There’s nothing like the brisk sea air to work up a powerful appetite. Now, if you’re cruising the waters off St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, there’s no need to go ashore for something scrumptious to eat. Instead, plot a course to Pizza Pi VI, a 37ft 1996-build G.L. Watson-designed North Sea motor-sailor turned floating pizzeria, most often located in Christmas Cove, off Great St. James Island.
The brains behind this ocean-going version of a food truck are Alexander and Tara Bouis. Alexander, a New York City native with a degree from MIT in mechanical engineering, and Tara, a special education teacher from the land-locked state of Indiana, met in 2006 when they worked together at the SeaTrek BVI summer camp. The two spent the next eight years working together on crewed charter cats in the BVI with Alexander as captain and Tara as chef. Along the way, not only did Tara become two-time winner in the BVI Charter Yacht Show Culinary Contest, but the couple discovered they wanted to continue cruising yet make their business mark in a wholly unique way. That is, create a destination where the theme is: Sail Fast, Eat Local.
The Bouis’ cast about for the most important ingredient in their plan: a boat with the potential for a restaurant size galley. They discovered the formerly named Pagan at Nanny Cay Marina and bought her in July 2012. The vessel had sat on the hard in Antigua for eight years and was nearly gutted of its wood interior by termites. Yet, the aluminum hull remained sturdy and strong offering the perfect platform for a pizzeria afloat.
“We saw the boat as an amazing blank canvas,” says Alexander. “Something that had a good foundation, not too big and customizable.”
The Bouis’ worked both on the hard and while afloat to rebuild the vessel’s entire interior. Inside, they constructed a commercial galley extraordinaire in what was once the aft cabin. Here, ready for Tara to make mouth-watering pizzas is a sliding shelf that stores a 260-pound heavy duty mixer, a Baker’s Pride brick-lined oven complete with a marble stone inside to assure a crisp crust that is big enough to make four raw-dough made-from-scratch pizzas every fifteen minutes, and a spacious refrigerated prep station for all the tasty toppings. Outside, the most remarkable structural change is a large hatch with a welded lip set into the transom for counter service pizza pick-up. No one can miss it. The boat’s name, Pi, in the shape of the Greek symbol π, is lit up with LED lights at night. This moniker takes its name from a cross between pizza in New York known as ‘pizza pie’ and Alexander’s love of math.
“It’s a universally-loved food,” Tara explains. “It’s easy to make, but hard to make well.”
To create a really good-tasting product, the Bouis undertook an intensive four day instructional course at Goodfella’s Pizza School in Staten Island, New York. Plus, they sampled their way through ten of the best pizzerias in New York City picking up tips, tricks, techniques and trendy ideas for toppings along the way. Tara plans to offer a core menu of half a dozen pizzas, including Alexander’s favorite ‘Plain Jane + Pepperoni’ as well as her preferred called ‘Sweet Home Indiana’ (sausage, corn, white sauce and arugula). There will also be daily specials that make use of seasonal produce such as fresh herbs, locally-grown tomatoes and ripe tropical fruits.
“Our goal is to anchor in Christmas Cove five days out of seven,” says Alexander. “This location creates a great destination for day boaters passing through to St. John and the BVI as well as charter yachts on their first night out from Charlotte Amalie to stop for a quick lunch or dinner. We also plan to be available for parties and special events.”
Cruisers can check for daily specials via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then call in their order via VHF Channel 16 or cellphone at (340) 643 GoPi (4674).
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.