It’s more than your standard party boat.
Walking up the gangway and into the mahogany-panelled main salon of the Grace Anne II is akin to stepping through a passageway into a Gatsbyesque era of wealth and privilege.
Known as the “Lady of the Lake,” the 85-foot luxury wooden yacht has been a familiar site on the waters of Lake of the Woods since the 1930s.
Once owned by the 3M Corporation to cater to its corporate clients, new ownership of the vessel is carrying on the tradition of white glove service and gourmet cuisine.
With a crew of four, the Kenora-based yacht is a one-of-a-kind means of conveyance to the fabulous fishing holes, scenery and tranquility around the lake’s bays, inlets and 14,500 islands.
“Once you experience it, you want to continue to experience it,” said Dominique Kyle, director of marketing and client services.
“It really allows for an intimate setting for board meetings, family retreats or incentive programs within corporations, and we’ve had a lot of success with that.”
Privacy is promised. Once booked, the yacht is exclusively yours.
“You don’t share the boat with someone you haven’t invited on,” said Kyle.
Custom built in 1931 for $75,000 by the Ditchburn Boat Works in Orillia, the Grace Anne II was named for the wife of the original owner, John Furlong.
After its launch, the vessel sailed for Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) where it was dismantled and loaded aboard rail cars for the trip to Kenora.
Purchased in the early 2000s by Morris Chia of the Chia Group, a Winnipeg hospitality real estate company, the yacht’s main lounge and dining area have been lovingly restored to its original state with period fixtures.
The Grace Anne II comfortably sleeps eight in six staterooms. The craft’s registered capacity was recently increased to 18 for culinary and cocktail day cruises.
The topside deck, fantail, foredeck and main salon below provide space for small gatherings or meetings; that is, if you can take your eyes off the kaleidoscope of scenery gliding past.
“It’s quite magical because the boat is so smooth on the lake and with the (interior) blinds open the landscape is always changing,” said Kyle.
A three-night charter (with eight people aboard) is $3,845 per person or $10,253 total.
With Kenora’s close proximity to Winnipeg, the yacht is especially popular with the agribusiness crowd and an international clientele that will jet in for a few days of fishing.
The Grace Anne II comes with its own fishing guides and fleet of fully equipped 20-foot boats to take guests out for the day, returning for afternoon appetizers and drinks before a gourmet dinner is prepared by Nicki Dartiailh, executive chef for 17 years.
“This is a dream job,” said Dartiailh, who was raised in the Bordeaux area of France. “You’re mixing holidays with work.”
Although it’s a seasonal guest business, the care and maintenance of the Grace II is a year-round job.
Once the late-May to mid-October sailing season is over, the yacht goes back into its Kenora boathouse where it’s stripped down to the wood, re-varnished and repainted every year.
Part of the Chia Group’s offerings including a private island lodge getaway built in 2012 on 40 secluded acres.
From the Grace Anne’s dock in Kenora, the lodge is a three-hour sail down the lake at a steady seven knots.
Though marketed separately, often large groups will book both the yacht and lodge to host more guests.
“Some groups that stay at the lodge will want a cocktail or dinner cruise,” said Dartiailh.
With almost 7,000-square-feet of living and recreational space for up to 20 guests, the lodge provides trap shooting and golf driving ranges, nature trails, hot tub, sauna and a variety of water sports.
“We pride ourselves in having all the recreational pieces,” said Kyle.