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The Perfect Island … A Yachtsman’s Dream

The story of Calivigny Island is the stuff that dreams are made of.

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Ten years ago, a woman was sailing with friends around the Grenadines. The boat anchored off a deserted island a mile offshore Grenada in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean. The woman swam ashore and discovered a wild place, dense with a tangle of untamed brush but with obvious natural beauty. She inquired about the island in the nearby village of Woburn, and discovered that it was for sale. She telephoned her husband who was in Canada on business and implored him to fly to Grenada. “I have found the perfect island,” she exclaimed. Her husband jumped on the next plane to Grenada to check out Calivigny Island and made up his mind on the spot to purchase it. The two shared a dream that many have but very few are able to realize—that of owning and developing their own island. It did not come easy.

Georges and Martine Cohen along with their family members—their two sons run and manage the island, and Grandma is head of horticulture—have spent the last 10 years enhancing their exquisite piece of paradise, making it not only habitable, but a showpiece. The 81-acre island is perfect in every way: idyllic white beaches, stunning surrounding water and now a wealth of exotic tropical vegetation, flowers and fruit trees. The Cohens bought an entire nursery in Barbados and shipped containers filled with plants and palm trees to Calivigny. In fact, during the years it took to develop the resort, more than 20,000 containers from Europe, the United States and even China found their way to the island.

Initially, the Cohens conceived Calivigny as a family retreat and private getaway. As owners of the charter yacht Atmosphere, a 173-foot Perini Navi, the Cohens, are well versed in the charms of the entire Caribbean—indeed, of most yachting destinations. They have added a French touch to their Caribbean home, one of several they own around the world. They also know charter well. So, while they still enjoy Calivigny as a family retreat, they have recently decided to “charter” the island. It comes with a full staff including two chefs, specializing in French and Asian cuisine, and all the watersports and toys imaginable. The island’s boat fleet includes an 86-foot Hatteras Sportfisher, a 38-foot Munson landing craft, a Hinckley picnic boat and a 32-foot Boston Whaler, plus a VideoRay Explorer ROV (to record diving expeditions), a few lasers and two Yamaha WaveRunners, as well as plenty of snorkeling and diving equipment. Guests also have a gym and spa facilities at their disposal, and there are no limits on the number of supernumeraries who can come from the mainland, be they masseurs, tennis pros, diving instructors or yoga teachers.

The island offers luxurious accommodations for 40 people. The nearly 140,000-square-foot Beach House is French colonial with Balinese flair. It comprises a grand salon, a dining room and 10 opulent suites (each of which would qualify as a “presidential suite” in a reputable international hotel). Another building, called Overhang, with an additional nine suites in six bungalows, will likely be completed by press time.

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The Cohens’ personal story of tenacity, their vision and the story behind the building of the island contribute to Calivigny’s charm. The main house has extraordinary features, such as a self-supporting wooden dome. To help realize their dream, the Cohens turned to a highly specialized building guild, who came from France to assist in woodworking and craftsmanship. The French confreres shared with the Grenadian workforce—250 to 300 people from the main island over time—trade secrets they learned through years of practice and that have been passed from master craftsman to apprentice. For upkeep, the island has its own woodworking and manufacturing shops, in addition to its own power and desalination plants.

Hard work brought successes, but this labor of love wasn’t without its fair share of hardships. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan unexpectedly struck Grenada. The powerful storm destroyed many buildings on the main island and halted all work on Calivigny. Georges Cohen responded to the crisis by sending a private jet filled with rescue supplies, and his financial contributions helped rebuild the fishermen jetty in Woburn, the closest neighbor.

The private island’s proximity to gorgeous Grenada adds to Calivigny’s intrinsic charm. A man and a woman with a dream have created a very special place and they invite you to partake of their vision of the perfect island.

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