The 8-acre (32,000 m2) island was uninhabited until 1937, when author Robb White and newly married wife Rosalie “Rodie” Mason settled on the island. Originally having settled on the nearby island of Tortola, White had found the insect problem to be unbearable, and spent weeks sailing during the day searching for a new island home.
The Whites spent three years on Marina, hacking a cistern out of the rough, rocky land and shipping in enough concrete to build a small, sturdy house. These adventurous years – during which the couple weathered a hurricane, fended off a Nazi skipper, aided Jewish refugees, and survived a surprise visit from White’s mother-in-law – are detailed in his memoirs In Privateer’s Bay (1939), Our Virgin Island (1953), and Two on the Isle (1985).
White was recalled to military duty when World War II broke out; he flew as a pilot, fought near his birthplace in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944), and served on battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers; he earned eight medals and retired with the rank of lieutenant commander after five years of service.
At the same time as White’s recall, he and Rodie lost Marina Cay; the British government had never issued them a license to hold the land and now formally refused, stating that White’s published writings had misrepresented conditions in the British Virgin Islands.
Eugene Tonkonogy took ownership of the island after he persuaded the British colonial governor to grant him a license. He used the island as a private retreat and also operated it as a tourist resort. Tonkonogy died in 2001.
In the early 2000s Jose Cuervo Tequila leased the island, referring to it as Cuervo Nation. The island was used as a promotional tool, hosting promotional events at the island, and using it as a location to host contest winners. Cuervo Nation and Cuervo Man were featured on This American Life, episode 205 "Plan B".
Today, Marina Cay is home to Pusser's Restaurant and Villa Rentals; the house Robb and Rodie built serves as a reading lounge for the modest tourist complex. It was the setting for the (true life) story romanticised in Two on the Isle (ISBN 0709025734) by Robb White.
- Douglas, Martin (January 15, 2001). "Eugene Tonkonogy, Investor And Adventurer, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
- TAL Plan B
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