Exploring French Polynesia on a Dream Yacht Worldwide Catamaran
By Brian E. Clark
When Davis Hansen was growing up in Pasadena, Calif., he earned a small-boat sailing merit badge from the Boy Scouts.
And until recently, the 33-year-old said he was interested in learning how to sail a bigger boat.
But after his most recent trip, a seven-day outing on a sailing catamaran in the turquoise waters of French Polynesia – complete with crew – he’s laid those plans to rest. At least for a while.
“This way is better,” said Hansen, a former real estate broker who dealt mostly with shopping centers. He and his 31-year-old wife, Sydney, an erstwhile chemical engineer, now toil as professional photographers who focus on top-end hotels and fashion brands around the globe.
“We’re on the road too much at this point,” he said. “Besides, having a captain and a cook is a delightful and restful way to go.”
Hansen said the couple booked a cabin with Dream Yacht Worldwide (dreamyachtcharter.com) and spent a week on a 62-foot Lagoon catamaran with six ensuite cabins, sailing from Raiatea to Bora Bora to Huahine and navigating around motus, which are small, elongated islets made of broken coral and sand. The cost of the October trip was $2,800 per person.
He described French Polynesia, especially Bora Bora, as an exotic, magical place he’d long dreamed of visiting. It lived up to his expectations and seeing the islands via a catamaran – which is more stable than a monohull sailboat – was an ideal choice, he said.
“We aren’t large cruise ship people, so this was great,” he said. “On our boat, we had a small group with people from France, Italy, Massachusetts and California, including one couple who brought along their 18-year-old son. We all got along well.
“The trip had a nice community feel and the chef, who was from the island of Raiatea, created delicious meals and catered to our different dietary needs. We’d get up in the morning, sail, go on an excursion and come back to a freshly prepared lunch with local offerings. And the skipper, who was French, was excellent and had a lot of interesting stories.”
Hansen said the experience was better than staying at a hotel in one spot.
“We had the freedom to navigate around the archipelago, so we got a broader perspective of French Polynesia, as well as different and varied views. We enjoyed the sailing, visiting the islands, the food and the camaraderie.”
While the catamaran was large by sailboat standards, Hansen said traveling with 13 strangers “was initially a little out of our comfort zone because we were sharing a table with folks we didn’t know before the trip.
“So if you don’t like to talk to new people, this might not be for you. If you are adventurous and gregarious, though, I’d say go for it. And we’d also recommend adding a day or two on the front and back ends of the trip because Tahiti is really cool and pretty far off the beaten path.”
“We’ve sailed some on catamarans and monohull sailboats and we would definitely do this again,” he said.
Dan Lockyer, an executive with the Dream Yacht Worldwide, said interest in skippered bookings and renting single cabins on a catamaran is gaining popularity among non-sailors and sailors who don’t feel confident enough to charter their own boat. (The company also charters bareboats, which do not come with captains, to seasoned sailors.)
He described Dream Yacht Worldwide as one of the globe’s leading marine tourism outfits and a pioneer in making sailing and sea travel more accessible. He said the company offers the most destinations and one of the largest and most diverse sailing, yacht and boating fleets in the world.
Since 2018, he said the number of catamaran charters rented with skippers to assist with sailing has risen more than 130 percent in select destinations like the Mediterranean.
During high season there (June-September), more than one third of Dream Yacht Worldwide’s catamarans were rented with a skipper, which has been growing steadily over the past few years. In French Polynesia, 26 percent of year-round bookings were with a skipper in 2022; in the French Caribbean, 20 percent of bookings included a skipper option.
“Sailing vacations continue to gain popularity as a different way of experiencing the world and bringing people together,” said Lockyer, a native of the United Kingdom who began his career as a skipper on sailboats in the Greek Islands. Families also are a growing part of the company’s business, he added.
“Dream Yacht Worldwide wants to make the transformative experience of sailing as easy as possible for as many as possible by offering customizable experiences using the knowledge and expertise of our team of sea professionals,” he said.
Lockyer said the 23-year-old company began with six yachts based in the Seychelles, a group of more than 100 islands in the Indian Ocean about 1,300 miles east of Kenya. It was an undisturbed yachting destination then, he said, and remains unknown by most Americans today.
“We noticed that in Seychelles, a lot of people wanted to try chartering and explore the islands, but maybe didn’t have the comfort to organize a charter themselves,”he said.
“As a result, we developed ‘by the cabin’ cruises so they could charter a large cat with typically six cabins and a captain and cook on board. As a couple, you could take a cabin and everyting is covered, while groups take three or four cabins. It’s a really easy entry to introduce people to our world of chartering.”
Today, he said, the company employs more than 600 people in 31 countries and operates in 50 destinations worldwide, with a fleet of more than 900 monohulls and catamarans.
Dream Yacht Charter offers one of the most diverse fleets and highest number of exclusive bases worldwide from the sugary white sands of the Caribbean to Europe’s thousands of islands, he said.
Due to demand and industry research pointing to an increase in ocean tourism, he said the company will launch 150 news boats in the coming season of which 80 percent are catamarans. Its new catalogue of offerings includes Bali 4.4, Lagoon 51, and Excess 14 catamarans as well as the Bali Catsmart , a 48-foot catamaran that can have as many as four cabins.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.