Theme Song: “Some Beach,” Blake Shelton
Max and Emma, the couple I hired to build and run the resort, were in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, searching for the perfect property to build on. I couldn’t make the trip, so I relied on their eyes and ears. Then the phone rang: Max and Emma had fallen in love with one particular island.
Home in Michigan, I wasn’t so sure. I had my heart set on a picturesque white sand beach with towering palm trees. This was a mangrove island without a beach. “Max, I love the idea of an island,” I said, “but Americans will be hesitant to pay big money to stay at a luxury resort without a beach. I won’t buy the island unless we can figure out a way to have a beach.”
“There are nine acres of land,” Max replied. “The water is crystal-clear aquamarine, there is lots of coral, starfish and tropical fish everywhere, and it is wonderful for swimming. The island is only eighteen minutes by boat to Bocas town, and it is private with no tourists next door. No loud music. No trash. The protected bay is perfect for over-the-water villas with little tide difference. And,” he paused, “Emma and I have a good feeling.”
Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I was beginning to think this island was a possibility. But the name of the island was Navalo, and I didn’t like it. So when Max said we could name the island anything we liked, that might have been the tipping point. I was downright excited!
The idea of a private island resort was enticing. Gilligan’s Island and all of that. Don’t get me wrong, we still needed a beach, but it didn’t need to be day one. Maybe we could build it slowly over time or dream up an out-of-the-box unconventional beach. We eventually identified the following possibilities.
Possibility #1: Manmade Beach
Near the proposed resort is a great spot for a beach with a sandy bottom swimming area. And white sand is just a few feet below the water’s surface all around the island. So we thought we could simply pump the sand in from the ocean bottom and remove a few mangrove trees to build a small manmade beach.
After doing some research, though, we found out the mangroves are protected, and sand cannot be pumped without a permit. The only possibility for a manmade beach is an expensive environmental study that may or may not be approved. If approved, we would be required to replace every mangrove tree removed with ten new mangrove trees elsewhere on the island. In addition, a permit is required to pump the sand, and it needs to be pumped from a deeper area in the ocean.
Building a manmade beach was the most obvious solution, but considering the expense and uncertainty of gaining approval we started looking for a better option.
Possibility #2: Floating Beach
My son-in-law Josh is one of the most creative people I know and this time he came up with a doozey. “If none of that works,” he said, “what about creating a floating beach?”
Along with his suggestion Josh sent a link to a company that actually markets a floating beach. Here it is: http://www.dutchdocklands.com/Development/Floating-Beach.
Since the company is in the Netherlands, Max reached out to them in his native language to see if their solution would be a fit for us. These guys are for real and what a cool concept. Can you imagine building an entire hotel on a floating island? That is the kind of thing they are up to.
According to the website, “A floating artificial beach offers an alternative for areas/cities where there are no beaches, where land is sinking or where sand shortages present drawbacks for traditional land reclamation. The beach is completely floating and just as comfortable as a normal beach, ecologically justified and erosion free.”
Unfortunately, their initial price estimate came in at over a million dollars for our proposed floating beach. There goes that idea, but it doesn’t mean we have completely ruled it out. This solution is environmentally friendly, and the cool factor is over the top. So we’ll keep the idea in mind in hopes that we can find a way to lower the price.
Possibility #3: Over-the-Water Sandbox Beach
It wasn’t long after the floating beach idea sank that Max floated the idea of an over-the-water “sandbox” beach. What an ingenious idea! It is simple, and we think the guests will love it. What grown-up wouldn’t want to play in a sandbox the size of a 747 fuselage?
Envision a large sandbox, maybe 30 X 150 feet, with beach loungers, a gazebo, and several potted native flowering palm trees, and an ice-cold margarita. Another way to think about it (the sandbox – not the margarita) is a 4,500 square foot deck (a large 12 X 30 deck on a home is 360 square feet), elevated four feet over the water with a foot of sand piled on top. That is 166 cubic yards of sand – 9 dump truck loads!
I have searched the internet and can’t find anything like this in the world. It might be because a cubic yard of sand weighs more than a ton, so the 30- X 150-foot structure would need to support more than 166 tons of sand! It might also be because there isn’t another moron stupid enough to try.
Remember, it needs to be elevated four feet above the ocean at low tide. Another challenge is water drainage. Remember your sandbox as a kid after a heavy rain? Sand is very fine, so you can’t just drill holes in the bottom of the structure; the sand will run out.
All in all a sandbox beach is intriguing. It may be cost prohibitive and an engineering nightmare, but if we could find a way to pull it off it might be our best option. Like the floating beach, it also has the benefit of being environmentally friendly. As of today, this option is in first place.
My commitment was not to buy an island unless we could figure out a way to have a beach. The good news is we have two or three decent possibilities. The bad news is we can’t afford any of them. We have not given up on the idea of a beach. As a matter of fact, we are more determined than ever to have one – it will just take some time.
We will continue research on the viability of a sandbox beach. The more we think about it, the more we love this idea, as it would likely be one of the first anywhere. I can see it now in the Guinness Book of World Records: “The World’s Largest Sandbox.” If this idea ever becomes a reality, I think we’ll name it the “Sand Box Beach Club.”
With the beach issue resolved (I am an optimist), I decided to make an offer on the island.
Question: What do you think, was I too optimistic? Got a better idea than the sandbox beach? I’m wide open!