Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Adventure Harbor Tours expands fleet
By Sully Witte
Captain Howie Weil has one heck of a sense of humor. And his lovely wife Katie, has the patience of a saint. Those two things have allowed Weil the opportunity to build a successful boat charter business out of Charleston Harbor.
He now owns The Charleston Explorer, one of East Cooper’s largest capacity charter boats.
He doesn’t consider himself the smartest man in the world, but he said he’s a very hard worker. That hard work paid off and afforded him room to expand his fleet. His most recent purchase was that of the Charleston Explorer - a 54’ Sea Ark capable of carrying 80 people and landing on the beach.
The Charleston Explorer may be familiar to locals, as its previous owners berthed her in Charleston Harbor Marina and took her and her passengers to all the local hot spots.
This stout, industrial grade boat will once again grace the harbor, but now under the guidance of Weil.
His company, Adventure Harbor Tours was not born overnight. According to Weil he had numerous career changes but always managed to find time to “screw around on boats.” He got a job as a mate first on Charleston’s first water taxi crewing on the weekends. He worked on gaining “sea time” by working for everyone else in the harbor until he got his own captain’s license.
“I had just gotten married and was trying to live this Jimmy Buffet lifestyle,” he said.
And as Weil said, it did not take a mathematician to figure out that the lifestyle really wasn’t going to work. There was no future in it.”
That’s when Weil decided he wanted to buy a boat.
“My wife said ‘hell no we have a wedding to pay for.’ But I came back to her and said ‘what if I did some charters. I can do one charter a month make the boat payment.’ She said ‘I’m listening,’ we outlined a plan, and went for it.”
Weil said that before he knew it, the phone was ringing off the hook.
That’s when he dropped everything else and focused on his new charter business.
He first had a 20’ flats boat that could carry six people. One day he made nine trips to Morris Island. Working 12 hours seemed too much, so he began looking for a bigger boat.
He had a new boat that could hold 12 people. His father thought he was crazy to spend that much money. But he quickly doubled the people in half the time.
Weil said it was the only time his father admitted to perhaps being wrong.
His business has outgrown three boats and last summer ran his 36’ boat at capacity all summer.
“When the Charleston Explorer became available my dad gave me his blessing,” he said. The trip that put Adventure Harbor Tours on the map is the three hours Morris Island trip. It is a 15 minute ride out to the island, with a quick stop next to Fort Sumter to show off the area’s history. Captain Weil then lands the boat on the island, invoking a little more about the local history and nature and then the kids are sent off on the adventure to collect shells and sharks teeth. “Every single day you can find sharks teeth,” he said, and of course that’s a hit with all ages.”
This year Weil will be introducing a new nature and eco-tour on the Charleston Explorer which will be hands-on with science and nature themes with an emphasis on conservation. He likens it to a nature day camp where kids can learn to throw a cast net, pull up a crab pot, learn knots and seamanship.
The Charleston Explorer is also available for school groups, weddings, parties and private charters. And because the boat can land right on the beach, parties can be hosted on-shore as well. The boat is also enclosed, allowing it to be used year-round.
“I used to be a beer and wine salesman and I had a grocery store route,” Weil said. “I would go in and be looking to make a sale and the manager would see me and walk the other way,” he said.
“Now I am in a position where people want to come and hang with me on the water. I’m in a much better place. I thrive in entertaining people and this has gone very well. I get to show off this magnificent harbor. I am the luckiest guy in Charleston - no smarter - just a hard worker.”
For more information on Captain Howie Weil or Adventure Harbor Tours, visit lowcountrytours.com or call 843-442-9455 to schedule your trip. Adventure Harbor Tours is located at 20 Patriot’s Point Rd. in the Charleston Harbor Marina.
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