I’ve rewritten this blog a few times. Many reasons, but September is the hottest month of the year with the highest chance of things unfolding incorrectly if anything is off. Nothing that a high level of preparation, strategy and determination can’t change for a positive outcome. I believe you are looking to read about what makes me tick, how my business operates and what your best choices are for the month of September and October. Please invest in reading through my information on my website and we can make a good plan for your trip and guests.
First a little business. I have adjusted my rates accordingly to the much higher cost of operations the past year plus that I have absorbed. My rates allow me a little more operational wiggle room to make a greater cost expenditure to ensure I don’t need to cut corners and have a full range of options for your trip. For your understanding, I did a thorough search of other captains I share the water with. I learned……a ton of information in a few hours. You do get what you get what you pay for here locally these days. 30% of who you see in top ranking are gone (no longer here) and are outsourcing their trips to whomever can take you. 40% are recent move downs from New Jersey and New York and are “living out their dream” in a reality that is mostly eating them up. They will fail out of reality in little time. Sites like fishingbooker and tripadvisor are so highly manipulated, there is little room for the truth. It is a disservice for you the consumer and tourism as a whole. Uuuuuuggghhhh. The Keys are an amazing place to visit. Living here and managing a business that is legally operating and successful is a fine art. Moving on……
Fun is fishing; fishing is fun. September is the hardest month day to day to catch a pile of quality fish………because it is hot. You are hot, fish are hot and in relation to species, we have less alternate plans when our primary plan does not work out. That’s ok. Our adjustment is to be better at the plan we do have and execute on those plans. I’m starting earlier, I’m running further, fishing deeper and have tripled my trip costs in chum to make reef trips work well. It has been working on my side. Fishing is my favorite trip because I can make almost anybody a hero in most situations and produce a solid result. I can coach, teach and shape most of my customers with little to no experience into anglers that catch fish. I average 2000 customers a year on my boat. If you understand reality, there is going to be a percentage of guests that (withing the context of learning) disproportionally struggle performing new skills and executing through moments of excitement to create skilled positive outcomes. This alone can dramatically affect a trip or outcome. This is the time of year it shows up. This month it matters. Do not book a half day afternoon reef trip. A.M. Snapper on the reef….good. Tuna and dolphin offshore….good. Our focus is tighter on technique. Our opportunities require more attention to be capitalized on. You will have a finite amount of chances to succeed. ****read my last paragraph of this blog if you want to understand what my biggest problems on fishing trips are. It only applies to a few of my trips.
Snorkeling has been unusually great this year! Usually in rainy season we have hot water periods with compromised green water visibility. No/little rain has given us tons of blue water trips this summer. I have been trying to operate my snorkel trips in/around high volume areas during off peak times or in alternative ways that puts us away from the crowds. No fault of anybody, but the high volume “cattle” snorkel boats have ruined the popular sanctuary spots. You can only have so many people in a small space before being in that space is ruined for the desired experience. I refuse to accept that spot one and spot 2 are my only options.
Snorkeling is a tough trip of balances, but I make it happen when a lot of larger operators do not. I used to believe my skills would be evident in travel review sites, but I gave up on investing my time looking who says what about my business or asking for reviews when it is mostly fake. The past few weeks my customers have had super unique swims experiences with extraordinary wildlife encounters that sound exaggerated. Doesn’t even matter. I just do it better because I focus my attention on your trip and your group. Totally different experience. Just a heads up, it’s rash guard time. The moon jellyfish just showed up.
Lobstering and lobster trips have been a full blown disaster. All foreseeable and predictable and preventable reasons came true. Issue A: lobstering is tougher each year. It’s called over-fishing and loss of habitat. Issue B: 300% more people are here lobstering recreationally per covid. Whatever I could calculate from previous numbers of whatever or anything has been completely over-run by unprecedented levels of extra people being here doing what I do. Issue C: Lobster poachers and people willing to break the law and steal from you and cheat you out of your resource. I see people stealing from us every day. Our law enforcement can deal with about 5% of reality. Issue D: My best customer breath hold for any and every lobster trip this entire season is 24 seconds. My average customer breath hold is about 10 seconds. I write your names down when I meet you in the morning. I write down your corresponding average breath holds so I can engineer what we can do for your trip as we go along. The answer to what we can do on most trips is; my previous groups can do almost nothing. My minimum requirement is 30 seconds repeated and working. My best customer breath hold on 1 specific dive from 1 person is 24 seconds for ALL of the trips I have run this year. That’s ok, but below of what I need from you to start any level of repeated success. There are less lobster. Less opportunities. I drop customers on a spot and they can’t tell me what’s in the hole. Ummmm, that’s lobstering. That’s your job. I’m the guy driving the boat and putting you on the spots for you to process. If you can’t process the spots, what are we doing? WE are snorkeling. Personally, I have been in the water lobstering on my own time maybe 4 times. 4-6 lobster came home with me each time. Yes, there are less out there. Years of this trend are clear. Lobstering is now an “experience.” Not for 1 second do I have frustrations or bad feelings if you can’t do your part. I have seen the wrong way done so many times I would be surprised to see a group that can progress functionally with improvement and not regress with restrictions dictating our moves for that sake of making it to the bottom…..in 6 feet of water. Huge let down to me on the customer side of lobster trips for way too long now. I believe I am nearly, if not, the last person operating these trips in the middle keys. There is a crystal clear reason for this. Lobstering is a reasonably easy, yet a challenging activity for those that meet the minimum requirements. Cheating reality will not create success. The experience of lobstering is fun if you are not forcing yourself to struggle through basic skills that the activity requires. I will be changing the language on my website to reflect what I am describing. My official position on lobster trips is I do not enjoy them anymore. Most of my customers do nearly everything I clearly instruct no to do. My customers expect amazing results. For me, it’s like someone is playing a bad joke on me that never ends. Lobstering is an earned experience.
Overall, things have been good. I have been very busy with bookings this year. The cause and effect was out of balance. It was a necessary evil to get the boat to the next level. Since I bought the Sailfish, I average a $50K re-investment back into the boat for upgrades, improvements and maintenance each year. It’s what I choose to remain a top operation in my region. It is what I have done since I started from scratch 13 years ago. The boat will be out of service 10 days sometime in November for the addition of a custom tower and second station. It’s the next step to the next step for me to offer you more.
*****EXPLAINATION: This does not apply to all of my customers, but there is a clear trend. I have watched my client’s evolve over my time invested in this business. I have mostly worked through every level of service from food, bar, hotel management, watersports, rentals and charters in the Marathon area. As a host, my customers come from all walks of life A-Z. I understand and accept that. Nobody talks about the ugly parts of the service industry. For me, it is more significant because liability is a managed scenario that keeps me in or puts me out of business. Dumb is a disease on my boat more often now than ever and I can only manage it from behind. Recently, I had a group that could not figure anything out. We were stuck on step 1 issues finishing the trip. It happens. By default, it has to be somebody, right? It is frustrating to me, as a teacher, that has taught thousands of people with ease to come up against a set of clients that, well, we get nowhere. You can enter your group information in my notes for your booking. I can make a better plan for your group based on what you can or can’t do. What I can’t do is force you to learn. I’s commonly that there are more people now I can not teach in 1 short trip. That will affect the outcome of your trip. I can’t fix certain people, but I can prepare for it. What will affect my business is if I can’t teach you to not be a hazard to yourself or my boat or business. What happens on a boat has far bigger consequences than normal operations on land. A person that lacks common sense or situational awareness will cause the accident that puts me out of business. You need to communicate that to me better and I need to find a way to manage these issues more quickly. It is liability or the prevention of a potential accident I will be placing before your engagement in an activity if yourself or a member of your group is not smart enough to keep from being dangerous. It is a real thing now. I am sad this is true and I have to bring it up. It is an ugly truth.
I have a fun business. I live in a beautiful place. I have a great platform to host your adventures. I know how to do my trips really well. I am legally operating my business and legit as can be. My words are designed to bring awareness to the respect and preparation needed to have a great trip with me and for yourselves. I’m not into marketing a dream or false reality. I’m not a salesman. I’m looking for quality customers invested in your trip with me and less quantity of customers that book me because of anything else. To have a business I 100% need you. Too many people is not good for my business. I don’t need everybody. I’m working on weeding out red flag customers before we even meet. There is a pattern of language and behavior that foreshadows the storm coming on board and I’m getting better and rejecting the problems before they materialize. It bothers me to be called an asshole for being reasonable and taking the time to reply to my customer inquiries. I make judgement calls. I do have the right to say no to people that I know are problems before they show up. In the past few recent years, I have had to make more yes/no judgement calls than ever. Weekly, I am rejecting inquiries that are so out of bounds ridiculous, I have no way to reply nicely other than “No thanks.” Certainly, it isn’t what I would say if I felt that those asking could handle the real answer. Dancing around words leads to longer conversations that have the same outcome. I know better to get involved in most of these word games.
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