“The first time I came to St Kitts almost a decade ago, I knew it was something special,” says Darby. "Still relatively untouched by mass tourism, the land had a real physicality to it. Lush green hillsides and rainforests, miles of unspoilt shoreline and beaches, and a volcano; it really took your breath away. The people on this island are so friendly and it has a unique charm. Having sailed in the Caribbean for many years, I knew that there was a need for something new and St Kitts gave me the chance to offer it. It was exactly what I had been looking for in a new project; a blank canvas of 2,500 acres, beautiful and varied scenery, safe and extremely well-located."
Fast forward a few years and while this Kittitian cape is still largely untamed and beautifully wild, Darby has helped it evolve into a thriving luxury hub. As well as desirable real estate and the Caribbean's most sophisticated superyacht marina for yachts up to 67m, Christophe Harbour boasts a state-of-the-art customs house, members' beach club, marina village and lively beach bar, with an 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course in the pipeline and the Caribbean's first Park Hyatt set to open in November 2017.
Around the same time that Darby set eyes on St Kitts for the first time, he made the step into superyacht ownership with Andromeda La Dea. "We had had a nice 70-foot sailboat called Luna Danns for a number of years but as our family grew, so did our need for a larger boat to accommodate us all," he says. Built over 25 years ago by serial owner Tom Perkins – the man behind the legendary Maltese Falcon – Andromeda is a classic, whose graceful profile and elegant interior belie her age and the fact that she has been around the world twice.
"Andromeda is a great yacht," says Darby. "We have an incredible, enthusiastic crew and have had many memorable trips on board, both in the Caribbean and the Med. Honestly though, we don't get to spend nearly as much time as we would like on board, so we also charter Andromeda out. "
One of The Marina at Christophe Harbour's USPs is that it is a protected hurricane hole, meaning that vessels are sheltered from prevailing winds, choppy seas and the ravaging effects of storm season. In a region where tropical storms and hurricanes are sadly not uncommon, this shelter is often vital. Indeed, this summer, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria swept through the Caribbean, causing untold devastation to so many islands in the space of mere weeks. Only good fortune, says Darby, saw St Kitts and Nevis escape the hurricanes unscathed. "Irma and Maria wreaked havoc across the region," he says. "St Kitts and Nevis were very fortunate to have sustained only minimal damage, but so many of our island neighbours were not as lucky. Across the Caribbean everyone is pulling together to help communities get back on their feet. The Marina at Christophe Harbour has been able to remain open and available to provide fuel for vessels in need as well as berthing services for those displaced by the storms. We've also partnered with the charity YachtAid Global to be their regional base of operations to help our neighbours in need."
For Darby, the best way to support the islands and communities affected is by continuing to visit. "Tourism and yachting are central to region's economy and to enabling these islands to rebuild," says Darby. "The beauty of travelling by superyacht is that you have everything you need on board and are not entirely dependent on on-island infrastructure. You can craft an itinerary around beautiful beaches, bays and areas that have not been badly affected. By spending time and money in the region, you are helping it to recover. There is still so much to see and do, the Caribbean Sailing Association have already announced that the region’s planned regattas and sailing events are expected to proceed this season without interruption, and many of the islands have thankfully sustained little or no hurricane damage."
St Kitts' location in the centre of the West Indies — around 40nm from St Barths, 48nm from Antigua and 44nm from St Maarten – makes it ideally located for both short and longer Caribbean itineraries and over the years, Darby and family have made the most of their surroundings. "We love to visit Anguilla and can't wait to go back," Darby says. "The pace of life is different there – much more relaxed and rustic – and the beaches are really beautiful. Martinique is another island that is a bit under-the-radar but worth visiting. It is a natural beauty – rugged and volcanic. Antigua mixes great beaches with lively bars and restaurants, and of course, there is always-chic St Barths, another favourite of ours; it has a great energy to it and is a lot of fun."
For those looking for a destination with diversity and soul, Darby feels that it would be difficult to beat the Caribbean. Every island has its own personality, culture and natural wonders to discover and explore. "It is a yachting paradise," he says. "You can sail from island to island, dropping anchor where you choose. You can take the tender ashore to sip rum cocktails at beach bars, eat at world-class restaurants and people watch at trendy hotspots, or you can find a deserted bay, snorkel on the pristine reefs, laze on your aft deck and then watch the sunset with family and friends in complete privacy. The Caribbean is the ultimate superyacht backdrop."