Experiencing the high life along the south coast on board a luxury yacht – Dorset Echo


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Katie French dips her little toe into the exclusive world of yachting holidays as she boards The Chess at Gosport Marina to enjoy the high life and learn about some of the excursions on offer when conditions allow

There is no such word as the word, ‘no’ in the exclusive world of yachting holidays. This is what I was told when I went to check out West Nautical’s 25.3m yacht named Chess.

The specialist company purchased the boat for a cool £1million last year and it has since undergone a stunning refit John Lewis and is now moored at Gosport Marina in Portsmouth where it is available to hire for private charters this summer.

Billed as the perfect yacht for special celebrations this summer, from hen dos to honeymoons to everything in between, the Newcastle-based yachting firm hopes to entice the staycationers with a little luxury.

With prices starting from £5,000 a day ranging to £40,000 a week, it is easy to understand why the company is eager to ensure their customer's every whim is accounted for. Prior to boarding, customers fill out a questionnaire of their preferences designed to make sure their stay is as perfect as they expect.

"There is no such word as no", one of the team tells me on my visit to the Chess. From paying attention to the customer's every habit to tracking down their drinks or food of choice, nothing appears too much trouble.

Prior to my trip aboard the Chess, I must confess I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about yachts. Probably because, as a millennial journalist, I spend my life living avocado toast to avocado toast with very little savings capital to invest in luxurious holidays.

So, you can imagine I was a tiny bit disappointed when due to high winds, we weren’t able to make it out of the harbour for the promised cruise round to the Isle of Wight. Still, with the sun beating down on the deck and the gale-force breeze through my hair, hearing about the excursions West Nautical is offering was nearly as good as experiencing it.

Currently taking bookings for summer 2021, holidaymakers who fancy setting sail have multiple options from chartering the Chess for the day for £5,000, to one week or even a month to take in the delights of the English coastline.

One example trip will take you from Portsmouth to the picture-perfect town of Cowes, steeped in nautical history with all of its renowned Yacht Clubs. The crew will pre-book lunch in one of Cowes many excellent restaurants or historical pubs such as The Little Gloster for exceptional seasonal food and panoramic sea views.

One of the benefits of chartering a yacht, managing director Geoff Moore tells me, is having all the benefits of a 5hotel but with ultimate privacy. And those staying in the Chess will also enjoy the accolade of being the biggest yacht in the harbour.

After the year the nation has had grappling with Covid, he said there is a "real demand" for holidays that mean families can stay within their bubbles. And with hopes of trips abroad still hanging in the balance, the staycation market is booming.

He said "anyone" is a potential customer, and urged people not to be put off by the pricetags, recommending those after a little slice of luxury consider getting a group of friends together to divide costs.

With spacious interior and exterior, guests can fight between a generously sized master suite and two double bedrooms (one which can be a twin) and relax around an eight-seater dining table with leather upholstery and walnut veneer. The yacht can accommodate 12 for sailing, allowing passengers to bring friends or family aboard.

The large exterior decks are made of teak and feature a bar, sunbathing and seating areas alongside alfresco dining tables and a barbecue – the perfect space for relaxing and making the most of the sun with a cold drink in hand.

Whether guests are charting for business or pleasure, they will enjoy cruising at speeds of 30 knots by Captain David Goldie, who has an impressive 35 years' experience in the Royal Navy before leaving to become Fleet Training Manager for one of the largest cruise liners in the UK. He tells me there is "nothing better" than being out at sea and even after 45 years' in the industry, his passion for his job is clear.

A spokesman for West Nautical says all of their experienced crew have been trained in the new Covid 19 safety and sanitation measures and are ready to ensure guests have a safe and relaxing experience on board.

They said: "Great crew are fundamental to delivering a good charter experience. Good yacht crew go beyond the ordinary. Arranging for your favourite food and drink to be on board in advance, arranging transfers ashore, or ensuring the restaurant you have always wanted to visit has its best table ready. In unfamiliar waters, they will act as a dependable guide.

"Making the best of your time on board the yacht itself is another area where crew come into their own. On most yachts crew are qualified above and beyond their duties above or below deck. They will take you diving, teach you to ride a jet ski, go ashore for a sightseeing exploration, or show you how to make their signature Bloody Mary in the galley. Crew love to share a job that’s their vocation."

Charter rates of Chess start at £5,000 a day in low season to £5,750 in July and August. A three-day trip will cost £17,500 with seven days priced at £40,000. All rates include tax, breakfast, light lunch, snacks and light tapas, hot and cold soft drinks, fuel for the yacht and a two-course evening meal. Guests have the option to purchase alcohol on board or bring their own.

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