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Voyaging

In Nelson’s Wake

In Nelson’s Wake

A charter to Gibraltar affords the opportunity to enjoy a yacht at her best.

By Alan Harper — October 2004

   

Photo: Anna Clopet
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Portugal
• Part 2: Portugal
• Part 3: Portugal
• Portugal Photo Gallery


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It was not a great summer for English football. Not that it ever is. They crashed out of the Euro 2004 soccer tournament in predictable style against Portugal. The host nation was supposed to be the underdogs in the quarterfinal encounter, but it hadn’t read the script, and yet another English dream evaporated.

But it’s an ill wind. The month-long competition brought an unaccustomed fleet of megayachts to Portugal, chartered or, in the case of Le Grand Bleu, owned by football-mad millionaires and their long-suffering families. The docks in Lisbon are more accustomed to the rust-streaked sides of commercial coasters than the pristine polish of their sybarite sisters. But it was in that riverfront city’s Doca do Terreiro do Trigo that we bid farewell to our bemused taxi driver and stepped aboard the Feadship Daybreak, for a short cruise down to Gibraltar.

It is not a route you’ll find on many charter-yacht itineraries. But the many cultural attractions of Lisbon make it an alluring prospect, and there are pretty fishing villages like Cascais, where we spent a night before setting off southwards down Portugal’s dramatic Atlantic coast. Many of the names on the chart—Cape St. Vincent, Cadiz, Trafalgar, Gibraltar itself—echo with historical resonance. It’s an itinerary calculated to stir the blood of a Brit like me.

We were, of course, traveling in greater comfort than the average 18th-century seaman. Designed by Fritz de Voogt and built in Holland in 1997 by Royal Van Lent, Daybreak is 153 feet of sheer quality. She offers two double and three twin guest cabins down below and a massive master suite on the main deck—enough, in other words, for 12 guests. Normally based in the Bahamas, she made the crossing to Europe earlier this year to spend the summer in the Mediterranean.

She is a magnificent vessel, as pristine today as when she emerged from the shipyard. But for her captain, New Zealander Errol Stent, the crucial ingredient in a successful charter yacht is something you can’t buy: a happy crew. “You don’t just work together, you live together,” he explains.

In an industry where high staff turnover is a seasonal fact of life, Daybreak stands out. The core of the crew—six out of ten, including all the senior posts—has been together for years. Although the Chicago-based owner only bought Daybreak in April of last year, most positions aboard were filled by promotions from his other yachts (both Browards), and the Atlantic crossing early in the season helped weld them into a formidable team. Longest serving is Bahamian deckhand Peter Patton, who learned his seamanship aboard fishing boats and served as a navy gunner before moving into luxury yachts. He has worked for this owner for ten years. One of the newest members is 20-year-old Leah, from Canada. She spotted me one afternoon as I tried to catch up on some work in the sky lounge and came in to ask if there was anything I wanted. Being a Brit, what I wanted most at that particular time of day was a cup of tea. It’s a simple thing and almost never done properly outside of England, but what arrived five minutes later could have been served at The Savoy: a sip of perfection in white bone china.

Next page > Part 2: After the sticky date pudding with warm caramel sauce and raspberries, it was all we could manage to stagger up top to admire the stars. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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