Charles Pinckney “Buddy” Darby III is a superyacht owner with a super vision. He has a 154-foot (47-meter) Perini Navi, Andromeda la Dea. He’s further Christophe Harbour’s developer. Christophe Harbour, in St. Kitts, is a marina meant for megayachts. The first 24 berths will open in December, for yachts to 213 feet (65 meters). Ultimately, Christophe Harbour will have 300 berths for yachts to 299 feet (91 meters). Furthermore, all are freehold, versus leasehold. Berth ownership at Christophe Harbour grants membership in the Christophe Harbour Club and access to upcoming resort amenities like golf. It also grants citizenship without a residency requirement.
Darby knows a bit about real estate development, too. He played a significant role in planning, developing, and marketing communities in Ireland and Kiawah Island in South Carolina. In this Megayacht News Leadership Series, he talks about his vision for Christophe Harbour.
Megayacht News: What attracted you to this area—not just St. Kitts, but that particular harbor?
Buddy Darby: For the past 25 years, I’ve been developing Kiawah Island, which is a large-scale resort community off the coast of Charleston. So, to follow that up, I had an opportunity to get 2,700 acres that were contiguous. I could control the whole experience: signage, security, landscaping. You don’t have an opportunity to do that in too many places in the world. And, it was unspoiled. The whole island, which is about 64 square miles, is mostly undeveloped. It was a chance to bring my team down to impact it and bring value. Combine that with the fact that I’m a boater. When you look at the salt ponds that are there, one is 350 acres protected by a mountain where the prevailing winds come from, so you’ve got a hurricane hole. It’s got a small opening that we opened, so the wave action is zero, unless it’s quite windy. Then there’s the ability to do this incredible marina village over time. You’ve got a proven cruising ground with superyachts, and the superyachts are getting bigger and more plentiful.
Megayacht News: What else did you think your experience would bring that’s missing from other marinas? Did you tap your experiences as a yacht owner more than your experiences as a developer for Christophe Harbour?
Buddy Darby: As a yacht owner, I think I know what people with yachts and charter yachts are looking for. Take a look at the area, in the West Indies—just take St. Barths, which is a fun, great place. From a marinas standpoint, there’s no place to really tie up, get great power, pump-out services, marina services, and you’ve always got the chance of a swell. I’ve sailed in the Bucket for 10, 12 years, and about half of that time, we’ve had to bust up and leave because the surge has been coming in. From a business point of view, I have the ability to have a casino license, I have the ability to do restaurants and bars, and have the pedestrian orientation so that you don’t have a road in front, and to do artisan retail, with artisans from around the Caribbean, so that people with superyachts can find something new and different and not a store that they have at home.
Megayacht News: With islands that are mostly undeveloped, sometimes government officials are skeptical or concerned about development. What was the initial reaction of the government officials when they were given the Christophe Harbour proposal?
Buddy Darby: They made a conscious decision in 2005 to quit sugar cane production. Most of the land was owned by the government, and the government was subsidizing the economy. Their prime minister said, “We’re going to try to convert our economy to more of a service economy and compete.” So, when I got there in 2007, I found a very receptive government. They came and visited what I had done in Kiawah. Basically, my trademark is to do environmentally sensitive development. They liked that, and we’ve taken those same principles. I think they had a comfort level that we would come in and do a good job.
Megayacht News: As a yacht owner, you’re in a unique position in terms of the expectations of a project like this. Take off your developer’s hat for a moment: If you read about the development of a brand-new marina like Christophe Harbour, what are some of the things you’d want to see?
Buddy Darby: Despite the fact that these boats cost a lot, and cost a lot to operate, people didn’t get to where they are by not caring about expenses. Among the things from an expense side that I’ve negotiated with the government are there’s no tax on fuel, there’s no duty on parts, and there are no restrictions on crewmembers who can’t be cleared there. Now, sometimes the owner doesn’t see all that. From a logistical side, there’s a laundry list of things that we’re trying to fulfill the needs of the yacht owner. We’ll have a customs office right there, so you won’t have to wait. With one yacht, we cleared 52 crew, the owner, and his wife in 20 minutes. All of those things I’ve thought through, so hopefully it’s pretty hassle-free. Another thing is the way I’ve configured the slips. They’re not stern-to, I’ve brought them away from the village. So, if you want privacy, you can be on the back of your boat and enjoy looking at the beautiful mountains and not have people looking at you. We’re also working with the local FBO. If someone’s coming in on a private plane, they can offload on the tarmac, pre-clear customs, and literally be at the marina on a boat in 15 minutes.
Megayacht News: Are there any other amenities that will make the crew feel more comfortable about staying at Christophe Harbour?
Buddy Darby: We’re going to have a workout facility, which is one of the things I know the crew likes. We’re going to have a crew lounge where they can go with their computer and talk with their families or visit with other crewmembers.