Keeping It Cool Page 2

Playing It Cool

Part 2: What a difference nine months in the yard and a healthy dose of woodwork make.

Story and Photos by Kim Kavin - November 2003

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• Part 3: Alaska
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• CEO Expeditions

From the iceberg, we returned to our mother ship, the 120-foot Vosper-Thornycroft Kayana. She’s half the fleet of CEO Expeditions, a Washington-based charter company formed in 1999 when owner Bruce Milne bought his first yacht, the 100-foot Burger Katania. I was the first marine journalist to cruise with CEO Expeditions, in the summer of 2000, and could see the company’s potential through the occasionally thick gauze of the still-being-refurbished Katania and her brand-new crew. This time around, aboard Kayana as CEO Expeditions’ guest, I was shown not only a great time but a leap of maturity in the level of service and experience the company offers.

It starts, of course, with the boat. I last saw Kayana in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about a year and a half ago, just after Milne bought her. He had sparks of excitement in his eyes. Then again, maybe it was the reflections from the sea of mirrors in the bright-white saloon and dining area. I recall a lot of pink accents as well. Very 1970’s chic.

What a difference nine months in the yard and a healthy dose of woodwork make. From more elegant window coverings and carpeting to beautiful madrona paneling and new teak decking to high-grade plumbing fuxtures, all of Kayana’s improvements combine to create a comfortable ambiance for guests. “It’s a lot more luxurious than it used to be,” says Brantley Sweat, the company’s lead engineer. “If you have high demands, we can meet them.”

Sweat gets that attitude in part from Capt. Russ White, an all-around great guy with an easygoing personality and a true devotion to detail. I spent a good deal of time jawing with him in the pilothouse each day, watching him cater to guests’ needs while keeping an eye out for orcas and telling stories about some of the charters he’s done. A favorite was the time he and Kayana’s crew painted a wine box to look like a treasure chest and left it in a marble cave on nearby Baranof Island. They drew a map with a red X (even burned the edges to make it look old) and threw it into the water in a bottle for their young guests to find, then helped them navigate on foot to the treasure of candy and Kayana T-shirts.

“When you’re four or five, you don’t remember a lot of your life,” White says with a satisfied smile. “They’ll remember that.”

It would be easy for a lesser crew to let the place itself make all the memories. Every time I opened my eyes, on or off the boat, I saw something I’d never seen before. And every time I looked closer, I realized there was even more to see.

Take the morning I kayaked to the shore of Baranof Island’s Takatz Bay for a better look at that hungry brown bear. As I drew closer I saw clouds of white gulls overhead, as thick as the fog squatting on the mountaintops above, all squawking and screaming and circling in vulturous glee around the river flowing from the peaks. I looked back down, and the bear was gone, but its breakfast buffet remained, trapped in the lowest of low tides.

Next page > Part 3: Salmon writhed against my feet, against each other, against the rocks. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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