by Elizabeth Fontaine
Growing up on frigid Lake Erie, it was probably difficult for Mike Hahn to imagine that he would someday own his own tropical island oasis in the British Virgin Islands. As a child, Hahn and his family were avid boaters, spending the short Minnesota summers motoring about on the water. Sailing around the Caribbean was the last thing on his mind.
Hahn left Minneapolis for the northeast’s Boston College where he majored in finance. After graduation he was drafted for Vietnam, and entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he specialized in small boat search and rescue. Hahn fulfilled his 18-month active-service obligation and immediately applied to the University of Chicago MBA program. Due to the high number of soldiers returning from Vietnam, the university was utilizing rolling admissions, leaving Hahn with around 13 months of downtime after his initial acceptance. Looking for a change of scenery, Hahn headed down to the British Virgin Islands to unwind from his years of school and service. It was not long before he found himself in love with the place.
“Frankly, I only returned to the States because of my obligation to school,” Hahn recalls.
He completed his MBA and signed with CitiCorp, going to New York, and then Miami. In Florida, he purchased a 22-foot day sailer and on the waters of Biscayne Bay, a passion was born that would lead to his very own fantasy island.
Hahn became a regular boater in the Caribbean, sailing on bareboat charters in the 1970s. Hahn was captivated by the largely undiscovered island clusters and reef complexes of Eustatia sound. Throughout the seventies, Hahn observed that certain parts of these previously unchanged islands were slowly developing. In particular, he played close attention to construction of the first structure on the island of Eustatia, the massive “White House.”
Over the years, Hahn fell in love with Eustatia. One afternoon, while cruising through the sound, Hahn turned to his girlfriend at the time and said,
“One day I will come back here and buy this island for you,” he said. She scoffed, and reminded him he didn’t even have money in his pockets for beer that night.
Undaunted, Hahn constantly checked up on Eustatia with every trip to the Caribbean, circling the island from the sea and waiting for the chance to strike. Meanwhile his career with Citicorp took him from Miami to Cleveland and finally to Minnesota. Hahn left Citicorp in 1987 and co-founded Churchill Capital, and later Churchill Financial. Hahn’s move proved lucrative: Both are extremely successful private wealth management and consulting firms.
In the spring of 2000, his persistence finally paid off. On a trip to Virgin Gorda, a good friend at the nearby Bitter End Yacht Club mentioned that Eustatia Island was going to be up for sale. After touring the property he worked out a deal to acquire Eustatia before it was ever listed. Rounding out Hahn’s Caribbean acquisition was the adjacent island of Saba Rock, which includes a small resort. The property required an extensive year-and-a-half-long renovation and the lease mandates that the island must remain “forever undeveloped.”
“The island is totally green. We are all solar, and have been told we have one of the largest privately own solar operations in the world,” he says. “We collect all our rainwater off our roofs, and have large storage tanks with filters, as well as desalination capabilities should we need it, although usually the water stored in the cisterns is sufficient. We have satellite TV, phone and internet capabilities, so that we are connected with the world.”
Renovation work was also done on beaches, walking trails and roads. The gorgeous house sits atop the island, enabling breathtaking 360-degree views. An infinity pool creates a seamless vision of water and sky. There is ample room for outdoor dining and lounging on the grounds as well as a gorgeous master suite and bath, and of course guest rooms for friends and family.
“Outside the house,” Hahn says, “there is plenty to do, in fact there is too much to do. The only anxiety you have down there is waking up and trying to decide what to do that day.”
The beach is ideal for kitesurfing and windsurfing, situated perfectly among Virgin Gorda, Necker Island and Prickly Pear Island, a British National Park. The thriving coral reef makes boating difficult for those unfamiliar with the waters, protecting the the reefs and offering divers a paradise of sunken wrecks to explore. Hahn’s personality and sense of humor is displayed in the names of his fleet of eight vessels. The boats include “Plan A,” (a rowboat filled with sand and flowers), and “Plan B” (a 30-foot center console Pursuit). The Hahns also own a 38-foot New England style lobster boat. Their most recent addition is Hahn’s long-awaited “ideal boat,” a 40-foot Friendship, perfect for cruising.
Reachable within minutes of a number of small resorts and clubs, some of The Hahns’ other more popular destinations include the Bitter End Yacht Club, the Sandbox beach bar on Prickly Pear, the Biras Creek resort restaurant.
“My favorite bar is Saba Rock, that is my local ‘Cheers.’ That and The Cow Wreck Bar on Anegada. In fact if I had no where else to go I would go to one or both of those.”
Currently, Hahn and his family spend eight to ten weeks a year on Eustatia. In addition to the island, the Hahns also split time between Minneapolis and their authentic log home in Vail, Colorado. Owning Eustatia was a dream almost 30 years in the making for Mike Hahn. His vision was clear and resulted in a beautiful sanctuary on which to fish, dive, sail, relax and explore.
Hahn has made sure that theme of the island is lighthearted and free, and an “anything goes” attitude reverberates throughout Eustatia, making it a perfect second home in the Caribbean.