Head down to the Camper & Nicholsons Marina in Birgu early on a summer’s morning and more often than not you’ll spot one of Azure Ultra’s elegant Sunseeker motor yachts setting out to sail. On board, the voyagers are easing into a seafaring experience where luxury knows no limits. Beautiful handcrafted decks and interiors. A tailor-made itinerary. Personal steward service. Gourmet food and chilled champagne. This is chartering that goes beyond the ordinary.
A lot of TLC and elbow grease goes into delivering a multi-award winning charter cruise. And the bulk of that prep takes place during the blue-sky calm of Malta’s winter season. We catch up with Captain Beppe Galea Mallia for a behind the scenes look at how the crew are keeping the fleet in shipshape and Bristol fashion (or should that be Birgu fashion?), ready for the upcoming charter season.
‘The misconception is that yacht charter crews work around the clock all summer long and then holiday throughout the winter,’ says Beppe, as we share a freshly brewed coffee on the deck of the anchored Miss Moneypenny. ‘But winter is when some of the harder work actually begins. Boat maintenance always throws up its own set of unique challenges.’
Every couple of years the boats are crane-lifted out of the water and taken to the Manoel Island yacht yard for servicing and repairs. The hulls are hosed down to clear any fouling and barnacles. Propellers, shafts and other underwater components are cleaned, serviced and painted as needed. A certified surveyor also holds independent inspections to ensure the boats comply with the commercial coding and Transport Malta registrations.
‘We also polish and wax the hulls above the waterline. If there are any minor dents or scratches, we touch them up with gelcoat repair. We polish the stainless steel and brighten up the teak decks with varnish and sealer. Finally, we bring contractors over to service engines, check the electrical work, and give the carpets and upholstery an intensive cleaning. It’s this level of detail that ensures guests are stepping onto boats that look and feel as if they’ve just left the factory, year on year.’
With all this scrubbing and scouring, surely the crew must miss life out on the serene seas. Is there any time for sailing before spring?
‘We do keep at least one boat ready for charter throughout the off season. Half-day harbour cruises. Trips around Comino and Gozo, weather permitting. Daylight time restricts us but we try to offer our guests as much flexibility as possible.’
And what of our hardworking mariners? Surely they deserve a little leave of absence.
‘The winter is invariably quieter and we do get some time off. Most of us book a holiday to relax and recharge. We practically live on these boats during spring and summer. So we certainly welcome a break when we can get one.’
That they do.
As for us, we’d happily idle away a few hours on a luxurious yacht, no matter the time of year. Still, nothing quite beats sailing into the shimmering horizon on a sun soaked spring’s afternoon. We’re counting down the days, Sunseekers. We’re counting down the days.