Crew Created: Katabatic Charters

23 September 2019 By Laura Dunn

When creating an exit strategy from yachting, crew often choose to leave the industry entirely. However, Skipper Grant Orchard, owner and operator of MV Katabatic for his company, Katabatic Charters and Marine Limited, just couldn’t stay away.

As a former superyacht captain/chef, Orchard knows what guests like. Although his last stint as crew was aboard 110-foot M/Y Checkers in October 2018, he created his company in November 2017 because he wanted to share the beauty of the cruising grounds in his hometown. His small boat chartering business operates out of Picton in the Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough region, New Zealand.

Katabatic is a wooden vessel that my late father, a local wooden boat builder and designer, had started,” says Orchard, “but after a short battle with cancer, didn’t get to finish.” In 2004, Orchard was working at a local boat yard because he wanted a break from cooking — he’s a chef by trade. “I knew I wanted to finish the boat but didn’t know how I was going to fund it,” he says. “Enter Lee Mason, a good friend from catering college [who had just finished working] on a beautiful Feadship named Charade on a passage through the Panama Canal to San Diego.”

Thanks to Mason, who told him their chef was about to leave his post, Orchard was able to become chef aboard a 155-footer — his first chef job in the industry. On a moment’s notice, he booked a flight to San Diego after getting a call in the middle of the night.

Although it took eight years, Orchard piecemeal funded the completion of Katabatic, and commissioned her in 2013. “I am in my second year of operating and am trying to gain exposure through reaching out to as many resources that I can,” he says. Among the ways he does this is by working with luxury lodges in the area — he now offers part of New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay winery’s Forage package where guests charter the Katabatic and source their own lunch/dinner from the waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound. “I like to think that people will [choose] an entity with a close connection and history to the area.”

Recently, he elected to make the business zero carbon in conjunction with a company called EKOS New Zealand, which plants indigenous forest in New Zealand and the South Pacific islands. “With this brokerage, I offset my diesel burn, trash, LPG burn, fuel for my vehicle, flights associated with the business, and electricity,” he says.

Orchard tailors cruises to suit guests’ individual needs, and in order to keep a perfect level of intimacy and ambiance, limits his charters to eight people. “I hope to make Katabatic Charters a business that operates year-round with sustainable business ethics and to share the boat’s story, as well as show off some of the best cruising areas in the world,” he says. A day charter on Katabatic is $2,100 NZD. He also runs half-day charters, and more.