Cold Raw Day in Vermont Brings Warmth

The wind came howling through the valley at 2:20AM followed by a hard rain. My heart went thud at these sounds as with morning light came a 30″ truck we had been given by LandAir Express out of Burlington to fill with warm outerwear for people recovering from Sandy’s wrath. I pictured locals stopping by the parking lot to deliver what they had removed from their closets and cleaned for the trip south … in the freezing rain. We only had this one shot, and we wanted it to be good. We had survived Irene with lots of outside help, and it meant a lot to us to help these guys.

There it is. The big cold dark spot in NJ and NY where thousands of displaced people are battling the cold.

Well the morning light did come hours later, and in the dark I had made mental notes about where to find a few pop up tents to keep things dry, and where to get tables to keep clothes off the ground while we sorted into the big bins that would be shrink-wrapped and sent south to the National Guard on Staten Island for distribution.

People here were generous beyond belief. Bags large and small started coming into the parking lot delivered by friends we knew or shortly would know. Twice vans arrived from clothing stores filled with coats still tagged for sale. One sweet lady knitted a dozen warm soft hats to send, another came with just two precious spare hats. Everyone cared. The truck began to fill from the front to the back with warmth.

Many people stopped by for periods of time to help with the sorting. We are an infectious lot when we get fired up. The truck driver got into it with us and never stopped helping, even though his day was the longest as he had the drive the truck on either side of a hard working day.

This is our beloved valley though, home of Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, hiking, soaring. ski joring, music, food & the arts, and 35 hundred of us who will always rally for our neighbors. The party was on in that cold parking lot by Shaws. For 7 hours we packed the truck, hugged our friends, laughed at each other and kept sending the warmth south. We all had a great day, and the best part is that I believe that we really did make a small dent in helping. This is who we are, we couldn’t have done anything else.

I can’t wrap my mind around the whole solution down there, but you can count on the fact that the next time we get a good idea of how to help, we will do that too.

Mad River Valley Vermont Rallies for Sandy’s Victims

The Mad River Valley in Vermont is an endlessly interesting community. I have lived here for 40 years now and never ceased to be surprised by the ingenuity, creativity and generosity that abounds, especially in crisis. We learned the hard way about vengeful weather when hurricane Irene ripped through our towns, and while we lucked out on Sandy’s rage, we do understand what it is like to recover from such trauma. We saw it on a micro scale by the numbers, but then Vermont is not a numbers state. One person to another we all got what this means to the people on the coast. We have lent our power repair guys in their trucks, and the phone company sent theirs as well. For the rest of us normal people though we do what we can.

The network started humming and suddenly we were given a truck and driver from LandAir Express in Burlington. Someone figured out a method to handle distribution when the truck arrives on Staten Island, which we learned the hard way is a serious issue. Telecom, our local ISP among other things has offered to bring a dumpster full of cardboard boxes to the site where locals can sort by size and then pack up all of the things that we have learned will be needed. It is a short list of things that we are allowed to send for distribution, but valley wide you can hear washers and dryers running with people emptying closets and getting ready to pack the south bound truck on Tuesday.

This is one thing going on, but the truth is that in Vermont, filled as it is with independent minded people, groups are forming to tackle all the facets of this recovery. I know of at least a dozen different approaches to assistance, all of them important and everyone bringing whatever resources and skills they have into play.

For me, the party is on Tuesday at our local Shaws but I have learned that the need for assistance will last for months. We need to develop regular deployments of people and property to the area until everyone is once again safe and warm. Please let me know if you have a good idea and need help implementing it. You can post your thoughts and ideas here which is a community of local and out of state people interested in participating in all things going on around here. Together we can really make a dent in the damage done.

We are Vermont Strong.

Superyachts – The Ultimate Luxury Travel

Hatairos, unfortunately sails no longer, but beautiful private yacht in her day.

Have you ever been sitting at a charming dockside tavern, enjoying the sunset over a balmy harbor when a boat turns into the harbor and dwarfs all the others? You count the windows you realize that the thing has got to be over 100 feet long, in fact maybe 130 feet or so. And the thing is three stories tall, with a helicopter on one deck and a 20 foot sailboat on davits on another. As it takes anchorage people appear on deck and shortly the yacht is bobbing gently on the blue waters of paradise and all is quiet and calm. As if by magic a hole appears in the stern, yet another boat slides out and is lowered slowly to the water as you try not to think that you have just witnessed the live birth of a large hard bottom center console zodiac.

As uniformed crewmen leave the yacht heading for shore to provision, you can’t help but wonder who is on that boat? From your perch you can see the rest of the crew in casual uniform getting ready to serve cocktails for the guests on the lower deck. Half an hour later there are sequined dresses and blazers as if the glorious sunset was arranged just for them. While these guests are occupied with relaxing on deck, overhead on the deck above more crewmen are setting the stage for dinner. It is theater, no mistaking it. Tomorrow night the same scene might occur but with palm trees on the lower deck, guests in shorts and pareos, and Polynesian music flowing over and around a dinner table of fruit, flowers and Poisson Cru on the upper deck. Practically anything is possible on a luxury cruise. And who are these guys? And where do these yachts come from? Well the answers have changed in the last decade.

It used to be that luxury yachts were built only for people with bottomless checkbooks. Ok, that is not the part that has changed. But what has changed is that the technologies for design and construction of Superyachts and Megayachts has advanced to the point where there are several hundred of them afloat now and if you want to spend your vacation moving through paradise on a yacht surrounded by crewmen who live by the phrase “your wish is my command” you can.

WindRose under sail in Antigua Classic Regatta

This burgeoning new industry of crewed yacht charter has made it feasible to charter yachts in length from 80’ to over 300’ practically anywhere on the planet. They come with engines, sails or jet power. They often wear other boats and water toys like jewelry. They come with one hull, two hulls and even with three. And they can be tall! One new sailing yacht can not be chartered from Sydney because is can’t get under the bridge over the harbor. It can, in theory, be sailed by computer from Florida though. Some have three staterooms and a crew of three while others carry up to 45 people with over half of them being crew.

Let’s say a group of six wants to charter a yacht for a week in the Caribbean. You request three state rooms with heads and you want it to be very nice. You have three flavors of yachts to choose from, and the rates for them vary by kind of boat as well as location. In the US & Caribbean aboard a motor yacht it is estimated that the-add on service charge will be 35% of the charter, to cover fuel, dockage, the bar (which can expand enormously when you invite guests aboard “your” yacht) and crew tips. You can expect this average to be 55% in the Med. Sailing vessels don’t have the huge fuel consumption, so generally fuel is included in the charter price, and the service charges will be only for extra dockage, bar use and tips which come in closer to 15%. And now for the boats.

If you are a real adventurer, and you love the life force of the wind in the sails, you are quite likely to enjoy a monohull sail boat. Athena is an 295′ three masted schooner. Athena is an old world experience with luxury of a bygone era. Until you have experienced rich craftsmanship and flawless extravagance of one of these queens of the sea, there are no words adequate to describe how it makes you feel to travel this way.  If the captain has an itinerary of dockage, it is often included in the charter price, so unless you request extra overnights at a dock additional to the itinerary, you generally aren’t charged. Fuel charges are negligible on a sailing vessel, so it is included in the price, and guests are expected to pay for the use of the bar plus a 20% tip.

If you like to sail, but some of your group are a bit unnerved by that, you  might think about a catamaran which has lots of living space, is a very comfortable vacation platform, and stays flat under sail. Douce France is a 138’ cat, The worlds largest ketch catamaran with six state rooms and seeming endless grace. You will have to contact them about rates as it depends on the region that they are sailing in. Captain Eric Saint Placat is a most elegant host, his crew charming, and sailing on this yacht was one of the highlights of my entire charter sailing experiences.

For the guest who wants ultimate luxury and mobility without any involvement with sails we have motoryachts. Askari is an 108’ motor yacht with five large guest suites that roams the Society Islands during the winter season. The charter price for this beautiful yacht is $75,000 per week with ten guests and the fuel, dockage, bar and tips generally come in at 35% of the charter fee. They burn a lot of fuel, but they stay flat and can cover huge distances. Sailing with Askari makes travel a pleasure in any weather. Lon and his crew gracefully deliver a fabulous tours of the islands.

Before you go out on any charter, a reputable charter broker will ask you to fill out what is called a preference sheet. This is where you get to tell the captain and crew your favorite foods, your beloved cocktails and any fantasies that you might have relative to theme or activity. The crew really want to know how to make each day you are aboard into the best experience that you have ever had. I have seen guests become so enchanted with the amazing food delivered any time or place, the extreme courtesy of a good crew and the ultimate comfort of life on such a yacht that they run off and buy one.

Now he is not a guest, he is an owner. There are hundreds of these on the planet, gods in their world. The decision about utilization of the yacht as well as the culture aboard comes directly from him. Is this yacht for his private pleasure alone? Is this yacht a perk that he uses for business associates and employees? Is this yacht a business investment targeted towards the charter industry? At the end of the day the yachts being built are some combination of the three. Of course none of this is possible without excellent crew.

It can take a while to form a group of four to twelve people who work and live in harmony for long periods of time within the confines of a yacht. It doesn’t always happen the first time out. Crewmen join a boat for some period of time to test those waters. If the first boat isn’t a good fit, they network in pubs and on docks until they find people that they like working with, and a boat that they like that is owned by a kind and beneficent owner in a location they enjoy exploring. Once they have found this situation, they are hooked. Making good money with no living expenses while working among friends on a beautiful boat in beautiful places is a pretty sweet life and well worth the search. As the charter industry grows, more boats are being built and the need for good crew grows annually.

I know of one captain who became an honorary member of the owner’s family, and has the ability to develop really good crews. They were all having such a good time together that they decided to go for a bigger boat and longer trips. With this in mind they bought a 105’ tired old thing and brought to it beauty it had never before known under the banner of a refit. To help with expenses the now luxurious expedition trawler m/y yacht Askari went to Nicholson’s Yacht Charter Show in Antigua. The crew did such a good job with the refit and the show that the owner has not been getting much use from his boat. Askari was chartered for a nine month Caribbean to New Zealand cruise by a family that wanted to live aboard and explore the world. So that can happen too!

The world of the charter yachts is a relatively new industry and growing fast. With more boats, crews and participants exploring islands while living aboard it is no longer only available to the ultra rich. It is premature to say that under most conditions it is a good investment to buy a yacht and expect it to be a revenue stream for you unless you are the owner/captain and living aboard. People are leaving the land to become charter captains though, and the life is very nice for them too. That this is out there. You could be an owner, a guest, you could be crew, or you could be an owner/captain. These are all means of seeing the world from the water, and as a serious devotee I highly recommend spending some time at it!