Luxury Yacht Charters

Motor Yacht La Buscadora in the British Virgin Islands
the searchress

Luxury power boat underwayRelax and enjoy your vacationSnorkel and swim on motor yacht La Buscadora



As seen in the "Nautical Scene" publication

Original sketch of luxury power yacht La Buscadora

The BVI is filled with classic charters telling historic tales but none is quite so fascinating as La Buscadora, a 1941 Peterson 80' luxury wooden yacht custom built as a private commuter. It all started when a Wall Street tycoon, living on Long Island, wanted a faster way to get to work. John H. Wells was commissioned to build a double caravel planked vessel out of white cedar in the Peterson Yard on the Hudson River. With inner and outer fastenings of silicon bronze, WASP as she was originally commissioned, featured four staterooms, with private heads, a large galley, a dining salon and an open-air aft deck. 

WASP had a top speed of over 50 knots with three propellers powered by three Curtis Wright gasoline engines and a total horsepower of 2000. Soon after commissioning, she was procured by the US government for use in protecting US shores from enemy submarines in WWII as an offshore patrol vessel. 50 caliber machine guns were mounted both fore and aft - along with two depth bomb racks. President Truman held high level meetings on the yacht and, an interesting note here, is that a very similar design, also by Wells, was incorporated into the famous PT boats. After the war, she was given back to the original owner and used privately for about ten years. 

During the 1950s the luxury yacht charter was sold, renamed Bink II and loaned to the CIA for use in Cuban reconnaissance running guns, ammunition and people from Key West to Cuba. It was during this time that the vessel was converted from gasoline to diesel and outfitted with three 6-cylinder Detroit 6-110 diesels. During one of these trips into Cuba, possibly the Bay of Pigs invasion, the vessel received a hailing of bullets.

In 1961 she changed hands again and was renamed Paratus. She was donated to the University of Florida and then sold to a young widow, Lady X, who was conned by a couple of Southern gigolos. Running off with Lady X's money, they left her with the newly named Kaywin, a boat she didn't want or know how to use. Lady X then sold the yacht to a man who promptly suffered a heart attack. As the final payments had not been made, Lady X held onto the luxury yacht charter for another 4 years during which Kaywin deteriorated to the point of barely being afloat.

Enter Mike Hallett, today one of the BVI's top yacht charter owners. Upon leaving Southern Illinois University, Hallett left Chicago in 1969 to work in the Bahamas on a luxury yacht charter boat, Highlander IV , with Skeet LaChance's Adventure Cruises. Hallett always wanted to work in the charter industry. While walking the dock one day in Ft. Lauderdale he spotted Kaywin half afloat. Seeing the possibility to realize his dream he purchased the boat for $10,000 as a derelict wreck and renamed her La Buscadora - "searchress" of the good life.

Ten years later, after much rebuilding, Hallett sailed La Buscadora throughout the Caribbean. He tells me, "In 1985 I picked Tortola and the BVI as the place to be. It's where the people are the friendliest and the water is the cleanest. After ten years of chartering out of Road Town, La Buscadora changed her base of operations to Sopers Hole, West End, and has remained there ever since."

The yacht's fame does not end here, however. In 1989 she was featured in the movie "HAVANA" starring Robert Redford and directed by Sidney Pollack. Filmed in the Dominican Republic, this movie brought instant attention to yacht charterers. Her guest list includes international writer, Frederick Forsyth, Sportsman of the Millennium Sandy Koufax, and Donnatella Versache and family.

This success in chartering is due in large part to the skills of Sandie Merriman who came on board as Hallett's better half in the early 90s. Hailing from Hampshire, England, and a graduate of Leiths Culinary School of London, Merriman has helped La Buscadora become one of the top luxury charter yachts of the BVI.

The two just returned from a well-earned holiday in Bali and are looking forward to another great season. Hallett will continue his 16 year involvement in the Charter Yacht Society of the BVI, where he has been a past Chairman and is a current board member. The two reflect, in every way, the excellence that this proud luxury yacht charter deserves. And, if the BVI is lucky, they will continue to represent the best in motor chartering throughout the Caribbean.

- By Nancy Terrell

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Power Yacht La Buscadora in the BVI La Buscadora
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