Stepping aboard Emerald Lady one word immediately springs to mind: luxury. Newly refitted with designer touches throughout, the focus on board is the exceptional hospitality and outstanding cuisine – all enjoyed in a setting fit for royalty.
By Hayley Dean
Emerald Lady is a superyacht that is instantly striking. A sleek package at 35 metres, there is no denying her visual appeal. However, the most impressive attribute of this vessel goes beyond her exterior. It is the friendly and professional crew that create a charter experience like no other. No request is an inconvenience and every whim is catered for with a smile. The team seem to have impeccable timing for appearing as if out of nowhere to provide for guests, giving you maximum privacy and supreme service at the same time. Guests are never left wanting for anything and the service provided is truly five star.
The comforts on board are upheld in the superbly appointed galley where the meals are created by chef Craig Grimes. The extraordinary food is without doubt a highlight of the Emerald Lady experience. Thai-style prawns, lightly marinated lamb cutlets and fresh seared Morton Bay bugs with squid ink ribbons are just a few of the gourmet creations whipped up night after night. For the sweet tooth there are indulgent desserts such as a white chocolate and banana sandwich with freshly made rum and raisin ice cream or a sticky date pudding with crème anglaise.
Craig has 15 years experience as a chef and says his love of different tastes and big boats brought him to where he is today. Before becoming a chef, Craig was a communicator in the navy during the Gulf War. It was in these years that Craig was exposed to a diverse range of foods and discovered his true passion.
“Being in the navy inspired me to become a chef,” explains Craig. “As soon as I got out (of the navy) I knew it was what I wanted to do.” His time spent at sea also prepared him for working on boats as a fulltime occupation and he now divides his time between luxury charter boats in Australia.
Before working on luxury superyachts, Craig was a chef back on dry land at a café at Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Here he held Moroccan cooking classes adding more cultural variety to his repertoire. At the same time he was also doing contract work – helping chefs out in a range of different restaurants – preparing every cuisine from Asian to Italian to Australian bush food and everything in between. His skill and versatility has taken him as far afield as England, Spain and France.
Emerald Lady was originally built in 1983 by Lloyds Shipyard in Brisbane for Sir Justin Hickey as Lady Barbara. She was a magnificent superyacht even then and was well known in Australia, particularly around the Gold Coast area. After completing a world passage she was based in the States before operating as a successful charter boat in the Caribbean from the mid '90s until 2003. She was spotted in Fort Lauderdale by Patrick Gay, who recognised her from her former glory years in Australia. He subsequently bought her and shipped her home in 2003 to undergo two years of extensive refit and refurbishment at Coomera.
The vessel was relaunched as Emerald Lady at Gold Coast City Marina in December 2005. Six months of sea trials and shake down cruises followed as well as the final commissioning of engineering and auxillary equipment. At the completion of these trials the crew were able to address the list of minor adjustments to ensure the vessel was ready to operate as a luxury charter superyacht of the highest standard.
Captain Jack Branac has been with Emerald Lady since her relaunch and couldn’t be happier with the results. According to Jack the best part about her is she has the best of both worlds of a new boat and an experienced boat.
“It’s even better than having a new boat,” he says. “She has proven her reliability, travelling all over the world with the original hull, yet the engineering is all brand new.”
The captain also loves being based at Gold Coast City Marina when not on charter. As the boat is most commonly chartered in Queensland, he says the proximity is a blessing. “The fact that we have the support of the marina right at our doorstep is definitely one of the best things. If ever we have a problem the contractors are right there to come out and help.”
Having fulltime engineer Brad Ashby on board is also helpful and assists the smooth running of the superyacht at all times. Brad takes care of the engine room, deck work, recreational equipment and all detailing of Emerald Lady's exterior. Meanwhile, the immaculate interiors are maintained by stewardess Leanne Pitt. After four years working as a first class stewardess for Emirates Airlines, Leanne swapped her jet-setting lifestyle for one on the water and, like Brad, has been part of the Emerald Lady crew for over a year.
"One of the best things is being based here in Queensland and visiting the Great Barrier Reef as often as we do. It's great to be able to get out there and explore and enjoy all the tropical places," she says.
Captain Jack explains that the boat is most often chartered on the east coast of Australia. “We are busy enough regionally at the moment but we plan to expand our charters to Papua New Guinea and the Kimberley in the next couple of seasons,” he says. She is a popular choice for corporate day charters, particularly in Sydney during the month of December, when she plays hostess to Christmas parties on the harbour as well as Boxing Day and New Year's Eve charters. Emerald Lady has even become the perfect setting for stylish weddings on the water, catering for up to 50 guests.
Each season she heads north for remote fishing charters in the Top End. “We usually operate between Cairns and Cape York between September and November,” explains Jack. “There is an amazing abundance of fish life up there – particularly Barramundi.”
Fishing is definitely a speciality on board with Emerald Lady offering reef fishing, deep sea fishing or even acting as a game fishing mother ship when required. If fishing isn’t your thing there are a whole range of other activities to keep you entertained. You can take a trip to the nearest island or beach by tender, paddle around on a sea kayak and swim or snorkel from the marlin board at the stern. There’s also water-skiing, scuba diving or riding on a sea biscuit if you’re feeling adventurous. Alternatively there is simply lying in the sun with a drink for those really wanting to relax and indulge in the superyacht lifestyle.
Relaxing is another definite focal point on board Emerald Lady and the rear deck is the perfect informal setting for a tranquil start to the day with breakfast alfresco-style. Craig can cook up anything you fancy – eggs Benedict, banana pancakes or simply a platter of fresh seasonal fruits. This area is perfect for catching the morning rays with a freshly brewed coffee and features elegant teak tables and floors with dining facilities for up to 10 guests. There is also access to the lower cockpit and sundeck from here.
The sundeck on the upper level is perhaps the most social area of the boat, with comforts such as a day bed and large sun-baking area as well as a stainless steel barbecue for creating sumptuous outdoor feasts served up at the covered outdoor dining area that can seat twelve. There is even a helipad on this level for the convenience of ship to shore transport.
For more formal banquets, the eight seat dining table in the opulent saloon is the perfect location for intimate gatherings. The imported crystal glasses and fine white china compliment the first rate service, delicious food and stunning presentation. Intricate details such as the hand-beaded placemats and fresh floral centrepieces complete the dining experience.
The formal dining area flows into the lounge area of the saloon offering a generous L-shaped cream leather lounge and reclining chair. Electronic chrome and glass doors slide open onto the aft deck. The saloon oozes extravagance with its rich mahogany cabinets and tables, flat screen television and suede furnishings.
The luxury touches of Emerald Lady are continued throughout the vessel with sleeping accommodation for up to eight guests split among two twin guest cabins, a VIP stateroom and a master stateroom. All the rooms feature mahogany and suede finishes, ensuites, air-conditioning, flat screen televisions and lush carpets throughout. The forward VIP stateroom offers full length wardrobes, a spacious ensuite and king-size bed while the aft master stateroom boasts a walk-in wardrobe, double shower ensuite and lounge. Crew quarters are separate for guest privacy.
Graceful on the outside, with a warm and welcoming crew on the inside, to charter Emerald Lady is to experience Australian hospitality at its very best. At the end of our charter there was only one resounding complaint: it was time to leave.
For further information or charter inquiries please contact Gold Coast City Marina on +61 (0)7 5573 1311 or visit www.emeraldlady.com.au