Come Sail Away

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The Tide is Rising for Luxury Yachting in Hawai‘i

AS ODD AS IT MAY SEEM, Hawai’i has never been a beacon for attracting the luxury yachting community. Be it our distance from another significant land mass, or the general laid-back nature of our approach to luxury, it’s infrequent that we spot the sleek yachts that grace ports like Monaco or Marina del Rey in Hawaiian waters.

Yet a quiet sailing fleet has slid under the radar…until now. Chadwick Michael Allenbaugh’s Hawaii Yachts, comprised of six Beneteau sail-motor vessels, have stealthily carried diplomats and A-list clientele around the Hawaiian Islands since 2004. Now, they are catapulting in to the limelight, after a series of high-profile ad campaigns (for Lacoste, Glenfiddich and Nautica) and partnerships with local luxury properties such as Halekulani, The Waikiki EDITION and Four Seasons Resort Maui.

“We are an alliance player,” says Allenbaugh, behind the chest-high helm aboard his newest “toy”-the first 58-foot Beneteau delivered in North America. “We like to partner with people who can give the best experiences in Hawai’i. We’re not a cattle-carrying organization. It’s couples, maybe a dozen people on board, tops.”

Flanking the end of a nondescript pier at Kewalo Basin in Honolulu, Allenbaugh has four yachts tethered here at any one time; he keeps a fifth motor yacht in Waikiki and another sailboat out at Ko Olina.

Standing on the teak decking of his new pride and joy, which he named Kanoa (meaning “The free one” in Hawaiian), he recalls with a smile the time he spent in St. Croix de Vie, France, overseeing the completion of the yacht. Obligatory jaunts to Bordeaux to visit Beneteau’s parent company-that builds luxury catamarans, which Allenbaugh is considering adding to his fleet-were all in a day’s work.

Top-tier amenities on his newest vessel include 4G satellite communications and a diesel generator that creates (and inverts) all the power needed to keep everything operational; it makes its own water; offers three cabins (complete with three bathrooms) and manages to squeeze in a chef’s galley and a wine cellar (“Set at a perfect 54 degrees at all times,” notes Allenbaugh). Kanoa has an advanced navigation system that, for you nautical buffs, holds the boat on course from three different readings at all times. For the sport-techies, there’s a 3-dimensional ocean floor charting system of which Allenbaugh, who has sailed for most of his life, was astonished at the accuracy.

As our conversation turned to the über A-list celebrities he’s toured through the channels, be it for a day trip, a golf jaunt or a week off the congested Hawaiian roadways, it’s clear these aren’t your grandfather’s sailboats.

Noting that the majority of his clients don’t want their names and whereabouts showing up in print, he fondly recalls Christmas Day 2009, when he took Mohammed Ali on a day sail. (After which he renamed one of his yachts The Champ.)

And while Ali was a fairly mellow day at sea, a recent visit from the Royal family of Morocco-which consisted of hiring a local spear-fishing expert to take them free-diving-took a bit more effort.

“We can create an ocean experience that ties in with anything from wine tastings to off-the-path hiking, golfing from island-to-island, or diving with a master. Our whole philosophy revolves around the notion that a day spent with your family is a special day no matter where you are. We give our full spirit, our aloha, to this goal,” says Allenbaugh.

Each Hawaii Yachts vessel is individually owned, yet all are overseen and managed by Allenbaugh and his capable network. Chef Philippe Padovani has created a special line of chocolates for passengers, and also oversees much of the customized menu planning. Chefs Peter Foster and Eric Leterc often accompany guests on sails as executive chef. But there aren’t lengths Allenbaugh won’t go to in order to satisfy his discerning clientele.

In 2004, president Bill Clinton and his family boarded one of his vessels on Kaua’i, where they spent the day sailing the Napali coastline. Now referred to as “the presidential yacht,” Grammy award-winning guitarist Jeff Peterson entertained the former first family as they snacked on cuisine prepared by chefs from Roy’s. (Allenbaugh admits he had to build a custom deep-fryer in order to execute Roy’s signature spring rolls, on which Clinton insisted on imbibing.)

To aid in the pre- and post-sail ease of a jaunt with Hawaii Yachts, Allenbaugh makes use of offshoot companies he also runs, including the soon-to-launch Sailing Club Hawaii, and Kahala Limousine, which counts a Bentley, a Rolls Royce and two Mercedes in its fleet.

Alongside high-flying yacht owner-business partners such as local investment titan and author Robert T. Kiyosaki, having showmen like Danny Kaleikini as Ambassador of Aloha certainly helps solidify Hawaii Yachts as a true luxury player.

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