Inspired by his grandfather to become a captain, Max has travelled the world by sea. Having been a first mate, deckhand, and now skipper, his knowledge of the yachting industry is vaste. Below, Max shares his insights and his favourite charter destinations.
How long have you been a skipper for?
A: I’ve been a skipper for almost 4 years now. Before I was a skipper, I was a first mate and a deckhand on super yachts 14 to 20m in length. I had to learn all the different parts of boats and how boats are run, for example what’s least and most likely to break on a boat.
How did you get into yachting?
A: My grandfather was a seafarer, so it’s in my blood. He lost his leg going off to WWII. He always loved the sea and always told me to go for it, so I did.
Describe your role as a skipper for a day charter.
A: The role of a skipper consists of delivering the maximum amount of wow tailored to the guests. Some families want to go snorkelling and see marine life and the sights, and the other half want to go from A to B. At the same time, you want try to make things as comfortable as possible; to serve drinks in the nicest way and keep the boat steady so they don’t get seasick or spill their drinks.
What are the benefits of having a skipper?
A: Having a skipper means that the guests can relax. Often, their dream is to lie in the boat, while having a cocktail and soaking up the sun. With a skipper guests are able to fulfil this dream. Additionally, as soon as everyone has had a drink the skipper ensures the safety of all the guests by becoming the lifeguard.
What is your favourite part of being a skipper?
A: My favourite part is being in the sun, showing the guests things they haven’t seen before, and ultimately making their day better.
What is your least favourite part of being a skipper?
A: My least favourite part of being a skipper would be coming up short and having problems you aren’t able to fix on the spot. Often, it’s stressful as there are a lot of little things one must think of that sometimes are not completed on time, for example the boat not being ready or not having champagne flutes available.
How long have you lived in the south of France?
A: I’ve been in France for 16 years on and off. The first few years were land-based doing studies, I was then at sea for 7 years, and now being land-based again and having been for the past 4 years.
Why should someone charter a day boat on the French Riviera?
A: I think it is possibly the best cruising/boating area. The French Riviera offers glam and the availability of everything. It’s been tailored into a coastline that has everything.
Where are your favourite places to go on the French Riviera?
A: The best spot is between the Cannes Islands. There’s some water which is turquoise-blue and it looks like you’re in the Caribbean. Pulling into Monaco is also great because you can see the palace from the sea, which you can’t see from land. It’s incredible being surrounded by some of the biggest most expensive boats and those on the top rich list of Monaco.
Can you spend a day on the Cannes Islands, or is a couple of hours enough?
A: There are a lot of options of things to do, so it depends on what you want to do and see. If you want to get off the boat and see the islands you can go to the monastery and the fort. There are good restaurants including La Guérite which has live music, fantastic food, and great service.
Is there somewhere to berth along the Cannes Islands?
A: Having somewhere to berth is the ideal situation, but it depends on the restaurant. Some have berthing areas, whereas others have ferry pontoons. La Guérite has a guest drop-off location, but it’s usually busy. Berthing also depends on which boat you are chartering. The VanDutch in particular is too deep to go into some berthing spots.
What other places along the Riviera would you recommend?
A: Théoule-sur-Mer is nice because it has loads of character and castles. Saint-Tropez is fabulous and is a great day trip. There are a variety of places to visit in Saint-Tropez including Pampelonne beach which has all the biggest beach clubs, and the town which boasts the best ice cream, nightclubs, and the best shopping.
If you skippered for a group of 20 – 30 year olds, where would you recommend taking them?
A: I would start off with the Cannes Islands for a little swim, and bring them to Le Club 55, or La Voile Rouge at Pampelonne beach if they wanted to party. They could have lunch, and we could cruise around Saint-Tropez, grab an ice cream, and head back to Cannes.
What destination would you recommend for a couple?
A: I would recommend a romantic cruise towards Monaco. Along the way we could pull into Villefranche, a beautiful protected bay, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which is very romantic and famous for being one of the most expensive real estate locations in the world. Monaco would be the last destination where I would drop them off for lunch or dinner.
What would you recommend for a family with kids?
A: The Cap d’Antibes offers numerous activities for children and is a great location to be able to get in close enough to go and explore. The Billionaires’ Bay has little coves offering rock climbing and cliff jumping. There’s also snorkelling, caves to explore, and the old ruined ports and marinas of Juan-les-Pins. This location is perfect because you’re close to Antibes which offers family friendly restaurants.
What do you do when you’re not being a skipper?
A: I run Honest Marine Services and am the fleet manager. My office is located halfway between Antibes and Biot. My job includes consistently cleaning, doing full checks of all the engine compartments, the interior and exterior equipment, and all the toys. I started my business 3 years ago with just 2 boats and now manage and maintain 12 boats around the 20m mark. I keep them at such a high level of maintenance and cleanliness that all the boats next door wanted to use my services. I’ve even met people through 212 Yachts who want me to maintain their boats.
What are your thoughts on the VanDutch?
A: I’ve very biased because not only is my brother going to sell a few VanDutches, but they’re Dutch built and I spent 11 years in Holland. I know the Dutch do things particularly well and although I’ve encountered minor problems, I’ve never had a substantial engine problem. They are very reliable, sleek looking, and comfortable. My favourite VanDutch 40 is called Awesome because I’ve have the best charters on this boat. It has a great name, and the owner spends a lot on its maintenance to ensure the equipment is in proper working order, plus it’s always berthed right in front of the office. I prefer a VanDutch to a Riva and am very excited to get my hands on the new VanDutch 75.
What are your thoughts on the Riva?
A: I’ve driven lots of Rivas. Any Riva that was built before 15 years ago had a very high level of build quality. The Italians have slightly let their guard down with more modern Rivas and are churning them out like Sunseekers and Princesses, whereas they used to take a lot more care. They are very fast, but the quality of the metal and fibreglass cannot compared to a VanDutch. There aren’t many Rivas for charter as most are privately owned because of the status that comes with its pedigree.
What is your favourite boat that you’ve been a skipper or worked on?
A: This is very contradictory to what I previously said, but I’ve fallen in love with the Riva 68 Ego Super. I took it on a 2 week charter to Corsica at the end of last summer. Anything that went wrong I had to fix myself, which gave me a lot of self-confidence. It went 36 knots for a 20 x 68ft.
Tell us about a memorable charter you’ve done.
A: I’ll never forget it. We had a weather warning and it wasn’t favourable, but the 10 guests still wanted to go to Monaco. When we arrived, there were flat seas. I dropped them off for lunch and we had a lovely time. When we were leaving and heading around Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the waves start to get crazy. They insisted they wanted to try and make it back to Antibes and so we had a little go at the waves, but it wasn’t very comfortable and was a little wet. We ended up turning around and I dropped them off in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and they got a taxi home. They had the best day of their lives and were keen to come back. I continued to charter the following day and finally go to drop them off at Cap-Eden-Roc, where they were staying.
If you could pick 3 guests for a charter who would you ask?
A: I think I would have the top 3 Grand Tour presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. Just for my pure entertainment. They would be fun. I’ve actually picked up Jeremy Clarkson from Monaco with 212 Yachts. He was hungover, and it was very spur of the moment as he needed a ride to his main charter. I was also contacted to drive the recording boat where they had all their film crew, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive because I was busy that day.
You said you were away yachting for 7 years, can you elaborate on what you did during those years?
A: I did a camping season, followed by a season in Thailand, one in Seychelles, two seasons in Montenegro, three in the Mediterranean, always alternating between winter and summer. For two years I was very fortunate and had smaller boats with small crews where we lived in very close quarters. It was the constant crew morale that kept us and the boats going.
Were you deckhand or engineer?
A: I was always on deck. I started as a deckhand and then became first mate. I then fell back to being a boatswain on a sailing boat, which I didn’t have experience on. When I came back to motor yachts I took back on my role as first mate. I passed my Master 500, but decided to go land based before becoming captain because I was tired of missing out on birthdays, weddings, funerals. I needed a life. That was 4 years ago.
You said you’ve lived in Holland and France, do you speak French, Dutch, or any other languages?
A: Yes, I speak French, Dutch, English, and quite a bit of Greek. I spent twenty-two months, almost two years, doing Flotilla Holidays all on sailboats in Greece.
Describe the bays east of Cannes. What are your favourite and least favourite aspects?
A: The only downside with the bays in the Côte d’Azur is that there is very little privacy. I have had guests who want to sunbathe naked and don’t feel comfortable doing so if there’s another boat in the bay, or more than 5 people on the beach. Other than that, some of the bays are too deep to anchor with the small VanDutches. There are incredible places along the coast including Villefranche, where when not packed can be breathtaking.
Any favourite restaurants along the coast?
A: I’m very biased. I live in Antibes so all my favourite restaurants are in Antibes. Some are pizzerias, including Pomodoro which I know 212 Yachts CEO Jenny Caird is also a fan of. Monaco has Nobu, and Buddha Bar which have high quality food and great ambiance. In Saint-Tropez, clubs like Le Club 55, or Bagatelle have great service. Unfortunately, Cannes slightly drops the ball in restaurants because there’s no where to drop guests off to go straight to a restaurant.
What do you do in your spare time?
A: Water sports mostly, including windsurfing, diving, and wakeboarding. I enjoy cycling and running. Cycling from Antibes to Nice and back is my favourite, which you can do in 2 hours. I dream about going to the gym, but there’s no time for that and it comes second to water sports.