Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Petermann Island, Antarctica. Photo: Justin Hofman & EYOS Expeditions

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Petermann Island, Antarctica. Photo: Justin Hofman & EYOS Expeditions

Kinship

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

From diving and cooking to sailing and wildlife spotting, the learning opportunities on board are truly impressive.

By Julia Zaltzman | 27 May 2020

When it comes to family holidays, a superyacht charter is pretty hard to beat; watersports at your disposal, secluded bays around every corner, waking up to a new horizon each morning. But when it comes to onboard activities that unite the entire family, we discovered the following five incredible experiences that will strengthen family bonds for a lifetime.

1. How to dive

“I think the most exciting dives a family can do are their first dives together,” says diving instructor Tom Lang, co-founder of Dive Addiction. “Trusting in each other as ‘dive buddies’ opens up a whole new dimension to boating.” Mixed ability groups in diving aren’t a problem, particularly if a second dive guide is available, and children as young as 10 can dive in open water to a depth of 12m when accompanied by an adult. No experience is needed for families who choose to do their PADI Open Water Certification but being medically fit and able to swim 200m unaided is a prerequisite. Once in the water, a tropical playground awaits, from colourful coral to rays and shipwrecks. “At Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea, our ‘shark attraction’ dives are probably the highlight of any diver’s experience – the healthy shark population puts on one hell of a show,” says Lang. “You could be the greatest diver in the world and still want to share the experience with your 10-year-old son or your grandmother.”

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Photo: Dive Addiction

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Photo: Dive Addiction

2. How to cook

“When it comes to cooking, people like to actually get their hands dirty rather than just watch a demonstration on how to prepare something,” says Sherri Friend, chef onboard Laurentia. For guests who want to roll their sleeves up, the feel of homemade pasta dough and the building of a ravioli filled with rich cheese or pumpkin is a regular hit, she says, particularly tricolour ravioli where the brilliance of crimson red beetroot juice is added for visual effect. Freshly baked braids, batards, naan and pretzels are also popular, while the real foodies find learning to make soufflé together or how to source and use Thai ingredients to be highly rewarding. Whether barbecuing on the aft deck or gathered together in a teppanyaki room, all families appreciate good home cooking presented in an eye-popping manner, says Friend: “Food has always been about togetherness, breaking bread, sharing, tasting, nourishment and finally sitting together and enjoying. The buzz of families onboard busying themselves with the prep of Christmas dinner is a yacht filled with merriment.”

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Sherri Friend, chef onboard Laurentia

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Sherri Friend, chef onboard Laurentia

3. How to save oceans

For well-travelled families looking for a little more meaning, a yacht charter with a philanthropic angle can be truly gratifying, and the opportunity to be immersed in a marine environment gives families a deeper understanding of the world around them says Henry Cookson, founder of Cookson Adventures. “When guests get involved with scientists and researchers on a trip, the conservation element of a project can end up becoming the main focus.” He cites a team of orca scientists who discovered a new species of killer whale during a family charter, and another family in the Galapagos whose helicopter was used to release baby giant tortoises back into the world. Whether seeding coral reefs, tagging sea turtles and juvenile hammerhead sharks, or tracking whales during calving season, it enables passion and education to collide. “There’s an incredible symbiosis when a superyacht can assist in that way,” says Cookson, “and what an experience for those young families, too.”

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Islands covered in coconut plantations in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Cookson Adventures

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Islands covered in coconut plantations in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Cookson Adventures

4. How to navigate

For both kids and adults, the bridge is where the excitement happens. Taking the helm and being captain for the day is thrilling for younger generations. In terms of hands-on navigation, however, driving a tender is where it’s at. “The guests will be supervised, but the tender is more or less theirs for the duration of the trip, and it’s a big feature in charters because it gives a sense of achievement,” says captain Brendan O’Shannassy, founder of Katana Maritime consultancy. “I’ve had children who return the following year, and the first thing they say on arrival is ‘I would like to drive the boat again’. It’s all about creating ‘sticky’ memories.” O’Shannassy recommends guests flag their intentions early on when booking a charter, especially those keen to learn how to use navigational charts to give the crew time to prepare. “A lot of yachts don’t have paper charts anymore, so they’d have to rustle some up,” he says, “but navigation is just applied mathematics – 61-degrees latitude is 16 miles, one minute is one mile – it all begins to fit together. And it’s a wonderful way to learn about the world.”

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

Top five things to learn as a family on a charter yacht

Photo: Christopher Scholey & EYOS Expeditions

5. How to spot wildlife

Sightings of rare wildlife are a top-drawer attraction for most charter guests, with seals, sea lions, humpbacks, orcas and dolphins proving to be among the most popular. And remote destinations tend to be best for interactive engagements, where the animals “which have never had cause to fear humans, maintain a level of naiveté and curiosity,” says Mike Moore, head of expedition development at EYOS. Penguins in the south and polar bears in the Arctic summer are perfect for scenes of feeding and breeding. March to June and September to November are ideal times to visit the biodiversity-rich remote tropics of Melanesia, or the more temperate climes of Alaska or Patagonia where animals are preparing for, or recovering from, long migrations advises Moore. His top tips are to be ready and be outdoors (as animals don’t adhere to a schedule), and the more eyes the better, young and old. “As families sit together with all senses piqued, there is always a sense of mutual accomplishment when something is spotted and correctly identified. When a wildlife encounter is shared by a family, it is often one of the group’s most cherished collective memories.”

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