Charter boat operator appeals for local customers
For more than half a century charter boat operator Nigel Prescott has taken thousands of convention visitors on water tours around Bermuda.
Now, with the convention season cancelled due to Covid-19, the owner of tour boat company, Tam-Marina, is appealing to locals to keep him afloat through the season.
He hopes to take out residents doing staycations, local companies, and in the winter months wants to play host to special Christmas parties.
“We have reduced the rates tremendously for locals,” he said. “The rates run from $250 an hour for the smaller boat, Boss Lady.”
Boss Lady is for parties of up to ten people, Lady Charlotte, formerly owned by legendary singer Jimmy Buffet can take up to 75, and Lady Tamara has been cleared to carry 150 passengers during Covid-19, about half its usual capacity.
“If people want to dance, we use Lady Tamara, because it has room for a band,” he said.
And he said passengers do not have to worry about fetid air on the boat.
“When the windows are open on the boat, and its moving out on the water you are getting fresh air every ten seconds,” he said.
“On an aircraft, you get fresh air every four minutes, and in a hotel or restaurant it is usually recycled.”
And he said Lady Tamara is covered so they can entertain passengers whatever the weather.
Mr Prescott said commercial boats have received very little assistance from Government after Covid-19.
“I think Government really forgot all about boating as they went to the rescue of the bars and restaurants,” he said. “They forgot that there are more than 100 licensed commercial boats in Bermuda. The Government forgot them entirely.
“When we had the close down, we had to be off the water long before anyone else. How could we do a dinner or cocktail party when we had to be home by 7pm.”
He said Government could help by easing up on some of the licensing requirements and fees for tour boat operators like himself.
“We are hoping they are going to give some of the money back for the boat licensing and liquor licensing, because we have been shut down for so long,” he said. “The liquor licensing is different to restaurants because it is based on the volume of the people we can carry.
“We are paying a very high rate. A hotel, probably has 30 or more bars on the property with all the bars in the suites, bars on the beach, and bars in the main building.
“As long as they are on the same property deed they only need one license. With us if we have three boats we have to have three licenses.
“I think that is unfair. It should be one license to cover all. It makes operating costs extremely high.”
Mr Prescott started in the business in 1969, by building The Gay Venture, Bermuda’s first floating restaurant.
Two years later, when the Fairmont Southampton hotel opened, Mr Prescott ferried then owner and billionaire, Daniel Ludwig, from Hamilton to Southampton for the ribbon cutting. He came to rely heavily on convention business from the hotel. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Bermuda tourism was booming, he did 300 to 400 cruises with convention passengers, per year.
“Tourism was totally different then,” he said. “It was fantastic in those days. Everyone worked together. We had a Calypso atmosphere going on the island and a lot of Calypso bands. They seem to have disappeared now.”
These days, under normal circumstances, he does 30 to 40 cruises a year with convention passengers. “Now, with Covid-19, we are down to none,” he said. “We have found it very quiet. We used to spend most of our time doing conventions, and there are none now. We lost quite a lot of parties, and even a wedding last week. When things will restart, who knows. We never imagined Bermuda would be shut down like it was.”
Mr Prescott said he and his staff are all Bermudian. His son Jonathan has followed him into the business and pilots the Lady Charlotte.
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