Here's a bit more detailed account of our charter aboard SKYLARK. Wanted to get you this, as I said in prior email, because the combination of Alan/Liz and SKYLARK really makes for a special experience. The hope here is that may help inform your process in some fashion, though I expect you already have a keen sense for the crew and the yacht.
1) The Sailing Experience -- Pure Fun and Totally Accessible
SKYLARK sails in a manner which will not only thrill a multihull sailor but also appeal to folks who sail performance monohulls -- the helm with the lee board down, literally provides fingertip control and feeling much like a deep keel monohull. The fine bows and overall design give you a keen sense for boat motion -- minimum pitching moment upwind -- so the sense of sailing performance is very vivid.
The fact that Alan comes from monohull background yet has all this experience sailing multihulls, means that he's a great coach for those of us, like me, who may have sailed beach cats as a kid and multihulls occasionally (my fault was pinching upwind), and he's a great coach for someone like Robin, who gets a natural/intuitive feel for a boat through the helm.
While one is sailing, Alan tweaks the sail trim on an ongoing basis and there's much to be observed and learned through this, but moreover, it makes it much more fun to drive the boat as she's really dialed in on the trim and the boards.
And lastly, the A57 moves so well upwind and through steep short waves, the sailing is always a blast, never intimidating. I short tacked up between the reefs along south end of Carriacou with ease and Robin set the speed record for the trip -- hitting 16.1 knots along the lee side of Grenada. Even in gusty shifty conditions SKYLARK is well mannered.
Overall this means that at whatever level people would like to try/enjoy sailing, Alan can make this a purely fun experience and totally accessible regardless of one's prior sailing background.
2) The Gourmet Dining -- Almost a Vacation in Itself
Given our vegetarian/vegan predilections, we hoped Liz could adapt her menu plans -- well it turns out that not only did she adapt, but she also managed to apply her creativity and inspiration routinely. I think we can honestly say that we have never had over a week of such fine dining ever -- this is almost like having two vacations in one -- sailing of course, and something like a fine dining spa retreat.
It all started when we first boarded Cerulean -- aft deck was set up with dining table and for our late night "snack" Liz had prepared this exquisitely delicate pumpkin soup -- along with a nice glass of wine, we were instantly in relaxed vacation mode.
But her creativity and nuance goes on and on. At one point during the trip we were going through the Doyle guide and looking at local fruits and veggies and inquired about callalou and how to prepare it. Well, within perhaps a day or two, Liz somehow manages to find callalou and makes wonderfully seasoned hearty stew for lunch.
And then there's the all the fresh baking she does -- muffins of course, but get this -- we had mentioned veggie pizzas in the booking form as one possible lunch item. Liz baked fresh pita bread and made it into mini-pizzas topped with veggies and seasoning -- a recipe that ends up so much better than any conventional notion of pizza, it must be tasted to be believed.
These are just a few examples -- your future SKYLARK guests must understand that this level of dining happens every meal! Perhaps the best way to summarize our experience is to note that Robin was so impressed she started to photography every meal as-presented before allowing us to touch a morsel of food.
3) Leisure and Relaxation
Alan has an incredible ability to orchestrate an itinerary that fits with what both Alan and Liz tune into as the guest's subtle preferences. Originally in the booking form we had mentioned beach bars/jump-ups. Well, once we got down there and experienced how nice it was to be onboard, we were actually much more inclined to stay on the boat and swim, snorkel, read etc. They both seemed to pick up on this and Alan picked locations and passages which fit perfectly with our inclinations.
He even had the keen sense to vary the level of sailing activity a bit every two or three days to keep things interesting. One day we had what we called the Tour de Force -- Alan took us up through a cut in the reef over the top of the southernmost Tobago Cay and then we ripped through the Tobago Cays anchorage under sail at something around 12 knots. Needless to say there were a few mouths agape as we roared past the anchored yachts -- we briefly, and in jest, debated at one point whether to go over a dinghy full of yachties (i.e. dinghy passing between the hulls) or close alongside (we did the latter).
The other thing that works well in the spirit of leisure and relaxation is the way Alan and Liz have outfitted SKYLARK -- as a cat she's appropriately simple, yet they have taken care to make sure that she's well-appointed and nicely finished -- bringing to mind the classic phrase "shipshape and Bristol fashion". Morevoever, Alan and Liz are fastidious about maintaining the yacht to a very high standard -- immediate freshwater wash downs and chamois-dry after sailing for example.
Another, perhaps obvious, thing is that this is one big cat -- so the ability for guests to spread out and find their own space is extraordinary. And of course, Alan and Liz have a number of ways they facilitate various 'hang outs' -- Robin was routinely offered a nautical bean bag chair for reading out on the trampoline and at one point Alan rigged up the jib boom and a towel to provide for a sun shade out front.
4) Alan & Liz -- Great Company
Again, just as you indicated, Alan and Liz do a superb job of tuning into guest's needs for quiet time together vs. conversation and conviviality. They are a very interesting couple given the sailing and life experiences they've had, plus they are intimately knowledgeable about the Windwards and Leewards. Much of our conversation revolved around sailing, cruising, the islands, cooking, and so on, but I expect we barely scratched the surface of intriguing things to discuss.
As bareboat charterers/first-time crewed charterers, we were wondering what it would be like to have other people onboard 24/7. I now fear that Robin so enjoyed the crewed charter experience that I'll not get her back aboard a bareboat. But more than this, Alan and Liz are truly special, very warm and engaging, attentive while creating an easygoing atmosphere, and very much one's partners in creating the holiday experience.
So, thank you, Seth for pulling together this charter for us -- it was indeed a splendid time that, as I said, well-exceeded our high expectations.
-- Dave & Robin
Thanks again for everything. We had an amazing time with you. You really spoiled us!!! We feel so lucky to have met you and to have spent time on the gorgeous SKYLARK. We hope you have a great sail to Antigua later this week. We are sure our paths will cross again someday soon!! Next time it is our turn to take care of you!!! Take good care.
Christine and Devin
We had a terrific time.... Allan and Liz were spectacular and it was just beautiful..
You could trust alan 100% and I learnt a lot just watching him and talking to him about sailing and the boat.
And Liz is a sweetheart and great cook we all loved her
Thanks a lot
I know I speak for our group when I say that we were very impressed with the boat but especially with Alan and Liz for their professionalism, quality of food, attitude on and on and on. They are special people.
Maurice Skoropad, Barbados, West Indies