More Maine fishermen finding success, supplementing incomes by offering tourist cruises
|By Tim Cox, Bangor Daily News, Maine|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Robertson's boat already was at the pier, and he was getting his vessel ready to go out into
Roberton is a fisherman -- some of the time. But when he is not diving for scallops or urchins in the winter, he is fishing for tourists and offering them one of several types of short cruises on the Kandi Leigh.
He is proof that fishermen can develop add-on businesses catering to the many tourists who visit
There are other fishermen who operate similar ventures, including
Robertson, 41, used to be a lobster fisherman, too. He grew up in -- and still lives in --
As he considered his options, he eventually hit on the idea of starting a tourist-related business to provide brief excursions on a lobster boat or to see lighthouses, sea birds or other wildlife, or scenic coastal areas. Robertson found there was a substantial market for people who want to take a boat tour to see puffins and other birds.
He launched the tour business in 2001, starting with cruises to see puffins and other sea birds on
He blazed a trail in the region, according to Robertson. "There was nobody doing what I was thinking of doing at the time," he said while discussing his business at his home on Thursday.
"It was really slow getting started," recalled Robertson. "I had to let the business lose money," he said, while he earned his living from fishing and digging clams and worms.
His business, Robertson Sea Tours and Adventures, has grown. Now he offers several types of cruises, including one that features a lobster bake on an island, and also private charters. Robertson also contracts with another boat captain who takes customers out for whale-watching cruises. The tour business accounts for the majority of his income, he said -- 60-65 percent.
Alley, 62, started a tour business in 2005 that supplements her income from lobstering. She averages from five to eight lobster boat cruises per week and fits them around her lobster fishing schedule. Like Robertson, she is set up to carry no more than six passengers.
Alley was a presenter at a workshop in
Robertson and Alley are
Robertson markets his business a variety of ways. "It's a good mix," he said. "We have a good Web presence. We're really active in social media," such as Facebook and Twitter. He also distributes brochures at various places in the region. He gets business from referrals, too, such as from innkeepers.
The Days, from
Alley, who discussed her tour business by phone Friday while attending a church conference in
A business that serves tourists is not for everyone, observed Robertson. "You have to be able to talk to people and entertain them ... Not everybody wants to do that."
Robertson was circumspect about recommending a tourist-related venture as a secondary business for other fishermen. "Because it's really a commitment," he noted, and lobster fishing is a full-time job. A tour business may have appeal to someone who wants to exit the fishing industry, he said, or as a supplement to someone who wants to scale back their fishing operations. "It all depends on what level you want to be at," added Robertson, who noted that he has a family to support.
Alley offered a similar assessment. Whether other fishermen would want to have a tourism-related business would depend on "what they like to do," said Alley. Some fishermen want to focus on building up their lobster business, she noted -- adding more traps, perhaps getting a bigger boat.
Both Robertson and Alley have found another reason for providing excursions.
"It's rewarding in the sense that people rave about it," said Robertson. "It's the time of their lives. They see things they would never never see anywhere else."
For Alley, "It was an opportunity to meet people and show people a way of life. I like that part."
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