When it comes to making the most out of life, there are a certain number of people who we can all agree have cracked the formula. Whether that’s through managing to achieve the ever-so-elusive ‘work/life balance’, seizing every possible opportunity to travel, spending plenty of time out and about in your natural environment or finding a way to make your passion into your work, it has to be said that Simon Greenwood and Charlotte Devereux have really hit the sweet spot. Naturally, it doesn’t do any harm to their achievement of this goal that their native land happens to be New Zealand: a country renowned for its verdant hills, craggy landscapes, breathtaking mountains and, of course, its incredible array of islands and beaches. Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsAs of just over a year ago, Simon and Charlotte became the happy owners of the classic, 30.53-metre motor yacht Sea Breeze III, which was originally built by the Australian shipyard Millkraft Boatyard as Ulysses in 1976 for Keith Williams and later owned by New Zealand’s wealthiest individual, businessman and serial yacht owner Graeme Hart (she was the first of Hart’s boats to bear the name of Ulysses and he has upsized considerably since then). It was her classic looks which first drew the pair to the boat, now called Sea Breeze III, after they first found her online and took a trip to scout her out at Rivergate Marina in Brisbane, Australia. “When we were looking at all these beautiful heritage boats, it started off as more of a hobby, but it soon became a real passion for us”, explains Charlotte.Both growing up with boating in the blood (keen sailor Simon was a grinder during New Zealand’s first America’s Cup challenge on KZ3, 5 and 7), it was partially the process itself of finding the perfect boat to restore which appealed to the couple and it was an experience with which Charlotte was familiar from her own family. “We have a heritage boat that we have restored, a little sailing boat called Turakina as well as a gorgeous old traditional tug boat. In my family, we are a bit crazy for restoring these boats and probably spending far too much money on them, so much so that you go, ‘God, it would be so much easier just doing a modern one!’ But we are always just drawn to these beautiful old boats.”
When they actively started looking for their dream restoration project, they weren’t in a rush. As Charlotte explains: “We thought that this might be an adventure that takes a year but could also take two years or even longer because part of the romance of it was to go on this wonderful journey to find this beautiful boat, and within a year we found her, we were so lucky.” Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsOnce they saw her classic lines sitting there in the marina, they were hooked. “We went and saw her and fell in love - nothing else came up which could compare.” Reflecting on it now, getting to the stage of actually owning Sea Breeze III was something of a rollercoaster experience for the pair. “The boat was going up for auction and my mother was in the hospital at the time and very sick, so we were bidding whilst we were in the hospital. It was one of those situations where we had no idea if we were actually going to end up with her and we couldn’t believe it in the end when we did become owners of Sea Breeze III!”
Although as of our interview in early 2020, Sea Breeze III is undergoing major refit works at Oceania Marine in Whangarei in order to prepare her for her first charter season beginning this April/May, she was in excellent shape at the time of purchase. This can be considered something of a rarity in a classic boat, as refit-manager Simon explains. “Well-maintained boats of her history and of that ilk don’t appear very often. She was built to a very high spec and has had a lot of money spent on her to keep her in that sort of condition.” Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsBoat bought, Charlotte and Simon could now launch into the next stage of their plan, and the primary reason for purchasing Sea Breeze III in the first place: their new business, Boutique Superyachts. Both evidently possessing more than a little of that entrepreneurial spirit and having enjoyed success across various different industries between them (Simon: “I’ve never really worked for anyone else since finishing university. I’ve always wanted to create something and be my own boss and Charlie is exactly the same”), the idea of setting their boat up for boutique Kiwi charter experiences found its roots in Charlotte’s hospitality background.Photo: Boutique Superyachts“When I was 23, I founded a boutique hotel which I ran for six years. Within the hotel, we had 12 rooms that were all individually decorated by different country themes. At the time, I wanted to bring my love of entertaining and hospitality to make a really amazing and personal experience for our guests. So I had the desire to create a similar concept with Sea Breeze III: a boutique floating hotel on the water. I thought it would be amazing to create this new platform and to do something quite different from what everyone else was doing in the market.”
Indeed, although the boat herself may be traditional in looks - the couple has taken pains to maintain many of the motor yacht’s original features, including rejuvenating her mahogany interiors - the charter experience offered on board Sea Breeze III is anything but. As Charlotte sees it, “the heritage gives her a quirkiness and a sense of history and then we modernise her by bringing in the latest equipment and amenities. We are able to mould the two together in order to bring something a little bit new to the picture.” Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsThis ethos finds its way into every aspect of the charter experience. “We do have a formal dining room but today’s guests want to have their meals as outdoor experiences with great music and good vibes and don’t feel like sitting indoors in a stuffy and old fashioned setting. In terms of cuisine, we didn’t want to do all of the fiddly three-course meals with full butler service either. I see some beautifully arranged food on yachts on Instagram but it’s all very contrived. We are more interested in serving SLOW food: food which is seasonal, local, organic and whole.”
Of course, as this is a charter experience which is clearly aimed at breaking through to a younger (dare I say, millennial) generation who may never have previously considered spending any time on board a superyacht, vegan options and plenty of yoga are definitely on the cards. “You can do morning yoga to great beats on our special yoga deck and have massages and reiki crystal healing; you can enjoy the incredible scenery in one bay and then the next morning you’re somewhere else, or you can have amazing parties with fantastic DJs. Sometimes I don’t think people realise that superyachts can be so much more than the formal, white-glove service experience.” Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsAlthough Charlotte and Simon’s passion for their new endeavour emanates from them in conversation, it is also clear that there is also considerably more to this than just a pipe dream. Behind the foundation of Boutique Superyachts lies their very canny homing in on a niche area. Simon explains: “We’ve done a very detailed business plan taking into account the competition in the area, the costs and the opportunities because we’re not going to go into something like this and spend all this money without figuring out whether it’s worth it or not.”
Charlotte continues, “in New Zealand, there isn’t a huge amount available for charter in the size of our boat: there are some at the smaller end of the market, but not really in our range. It initially started off as a dream and as we started delving into it, we saw that there was a big gap in the market. We wanted to find the perfect boat so we could restore something that had a great heritage and story and create a really unique offering for both the NZ market but also for our international guests - especially with the America’s Cup coming up.”Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsBefore commencing the refit works which have taken her off the water since last August (and include work to the engine room, the guest bathrooms, crew quarters, a new hydrotherapy spa pool and a new all-teak upper deck to accommodate the weight of the up to 99 charter guests who will be able to travel on board for day trips), Simon and Charlotte decided that the best way to fine-tune the experience they want to offer their charter guests was to test it out for themselves. To this end, they spent the whole of last summer cruising around New Zealand with family and friends and making unforgettable memories: memories which will inform the travel itineraries for their first batch of charter guests.
Charlotte explains: “There are so many incredible places to explore in our back yard. When we were there last summer, we actually couldn’t believe it. Even though as a child, I grew up going to many of these places on holiday, we just feel so blessed to have these beautiful places on our doorstep. Think of the Bay of Islands, that is still very much untouched, with the most stunning water and you are constantly surrounded by sea life like orcas and dolphins. You can go into these bays and not see a single boat, it is so different from Europe where it can be so busy. You can be the only one in the bay if you want, or you can go ashore to Russell and Waiheke, for example, where there is a lot of buzz and where they have gorgeous little restaurants and stylish boutiques. You can be as remote or not as you like, it just depends on the experience the guest is after.” Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsWith her base amongst the America’s Cup yachts in Auckland City’s Viaduct Harbour - putting her in prime position for international visitors when the event kicks off next March - it is a short trip of no more than an hour at cruising speed for Sea Breeze III to reach so many must-see local spots on the Hauraki Gulf including the active volcano of Rangitoto where visitors can enjoy beautiful walks to the summit - and the list goes on.
Above all, it is an authentic experience of true Kiwi hospitality that Simon and Charlotte are keen to pass on to their guests, and it is the ability to balance the business and family elements of their boat that makes this such an exciting venture for the pair. “It is incredible that we can do both: have a business but also an amazing family beach house - a home on the water,” says Charlotte. Going forward, as the first charter season approaches this spring, the pair are now looking to hire captain and crew to help them out, as, unfortunately, non-yachting life has to intervene sometimes (“Simon does have another job - much as he would love to skipper the boat himself full time!”).Photo: Boutique SuperyachtsFinally, we say our goodbyes and I leave Simon and Charlotte sitting on their balcony to do “a little bit of work”, golden Labrador at their feet, before jumping into the pool with their six kids as they look forward to a busy and exciting first charter season on board their very special superyacht. As the very epitome of joie de vivre, who wouldn’t want to join them?Photo: Boutique Superyachts
This article was first featured in The SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to receive your copy straight to your door and never miss another issue.