Around 32 nautical miles from St Barths lies St Kitts and Nevis, an island nation that, for the past few years, has been undergoing an evolution of identity. St Kitts in particular has been quietly maturing into a high-end destination that will hold its own against its better-known Caribbean neighbours.

Central to the island’s transformation is Christophe Harbour. Set across 2,500 acres of verdant land on St Kitts’ south-eastern peninsula, it has been slowly blossoming over the past eight years into the established beginnings of a dynamic community that will be key to drawing high-end tourists to the island.

“Before I came to St Kitts for the first time, I had no idea what I would find,” says the man behind Christophe Harbour, developer Buddy Darby. “But the minute I stepped foot on the island, I knew it was something else. The thing about this island is it has a real physicality to it: jungle, pristine beaches and a volcano, and the Kittitians are the nicest people.” This was also a market that Darby understood. As a yacht owner himself (the 56.7m Perini Navi S/Y Andromeda La Dea), he had already spent a lot of time in St Barths, Anguilla and Antigua, and knew that there was room for something new.

As someone with sailing in his blood, Darby knew that the heart of this new community was always going to be the marina. Carved out of an old salt pond, The Marina at Christophe Harbour is a boater’s dream. Benefiting from the breakwater’s natural reef, no tides and sheltered by the looming mountain that protects the bay from the prevailing wind, the marina avoids the choppiness of more open mooring spots such as the notoriously choppy St Barths.

After dredging more than 382,000 cubic metres of earth from the pond, the initial phase of the marina was opened in February 2015, offering the first 23 state-of-the-art berths for yachts between 45m and 67m and a fuel dock. Services include in-slip fuelling, WiFi, black water pump out, daily refuse collection, VIP clearance for yachts and private aircraft, access to a nearby private jet terminal, 24-hour security with a single, controlled access point, concierge services and on-site transportation. When the marina is completed it will have 300 berths, 60 of which will be able to accommodate yachts up to 91m.

One of the marina’s real USPs is that all berths are offered as freehold rather than leasehold. To date they’ve sold nine slips out of the 23 available, with four of the buyers being non-yacht owners. Add to this the citizenship by investment benefits of St Kitts (if you buy a piece of property for more than USD 400,000 you qualify to apply for Kittitian citizenship, a passport that enables visa-free travel to around 130 countries) and investing in a berth starts to make real sense.

Darby is a builder of long-term communities not resorts, so the marina is only one part of the development. They have been granted permission to build 2,000 homes across the land, but Darby says the likelihood is that the number will be significantly smaller than this as he wants to ensure that everywhere feels private, unique and natural. Since much of St Kitts remains undeveloped, in contrast to many Caribbean islands, Darby is committed to ensuring that the charm that comes with this stays unchallenged.

"The minute I stepped foot on the island, I knew it was something else." - Buddy Darby, Christophe Harbour

He stresses that when you have project such as this, one that is realistically a 25-year or more venture, the value is in creating a cohesive community. “I try and lead by example with the public buildings that we do,” he says. “The best I can do is take a public building and design it well, use really good materials and give people something to imitate.”

Architect John Haley has been integral to the ‘old Caribbean soul meets New-World luxury’ of Christophe Harbour’s aesthetic. The Pavilion Beach Club, for example, melds the colonial feel of shutters, indigenous stone walls and open-air space with strong prints, polished woods, metals and an incredible infinity pool that looks as if it seamlessly flows into the sea. Christophe Harbour’s beach bar SALT Plage, also Haley’s work, has become an upmarket social hub on the island for visitors, Christophe Harbour residents and locals. The embodiment of the barefoot luxury that Darby is striving for, its centrepiece is a pier stretching 25m into the bay with 1,450sqft for docking tenders and loungers and hammocks to watch the sunset.

“You have to give owners a reason to get off their boat,” says Darby. “Getting me off of my boat, where I have my chef, my food and my crew, always takes some persuading. SALT Plage will be a place to watch the sunset, have a drink, maybe a snack, meet some people and then go back to your yacht in the marina.”

The marina village is part of the next stage of Christophe Harbour, with its completion aimed for the Caribbean season at the end of 2016, alongside the Park Hyatt that is under construction (and will be finished in early 2016) and the Tom Fazio golf course. Part of phase one is a customs house, which will provide space for offices, marina services and fitness and crew facilities. Along the pier there will be the marina village: retail shops, residences, restaurants and cafes with narrow pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly side streets that wind up into the surrounding hillsides.

It has been well noted that the concept of luxury is changing. Superyacht owners are searching out new destinations that offer the services as well as the soul, and even at this early stage of bloom, Christophe Harbour looks well placed to offer them what they need. And if Darby’s passion and vision are anything to go by, it will only get better with time.

The full article originally appeared in Issue 17 of The Superyacht Owner. To read it in its entirety, subscribers can click here. To subscribe click here. Owners and potential owners are eligible for a complimentary subscription.

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