Wedding proposals, pacifying a drunken millionaire and having breakfast with smoking volcanoes are all in a day's work for the Azure Ultra crew. The people and situations encountered while running a yacht charter service certainly keep life interesting. But let's hear about the 2018 season highlights straight from the captain's mouth.
ABOUT THE SEASON 2018
1. What, in your opinion, has made this season unique compared to the others?
The 2018 season began 6 April and ended 2 November. A few things made this season special. It was the first full season with four boats in the fleet because Senda Dos was officially up and running for charters in August 2017. To have her for the full season was great!
With regards the crew, Gary, who had joined Azure Ultra as a seasonal captain in 2017, returned in 2018 as the same but is now a permanent member of the crew while Luc got his yachtmaster ticket and went from deckhand/steward to captaining his own charters; now Gino would like to start working towards the same goal.
2. What was the most unusual thing you’ve had to deal with this season?
There was a guest on charter who was convinced that by using a snorkel and mask, he could breathe underwater! Working at sea for all these years, you do tend to take some things for granted, but in all of my years doing this, I have never experienced anything quite like it! It took me a little while to convince him that you had to breathe through the snorkel from above the water line. When it clicked, he went a tad red to say the least.
3. What do you reckon was the main highlight of this season?
Winning the best Malta-based charter company second year in a row at the Malta International Boats & Yachting Awards was a definite highlight. We all work very hard at being the very best at what we do, so the recognition for this meant a lot.
At sea, the photo shoot with all four boats on the same video was a great start to the season. With the crew, we had a fabulous team-building trip to AutoXotica at Donington Park in England, where we all drove supercars!
ABOUT THE CHARTERS
4. Which place in the Maltese Islands has been a top choice on our yacht charters and why?
Our day charter guests all want to go to the Blue Lagoon in Comino. It’s the most famous in Malta but for that reason it can be very busy. We tend to show it to our guests and then suggest we go to a quieter spot, such as the Crystal Lagoon or Santa Marija Bay. We also like to go a bit further to the more secluded, hidden gems around the west coast of Malta, such as Fomm ir-Rih, or somewhere quiet in Gozo, like Dwerja Bay. It feels great when our guests allow us to recommend places they've never heard of or been to and they love them!
5. What is the furthest distance you’ve travelled on one of our boats this season? Which boat to where?
This year Mio Amore travelled to Cefalu, on the north coast of Sicily. That was a two-week round trip covering 520 NM (nautical miles), which is equivalent to 598 land miles or 963 km.
6. What has been the most common reason people chartered a yacht with Azure Ultra?
It’s usually a celebration of some sort - a special occasion - ranging to quality time with family or friends, a holiday or a treat. It really does vary, from couples who want some time alone to larger groups. And this year, we have had a number of marriage proposals!
ABOUT SPECIAL OCCASIONS
7. Which special occasion touched you the most and why?
A proposal on the boats is always touching. We had a few this season and to be able to share that special moment with the guests is amazing. That they would have chosen us to mark this memorable day feels very special. Having said that, it is quite endearing to watch the chap about to propose sweating and fidgeting nervously for the first half of the charter.
Actually, it can be quite amusing when a couple can't get their hands off each other. One couple didn’t stop snogging for the full eight hours. They got some action going under a blanket on the bow and even ducked into the cabin for the three minutes it took the captain to move the boat about half a nautical mile!
8. Which special occasion was the funniest and why?
We took a family out who were celebrating the son's birthday. They were great fun but possibly enjoyed the Prosecco a little too much. Towards the end of the trip, they decided to go kayaking on our clear-bottomed kayaks. It started off fine, but when they all tried to fit in one kayak, almost sinking it in the process, I had to call them back in. It was hilarious watching them paddle back without being able to see the submerged kayak, like they were sitting on water! Needless to say, they capsized before getting back to the boat and I had to tow it back in with the tender.
Another bizarre situation was when another very inebriated guests paddled over to a number of boats and started gathering up people to join us. He was in the process of offering all the equipment out as well, until we stopped him. Generally, hen parties can also be great fun.
9. Which special occasion was the strangest and why?
Having lots of different types of people and from different cultures is one of the best things about doing what we do. That being said, it was a little unusual watching a group of guests performing a happy birthday rendition by a popular Nigerian rap star and dancing around the boat in their swimwear. Interesting!
If we're to describe the strangest turnout to an occasion, it would have to be when we had to cook a very special, very expensive lunch for a lady to impress her new boyfriend. Although they had to stay in the marina because the weather was terrible, they absolutely loved it and ended up covered in sticky chilli crab sauce. They also had a rather heated row as to whether Crepe Suzette is a traditional French or Russian dish!
10. Which special occasion will you always remember and why?
Spending a birthday in Sicily with a member and his family and eating freshly baked cake for breakfast with Mount Etna smoking in the background is surely something that can never be forgotten!
An altogether different occasion that was particularly memorable was another member charter to Sicily. The crew managed to get the lady into the sea for the first time in twenty years and she loved it! (This one was an anecdote from Roger)
ABOUT THE BOATS
11. Which was the most popular charter boat?
Miss Moneypenny is the most popular charter boat we have. It is great for a smaller group and the most affordable of the fleet. She is a nice sporty boat and you really get the feeling of being close to the water in comfort and style.
12. Which was the biggest scare on one of our boats while out at sea or moored?
We had a bit of a fright whilst in berth early in the season. An unusually strong wind was blowing and one of the gusts brought the boats so close to the pontoon that we all had to push to stop them from hitting. All of the umbrellas, chairs and tables from the nearby restaurants were blown away at the same time! This was very rare for May/June!
On the other hand, while out at sea, one of the crew experienced a very sudden and hectic storm at Taormina. A big, unmanned sailing boat started dragging its anchor in the strong wind, bashing boats along the way. In panic, the nearby motor boat cut his lines before starting the engines and was washed onto the rocks, but thankfully no-one was hurt and the boat was not badly damaged. But it was awful to watch and be unable to help. (This one was an anecdote from Roger)
13. What will happen to the boats off season?
Lots of maintenance work. As the off season is inevitably quieter with regards to charters, we spend time getting the boats to be their best, from polishing and painting to more extensive servicing. Maintenance starts on Mio Amore, Don’t Ask and Senda Dos while Miss Moneypenny remains charter ready. When the other three are ready for charter, Miss Moneypenny will be blocked for maintenance. Maintenance starts with the engine and generator services. Then there's the teak caulking, outside furniture sanding and sealing, and repair of any fibreglass dings and scratches. Finally, the safety equipment is serviced.
ABOUT THE FLEET CAPTAIN
14. What do you most enjoy about the season in full swing?
It's full steam ahead during the height of the season! We are lucky to have a wonderful client base. Everyone who steps foot on the boats leaves with a smile on their face. It's a fast paced atmosphere and a fantastic crew creates a great working environment.
15. What do you look forward to at season’s close?
As much as we love the busy period, it's nice and also important to do the required maintenance and have some rest. The crew get to take some leave, which is impossible at the height of summer, so a nice holiday is always something to look forward to. In any case, roll on season 2019 - we are looking forward to making it the best one yet!