Boat International - August 2008 - Perfect Launch
Written by Kelly Sanford
As testament to the level of excitement and dedication Kiss instilled in his crew, though not allowed aboard for the occasion, all were present - cameras at the ready - when Constellation finally splashed at 2am on Easter Sunday. It is a moment Kiss recounts like a parent reliving the birth of a child. "The boat [was transported] a short distance from the yard to the ramp and once she was in the water the generators fired right up. Moments later the entire yacht lit up from within and her beauty emanated outward. I believe I can speak for my entire crew and say that Easter Sunday 2007 was probably the best one of our lives."
Though there were many advantages in relocating to Washington prior to delivery, Kiss says, "One of the most valuable benefits of arriving so far in advance was our ability to do some road trips and scope out several of our itinerary destinations ahead of time. We were able to get input from locals, and that made a big difference." Though Kiss already had Pacific Northwest chart kits he had purchased in Fort Lauderdale, he credits a local bookstore called The Armchair Sailor in literally changing the course of Constellation's itinerary. "They were able to fill in the gaps with off-the-beaten-path charts," though Kiss concedes, "even the well-beaten path is not heavily beaten."
A fortuitous moment of kismet acquainted Kiss with a company called Yacht Services of Alaska. "I was sitting on a flight out to Seattle and happened to be seated next to a guy who was head of operations for the Cruise Line Association for Alaska. He referred me to their subsidiary, Yacht Services of Alaska, and it was one of the best resources I could ever ask for." Kiss describes Yacht Services of Alaska as not just a ship's agent, but a first-class concierge service. "Anything I needed, they could make it happen; cruising permits, parts, supplies, provisions, dockage, bush pilots... anything. And if they arranged my dockage, there was a representative from their agency there to meet me when I arrived. I've never experienced anything like it before."
Diligent preparation, knowing the owners well and overseeing the build process gave Constellation's captain the necessary level of confidence to venture out into a new region aboard his new charge. "Even though Westport builds a proven production yacht," says Kiss, "Clients have different tastes and agendas for their boat. Constellation's owner's are the adventurous type and prefer remote anchorages as opposed to marinas and populated areas. A four-month shakedown cruise into an isolated and mostly uninhabited territory requires a dependable yacht and a ready crew." Having made painstaking preparations and having amassed a solid foundation of information and support, Kiss admits, "As the delivery date approached, intimidation was not a factor... containing the excitement was the real challenge."
Officially taking command on April 20th, Kiss and his crew required only ten days' preparation before setting their sights northward and making way for British Columbia. The owners stepped aboard for the first time in Victoria, BC and were joined by a small group of close friends. Christened on May 1st, Constellation set out of the harbor the following day on an ambitious voyage that would take her from Victoria at the southern tip of British Columbia, to the northern tip and Port Hardy via the Inside Passage. "For a Westport 130 with its impressive 20-plus knot cruise," says Kiss, "this trip normally takes two days and 300nm." Yet Constellation's venturesome owners, intent on visiting nearly every fjord on the charts, spent 12 days and logged over 1,000nm exploring the coast. "It is cruising that is unlike anything else in the world," says Constellation's owner, "and we didn't want to miss any of it." Insatiable in their desire to explore, Constellation then continued north to experience more of the Pacific Northwest and headed for Southeast Alaska, occasionally having to hire bush pilots to shuttle guests and supplies to and from the boat in its remote locations.