But then, as I sat at the guest table in Teleost’s pilothouse, chatting with Burnet and taking in the scenery as we cruised toward the Vallee de Mai, it occurred to me that I had truly never seen or even heard of anyplace like these islands. Even better, in terms of exploring their tropical delights and unique ecosystem, I soon realized I was in the hands of a megayacht crew with better local knowledge than any other.
Burnet splits the captain’s duties seasonally with Capt. Stephen Cartwright, which allows both men to maintain healthy home lives. Because of concessions like this by the owner, most of the crew are adventurous types who have stayed with the yacht for years, as opposed to the months-long rotations more typical onboard boats that have traveled, as Teleost has, to Alaska, western Mexico, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Belize, the whole of the Caribbean and Mediterranean, the Maldives, the Red Sea, Egypt, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, and Hawaii. To keep a good crew on a yacht with a schedule like this, Teleost’s owner knows he has to take good care of them. He invests in them, including Stuart Dunsheath, the spectacular three-star Michelin chef who travels regularly as the owner’s guest to the finest restaurants in New York and London.
That’s the kind of owner-crew relationship you want in a place like the Seychelles, because once you make the effort to get there, the yacht is not so much your home base as it is your 24-hour-a-day home. These islands are developing, to be sure&mdashwith a handful of luxury spas and golf courses, even&mdashbut they’re not like parts of the northern Caribbean where you can get off the boat and try new restaurants or party at discos at night. Your crew’s happiness is a condition of your own, because you will be with them morning, noon, and night.
The Seychelles are different from the Caribbean in another important way, too. Because they got such a late start in the world tourism market, the Seychellois are cautious about how tourism develops. They’ve seen what happens to islands that allow gated resorts for the rich while leaving the locals poor. In the Seychelles the goal is to attract top-dollar tourism while letting the income trickle down. Thus, when I stepped off this perhaps $30-million megayacht, I was met with eager, healthy smiles instead of the outstretched and sometimes malnourished hands I’ve found in some parts of the Caribbean.
And why wouldn’t the locals smile? They live in a place that I found to be one of the most beautiful cruising destinations on earth. The water is clear, calm, and colorful, even more so than in much of the Bahamas. The waters are warm&mdashnearly 90 degrees&mdashbut the white, sandy beaches are cool to the foot’s touch. The islands are so close together that they’re navigable by sight, just as it’s possible in the Virgin Islands, yet the remoteness of the place gives it the exotic feel of a charter vacation in the out-islands of Fiji.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.