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Phoenix in Greece’s Dodecanese Islands

Dodecanes Islands

Dodecanes Islands 

This Ted Hood-designed, 52-foot powercatamaran is the only one of her kind available for charter, anywhere in the world.

 

A cruise onboard the 52-foot powercatamaran Phoenix in Greece’s Dodecanese Islands highlights the yacht’s crew—and makes our writer want to meet the yacht again in the Bahamas come summer

Date posted: April 2008

By Kim Kavin

It’s a shame to me that Greece, if only sometimes, can be a tough place to be onboard a yacht with an American flag flying proudly off its stern. While I have cruised in Greece several times onboard Greek- and Turkish-flagged yachts, and while I generally enjoy visiting the country, I have never before had locals standing on a dock waving their fists at me while shouting lots of Greek words interspersed with the name “George Bush.” Such was the case as I pulled into a Dodecanese Island harbor onboard the 52-foot powercatamaran Phoenix about a year ago, and I have to believe that what made the difference in this case was the U.S. flag on the back of our boat.
     Luckily, I was there with Phoenix’s crew, the husband-and-wife team of John and Amanda Cushen—who happen to be from New Zealand with classic Kiwi accents to match. They made sure everybody within earshot knew they weren’t from the States as they tied off the yacht’s lines, and I then stepped off the boat, just under that U.S. flag, without muttering a single New Jersey-accented word.
     All felt peaceful once again, as it had during the past couple of days  I’d spent cruising with them onboard this beautifully designed and maintained powercatamaran. And I can only imagine that this coming summer, when Phoenix will be chartering in the Bahamas with the same great crew, the peaceful feeling the yacht engenders will be even better thanks to the lack of knuckle-clenching locals.
    Phoenix, you see, is a unique, crewed charter yacht, not just because she is a powercatamaran instead of the more common cats with sails, but also because she is one of just two powercats designed by the legendary Ted Hood.
     Most recently known for his Little Harbor WhisperJet line, the 80-year-old Hood designed some 200 sailing and powerboats between 1959 and 1999, when he sold Little Harbor and went off to think about powercats during quasi-retirement. He thought cats had great design potential that wasn’t being realized, and he had an idea for one in particular—the Portsmouth Marine PowerCat 52—that he wanted to see used by people who could appreciate the lifetime of boating knowledge he’d put into it.
     Luckily for Hood, he’s friends with a New England couple who were willing to take a chance on his vision and a shipyard in Istanbul, Turkey. And luckily for anyone who wants to charter, the couple has an extensive history in the international charter industry. Today, Phoenix is not just one of only two Hood-designed powercats in the world, but she is also the only one available for charter. Anywhere.
     I caught up with her while she was still in the Mediterranean, following her launch from the Istanbul shipyard. It would be her final season in the Med, since her owners live in New England and were keen on bringing her back to this side of the Atlantic. If you think powercats are a rare sight off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island, they are an even rarer sight in Greece’s Dodecanese islands, where traditional sailing yachts and fishing boats fill most of the harbors. We got a lot of interesting looks, not just because of our U.S. flag, but because of our looks in general.
     Boy those folks don’t know what they’re missing. I am a big fan of catamarans, which offer exceptional onboard space when compared with traditional yachts of the same length. When I stepped onboard Phoenix, I felt as if I were entering a private cottage. Hood designed an incredibly spacious feel into this 52-footer, with a 23-foot beam and headroom of well more than 8 feet in most interior rooms. The large windows surrounding the saloon (see photo above), plus multiple overhead hatches in the main guest area, made me feel like I was outdoors all the time.
     And the multiple portholes in addition to the four overhead hatches in my cabin provided more natural light and fresh air than I’ve experienced on any other boat in this size range. Period. As Capt. John Cushen put it, “This is an ideal boat for a family or for three couples who want to be on the water but not do hard-core sailing or be cramped the whole time.” 
     Falling asleep each night with a natural breeze after a day of cruising, I felt an unusual attachment to the fresh sea air, a feeling I typically get on sailboats instead of powerboats, no doubt thanks to Hood’s longtime experience as a sailboat designer. But I had the benefit of motoryacht luxury and space, not to mention a crew (that’s Amanda and John in the photo at right) who handled the boat beautifully in between preparing traditional Eastern Mediterranean and Kiwi-inspired meals to satisfy my belly as much as my soul.
    My favorite destination during our Dodecanese charter was the island of Symi, one of the precious places along the Mediterranean Sea that hasn’t yet succumbed to mass tourism—the kind of place you can often see only by charter yacht. It has no international airport or high-rise hotels, it does not receive cruise ships, and it lacks the crowds that typically sprawl across more popular Dodecanese islands like Rhodes and Kos. Symi’s walkways are filled with the sweet smells of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, and the taverna owners are low-pressure, simply available to cook for you instead of goading you to come inside.
     It’s the same kind of feeling I get when walking to a tiny conch fritter stand in the Bahamas, come to think of it. I’m sure the Cushens will help Phoenix’s upcoming guests enjoy that scene just as much as they helped me enjoy the Dodecanese Islands.