I sat down with Adam Foster at Bosun's Restaurant in Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia, in mid-December. It had been seven days since the first Atlantic Rally for Cruisers boat had arrived, and the ARC festivities were in full swing. Looking out at the water, most of the 232 slips were filled. The people walking by looked happy to be in the islands, and from what I'd seen on the docks, everyone was enjoying the world-class services that the marina had to offer. With a full service boatyard, shore power, and a sail loft on site, it was the perfect place to recharge after a long ocean voyage.
Foster had been at the marina since 4 a.m. working nonstop to guarantee that at Rodney Bay, that image of a smoothly-running marina was a reality. Foster has been General Manager at IGY's Rodney Bay Marina since August. As he explained, "My job is to make sure that every boat that comes in has the best, easiest time, and the least amount of stress, because the better time they have, the longer they're going to stay in the Caribbean." On any given day he could be doing anything from assisting with creating an itinerary, to provisioning or helping find the right person to fix a problem on board. He's not above taking out the trash or cleaning toilets, either.
Foster is from Sydney, Australia and has been working at marinas and boatyards since he was a teenager. He's one of about 250 certified Marina Managers in the world, receiving accreditation by the International Marine Certification Institute. Most recently, he ran Island Global Yachting's (IGY) marina education program, traveling to all of the IGY destinations to ensure a standard of maintenance, management, and customer service. But he always knew he wanted to manage a marina. "At the corporate level, you don't get the satisfaction of seeing jobs through from start to finish. I enjoy the day-to-day management and truly being a part of effecting change and overseeing projects."
The changes that have been made at Rodney Bay are expansive befitting a world-class yachting destination. With improvements being made throughout 2009, the marina now accommodates boats up to 200 feet in length and 14 feet of draft. There's more docking space and shore side amenities to keep everyone from guests to crew happy and entertained.
The boatyard has also undergone some impressive changes, from the new 75-ton and 40-ton Marine Travelifts to the three refit enclosures and expanded refueling services. Foster insists that St. Lucia will soon become the destination in the Caribbean for haulouts and maintenance procedures, and not just because of the improved marina offerings, either.
"The staff is unbelievable," he said. "There is a massive depth of experience here, both on the docks and in the shipyard." All but two of his dock employees have been at Rodney Bay for five years or more, and when I asked him what the best part of his job was, he immediately replied, "The staff, hands down. If it wasn't for the staff making me feel so welcome, I wouldn't feel like I fit in here. The friendliness of the St. Lucian people is an advantage for us. Everyone is eager to go the extra mile"
So then what does he dislike about his job? "Not having more hours in the day to meet people that come in and make them feel welcome. It's frustrating knowing that I can't meet every crewmember and try and convince them to stay. My heart will always been in Australia, but Saint Lucia is stealing a part of it, that's for sure."