The company that developed Yacht Haven Grande at St. Thomas is careful to say that its reconstruction of Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia will be modest by comparison.
International Global Yachting acquired Rodney Bay Marina in 2007, from the estate of founder Arch Marez, who died in 2005. Under IGY’s plan, Rodney Bay will be able to accommodate 32 megayachts of up to 250 feet along with more than 200 smaller yachts inside its hurricane hole basin.
Rodney Bay’s new owner retained Marez’ protégé, Cuthbert Didier, as marina manager. An influential St. Lucian, Didier represents the marine side of the island’s effort to brand itself as the luxury destination of the Southern Caribbean; he’s an advocate for the yachting community and development—as long as the latter is both sustainable and brings better education and jobs to ordinary St. Lucians.
“We are not going to be Yacht Haven Grande here,” Didier said in September during a tour of Rodney Bay aboard his Sunseeker motoryacht. “We’re still going to be a down-home island marina, but with the same level of service as Yacht Haven Grande. While we are catering more to megayachts, we are still going to be St. Lucia.”
In this, Didier is hewing the company line as well as expressing his personal beliefs. Rodney Bay Marina has been the finish line for the past 18 ARC transatlantic rallies. The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is a 2,700-mile ocean crossing event that brings more than 230 European sailboats to the Caribbean each year. Obviously, the demographics for cruising sailors are distinctly different from those of megayacht owners and crews, so IGY is spreading the word that despite its multi-million-dollar transformation, the marina will continue to welcome this important element of the Rodney Bay brand.
According to Didier, the marina’s new floating docks will be ready in time for ARC sailors, who get under way from the Canary Islands in November and begin arriving at Rodney Bay an average of 14 to 21 days later. Megayacht berths will be ready for occupancy early in 2009.
Rodney Bay will become the second big-boat facility on the island. The Marina at Marigot Bay can accomodate several megayachts on its docks in Med-moor fashion, in a setting reminiscent of Tahiti. Besides the view, advantages of a layover here include walking-distance access to amenities at the Discovery at Marigot Bay resort, which boasts a spa, pools, boutique shopping and one of the island’s best chefs.
Peter Swanson is a marine journalist that usually writes about the Greater Antilles. He operates a website www.cubacruising.net, anticipating that the ban that prevents U.S. citizens and their yachts from visiting Cuba will soon end.