Relax, learn and discover during scenic cruises on the Sea Island Explorer yacht.
By Stephanie Kalina-Metzger
Marsh-lined waterways provide some of the most picturesque settings at Sea Island. Now, members and guests have a new opportunity to enjoy the view, learn about the local ecosystem and history of the area, or simply relax and take in the salty breeze with a predinner drink in hand.
Last year, the resort unveiled a multilevel yacht called the Sea Island Explorer, which accommodates 11 crew members and 49 passengers, who can enjoy a range of onboard experiences. Highlights include an enclosed salon on the main deck with comfortable leather sofas, plush chairs, a bar and a lounge covered by an awning up top. A galley for preparing meals and an open passenger area are located below deck.
The 71-foot vessel was designed by Florida-based DeJong & Lebet to tie in with the old-world charm of The Cloister at Sea Island. “We designed it not only for dock appeal, but also to reflect the character … of the 1920s and early 1930s,” says Andy Lebet, naval architect and partner at DeJong & Lebet. He adds that designers of the Sea Island Explorer were influenced by the work of Norwegian-born naval architect and yacht designer John Trumpy Sr., whose signature look included arched windows, wood paneling and other stylized elements that imbued his vessels with a timeless and elegant appeal. Notables who owned Trumpy yachts included Howard Hughes, the Chrysler family and the du Ponts.
Michael Kennedy, director of recreation and resort logistics at Sea Island, participated in the design process and says that one of the most important developments was the addition of a top deck.
“The first few drafts had the boat as a single level,” Kennedy explains. “We had the upper deck designed in the later stages. … The views over the marsh are incredible and it has been the most popular spot on the boat.”
With the addition of this new yacht, there are even more options for getting out on the water. One such inclusion is the predinner cocktail cruise. According to Clay Fordham, a Sea Island captain with more than a decade of experience navigating local waters, these 1.5-hour voyages are quite popular. “We offer cheese and fruit along with complimentary beer and wine [during the cruises],” says Fordham, who leads all operations on board.
Another popular experience is the two-hour scenic yacht cruise. Fordham departs from the resort’s dock and takes participants north through Village Creek. Traveling out to the Hampton River, he then turns around in the sound between the north end of Sea Island and the south end of Little St. Simons Island and heads back to the dock.
Private cruises are available as well, and they are more customizable, giving members and guests the chance to share the experience with friends and family while also enjoying personalized amenities.
“With our private charters, the client can opt for their choice of food and drink through our banquet department—and, for an additional fee, a naturalist … [or] falconer [or historian] can also ride along with the group,” Fordham says. These trips require a minimum of two hours, though additional hours can be added on. Advanced reservations are required for all of Sea Island’s cruises.
Setting the Scene
One major highlight of the yacht cruises is the chance to learn more about the area and its local history. Wheeler Bryan Jr., resident historian at Sea Island, is one of the expert guides who is available to join to provide insight.
“We try to customize the tours to peoples’ interests,” Bryan says. For example, those who have a penchant for style may enjoy hearing more about the architectural elements of The Cloister as well as a colorful figure by the name of Addison Mizner, who designed the hotel.
Those interested in the natural world, and bird-watchers, in particular, will enjoy the variety of birds that are often spotted during the trips.
“Depending on the time of year, passengers may see bald eagles, osprey, egrets, blue herons, black skimmers and American oystercatchers,” Fordham says. Another highlight are the bottlenose dolphins, he adds. “At any given time, you might see them feeding or playing. Often, they approach the boat to surf in our bow wake.”
From tales of the area’s past and the elegance of the yacht to the captivating landscape featuring salt marshes, oyster beds and mud flats, a cruise aboard the Sea Island Explorer promises to be a unique experience for all.