbean themed evening. The kids requested a movie night and, because the crew never does anything in half-measures, it’s turned out to be a whole event. Not only are we all in costume (crew and Captain included) but the whole yacht has been decorated down to the smallest details – it’s amazing!
The First Mate kidnaps the kids for a treasure hunt, first to pillage the anchorage and then they rummage all through the yacht for the priceless hidden loot. The music is cranked up and we toast their looting success with a buccaneer rum brew, before sitting down to a fabulous dinner. Tonight, Chef has really outdone herself: lobster and char-grilled salmon for us and chicken fingers for the kids – absolute perfection.
During dinner, as we fire off our next-day’s desires, Grandma’s request for a little shopping time ashore has us cracking up all over again – guess she’s had enough adrenalin today to last a lifetime! Jake is keen on some time on the wave runner in the morning and the little ones, happy as can be, are adamant they want more wakeboarding time.
As the kids settle in for their movie night, Mum and Dad call it a night, happy to have a little time to themselves and watch a movie in their cabin. John and I take our cognacs outside, relishing the quietness under the canopy of a million stars. The Captain, as if reading our mind, turns on the underwater lights and we see an enormous school of tarpons swirling around our boat.
From the moment we hopped on board our yacht charter, the enchantment has not abated. We’ve had countless family holidays in the past but nothing has come close to this. The sheer quantity and quality of time together has been priceless and sharing so many unique experiences has done wonders for our family unit.
And we’re only half-way through our vacation…