WATCH | Tara and Sasha Bouis are living the Caribbean dream. The owners of Pizzi Pi, a New York-style pizza boat, met in the British Virgin Islands after quitting their jobs in the U.S. ten years ago. Since then the couple opened their dream business: a pizza boat in paradise.
The couple were on parallel paths in 2007. Sasha, an MIT grad, left his lucrative Wall Street career behind after getting the feeling that there might be something more to life than the 9-to-5 cubicle routine. He met Tara, a former Anderson, Indiana, school teacher, while she was teaching scuba lessons and living in the British Virgin Islands.
They quickly fell in love and decided that St. Thomas is where they wanted to settle down. For the next eight years they worked together operating a charter yacht business.
One night, the couple was watching the sunset on the boat and got hungry. They were craving New York-style pizza. Their only option was to head back to dock and hop in the car to search for food, which would have taken at least an hour.
Food trucks were taking off in the states like wildfire. Why don't we have anything like that in the water. We have so much tourism in the USVI ...why couldn't a pizza boat work?
That's when the pizza boat idea came to fruition. Sasha looked at Tara and said "Wouldn't it be great if there was a boat right out here where we could pick up a nice, hot, New York-style pizza?" Tara agreed.
They immediately started looking for the perfect boat. "We couldn't afford anything nice, so we figured if we could find an old, abandoned boat and fix it up to our specifications, it would be exactly what we needed," Sasha said.
Three years into their search they found the right one. The boat had been abandoned in Antigua for 10 years. "While it was abandoned, termites moved in and ate the entire interior. It left us with a perfect blank slate" the couple told us. So they spent their life's savings on buying and transforming it into a commercial kitchen.
Tara and Sasha did all the work themselves. "We didn't have any experience in building boats or running a restaurant. So, we watched tons of YouTubes," Sasha remembered. Tara did all the wood-working, while Sasha put his MIT degree to use and was in charge of engineering.
It took them two years to transform the old boat into a floating restaurant.
Pizza Pi opened for business in November 2014 and the Bouis' quickly began to reap the rewards of all their hard work. The floating pizzeria in Christmas Cove quickly became a hit with tourists and locals.
In its first year of business, Pizza Pi was rated best of all 195 restaurants in St. Thomas, according to TripAdvisor. Word got around the three big U.S.-owned islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John) that the pizza was worth the boat trip.
The Pizza Pi boat doesn't dock. So the only way to get to it is by boat.
"We're not on a dock. You can't walk to us. Normal people shouldn't swim to us. You get to us by boat," Tara told us. But a few people actually have swam the mile from shore just to get their hands on a pie.
Kayakers also make their way over.
We are boat access only because we really want to build the USVI marine tourism. We want tourists to come down and have a reason to get out on the water.
"A lot of people have questioned, 'Well, why are you only for boaters?'" Sasha and Tara hope that people will come experience the natural beauty of the U.S. Virgin Islands and stop at Christmas Cove, where there's great pizza.
The Bouis usually sell between 20 and 70 pizzas a day. The regulars are the boat captains who bring their guests over to Pizza Pi after a nice morning or afternoon out on the water.
The menu changes seasonally. "We have our winter, spring and summer menus, and some of our specialty pizzas got a little bit weird." The spring menu has some unique choices, like the carbonara with local Caribbean lobster.
The fish population in Christmas Cove have fattened up in the three years since Pizza Pi opened for business. That's because everyone chucks their leftover crust in the water to watch the feeding go down. It's like a free-for-all.
The boat serves alcohol for partiers who want shots and a slice.
Tara had to hire help to keep up with demand. There's now a crew of seven "Pizza Pi Girls."
The crew rocks Pizza Pi swag that they also sell to satisfied customers.
Tara brings her 15-month-old daughter Fiona on the boat with her a few days a week. The local customers call her the "Pizza Baby." "She loves coming out. She chatters with the guests and she waves to people," Tara explained.
Sasha and Tara chuckled when they thought of what it's going to be like for Fiona when she's older. "I look at her and I'm like, 'What are you going to tell your friends when you get older? You grew up on a pizza boat?'"
Tara and the Pizza Pi crew have a good time on the job. After all, slinging pizzas in paradise isn't exactly the worst job you can have.
I think we have a good thing going here. We've got a family, a great business, we live in paradise. I'm not sure I'd change anything.
So what's next for the Bouises? Keep on keeping on, right? For now, the family of three is pretty content with the lifestyle they've created.