Real Work, Real Life

Charter Fishing and Tugboats

January 24, 2024 Emily Sampson Episode 46
Real Work, Real Life
Charter Fishing and Tugboats
Show Notes Transcript

On the week's episode of Real Work, Real Life I'm talking with Ed, a merchant mariner who works on tug boats and captains a charter fishing boat, the Rita B, in his off time. We talk a lot about general life in the maritime industry and also get into all the details of working as a charter captain. It can be great gig for passionate anglers who love active work on the water and meeting lots of new people you might never meet otherwise. Because it’s seasonal in our area, most captains either have another full time job or do something else in the winter, so it can pair well with winter-only work, or for people that have a lot of time off from their primary work. If you’re in the southern Maine area and looking for a charter fishing adventure, I can tell you that you’re in good hands with Ed.

Want to go fishing with Ed? https://www.mainecharterboat.com/

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Ed Charter Captain

[00:00:00] Welcome to real work real life, where I talked to real people about what they do for work and what that means for their lives. Today, I'm talking with ed, a merchant Mariner who works on tugboats and captains, a charter fishing boat. The Rita be in his off time. We talk a lot about general life in the maritime industry, and also get into all the details of working as a charter captain. It can be a really great gig for passionate anglers who love active work on the water. And enjoy meeting lots of new people. 

You might never meet otherwise. Because it's seasonal in our area. Most captain to either have another full-time job. Or do something else in the winter. So it can pair really well with people who have, you know, winter only jobs that they're interested in. Or for people that have a lot of time off in their primary work. If you're in the Southern Maine area and looking for a charter fishing adventure, I can tell you that you're in good hands with ed. You can find the link to his company in the show notes. 

And at the end of the episode, So let's get into it. 

Emily: Thank you so [00:01:00] much for being here, Ed.

Ed: Yeah, happy to be here.

Emily: So what do you do for work?

Ed: Well my full time job is I'm a merchant mariner, but I also am a charter captain. That's primarily what I'm going to be talking about today. So I work on a tug and barge moving a chemical called caustic soda. Three weeks on, three weeks off. We're pretty much making stops in almost every port between New York and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

But in my 3 weeks off in the summer, I run fishing charters and I would eventually maybe like to make that my full time gig and among the charter captain community. It's very common. Probably more common than not for it to be a side job. A lot of firefighters because they have sort of a similar schedule to a merchant mariner where they're like, fully on at a firehouse.

And then fully off for several days. We'll run fishing charters. In fact, the boat that I run now. Was owned by a firefighter as a charter boat in Connecticut before. And some of my other friends who run [00:02:00] charters are firefighters as well. or other people, maybe their spouse has more of a, a full time job kind of thing for benefits, especially that allows them or, you know, like, seasonal work.

Some people deliver heating oil in the winter plus, no, that type of thing.

Emily: Oh, yeah, of course. That, that makes a lot of sense. Just the limited time that you can do charters, especially up here. But I had just a really quick aside. What is caustic soda used for?

Ed: Caustic soda is a fancy word for lye. So it's a very strong base. It's basically Drano and it's very heavy and you don't want to get it in your eye. You don't want to get it on your skin, but if you did get it on your skin and just wash it off, it's really not that big a deal. But it's very, very heavy.

It's, much more dense than water. Like, our tanks are only, I think, 67 percent full when we're floating at our deepest allowable mark. 

Emily: interesting. That sounds like a cargo issue from cargo class.

Ed: Yeah, we got people who figure all that out.

Emily: All the math. [00:03:00] So, so stepping back a little bit, how did you get into this field? What interested you about it initially? Ah!

Ed: really interested in fishing. Obsessive outdoorsman. At my high school, there was a teacher who for a summer gig decided that he would buy a boat.

What we call a party boat, which is a little bit different than charter. A party boat is. Also known as a head boat where people pay by the head like tickets. So you'd be fishing with other people who you don't know and on a charter boat, it's more like a private event center, kind of compared to a restaurant.

So it's typically 6 passengers or fewer on a charter boat, and it's just 1 group at a time. But anyway, so he, he had this party boat called the Indian 2. He bought it in the eighties and every summer he would have students from my high school would work for him. And eventually he grew and he had a dinner cruise boat and a whale watch boat as well.

And so it was just kind of this [00:04:00] known thing of people from my school district, which is about a half hour from the ocean to be working on these boats and. Invariably, people would go to Maine Maritime after that and say, hey, I like working on boats. So there are also several, it was like a pipeline into the marine industry, just working on these little boats.

But we had a family friend who would work for my parents who had really settled into there and worked full time running this boat. And he was also doing a lot of the maintenance on the other boats. so I was just turned 14. It was the week after my 14th birthday. I started working on boats, taking people fishing.

And I've kind of been at it ever since.

Emily: Wow. Oh my gosh, that's, I had forgotten that part of your story. And I can say, having been on one of your informally guided fishing trips, you're an excellent teacher about fishing. So I have no doubt that you've only, gotten better at it as the years have passed by, but So kind of going back a little bit, you said you went to Maine Maritime.

Could you talk a little [00:05:00] bit about what. The education you needed, particularly to do your full time job, and then if you hadn't, you know, been doing that, what would you need to be a charter fisher, a 

Ed: So being a charter captain, as far as like. Coast guard credentialing in, like, the merchant marine world is really not very high up. You can get what's called a 6 pack license. Relatively easily, I can't quote the exact requirements off the top of my head. But it's less see time than it is for other things.

 Also, another kind of aside is that the requirements for taking the reason it's 6 passengers or less is because what we call 6 pack boats are, uninspected passenger vessels, basically, you can take people for hire as long as your credential on boats that we don't have to be inspected. So we don't have to have the coast guard come and also adhere to all of the different rules and regulations that would apply to carrying more than 6 people.

And It just makes more sense also to carry fewer people. Like most of the six pack boats don't carry a [00:06:00] deckhand either some, some of them do, especially the older captains. But it's just, it just kind of lends itself to that way. So you don't want to be like, managing that many people on the boat.

Emily: So you just go out, you and the clients when you're on the

RETA B. Yeah. Wow. Okay. So can you tell us a little bit about going to Maine Maritime 

Ed: Okay. Yeah. I was in the small vessels program at Maine Maritime and when I graduated, I had a 500 ton mates license and I've upgraded that several times since then. I have a 1600 ton mates license and a master of towing. And some other. Various endorsements that don't really apply very much, but all of that is like, leaps and bounds ahead of the 6 pack license.

So, like, other things that aren't fishing boats that would operate under the 6 pack umbrella would be like, water taxis a lot of times or just harbor cruising kind of boats. And obviously fishing charters is the big 1. Yeah,

Emily: So Maine Maritime, it was a four year degree. You got [00:07:00] a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts, it must be a bachelor of

Ed: I'm pretty sure it's a bad source science.

Emily: Yeah, 

and then you took a during that time you acquired C time to sit for your mate's license 

at the 

Ed: Yes. Yep, that's right. And then, then I, started working on tugs for a company that I had been an intern or like a cadet with like, immediately, less than a week after graduating. And I've been there ever since.

Emily: Yeah, that's one of the big appeals of maritime colleges And I have seen it to be like quite true that how focused your education is on The specific work you're doing after and having the cadet summers where you work for a company. 

Your job prospects, as long as you want to go work in that field, are pretty amazing usually.

Ed: they, yeah, they really are. And, I mean, the job is very good. It's allowed me to do a lot of things. I have half a year off and the pay is good and all that, but it definitely comes at a price leaving every 3 weeks. Or leaving every 6 weeks for 3 weeks is awful. [00:08:00] I hate it. I really like being home a lot I do enjoy parts of the job.

The boat handling and stuff can be really fun. But being away is just really tough. it's interesting to me, like, how much harder I work when I'm home running charters. Compared to on the tugboat, you know, like you stand your watch and stuff, but pretty much when I'm running my boat, it's like every second I'm doing something, you know, if it and depending on how the day is constructed, even if I have a little bit of time between trips, I'm almost always like running to get fuel or cleaning the boat really quickly re rigging rods to get ready for the next trip.

Emily: do you find that shipping out or leaving home is harder than you anticipated when you first went to Maine Maritime? Or did you always kind of think that that would be a tough trade off of the job?

Ed: I think it's just the older I get, the less I like leaving,

Emily: Yeah,

Ed: it all sort of seems like a fun adventure at first. And then after about no longer than that, but it's the fun adventure starts to weigh you know, like I remember the first few times I got in an [00:09:00] airplane to fly to work. I thought I was kind of a big deal and like, oh, wow, really something I'm getting on an airplane to go to work.

That's like the worst possible form of commuting. I think. Yeah.

Emily: yes, I have heard that the same feeling and one thing I've seen from, you know, knowing other merchant mariners is that it depends on how important that half a year off is to you, like the people I know who didn't really find a way to meaningfully, happily, joyfully pack that time off. It made it even harder to be gone.

But if you really, really loved and super valued that half a year off, because there aren't very many other fields where you get that exactly where you aren't even answering emails. You aren't anything. You're just totally off. If you find a way to really bring tons of value and fun and joy to that time off, it can make the trade off worth it sometimes.

Ed: [00:10:00] Yeah. And that's with me. Like, it would be really hard to just run charters on weekends. You know, I mean, there are definitely some people who do it. They're like extreme part time charter captains, but it's kind of 1 of those things where if you jump through the hoops to do it, you need to, you need to run enough trips to really justify it.

And even as it is now, like, if you look at the numbers for my business, I kind of take a hit because my insurance isn't any less because I only run half as many trips as everybody else. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

Emily: right. 

Ed: any less, to a certain degree, the maintenance on the boat is about the same, you know, even though I run fewer trips.

So just because of that, it's sort of like an almost an economy of scale where the more trips you run, you're, you're sort of subsidizing all of all those fixed costs.

Emily: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you talk a little bit about how, you know, how did you come to buy this boat? How's your business 

structured? You know, how do you kind of manage it?

Ed: you're implying that I can manage it.

Emily: Well, that's, I will say before you start, the thing I have found the [00:11:00] most talking entrepreneurs is that everyone figures it out as they go. 

Ed: My wife's brother and some of his college friends started a company that got really big and was very, very successful. And he said that you, it's easier to teach like a creator to become a business person than it is to teach a business person to become a creator.

Emily: fascinating insight.

Ed: because you see any, any person who runs their own business, who you're so familiar with, you kind of see behind the curtain a little bit and see that maybe they just looked at their phone and forgot that they had a trip that day and show before, you know, but you may not ever really know it or just think things like, kind of like that.

You, see that everybody's kind of just doing their best in terms of the chartering. So I, I always really liked fishing When I first got the boat, I really hoped to do more like commercial rod and reel fishing where I would kind of get friends together. We would go off and catch a bunch of fish and then I would sell the fish. And that would in theory pay for the boat and maybe a little extra and that [00:12:00] worked pretty well and then some things changed in the fishery and regulations and stuff that made it work less and less Well, and I mean I was already credentialed and stuff But I had kind of wanted to avoid doing charters at least in a big way.

Maybe do a few. Just because Dealing with people is pretty difficult and and takes a toll, for sure but then I started to find, like, as there was more and more stuff that I didn't like that went along with the commercial fishing that a lot of that would go away. It's a lot less regulated and stuff.

If you're just charter fishing, you also don't need to catch as many fish. Most people who go are pretty happy, even with, like, moderately good fishing, whereas when I was out there, if it was at all slow, it's like, well, didn't make any money this time, you know, and then I remember I averaged. The gross from like, a handful of my fishing trips, they were commercial and then compared it to a charter and it was like, within 100 dollars

Emily: Wow. Oh my

gosh. And this would be like tuna fishing 

Ed: No, this, this was the ground [00:13:00] fish. So it's like cotton 

Emily: were 

Ed: like that. Yeah. 

Emily: you commercially fishing with this boat and then you switched over to charters or different

Ed: With my old boat, but yes for all intents and purposes, it was basically the same. Yeah. And then I started doing more and more charters. And I remember as it started that the commercial side kind of got more and more sticky as like, well, you know, and even on a really slow day of chartering, you get paid the same.

So like business wise, that's pretty attractive. And so I built a website. kind of hung my shingle and started getting just people who had never heard of me before calling and saying, all right, here we go. You know, let's, let's do it. Even still, a lot of my business came from referrals from other charter captains because that's the thing, like, just the way it works out in, in our world.

It doesn't really make sense. For a charter business to own. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but to own more than 1 boat

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: that, or I should say that there aren't many who do it. So, because of that, [00:14:00] most of us when we're booked, we can't take anybody else. So, because of that, we're not like, super competitive.

For trips, so we get along. Well, if we're smart, we get along really well with each other. and that's how good way if you're, you know, getting established people always ask, how do I, how do I get clients and stuff? And you say, well, the best thing to do is have a good relationship with other, other charter captains, because if we're fully booked and for the most part, we are, there's very few days.

In the prime season where if the weather is okay to go, you don't have a trip at all. You know, sometimes it may not happen until a day or 2 before you get a last minute cancellation. But in general, the trips are booked weeks and months in advance.

Which is really, really good for a summer like last summer where it rained every day. If I was counting on, like, people walking on off the street and buying tickets it would not have gone well, but because they had already committed and we can fish in the rain, we fished in the rain. 

Emily: I mean, it rained [00:15:00] every, it felt like every weekend day from May to October, December. What, when did we, when did it

Ed: it was, yeah, it stopped raining. What, like, last Saturday?

Emily: Oh my gosh. Yeah. And I bet a lot of those whale watching kind of tour boats, it was really rough, I would imagine.

Ed: Yeah, exactly. So. Every charter captain has their own specialty. Most of us will do just about anything. Like, I, I do a lot of just straight up sightseeing harbor cruises as well. It doesn't have to be fishing. And those, believe it or not, are sometimes the trips I look forward to because.

there's no stress involved with, like, does this person have any idea about how to hold a rod or, you know, or to listen to what I say, like, at the end of the day on a fishing charter, if what we call sports in the guiding world, if the client is not catching fish, it's, it's like my fault.

So, even if I say, all right, so here's what you want to do. And they do the complete opposite. Like I, I still have to like all but dive in the water and put the fish on the line for [00:16:00] them. Because of that, I try to focus on fisheries that where the fish tend to cooperate that's kind of a whole art form in and of itself is feeling people out when they try to book.

And like, even if they tell you one thing of what they want, you have to kind of read between the lines and say, I don't really think you want that. And an example is I don't really run tuna, tuna charters. And that's because that tends to be pretty slow. Not always. And there are people who are a lot better at it than me, and that's great.

And I'll be happy to send those people to them. But there's a lot of sitting around and waiting and you can tell people that ahead of time. But, you know, when they've spent. Upwards of 1, 000 or more to go sit on a boat and just kind of sit there watching the balloons float. You know, they don't really how slow that is.

And most people in truth would be happier with something. That's a little bit more of a steady kind of action. So.

Emily: Yeah, I can see that people aren't always reliable narrators of their own 

Ed: Not not at all. And like, [00:17:00] when I when I say I'm hesitant always to say people who know what they're doing, because the people who know what they're doing are usually the worst ones. Um,

Emily: So, I would be the best is what you're saying. Yeah.

Ed: and who don't have their own preconceived ideas about, you know, and the type of fishing that we do is very different than.

If you've caught, like, sunfish out of a pond yeah, and somewhere in, like, the Midwest it's a little different. We're using weights that weigh, like, a pound, and we're fishing in 300 or more feet of water. So, it's a little bit different than what most people are. Are accustomed to but it's really, it's, I like it and I like doing also a lot of different things.

Like, there are some people who really specialize in, like, 1 type of. Fishing, like, there are guys who fish out of what we call a flats boat, which is sort of what you see in the keys where the guide is pulling on the stern and you have. 1 or or maybe 2 clients in the bow. Often fly casting or casting lures at fish like site fishing and they're fishing in like inches of [00:18:00] water way up in the estuaries and stuff.

And that's 1 thing. But, I mean, it's not really my, my boat draws way too much water for that. But, and you're also relying. On the technical skill, like, their casting ability is everything for that. If you say, like, see that fish right there, you need to cast right here and then they blow it and like, well, there goes your chance for the day.

So, yeah, I try not to do that stuff as much.

Emily: Yeah, 

Ed: But, yeah, like, we all have our specialties and that's another reason, like I was saying, I'm happy to send people to other people and then the favor is usually returned. So, it's sort of like, almost like working on a bigger boat where you really have to like, you know, be conscious of maintaining good relationships with your shipmates.

It's really exactly the same with all of the charter captains and most of us really get along very well and are happy to, like, I said, happy to send people back and forth. We're generally pretty happy to share knowledge with each other to you know, if if I've been offshore ground fishing.

For a week straight. And then I have a [00:19:00] striper trip, you know, coming up. I might check in with some of the guys who have been on striper fishing pretty steadily and in the harbor and say, Hey, you know, what's 

going on? Like, we, we catch mackerel for bait for that. And that can be kind of the linchpin of the whole operation is trying to catch the bait.

Sometimes that's harder than catching the stripers. So if I say, Hey, where have you guys been catching mackerel? You know, or. And sometimes it'll be like, well, we really haven't been able to catch it. And he said that um, that's really helpful and I can't imagine doing it if I was just kind of going on my own, I think that would be really, really boring to, you know,

Emily: Yeah, you know, I bet that's a good piece of advice for a lot of small businesses to build strong relationships with people that you could view as your competitors, but you only have so many hours in the day. And I think

Ed: I think that I think definitely that would be like my number 1 piece of advice for anyone running a small business would be. Get along with your competitors. You know, you never know what's going to happen. You're probably not going to be Jeff Bezos and take [00:20:00] over the world. not charter fishing. So it really, it really pays to maintain those relationships with those people. And honestly, you see them every day fishing, you know, out there, it's a lot easier to get along than to not get along. So 

Emily: yeah, 

Ed: fun all the way around.

Emily: This is a pretty tactical question, but I, I am curious if you're willing to share about how much does it cost to buy a boat like yours?

Ed: Oh, it can, it can vary quite a bit. And it. The prices of boats have gone up pretty substantially and it varies a lot depending on exactly, like, there are people who run boats run charters doing similar things to me with outboards. On them, like in the, like 23 to 25 foot range even those can be very, very expensive, but I would say probably where you'd be looking at a used boat, but even that would probably be at least 50, 000.

And then a boat like mine right now would be about 120, 000 or so.

Emily: So that's your primary, 

Ed: That is that's the [00:21:00] barrier to entry. And that's sort of like what I was saying about the reason why I think you don't have a lot of companies having multiple boats is because generally someone who's qualified to do it is already doing it.

 So, if you if you have the license and the experience. You probably already have the boat and would be doing it on your own anyway, so there, there aren't as many you know, like, there's not like fleets of, of boats.

There is a guy in Wells who has, has a couple boats 

Emily: Yeah. 

Ed: on one of them

Emily: do you have any employees or partners, or is it just you?

Ed: now. Occasionally, if I know I have like a big trip I have a friend of mine with some notice and I can have him come, 

Emily: that's, I mean, in some ways that's nice, because a lot of

small business 

Ed: employees. 

Emily: employees. 

Yeah.

Ed: Horrible and and also, like, I don't want my operation to be like, you know, relying on anybody else.

Also, like, I like to be able to just. Make it happen. And also I don't want that person relying on me with my schedule. I leave [00:22:00] half the time You know, so if they're counting on me to for their income, that's really not great either

Emily: Yeah. So, you're the only employee you need to manage. Do you give yourself critical feedback, performance reviews?

Ed: You know, it's funny because at work, you know, you you'll always I say at work But on the tugs there's always friction like between the office like what are they thinking doing the bowl? I do the same thing to myself where when i'm booking the trips you say sure we can We can do three of those. We have so much daylight this time of year, you know, you this, it makes sense.

And then you turn around and you actually have to do it. And you're like, oh, no, what was I thinking? But mostly it's okay. I do force myself to have a day off. Most charter captains run 7 days a week. And I, I don't work on Sundays. Generally, I don't book trips on Sundays. Just have a little break.

And also, you know, since I'm gone half the time, that gives me a day to spend with my wife. But we also have weather days. If it's blowing 30, like, we're not probably going to be going striper thing I can do in almost any weather in [00:23:00] the boat that I have now, which is really nice. Because sometimes if someone has an offshore trip planned, and it's going to be rough, I can say, Hey, listen, I know you wanted to go offshore today, but I don't think you really do.

So let's stay in the Harbor and do this. And sometimes they're like, nah, that's, that's not what we want to do. And say, okay, that's fine. But a lot of times, you know, if they're on vacation or something that will salvage the day for them. And for me.

Emily: Yeah, that's such a good point. And yeah, the seasonal job thing, I think it is so worth noting that most of those jobs, because you can only do it part of the year, you're really 

Ed: Oh, yeah, you really have to make a when the sun shines. There's no doubt about it.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned a little bit about kind of personalities that would work well, but what sort of personality traits, if you have anything to add, particularly, I would say both for Tugs and for being a charter captain, like, does anything stand out as like, these kind of people really thrive in these environments?

Ed: I mean, for chartering, you really have to be patient and like, the way that you fish when you have [00:24:00] clients on the boat is not the way that if I was just going and fishing myself that I would necessarily be doing it. Like, just, it's just, you have to kind of dumb things down a little bit. And just make it really approachable, I guess, would be a nicer way of saying that.

But it's true that. You know, most people generally speaking, as a charter captain, you can't underestimate the ability of your your clients, at the end of the day, like, you have to think, why are they hiring you? in some cases for some of the offshore stuff, it's because they don't have a boat that would be capable of it.

Or, you know, they're from a different part of the country or whatever, but in general, it's. not experienced people who hire guides. And even still, if they are experienced, they may not be experienced with the offshore stuff. So, you know, it's, it's all pretty different.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So what, you know, if you'd be willing to share kind of a range of what you make and, and also if, if you're open to it, I'd be curious to know sort of a general range of what you make on the tugs too.

Ed: Okay.[00:25:00] the tugs I would say is low to mid six figures. 

And on, so again, my situation for charter fishing is a little bit different than other people, cause I'm only doing half the year, but. Also, most of us are in some, in some degree part time there are a few who are full time and man, my hearts are off to them.

Those people grind hard, go, go but, and it also varies a lot based on like. Everybody's expenses are pretty different and how much you choose to reinvest into your business. But I would say

 If you paid yourself between two and 300 a day I think that that would be probably pretty accurate. Of course there's like no benefits at all.

Emily: And that would be after, like, paying your expenses and 

Ed: yeah. Yeah, right. And again, that's a guess, but the season is very short. I would say the people who are full fall time, they're probably, I think it would be a struggle to be much over [00:26:00] 40, 40, 000 for a year. And that it would be working very, very hard for that.

Emily: 

But it's definitely, it seems like, those numbers, it's a super viable side gig. 

And if you found a way to have something consistent off season, it, it, and I guess it also depends on what your needs are, right? Like, plenty of 

people, it's, are happy and make it work with a lot less, you

Ed: Yeah. And earlier when I was talking about people who are like, just getting started in it. And, you know, wanting to, like, have a good relationship with other charter captains. It's 1 of those things where every year there are, it seems like there's a bunch of new people doing it 

and 

oftentimes people don't last very long at it.

And it's not like, because they fail or anything is, but I, I think it's really because They realize, they think it's going to be more fun than it is, 

for one. 

It's very much a job. It's not at all relaxed sometimes parts of it are like, you'll have a nice ride in, you know, and you kind of say, well, that was nice.

but there are other parts that are just, you [00:27:00] know, you have to think so much more about everything that's happening. 

Emily: Yeah. Silence.

Ed: You know, and there's just no end to expenses and if you have, like, a significant mechanical.

Breakdown in the middle of the season. Like that is just so awful,

Emily: Yeah, what's the saying? A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into.

Ed: pretty much. Yeah. And there there's a lot of that. And then, so then in the off season, you know, like I was saying, there's that trade off of how much do you reinvest? And it's like, well, you don't want to have, you know, a breakdown. So you really try to go bananas, like fixing everything and making yourself as resilient as possible for the next year.

But it's really kind of like whack a mole. It's just, it's just the next thing that's going to pop up.

Emily: That's another good reason to be nice to your fellow charter captains, because like, you never know when someone's gonna help you out of a breakdown.

Ed: Yeah, Oh, absolutely. I've I've towed multiple other charter captains in before.

Emily: Wow. You're setting yourself up for some good [00:28:00] karma there, I would say.

Ed: that's, that's true. And all of us pretty much all of us have CTO also, 

Emily: Yeah. 

Ed: those cases, like I was just closer.

Emily: Yeah. And SeaTow, for people who don't work on the water, is like the tow truck for,

Ed: It's like triple a

Emily: yeah, like AAA for the

water. 

Ed: Give a free plug to them.

Emily: SeaTow. This is a SeaTow. SeaTow. Reach out to me if you want to advertise on the podcast.

Ed: I have done some, like, work for them also on the side in the past.

Emily: Yeah. That seems like an interesting side gig. It seems like some merchant mariners. Find a way to do that 

Ed: Yep. Yeah, and that is fun. I mean, it's messing around in small boats and doing stuff that's a little bit different every time.

Emily: Yeah, I bet you deal with a fair amount of Joe six packs though who need a tow in, I would imagine.

Ed: Yeah.

Yeah, I've heard a lot, 

Emily: fair. I don't know.

Ed: or like, people often, like, go out and then it's something really dumb, like a kill switch is not installed or little things like that,

Emily: Yeah, but just think of how you could [00:29:00] save the day. Just

pop that thing back on. Start it up. Roll back in. 

Cool. So could you kind of tell me about like briefly an average day? I would be interested to know both actually, you know, what it's like average day when you're working on the tugs and what it's like average day when you're home working in 

Ed: Yep. Well, an average day on the tugs. It depends on what we're doing. At the dock. It's very different, but underway, you know, you're standing your watch and maybe doing some

different. 

Emily: do you hold? What's your watch

Ed: It depends again what we're doing, but like, if we're offshore, I'm standing for on an 8 off. So I, I 

typically stay 2 in the morning to 6 in the morning.

And 2 in the afternoon to 6 at night, and then if we're at the dock, we do 6 on 6 off. So then it's midnight to 6 and noon to 6.

Emily: Yeah, six on, six off. I know it's commonplace, but I think people that don't work in the industry, to really let that sink in, like, when you're gone, that is work, and you need time home to rest, and six, six on seems all right, [00:30:00] but six off, you're getting five and a half, five hours of sleep in that off time.

Ed: Yeah, and that's if you can sleep, you know, that's the other thing you can't, it would, it would be fine if you could just press a button and fall asleep, but it doesn't always work that way.

Emily: Right.

Ed: But then like a typical day, it varies a lot based on what type of trips I have for the day. So I have trips ranging from two hours to 12 hours and kind of everything in between.

So generally when I'm booking trips, I start with like a full day trip is one thing and I would, so I would start a full day typically at seven, it'd be like seven to three. But then like shorter trips, I typically start at the end of the day and then would work backwards so that you still leave that space open for a full day.

And that was like a big epiphany to me when I finally figured that out. A friend of mine told me, you know, cause you'd have someone would want to do a trip, like a two, let's say a two hour kid's trip, the bane of my existence. Transcripts are [00:31:00] awful.

Sometimes it's really cool because you get to see like kids catch their first fish and stuff, but oh 

man, no attention span.

No listening, uh, 

books, fish. Anyway every year there was a period of about three years where I would raise the price on that trip and shorten it and I just kept going and kept going until I, like people stopped booking. So now when they, if they book that it's worth, it's very much worthwhile. But yeah, so if I, if someone calls and wants a two hour kids trip.

If they want to do that at like 10 o'clock in the morning, that really doesn't work for me because it's kind of messed everything up in terms of the rest of the day. I'm going to be saying no to a lot of potential trips. So I typically would say, if let's say I have nothing scheduled for that day, I would say, okay, I've got, I say, I have a slot from 4 to 6 PM and a lot of times they say, okay, that we can make that work, or they might say that doesn't work.

And then [00:32:00] sometimes I may go back to the drawing board a little bit, but in general, I would do it. So that way, the day is still open for the potential of a full day trip, or I could do also 2 half days and then.

Emily: Okay.

Ed: like to have the boat running close to 12 hours a day.

So, if the, the boat leaves at 7, and you have an evening trip, you've got, like, an hour in theory in between trips, and then you'd be done at 6 in the evening, but of course, there's getting in a little bit early and then clean up afterwards. So it works out to be generally about a 12 hour a day, but every day is different.

sometimes you might only have one half day trip or whatever. There may be a last minute cancellation or something and it's, it's a little bit different every time.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that sounds, that's cool. And it's interesting about the kids trip too. I could see that being a real challenge. Plus just the responsibility of, for your passengers safety wise, you know, 

it's tough when there's little, little tiny ones, but,

You've mentioned some things you love about your job, but is there anything you would add [00:33:00] that you really like about your work?

Especially if you think people might not expect it?

Ed: My charter fishing. 

Yeah. 

Emily: Either one.

Ed: If you are just a really serious angler and you've, you fish a lot and you have a boat that you keep it in Marina, you're not going to go every day probably.

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: So even, even if you had the time, like, Unless you literally have to fish like it's your job, you're not going to. So if you go like two or three times a week, that's great, but you're still not going to be as tuned into what's going on as you would be if you're going every single day and in communication with all the other captains who are going a lot. So that's, I guess, one plus of it is like, even if when the alarm goes off. First thing I would rather not be going in. I'm usually glad that I came once, once we're there and you usually, you know, you're seeing stuff that maybe you didn't expect or stuff like that. And that's the other part that's interesting is every year is a little different as to like where and how we're [00:34:00] catching fish and what we're catching and stuff that it's always a little bit different.

Emily: Yeah. Oh, I can see that. I mean, yeah, I think it's not quite the same as going out on your own, but it's not, not going.

Ed: And sometimes, you know, this may not surprise you at all to hear, but if I just had a half day booked, you know, it may not be that far out of the realm of possibility for me to go and do some scouting on my own. And

Emily: I love that. Yeah. That's work time. 

You've got to do that research.

Ed: Yep, exactly.

Emily: I could see that. So on the other hand, is there anything you would add that's really tough about it, especially if it was something you didn't anticipate? Yeah.

Ed: Hmm. I mean, I, I anticipated a lot of it because I had so much experience taking people fishing, like working on the party boats before. So there weren't, there weren't a ton of surprises that way with the, with charters. I guess 1 part I didn't anticipate is like, it's a fair amount of money to go. And like I said, no, none of the charter captains are getting rich, [00:35:00] but just it's boats going offshore.

So it's expensive and some people you feel like they really saved up and like, I mean, I remember 1 time. I was collecting money for a trip and a guy hands me like a pile of fives to pay his portion of the trip. Like, I kind of felt bad, like, you know, this is like their last dollar and then you get people.

Who are like, wait, is this for the trip or for the person and they don't care either way? You know, 

like, well, the same to you. 

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: I guess that's 1 part. I didn't quite get like, that's 1 thing about the head boats are a lot cheaper. Especially like, we're just average people to be able to afford to go, but there's a lot of trade offs with that, you know, like, especially on weekends and prime time, they can be really crowded, you know, so you can be around a lot of other people who may or may not be seasick or tangling you up and stuff.

Like, it's a lot of it's rough. It's for real on party boats sometimes. And also another thing that that's a good part about charters, you is if you're on a [00:36:00] party boat and you are like incapacitated with seasickness, that is your bad luck. If you're on my boat and you're incapacitated with seasickness, you won't get a refund, but you will get a ride home if you really want that.

Emily: Right. Oh, that's such a good point, and 

you don't always know, I mean, most, I think a lot of people wouldn't ever have had the opportunity to know if they get seasick before

Ed: Yeah. And you'll get people who say things like, Oh, you know, I've been on a cruise.

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: Like, okay, so you're on a thousand foot ship and you didn't get seasick. Cool. No, or, or like, well, we went to peaks Island last year. Like, okay, you're on a 100 foot boat that was going across the Harbor. Great. It's very, it's very different.

So pretty much I all, but forced down people's throats. 

You know, I try to be really upfront about it strongly recommend it. You know,

Emily: For everyone or for people that you think might get

Ed: I'd say I'd say anybody, you know, unless you have a lot of experience on boats being offshore, I recommend it. You know, just because it's.[00:37:00] It ruins your day and it's a lot of money to to go out there and not be feeling great,

Emily: Right. And other seasickness, you know, get outside, get, get up 

Ed: right? 

Emily: at the horizon.

Ed: Yeah, try to occupy yourself with something like fishing is good. It does, you know, take your mind off of it a 

little bit. Sometimes, 

Emily: Sometimes.

Ed: and not drinking the night before big 1.

Emily: Big one. Ooh. Yeah. 

Ed: Yeah. 

That's one thing. I, I pretty much stopped drinking completely during the charter season. And then since then, I've, I've like, stopped altogether because I was like, I don't need any help to feel worse. So I, you just can't really you know, getting up at five every day and then being on the boat, like,

Emily: Yeah. Not to mention, I talked about this a little bit with my dad, but one thing that I think Sometimes is a constant challenge in the merchant mariner industry, but the risks associating with drinking, of course on the job, but in, [00:38:00] you know, driving home from work, like any of those things 

Ed: yeah. 

Emily: and could threaten your license and livelihood

Ed: Absolutely. All of that. 

Yeah. So, so that's a no. And I mean, we do a lot of bachelor parties, so it's really common to see a bunch of really hungover guys show early in the morning and, oh man, it's a nightmare. I've, I've, yeah, I've seen, seen it all. Let's just say they might be paying for the story. No, it's a good story that they get out of it. 

And some people, some people are able to like keep, keep functioning and some people are not. And Oof. Anyways,

Emily: It's rough. A lot, a lot of seasickness talk.

Ed: always, it always comes back to that for, for some reason, anything involving boats always comes back to seasickness.

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: Yeah. I recommend actually anyone who's really worried about it or has access to to it, like the scopolamine patches. 

I've never tried one myself, but I don't usually have an issue with it.

But if I was doing a lot of really hardcore stuff, I [00:39:00] might, might try that. And like, in general, I don't take people out on lousy days. Like

Emily: Right.

Ed: with the boat that I have, I probably could fish in more weather than I do, but especially in the age of, you know, Yelp reviews and trip advisor, like you want to have people have a good experience and that's again, why I'm so upfront with people about it.

So if they do get seasick and asked to come in, like. It's not like you didn't tell me it was going.

Emily: Yeah, it's not a shock. Yeah, but even on good days, there can be decent

size 

Ed: even, 

yeah, flat calm days. You get the, is it always this rough? You're like, but yeah,

Emily: oh my gosh,

Ed: but you also try not to, like, scare people too much because there's definitely a mental side of it.

So if you kind of plant that little anxiety seed 1st thing, that's not good for anybody. Yeah,

Emily: so true. This is really bringing me back to the trip that we were on and people getting, it really does get in your head and it also, you kind of get over it, but for most people, it takes some [00:40:00] time and some 

days. There are also those, those what are they called? Pressure point bands and the, yeah.

Ed: yeah. 

Emily: too. So 

Ed: I always cringe when I see people come down the dock with the pressure point

bands. I 

don't, 

Emily: you don't think they help?

Ed: in my in my experience. I don't think that much. I don't tell people that right off because there may be a placebo effect and we'll let that happen. there's actually 1 of the assistant engineers on my tug.

If we're in any weather at all, he's pretty much violently 

sick. Um, 

Emily: in the engine room. I mean, it's so much worse 

Ed: yeah, yeah, when it's, you know, 100 degrees and you can't see out. And he tried with those electric wristbands and I don't think it, I don't think it worked at all. So I, I would not go that route. I would say either a scopolamine patch or a Dramamine or Bonine.

Emily: Yeah.

Ed: But if, and then as far as if it's already happened you could chew on a little piece of ginger, like actual ginger root, chew on it, put it under your tongue or sniff an alcohol wipe that might snap you out of it.

Emily: Ooh, I [00:41:00] had never heard that one. That's an interesting

Ed: That's a relatively new one. And the people who I've tried that on have all snapped out of it pretty quickly or like felt a little bit better because sometimes it's just, you just need to get over that hump of like the first hour of being out before people kind of like.

Emily: Yeah. You have to do something way more unpleasant so that you like hurt your foot or something like that. So that you are distracted. 

Ed: Right. 

Right. 

Emily: Get injured in some other way. Yeah.

Ed: like I was saying, that's another reason the harbor cruises are like, really kind of nice to run because generally, you know, minimal motion like sometimes when we're out by Portland headlight. The boat will be rolling a minute, but it's like, that's, you know, 10 minutes out of the trip and we can be right out of it and then it's, it's calm and you can see land and all those things are really, it's just a lot easier, you know, for people, but like the other side of the coin, I won't cancel fishing trips for rain, but I will cancel a sightseeing cruise.

I understand, you know, if it's [00:42:00] kind of a rainy lousy day and often people will say, no, as long as your boat has a little cover. You know, for us, and we're not going to get totally soaked. We're fine with it. Okay. And so we do end up going, but I try to give people the option. You know, and same with if it's going to be like borderline rough.

I'll kind of give them the option of either rescheduling or maybe trying to fish in the harbor or something like that again, trying to kind of put it on them. Like, I don't want to feel I want them to feel like I dragged them out there. You know, these awful conditions and

Emily: We're having fun today.

Ed: yeah, 

Emily: So this is the last question I have for you. What is one piece of advice generally about work that you would give your younger self?

Ed: I would say getting along with your competitors is really important. There are probably going to be times where they do something that might. Kind of have you scratching your head, but in general, usually over time you end up learning more about like where that was coming from, you know, and if you don't kind of soil the [00:43:00] whole experience by like reacting or overreacting to something. you're glad you didn't, you know so it just don't burn those bridges. Like, it's a really small community of us and it's a lot easier. Like I said, if we all get along,

Emily: Oh, man. Yeah, I think that's great advice. So where can people find out about your boat? And if they wanted to book a trip for summer 2024, where would they 

Ed: if they 

Emily: Yeah. 

Ed: I, I should probably offer that as a trip. Actually, maybe, like,

going to do 

Emily: about going to Maine Maritime and you don't know if you get

Ed: that? Or, like, if someone was going to book a cruise to Antarctica, 1 of those really exposed areas, like, Maybe come on a trip with me for a day. 

Emily: You, bring you

Ed: yeah, when you're around a little bit. 

Well, let's see. So my website is main charterboat. com. And from there, there are links also to my Harbor Cruise website, which is portlandprivateharbortours. com. And I do a little bit of guided ice fishing in the winter. I have two trips [00:44:00] coming up on Saturday. That I'm doing and that that's like, another kind of piece of the puzzle.

I'm trying to put in for possibly a time where I'm not shipping out to fill in the winter a little bit. These warmer winters we've been having are kind of frustrating because, like, the smaller ponds that I'm fishing right now are just now getting ice and mid January and typically mid December. You wouldn't.

You just want to be starting to fish them.

So 

really not great. 

Emily: a good service, though, because it takes a lot of stuff to go ice fishing and have it

Ed: Well, yeah, and a lot of a lot of it is people don't have the confidence. Most people I take are convinced that they're going to fall through the ice. Like, they are just sure of it. 

And, 

uh, 

Emily: is a

Ed: well, which now, yeah, and obviously I wouldn't, I'm not going to guide a trip on anything that's even remotely sketchy.

But like, there could be two feet of ice, and they'll be like, we should, we should check, check, and I'm like, yeah, sure, we'll check, and like, reach my arm all the way down the hole. You could drive a truck out here. But yeah,

Emily: Yeah, that is really cool. And you leave, [00:45:00] your boat is in Portland, Maine right?

Ed: yes, I keep it at a marina in South Portland. But I, I do pickups wherever people are. So, I mean, within reason, like Casco Bay Islands, a lot or the town dock in Portland, if they're like, staying right in the old port or the boat ramp at bug light in South Portland. Typically, that was actually kind of a, another insight.

Is that I much prefer to pick people up At a spot like that, a public spot rather than my Marina for a lot of different reasons, but like, there's nothing worse than showing up to your boat 1st thing in the morning. And the people are sitting on it, waiting for you

ready to tell you every fishing story.

They've ever had. You're still like, drinking your coffee. Like, okay. Okay. All right. We'll get there. You know it's just much nicer to just show up and like, be ready right, right then. And also then you don't have to worry about where do they park? You know, you only have so many passes um, like passes for the Marina and you don't have to do a lot of running back and forth between the boat and the gate and stuff.

It's just much easier to have it be [00:46:00] a public place. You know, and all that.

Emily: Yeah. That's great. And yeah, that's good to know. So kind of people staying in the Portland area, there's certainly some

Ed: Yeah, and I do plenty of people who up to, up to probably an hour and a half away a lot of people are renting a camp on a lake somewhere, you know and they'll come down for a day.

Emily: Yeah. Cool. That's awesome. Well, Ed, this was so fun catching up with you. Thank you so

much for making the time to talk with 

Ed: not just incoherent rambling on my part, but 

Emily: No, it's going to be great. 

Thanks for joining me. If you liked the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify. And please share with a friend. You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or ticktock. And if you'd like to be interviewed here or there's a particular job you'd like to learn about, please reach [00:47:00] out@realworkreallifeatgmail.com.