Heading north on Thandeka

Jan Verkerk

Heading north on Thandeka

Jan Verkerk

Journeys

Heading north on Thandeka

Superyacht owner Jan Verkerk has a new yacht for a new adventure.

By Dominique Afacan | 20 February 2020

Sailing has been a part of Jan Verkerk’s life for as long as he can remember. In Holland, where he grew up, he was gifted a small wooden sailing boat by his father – and an obsession began. It was an obsession that was shared by his older brother. “He was one of the first people to do commercial charter in Holland with flat-bottomed boats,” explains Verkerk. “I learned a lot from him.” His brother progressed to bigger yachts which chartered in Turkey and Jan often went along for the ride. “I was always the happy, young guy who could go with him,” says Verkerk.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Jan has gone on to make his hobby his business. Deciding to skip university in favour of training as a mechanic, Verkerk started to buy old boats and learnt how to fix them up himself. He later got both his captain’s licence and his engineering licence, giving him an unusually detailed understanding of every aspect of yacht building and operation. Today, he owns a fleet of superyachts and was heavily involved in the build of all of them. As well as using them for himself and his family, he charters them out year-round, making yachting his full-time job. Just as he’d always wanted.

Heading north on Thandeka

Thandeka

Heading north on Thandeka

Thandeka

“Sailing has always been a big part of my life and I love it,” says Verkerk. His fleet includes both motor yachts and sailing yachts – many of which, including the likes of Sherakhan a 70m expedition yacht, have legions of charter fans. Most recently though, Verkerk is celebrating a newer purchase. Thandeka, his latest sailing yacht sleeps eight guests and will be venturing far and wide. “We are going to charter in Norway, Svalbard, the Caribbean, the Sea of Cortez and slowly, slowly go in the direction of Indonesia,” he says.

Norway and Svalbard are first on the list, though, and Verkerk is excited, particularly as he’ll be accompanying the charters as the yacht’s captain. “I’ve travelled to Norway already with my motor yachts Legend and Sherakhan. Svalbard, meanwhile, has a lot in common with Antarctica, but it also has the Northern Lights and polar bears which you don’t get down there.” The other benefit of Svalbard is that it is far, far closer than Antarctica, making it less of a leap into the unknown for charter guests who are keen for an adventure.

Heading north on Thandeka

Sherakhan in Antarctica

Heading north on Thandeka

Sherakhan in Antarctica

“Most guests know the Mediterranean off by heart by now – it’s still fantastic, of course, and the likes of Monaco and St Tropez are still highlights, but people are starting to want to experience something completely different,” explains Verkerk. Guests travelling to Norway and beyond on Thandeka will be able to kayak, hike, dive, fish and far more besides, with Verkerk employing expedition specialists like Cookson and EYOS where necessary.

It’s remote destinations that really get Verkerk’s heart racing – and he names South Georgia and Papua New Guinea as two of his all-time favourites. “In terms of wildlife, South Georgia is the most incredible destination in the world,” he says. “There are so many seals on the beach that you have to make some noise when you arrive with your Zodiac to get a space. And so many penguins that you can get literally millions covering a valley.”

Heading north on Thandeka
Heading north on Thandeka

Verkerk has travelled to both South Georgia and Antarctica with his daughter who is studying to become a vet and who particularly appreciates the incredible wildlife opportunities out in the wilderness. Meanwhile, his son is captaining Sherakhan. “He is doing the heavy work now. He loved it from day one,” says Verkerk. It obviously runs in the family.

Families make up a large proportion of his charter guests, and having sailed with his own over the years, Verkerk is well-placed to ensure a happy holiday experience for everyone. “When you make children happy on a charter trip, then the parents are happy,” he explains. “We play with them, we do a lot of sport and activities and we make sure the parents don’t have any worries.”

Heading north on Thandeka

Sherakhan in Antarctica

Heading north on Thandeka

Sherakhan in Antarctica

Thandeka might be smaller than some of his other boats but there is still ample space for toys. And, of course, what could be more fun than trying your hand at sailing? “Guests don’t need to know anything about sailing – we have six crew to take care of that. But if they want to try, we can teach them absolutely everything.” And as far as luxury goes, Verkerk is quick to point out that a sailing charter doesn’t have to mean compromise. “Above 35 or 40 metres, sailing boats have the same luxury as motor boats. There is no need to forfeit that.”

So where is still on this adventurous sailor’s bucket list? Surprisingly, it’s not somewhere remote and unknown. “I still need to go to Australia. I’ve never been and it’s at the top of my list.” More adventures lie ahead.

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