Capt. Ashley Benns, following a lifetime on the water, now runs the 124-foot Broward motoryacht Coco Loco.
Captain, 124-foot motoryacht Coco Loco
Date interviewed: April 2009
How did you get into boating?
As a kid, I shared dingy helming and crewing duties with my brother and sister, but I preferred single-handed racing and took over most of the maintenance. Later, I lived aboard my own cruiser and was often single-handed at sea.
I have learned over the years that self-reliance and resolve are cornerstones of running any boat, particularly offshore or in un-familiar waters.
What training did you undergo to become a captain?
I studied naval architecture, engineering and accounting at college but found that I was better on the water. I jumped into every job that was offered: deck, cooking, stewarding, engineering. I completed the MCA Class 4 Command Endorsement shortly after it was formulated.
What yachts did you work on before joining the 124-foot Broward motoryacht Coco Loco?
I was on and off the 129-foot motoryacht Moonmaiden II for many years. I started as deckhand then became mate, then engineer, then refit and delivery captain.
The 126-foot motoryacht Emerald Isle was my first permanent captain’s position, and after that I worked on the 145-foot motoryacht Griff. I also worked for Shadow Marine, selling and then converting the 170-foot motoryacht Peaceful Fish into a technical diving exploration yacht.
All my yachts have been hard-working, doing the Mediterranean summer season and an Indian Ocean or Caribbean winter season.
When did you join Coco Loco?
In December 2007, toward the end of her build. I commissioned her, ran her during her first Mediterranean season in Italy, France and Spain, and then took her across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and up to Florida by way of the Bahamas for her first annual maintenance and a range of upgrades in preparation for a busy year of cruising.
What do you think makes Coco Loco’s crew special?
My crew complement each other very well, and they all love being on the water. They’re an active bunch with ideas, initiative and experience in the industry.
The crew are the team. I’m just the coach. We all take particular pride in the Coco Loco.
How do you determine what itinerary you will set on charter?
I prefer charters that go from Point A to Point B, rather than round-trip back to Point A.
Our charter itineraries are usually outlined before the contract is signed. I refine the itinerary alternatives as I receive preference information from the guests.
How flexible are you about changing the itinerary on a daily basis?
Our guests are on holiday and are often discombobulated by the change of pace and the choices. I don’t impose any schedule on them. My itinerary might include nights at anchor or under way, but I try to always have an alternative berth available close by, and days with shorter distances in terms of cruising so we can make it up another day if desired.
The weather and the inclinations of the guests eclipse any set itinerary, even to changing the contract delivery date or destination.
What are some of your favorite cruising destinations?
I enjoy sheltered waters, cute berths, dramatic seascapes, beaches, architectural and archaeological sites, nightlife, local cultural events, international transport, comprehensive yacht support, balmy weather… I’ll go anywhere, really.
This year we are cruising in Italy, Greece and Turkey, and then back through the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. There will be a lot of favorite destinations again this year.
What features onboard Coco Loco do you enjoy sharing with guests?
Coco Loco is small enough to go into tight anchorages and smaller harbors, yet she has the sundeck and accommodations of a larger boat. She is sea-kindly, has quad zero-speed stabilizers and can make nearly 20 knots when required.
The galley is central, and the chef is an important character. The bridge is open with lots of comfortable seating, and guests often spend time there.
Describe a typical guest’s day onboard Coco Loco.
Every group is different, and every day has variations.
If the guests like to stay onboard I change the scenery for them, anchoring and re-anchoring several times during the day. If they like to be ashore I have experience or research, suggestions or tour guides available for everywhere we go. I usually offer to send a crew member with them to help them.
What kind of charter guests are your favorites?
I like cohesive groups with a strong enough leader to make decisions for everyone, but who can take into account everyone’s preferences. It’s better if they all feel comfortable going off on their own or staying behind sometimes while the more energetic go exploring. Indecision or waiting for each other can absorb a lot of time.
Longtime friends reuniting or families with older children who have left home for careers and education are often good groups to have onboard.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you and Coco Loco?
The owner of Coco Loco has owned boats all his life and was involved with the specification, construction and commissioning of her. He is personally undemanding and enjoys sea time and hanging out with his crew on his yacht. He expects everyone to have fun, including his friends, family and crew, but especially his charter guests. We represent his hospitality, and he expects the highest class of service for all his guests.
The owner’s underlying tenants are safety and reliability. Friendly formality is his presentation, and everyone enjoying the experience is the effect.