WORDS: Jack Gifford | IMAGES: Mikey DeTemple
After bumping into Captain Seumas Maharg aboard Bequia last winter, TIDE puts the 90.7’ yawl through her paces in Montauk, New York. Following the shoot, we catch up with owner Jes Staley to get a better idea of how the dream took hold and why, after owning a string of yachts, the family chose a small wooden boatyard in Maine to realise their dreams.
It’s always interesting to sit down and talk boats with fellow sailors, but when you’re talking to the owner and creator of a yacht like Bequia, the conversation takes on a new level. For 13 years, the wooden-hulled yacht has been a much loved member of the Staley family, having made multiple transatlantic crossings and sailed as far as the San Blas islands.
Long before designing their own vessel, Jes and his wife Debbie chartered in the Caribbean. As early clients of Jenny and Charlie Cary, originators of the now-famous Moorings in the BVI’s, a series of memorable yacht adventures gradually broadened their sailing horizons.
The name Bequia – which has been used for all their boats – is tribute to their honeymoon spent sailing from St Lucia to the Caribbean island. Over time, the couple engaged in long distance offshore cruising, and even the occasional offshore race. As their competence expanded, so did the brief for the next boat.
Jes was a regular visitor to Maine over the years and became greatly enamoured with the sailing yachts of the Hinckley yard; so much so that his previous yachts were the Bermuda 40 and the first Sou’wester 52, both from the builders in Maine. The classic proportions and overhanging hull forms of these yachts captivated him, and have left their legacy in the latest Bequia. It was also these Hinckley boats that opened the door to longer distance offshore sailing and – through competing in a number of races from Newport to Bermuda – sowed the seed for a racing bug that lives on to this day.
In his time off, Jes was forever pondering the next boat, pen in hand with a napkin, sketching ideas, reading magazines and considering the finer details. However, it wasn’t until Debbie brought home a book on the designs of Joel White that the penny dropped. More years returning to Maine ensued, with Jes honing his interest on the classic end of the spectrum, until he landed by chance upon Brooklin Boatyard. With the capable guidance of Bob Stephens to turn Staley’s tough demands into reality, Bequia took shape over three years of close collaboration. When the design was formed, it was over to Steve White and his team. “Brooklin is the real deal,” says Jes, “but Bequia was going to be three times bigger (by displacement) than anything they had built before, so it was always going to be a challenge”.
After a highly complex mechanical installation, Bequia hit the water in 2009.The technical aspects of the build process were particular challenging, with piping, wiring, and hydraulics all requiring an increased ‘superyacht’ level of specification. Incorporating a side-mounted swim platform into a ‘spirit of tradition’ sailing yacht hull was no mean feat either: the feature is more commonly associated with motor yachts, and it was a first for both the yard and the architype as a whole. Steve White and the team at Brooklin rose to the task, and the results speak for themselves.
Designed to be a cosy, family orientated boat, the interior is designed with little or no distinction between crew and guest areas. The Staleys aimed to create a vessel where crew wanted to work and were happy to stay. The family stayed aboard for a whole month after the boat was launched, and after 13 years are more attached to her than ever. The long standing crew of three, led by Captain Seamus Maharg, speaks volumes about the camaraderie onboard, as does the regular team of race crew who come back year after year. The annual St Barths Bucket is a permanent fixture on the yacht’s calendar. Led by accomplished racer Mark Campbell-James, there’s an “easy familiarity onboard with how everyone sails and their personalities”. Though she’s predominantly a cruising boat, Staley explains that they like to “really tune her up” at least once a year to make sure they’re doing her justice, and that “she doesn’t lose the edge of performance she was launched with.”
There’s no doubt as to Bequia having plenty more adventures left in her. So where next? With a wry smile, Jes mentions the Pacific. Buoyed by the reassuring confidence and enthusiasm of Captain Seamus, the family are starting to give serious thought to transiting the canal and heading out into the deep blue.