Yachting the Caribbean – opportunities to explore

By Mike Jarrett

2018, November 1: The thrill of riding waves to far-off places; briny spray under blue skies; vistas that satisfy the soul; excitement and challenges of adventure; and, the pleasure of discovery all make sailing worth the while. But, the wonders, aromas and colourful grandeur of the Caribbean make the whole experience therapeutic.

The number of luxury yachts that find a home in Caribbean waters continues to grow. And with the increasing popularity of rallies organized by the World Cruising Club, particularly the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) series, there are opportunities to explore.

St. Maarten

Yachters and yachts need safe and secure harbours with quality of land-based facilities that make for safe, comfortable and pleasurable shore leave for crew and party. Owners and operators of marinas understand this and so, in recent years, as the economic value of this maritime sub-sector has increased, capital investments have been made to upgrade, expand and market their facilities. In this regard, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada have become preferred destinations for a number of international yachting rallies.

Not a race

Although some rallies may include a competition of some sort, it is not a race. Put simply, a yachting rally is essentially a sailing event involving a fleet of sailboats. It offers its participants ‘safe and social cruising’ and an opportunity to cross massive oceans with the strength and synergies derived from being a part of a fleet of friends, all with a common goal and destination.

Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, Saint Lucia

Yachters forge new friendships and chalk up lifelong memories and experiences not just from being at sea but from interacting with peoples and cultures around the world. Their horizons are expanded because of the freedom yachting offers. And rallies facilitate this freedom to discover and explore.

Sailing across an ocean in a relatively small boat (in contrast to an ocean liner) is no mean feat. Indeed, it is an achievement worth celebrating. The end-of-voyage celebratory get-together is therefore essential. In a festive atmosphere, prizes are awarded, old friendships are re-kindled and new ones consolidated at the end-of-voyage party, at the marina.


Marigot Bay , Saint Lucia

The marina extends home-away-from-home beyond the gunwales. The marina provides the setting and immediate environs while the yacht is tethered in its care. However, marina requirements for mega-yachts or superyachts, typically 100 feet up to 400 feet in length, differ from that for the pleasure yachter of under 80 feet length.

“The marina requirements – both in physical demands and atmosphere (read ambiance) for each category are distinctly different,” Rupert Connor of the Luxury Yacht Group wrote in a 2016 article for Portside Caribbean. [PC07-2016].

“Owners and crew of the largest yachts seek a rare combination of seclusion and access. Many owners of the largest yachts depend on the vessel for seclusion, privacy and security. A setting that is both tranquil and beautiful with access to a private airport is exactly the kind of juxtaposition that holds appeal for the largest yachts.”

He observed that owners that preferred berthing in ‘places to be seen’ generally enjoyed the play, party, shopping destinations. Yacht owners who seek isolation and a sport-filled experience tend to select marinas in places renowned for diving, surfing and fishing.

“Beyond the checklists, every yacht owner is seeking a unique experience,” he stated.  In this regard, Rupert Connor recommended that checklists for marina design include the following considerations:

  • Adequate space between vessels to ensure privacy
  • Walk on access at dock. No necessity for tender
  • Lack of accessibility for others: gated, keyed entries, minimal road access privacy
  • Safe for crew, owner, and guests
  • Security for the vessel – particularly during periods of watch
  • ISPS in place
Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

Service quality

While owners and guests may already have find all the luxury they seek on board, the yacht still required maintenance, spare parts, fuel and chandlery services. And crew, because they are hired to deliver a high quality luxury service, expect an equivalent high standard of professionalism and service from marina staff.

A successful marina will be the preferred destination for both owners and crew … and not necessarily in that order. Crew can definitely sway decisions. (He who overrules his captain is a fool.) But, success begins at the marina with an understanding of client needs; impeccable personalized service and the creation of an ambiance within the marina that feels comfortable and safe.

As Rupert Connor suggested, the model for development is a marina that understands the luxury market; provides extraordinary service; and, personalizes each experience.

With this in place, there are opportunities to explore. []

Mike Jarrett, Editor-in-chief