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By Carol Bareuther
There’s no need to go ashore for food when boating in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In fact, the No. 1-ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor since March 2015 out of nearly 400 in the territory is the only one that floats.
Going into its third season, Pizza Pi has built a loyal and ever-growing following. Tara and Alexander (Sasha) Bouis turned their 37-foot 1996-built G.L. Watson-designed North Sea motorsailor into a floating pizzeria – complete with a brick-lined oven with marble stone inside to assure a crisp crust.
Since opening, Pizza Pi has evolved from simply serving pizza to go via a take-out window in the stern to helping to cement the U.S. Virgin Islands as a popular recreational boating destination.
“Increasing costs in both time and money spent at customs and immigration (to travel to the British Virgin Islands), plus the already high fuel prices equals a desire to stay local on boat trips out of St. Thomas or St. John,” Tara Bouis said. “We have a steady following of locals who enjoy our pizza, and we also get an increasing number of visitors from cruise ships and hotels out on day charters. Pizza Pi is the only place in all the Virgin Islands where you can enjoy crystal clear water in a protected cove, snorkel with abundant marine life, and enjoy New York-style pizza made from scratch and served hot and fast from a sailboat.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Bouises and Pizza Pi, which is anchored in Christmas Cove on the western side of Great St. James Island off the eastern end of St. Thomas. In October, the USVI’s Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) conducted a public hearing in response to a citizen complaint. The issue was not so much about the floating pizzeria as it was the potential for a larger party-style barge to follow in Pizza Pi’s wake and disturb the quiet nature of the cove.
“We worked with DPNR to document our self-imposed rules,” Bouis said. “For example: have little or no impact on the nature of the cove, operate only during daylight hours and don’t play loud music.”
Locals spoke strongly in favor of keeping Pizza Pi in Christmas Cove; more than 3,500 signed an online petition of support.
A big part of the community support for Pi comes from the Bouises’ involvement in community events. Pizza Pi is one of the stops on the annual USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run in July and a between- or after-race stop for many St. Thomas Yacht Club sailors and students at the new St. Thomas Sailing Center. This year, the Bouises plan to take part in additional powerboat, SUP and kayak events.
Closer to home, life aboard Pizza Pi has also changed in the past three years. The Bouises remain involved in the business, but have hired crew to keep the hot pizza rolling out seven days a week between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Most importantly, they’ve added an extra special crew member: daughter Fiona, who is now 14 months old.
For more information, visit www.pizza-pi.com, hail on VHF Channel 16 or call (340) 643-4674 (643-GoPi).
Carol Bareuther is a freelance writer in St. Thomas. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read our previous story about Pizza Pi.