While once upon a time taking a charter would mean being cut off completely from the outside world, modern satellite communication technology means that today, even if you wanted to be, you are never out of touch. The demands of the outside world typically mean that charter clients seek out yachts with superior connectivity and office spaces.
“The average guest, not even just the tech savvy ones, arrive with at least three devices that need data connectivity: Smartphone, tablet and laptop,” says Roger Horner, managing director of e3 Systems, a specialist in advanced integrated communication systems for yachts. “[They] expect to be able to be as connected as they are at home and in the office when on board. And when it comes down to it, they can be.” Horner explains that on board a yacht today, owners and guests can be as connected as they want to be, it all comes down to the systems installed and cost; shoreside rates will be what you would expect if using wifi or 3G, but at sea, when satellite connection comes into play, prices rise.
All yachts indisputably need to have data connections in every location of the charter and for captain of S/Y Borkumriff IV, Paul Kelly the real key is reliability. “Consistent connectivity on board is crucial during a charter,” he says. “Guests expect it and don’t want to accept haphazard services.” There are unspoken expectations that the yacht can handle social media, gaming and streaming, not to mention crew will also be using the internet. Horner explains that the installation of an intelligent hybrid system on board can mean that simultaneous connections can be made or a connection can be allocated to crew only so as not to interfere with the guests. Then a good wifi system is needed to allow guests to connect anywhere on the yacht.
e3’s Horner explains that there are two types of connectivity—conscious and unconscious—and the bandwidth required to support the multitude of online activities is significant. “Conscious is what we have been most familiar with for years,” he expands. “This is when we surf the net, send emails, social network, Skype or even video conference. We do these knowingly, thus consciously.” Unconscious is the bandwidth we use without being aware of it: push notifications, app updates, photostream, iCloud or Dropbox, for example. “These all work in the background on their own without the device owner knowing,” Horner says. “If you use photostream every time you take a photo with your iPhone it tries to find a connection and when it does it uploads a 3MB file to the cloud, then it comes in again and downloads it to your iPad and computer.” To enable every guest to do this and continue to consciously use the internet, the bandwidth available needs to be hefty. If the owner contracts a large amount of bandwidth, guests can typically expect to pay for it in their charter fee.
Aware that they will still need to work on their holiday, many charter guests look for a yacht with a designated office space on board. “If an office space is set up for the charterers, ideally it should be in a quiet zone with a good printer and a monitor but also allow a charterer to use their laptop with the yacht’s system or to Skype with their offices,” says Debra Blackburn from Fraser Yachts. “Most larger yachts have a small office space set up, typically near the master cabin. S/Y Marie has a beautiful office set up in the aft deckhouse that can be used by all guests but is easily accessible from the master stateroom.” Some yachts ensure that working spaces are integrated seamlessly throughout the vessel rather than one space cut off from the rest of the boat. On M/Y Engelberg work and leisure are possible wherever you are, with extremely advanced connectivity throughout the yacht and flexible spaces to work from and the master suite features a wooden partition that forms the front of a desk and communications hub on one side and the headboard of the bed on the other, for example, while on the aft deck, a wooden desk that includes an integrated seat and rising console that extends into a coffee table at the far end, where you can work solo or guests and colleagues can gather.
The truth is that most brokers are reporting fewer requests from guests for typical office spaces but that guests are instead expecting more from their charter yacht when it comes to connectivity. Offering the fastest and best connections is a costly exercise at the moment, but e3’s Horner assures us that in the next two years, advances in technology will mean ever-faster speeds at a lower cost. “Between now and the end of 2016 we will see a huge growth in satellite connectivity capacity and terrestrial capacity,” he says. “This has to result in faster bandwidth at less cost thus enabling all owners to afford to provide the bandwidth charter guests are used to at home and in their office.”