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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesOff Island Profile: Pat and Staci Kosick

Off Island Profile: Pat and Staci Kosick

"Never ruin a good story with the truth," says Pat Kosick. "I’d rather be a liar than a bore."

While that may not be entirely true, it is indicative of the former boat captain’s embrace of life.

Kosick is anything but a bore, as his adventures reveal. The truth is far more interesting than any story even he could fabricate – it is the odyssey he and his wife, Staci, took three years ago that found them taming an acre and a half of rain forest into a rough-hewn jungle retreat deep in the mountains of Dominica, today known as "Roots, The Natural Place to Stay."

Kosick, longtime St. Thomas charter boat captain, and Staci, a professional chef and photographer from New Mexico, who also has spent many years on St. Thomas, decided to abandon the charter boat business to explore life on terra firma. They had an idea.

They sailed out of St. Thomas on their 35-foot former charter yacht, the Ike Witt, and headed south, bound for Bocas Del Toro, Panama, where they planned to open a small hotel.

They took a leisurely route, stopping at every island on the way, until an unlikely source – a Dominican customs agent – permanently adjusted their sails.

Kosick says, "The customs agent at Dominica asked us where we were headed, and we told her Panama to open a bed and breakfast."

The way Kosick tells it, it goes like this:
Customs agent: "Why Panama?"
Kosick: "Because property and living are cheap there."
Customs agent: "It’s cheaper here."
Kosick: "Labor is cheap there."
Customs agent: "It’s cheaper here."
Kosick: "The people are friendly in Panama."
Customs agent: "They’re friendlier here. You should stay here."

So, Kosick says, "Staci and I looked at each other, and the next thing you knew, we were looking at property."

He says a young man drove them around. "We asked if he was a real estate agent," Kosick relates, "and he answered, ‘if you say so’. We came down one hill – there are hundreds – and we saw a river at the bottom of it, and we knew this was it, a rain forest with a river. We’d fallen in love."

The property, on the Bamboo River, is a mile and a half off the grid, which suits their goal to live off the land as much as possible.

"It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life," Kosick says, "clearing jungle. The first morning wielding machetes Staci and I came back at noon with bleeding hands."

We hired two of the local Kalinago Indians to work with us, and we began building pathways, a major undertaking, because there is so much rain that the mud becomes a virtual enemy, says Kosick. "It’s such hard work, but it’s so rewarding to look and think I did that with my own hands. Wow."

In fact, in a recent interview on St. Thomas, Kosick says he has had four days off in the last three years, excluding his current brief trip.

"Because we had no electricity, all the units were built using handsaws and machetes," he says.

The result of all this industry is a unique kind of luxury, not for the faint of heart or curious. It’s living in a rain forest enclave surrounded by a river, birds, frogs, the sounds of nature to lull you to sleep, hikes to take, waterfalls to explore, and food, yes, luxurious gourmet food prepared by Staci, a French trained chef of endless imagination and enthusiasm.

The guests stay in traditional Kalinago huts called "Kai Pais," some accommodating families with modest kitchen facilities, though Kosick says once the guests taste Staci’s cooking, the idea of anything else flies out the window.

The units have vessel sinks, solar hot water showers, and ice boxes. Kosick says they compost everything and recycle everything possible. The units are powered by 12 volt lights, have fans, and inverters to charge camera batteries or laptops

Staci bakes her own bread daily in the oven Pat built from clay from the Bamboo River. Trained in France as a chef, she has created her own style of jungle cuisine. She grows most vegetables, fruits, and spices in her own garden. The soil is so fertile that crops just burst out of the earth, full of flavor and nutrients, and 100% organic.

"I am so grateful for the Kalinagos’ generosity in sharing information with us,” Staci says in an excerpt from the Roots’ jungle website. "Each day the workers would show up bringing us some new fruit, or plant, or flower for us to plant. I now have vanilla beans, gingers, African basilica, cilantro, sages of many forms, lemon grasses, bananas of various types, bay leaf trees. It is absolutely wonderful to be cooking and run to the gardens for some of these incredible spices, fruits, and vegetables."

Kosick raves about his wife’s cooking – "homemade ice cream, almond crusted mahi-mahi, eggplant dishes, salads, banana pancakes" – which she prepares while he acts as tour guide, taking guests on adventures, trekking over waterfalls, hiking: the possibilities are almost limitless.

Both Kosicks have an easy repartee with guests in their land-locked little Eden, a talent they’ve developed over years of chartering, embellished with Pat’s natural bent for tale-telling.

"Lots of our guests are former boat charterers, friends from St. Thomas," Kosick says. "A lot of it is word-of-mouth. We have guests from all over the planet."

"Capt. Pat," as he was known on St. Thomas, is accepted by the local townspeople. When he ventures down their way, he says he has gone from "the white guy with the boat," to just one of the guys. "They are the sweetest people I’ve ever met," he says.

For detailed information on Roots check out the website: http://www.rootsjungleretreat.com/

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