Sometimes you just need pizza.
It is a truth so universally acknowledged that there are entire corporations dedicated to delivering it directly to your face. And those moments when you require it and it is not readily available are very sad, indeed. It can lead to rash decisions—for instance, eating a piece out of the trash at 2 a.m. that you’d foolishly thrown away hours earlier.
A few years ago, Tara and Sasha Bouis had such a moment. They were anchored in their favorite bay near St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After years of living in the islands, this had become their favorite place to watch the sun set. Everything was perfect but one thing was missing: pizza.
At the time the couple was working on guest charter boats, sailing out to sea for weeks at a time, Sasha as the captain and Tara as the chef. They had just returned home and were too tired to cook or take a dinghy to shore to track down food. So they spent the night eating microwaved popcorn and fantasizing about how great it would be if there was a pizzeria nearby on the water.
Thus was born the idea to build a pizzeria on a boat—despite the fact that they hadn’t heard of it being done before, and neither of them knew how to cook a pie. When pizza calls for you, you must answer.
“Pizza speaks to everybody,” said Tara, who is 32 and beautiful in a way that might be intimidating were it not for her sunny, disarming smile. “Food trucks had become a part of everyday life, food boats had not. We knew that the concept was strange, but thought it could work because the food is very recognizable.”
It was just another whimsical turn in the couple’s career path. Just 10 years ago Sasha, now 38, was an MIT graduate toiling away in a cubicle at Standard & Poors, where he worked as a computer programmer for five years. “I thought I was living the dream but quickly got tired of it,” he explained. His lunch became a means of escape. “I was walking farther and farther away from my office on my lunch break, and I walked past a sailing school and thought, ‘I wonder if I could get a job there?’” He could and he did. Growing up, his father taught him to sail on Long Island, and Sasha also competitively sailed while at MIT.
He ditched Manhattan in 2005 and moved to Puerto Rico where he spent a year or two working on sail boats. Eventually he made his way over to the British Virgin Islands to teach sailing at a summer camp. At the camp he met Tara, a special education elementary school teacher from Indiana who was spending the summer teaching SCUBA to kids. They married in 2012.
In the meantime, the two spent eight years working on yacht charters together, sailing around the BVIs. (A boat charter is basically a group of people that hires a boat to ferry them wherever they want to go for however long they want.) Sasha captained the yacht while Tara was its gourmet chef, producing high-end food that made her a two-time winner in the BVI Charter Yacht Show Culinary Contest.
It was after one of these charters that the idea for their food truck/boat was born. The couple began scouting out boats, and on the island of Tortola they chanced upon a 37 foot sailing/motorboat called Pagan. Designed by G.L. Watson and built in Sheffield, England, it had been abandoned for 10 years. Most of the wood interior had been devoured by termites but the aluminum hull was intact.