Culture Vulture Page 2
Part 2: The crew helps one another in a way that tells you they genuinely enjoy what they’re doing.
By Kim Kavin— August 2004
The boat’s owner gutted his 1971 build in a two-and-a-half-year refit that ended in mid-2001. A few months later, with a tastefully playful safari decor, Askari made her boat-show debut and landed a ‘round-the-world booking that lasted until August 2003. Munsey and his crew navigated with a couple and their 13-year-old daughter on a charter that literally wound its way from Trinidad to the Galápagos Islands to Bora Bora. (See “The Time of Their Lives,” April 2003, plus additional detailed accounts.)
Since then, the owner has decided to see whether New Zealand might make a good home base during the summertime months of November through February, and the crew has set about learning the area in anticipation. “A big reason this boat charters is that the crew likes to charter,” Munsey says. “We like going to new places.”
That’s true even if the places are cold, dark, and wet. About midway through my week, on a day when rain was slicing into the chop around us, I asked whether I could get a firsthand look at Askari’s much-touted diving operation. I fully expected to hear groans that the conditions were too dismal, but within seconds first mate Claud Akers, chef Darryl Leathart, and deckhand Dean Parsonage were brimming with glee. It turns out we were close to the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat the French sank before it could protest their nuclear testing. Askari’s crew, all of whom are divers, had been wanting to see the site for weeks.
In the driving wind and rain, they prepared enough gear for themselves, Jouning, and me to survive the 62°F temperatures that awaited us 75 feet below. I felt in particularly good hands as Parsonage gave us the predive briefing; he’s an instructor who can even certify new divers, a rarity on a charter yacht no matter where in the world it is. “It was a bit of a gamble,” Parsonage says of the full-service diving Askari offers. “We don’t want to be a ‘dive boat,’ so we set it up so that it’s part of the [charter] package.”
On this day, that package included about 45 minutes of exploring the glorious wreck, then resurfacing to find our ears and toes darn near numb. I was halfway out of my wet suit when head stewardess Tess Davies handed me a warm towel. By the time I’d wiped the salt water from my eyes, stewardess Leah Jeffery was giving me a mug of hot chocolate with a huge marshmallow floating on top.
The teamwork was impressive, and it extended to everything I saw aboard. The crew helps one another in a way that tells you they genuinely enjoy what they’re doing. It’s not unusual for Parsonage to serve dinner, or for Munsey to be in the galley doing dishes.
Then again, it could be that Munsey’s just after a taste of whatever Leathart happens to be cooking. The New Zealand native has 22 years’ experience under his apron and works hard not to declare any specialty. “I don’t limit myself to a category,” he says. “I like to be able to say, ‘Sure can.’”
When pressed to describe a favorite dish, Munsey thought only a second before replying, “These Kiwis know a good lamb when they see one. He’s damn good with meat.”
That was certainly my experience, from Leathart’s barbecue of chicken, hamburgers, and shrimp to his chicken wing appetizers. During our first night, he even managed to do something I’ve never seen before on a charter yacht this size: offer a main-course selection to all 20 or so people aboard for a party, a choice of chicken breast stuffed with apricots and cashews, or local fish in a lime leaf beurre blanc.
The food is just one of the many things aboard Askari that belies her workmanlike exterior. She is a first-class charter yacht built and crewed to explore, which also happens to make her perfect for an emerging charter destination like New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.
Just don’t let any of the natives scare you off.
At presstime, Askari's rates were being set for various destinations in the South Pacific. She accommodates ten guests.
Special thanks to Air New Zealand Phone: (800) 369-6867. www.airnewzealand.com/usa.
This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.