PORT OF CALL PAR EXCELLENCE
Rodney Bay Marina is among the Caribbean’s finest full-service
facilities and an obligatory stop for yachtsmen.
What started as a mosquito eradication programme led to the creation of
one of the most popular and modern marinas in the Caribbean.
Rodney Bay Marina was once one of the island’s largest swamplands
until it was opened up to the sea in the 1970’s. The purpose was to
wipe out the hordes of mosquitoes that threatened to drive the tourists
away from the expanding resort area on Reduit Beach.
Once the drainage work was complete, a perfect lagoon was left and the
authorities realized the real estate and development potential of the
area. Pigeon Island Causeway which joined the small island to the
mainland was created at the same time. This valuable reclaimed acreage
was set aside for hotel development.
In 1979, Archie Del Marez sailed into St. Lucian waters aboard his
Swan sailboat, Avril. Marez, an engineering whiz kid had developed
digital radio back in the 1960’s. His inventions were incorporated into the first pacemakers and Archie Del Marez became a self-made
In the early 1980’s he purchased and developed the land around the
lagoon, sinking US$10 million of his own money into the construction of
a full-service marina.
As a result of Marez’ almost philanthropic gesture, St. Lucia has
become a yachting capital in the Caribbean and an obligatory stop for
all those sailing the region’s archipelago.
For centuries, St. Lucia has been a port of call for sailing vessels.
Indeed, the colonial motto for the island was “statio haud malefidia
carinis”, a safe haven for ships because of its natural harbours such
as the port of Castries and Marigot Bay. With the establishment of
Rodney Bay Marina, the old slogan is even more relevant.
Rodney Bay Marina is an official port of entry with immigration and
customs’ offices. It is a full service facility, 232 berths each with
individual meters for electricity and water. There are hot and cold
showers and toilets ashore. Within the complex there are restaurants,
banks, a supermarket, car rental agencies, taxis and boutiques. The
dry dock facility accommodates up to 120 boats with on-site workshops
for wood, fiberglass, aluminum, stainless steel and bronze. Fuel is
available and there is a well equipped duty free chandlery on site.
The ensemble of great beaches at Reduit and Pigeon Island and the
nearby restaurants and shopping malls situated in Rodney Bay Village,
St. Lucia’s largest leisure centre is an added incentive to stop in St.
Lucia. Most yachts stay for an average of three months, spending
approximately US$5,000 on island, during this period.
Thirty years ago yachting was an occupation for retirees, today a
younger clientele has discovered mom and pop’s secret. They have
brought with them more modern boats and have turned yachting into a
major growth sector. This youthful clientele is more demanding, seeking
a high level of service.
Cuthbert Didier joined the marina as accountant in 1986. Today he is
the general manager. He witnessed the evolution of the industry.
“It’s not just about provisioning anymore, people want more and we
have to think of ourselves as a 380 room hotel,” says Didier.
Thirty five percent of the marina’s business comes from what the
industry calls mega-yachts, vessels of more than 90 foot in length.
These boats are the crème de la crème of the sailing market and they
come to St. Lucia because of the island’s reputation for service.
Indeed, celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Denzil Washington and
Paul Simon are frequent visitors to Rodney Bay Marina.
An additional benefit to the marina is its international profile as the
finish line for the annual trans-Atlantic race, the Atlantic Rally for
Cruisers that sets out from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands at the end
of November. The first yachts arrive in early December in time for the
beginning of the cruising season in the Caribbean.
Archie Del Marez, the founder of Rodney Bay Marina, died in 2005.
However, his St. Lucian legacy thrives. In 2004, the yachting sector
injected EC$140 million into the local economy.