Tips for a Perfect Water Outing August 28 2015, 0 Comments
This past year has been outstanding on the waters surrounding Sanibel/Captiva and Pine Island Sound. On the Hey Mon we’ve boated with a lot of great people from all around the globe. While I’d have to say there will always be a few challenging guests and situations, most of my outings have been jam-packed with fun, laughter, good people and good times.
The above being stated, there are things we all can do to make outings on any guided boat consistently enjoyable and picture perfect on the water. Let’s dive into this a little deeper to see how we get there. Also, by hopefully providing a little education, you can be that much more savvy and informed when setting up your next guided trip.
Any successful outing starts with me, your Captain/Guide. For clarification purposes, it may be helpful to understand what the requirements are to be a Captain and Guide, at least in the state of Florida. Almost all states in our country have “rules and regs”, some similar to Florida, some different. However, let’s focus on the area around Sanibel and Captiva, where you may be fishing, shelling, dolphin and wildlife watching and restaurant and tavern touring.
My Captain, My Captain!
Anyone who takes people out on the waters surrounding or within the state of Florida and is paid for it, must have a Captain’s license. This license is obtained through the United States Coast Guard and requires: 1) Passing a series of written tests covering the full swath of nautical knowledge, 2) A minimum amount of documented time operating a vessel on fresh/salt water over a period of years, 3) Passing a thorough physical exam and 4) Clearing a complete background check. It is interesting to note, that once a person becomes a Captain, he or she is sworn in and also agrees to provide service (and their boat) to the United States in any crisis if called upon.The most common and frequently sought after Captain’s license is sometimes referred to as an OUPV Operator or Six Pack. The reason for the latter term is under this license, one is restricted from taking out any more than six people on the water at one time. Any more and they are operating illegally. The next level of Captaincy is to become a “Master.” To achieve this designation requires passing more nautical tests and possessing additional time operating a vessel on the water. As it relates to the latter, more time on the water translates to how heavy of a boat one can operate. This is established by boat manufacturers and in conjunction with the United States Coast Guard. So what does this mean for you? Simply if you have six or fewer people, any person with a US Coast Guard Captain’s license can take you out on the water.
I'M HAPPY TO REPORT THAT YOUR CAPTAIN OF HEY MON SANIBEL, ME, CAPTAIN PETER ROGERS, HAS A MASTER CAPTAIN LICENSE WITH THE USCG. THEREFORE, I HAVE MORE ON-THE-WATER EXPERIENCE THAN MOST CAPTAINS IN THE AREA.
While I won’t go into any more detail, there are other licenses that one has to acquire through the state of Florida. One is for the boat and others are for becoming a certified and legal Fishing Guide. In the case of qualifying as a Florida Guide of any kind (Charter Captain), a person must have a US Coast Guard license to start with.
My Guide, My Guide!
As we just mentioned, in addition to having a US Coast Guard license, a person has to obtain a Florida Charter Captain’s license. Additionally, one can get add-ons such as a Snook permit. These are all annual licenses and permits that must renewed and paid for each year.
Incidentally, many people ask if they have to get a fishing license when headed out with a guide. In Florida, the answer is “no” if your guide is properly licensed.
An additional permit is required for a guide to take people into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to fish or even view wildlife. This can be obtained through the US Department of the Interior / US Fish and Wildlife Services.
YOUR CAPTAIN, ME AGAIN, CAPTAIN PETER, POSSESSES ALL OF THE LICENSES AND PERMITS FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA AND THE UNITED STATES TO PROVIDE AN UNPARALLELED EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR GROUP ON THE WATER.
Here are a few other things you ought to keep in mind when seeking a qualified Captain and/or Guide.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if you inquire about going into the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, ask if he/she is allowed to do so.
- Ask about the vessel and how many people it comfortably holds. Many of the guide boats operating in this area of Florida are designed to take four or fewer people. Also, most of them do not provide cover in the event of rain or excessive sunshine. If this is the case, you will want to plan and cover-up accordingly.
The shape of the hull is also important. If it’s a straight up “flats” style boat, it will be uncomfortable and oftentimes tough sledding (riding) if the waves start acting up in Pine Island Sound. If you and/or your guests get a little squeamish in rough weather, have a conversation with your Guide especially if there is marginal weather in the forecast. Armed with this information, there are things he can do to still make your outing enjoyable.
YOU’LL SEE FROM PICTURES OF THE BOAT HERE AND ON THE HEY MON SANIBEL WEBSITE, THERE IS A CENTER CONSOLE COVER AND ALSO A “DODGER” UP FRONT TO DUCK UNDER. BOTH ARE GREAT FOR HUNKERING DOWN IF THE WEATHER TURNS SOUR OR IF SIMPLY TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM TOO MUCH SUN.
- In addition to discussing with your Captain how many will be in your party, he should ask if there will be any kids and what their ages are. In Florida, a child under the age of six years old must wear a life jacket. Oftentimes as well, there are parents who require jackets beyond this age. Hopefully, your Captain has special life jackets to fit various kids’ age groups and body sizes. Otherwise, they may be forced to wear uncomfortable round-the-neck jackets which no kid in a hundred likes. Special Note: Some people bring their own kids’ life jackets from home which can be advantageous because they feel comfortable wearing them.
ON THE HEY MON, WE HAVE A FULL SELECTION OF US COAST GUARD APPROVED LIFE JACKETS FOR KIDS RANGING FROM 1 TO 10 YEARS OLD. IT SHOULD ALSO BE NOTED THAT THE BOAT IS VERY ACCOMMODATING TO YOUNG PEOPLE BECAUSE IT HAS HIGH INTERNAL SIDES. THERE’S FAR LESS CHANCE OF ANYONE ACCIDENTALLY FALLING OFF THE BOAT.
Importantly, before departing on your outing, your Captain should point out the safety equipment on the boat, especially, where the life jackets are located.
- If your charter is for fishing, most Captains/Guides will bait your hook (if live bait is used) and remove any fish that are caught. If they don’t, consider hiring someone else for your next trip.
The same applies to any fish that are caught and kept. Many of you want to take some fish home for great meal. Any Captain worth his salt will clean your catch and put the fillets on ice to keep ‘em nice and fresh.
CAPTAIN PETER HAPPILY PUTS ON ALL YOUR BAIT, REMOVES CAUGHT FISH FROM HOOKS AND CLEANS TO PRECISION ANY FILLETS YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE WITH YOU. PLEASE NOTE, THERE ARE LIMITS TO THE MINIMUM/MAXIMUM SIZE(S) AND NUMBER OF FISH THAT CAN BE KEPT ACCORDING TO THE SPECIES. YOUR GUIDE IS REQUIRED TO KNOW WHAT THE REGULATIONS ARE SO YOU ARE FISHING LEGALLY.
- Last, but certainly not least, let’s address cancelled or delayed outings. Usually this occurs due to inclement weather. Prior to your scheduled departure (usually the day before) your Captain should be eyeing the weather. If there is a chance for it being dicey, a conversation should be held to gauge your comfort level and any safety concerns. Weather in Florida can change fast, but usually patterns have formed that can provide future indications about what may occur over the next twelve to twenty-four hours.
The primary basis for any cancellation or delay in your trip generally occurs if 1) There is lightning in the area or moving towards where you’ll be boating and/or 2) There are excessive high sustained winds that are forecasted to remain strong throughout a given period of time.
Perhaps a third reason to cancel or delay is if there is an onslaught of rain and radar shows it not letting up anytime soon.
Part of being a reputable Captain is to understand how weather works, and especially in conjunction with being on the water. Anyone who wants to rush you out in marginal weather is not acting in your best interests. If common sense suggests questioning something, then do it. Also, you shouldn’t be charged if indeed the weather is sucking swamp water and you don’t go out.
YOUR SAFETY AND COMFORT ARE THE TOP PRIORITIES ON THE HEY MON. CAPTAIN PETER IS A LIFELONG FISHERMAN, SAILOR AND BOATER AND HAS EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE WEATHER. AS I ALWAYS SAY TO MY GUESTS, “HEY, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT HAVING FUN. IF IT ISN’T LET’S BAG IT AND TRY LATER.” ALSO, I WILL NEVER ASK FOR ANY PAYMENT BECAUSE OF WHAT MOTHER NATURE MAY BRING DOWN CAUSING A TRIP CANCELLATION. FINALLY THERE MAY BE INSTANCES WHERE WE NEED TO CUT YOUR CHARTER SHORT DUE TO THREATENING WEATHER MOVING IN. SHOULD THIS BE THE CASE, YOUR FEE WILL BE ADJUSTED TO COINCIDE WITH THE TIME WE SPENT ON THE WATER.
There are other valuable nuggets of information regarding your outing on the water that can be found in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on our website. www.heymonsanibel.com. (Just hit the FAQ tab and you’re there.) Give it a look sometime.
The Guest! The Guest!
That be you. Now, there are definitely some things you and your group can do when you hire someone to take you out on the water. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have a reality check conversation with your Captain about what your expectations are prior to going out on the trip.
Here are a few simple pieces of information that you can do to ensure a great time for all. Note: I am only going to highlight a few things here so you’re not sent off into Boredom Land.
- Let your Captain know in advance if there is anything relating to you or your guests which we may have to deal with. For example, on a recent trip, I was told of one of the guests who was very wary of boating and got particularly uncomfortable in wavy conditions. As a result, we took it slow on the water and chose to boat under a lee shore where the wave action would be minimal. Everyone ended up having a great time.
- Whether it’s Dolphin/Manatee watching and/or fishing, please remember that we’re dealing with Nature here. Some days the wildlife is abundant. Other days, it’s like, ”Where did they all go?” There are those who have wanted guarantees that I will deliver on what they want to see or catch. Any Captain who would guarantee that is smoking briny cigarettes.
CAPTAIN PETER WILL GIVE A 110% TO DELIVER WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO EXPERIENCE ON YOUR OUTING. AND USUALLY THIS HAPPENS UNLESS MOTHER NATURE HAS ANOTHER SAY IN THE MATTER.
- If you are bringing young children on board, prior to boarding please have a conversation with them about how they should behave and to respectfully listen to you and your Captain. Also, don’t expect your Captain to be your designated babysitter while you fish away or mindlessly gaze out on the water. Finally, if you have inquisitive little monsters, remind them to tend to your family’s stuff and not to be delving into hatches, consoles and bait wells without permission. There are things in those areas that can hurt them. And, too many little hands in the bait well will kill the bait. If the kids want to see and touch a white bait and/or shrimp, just ask and, speaking for me, I’d be happy to show them one up close and personal.
THE ABOVE BEING SAID, CAPTAIN PETER LOVES KIDS! ONE OF MY GREATEST JOYS COMES FROM HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE (AND THOSE OF ALL AGES) ENJOY ANGLING AND JUST BEING OUTDOORS. HOPEFULLY, THESE EXPERIENCES MIGHT EVEN TRANSLATE INTO LIFELONG PASSIONS.
- Lots of folks have asked about compensation and tipping policies. Most guides publish rates on their websites. Regardless, it’s a good idea to discuss what the cost will be because it usually relates to the amount of time you want to be on the water. Also, if you are angling with a larger group of people you may be asked to pay an additional amount for each extra angler because of the need for more equipment and bait.
Most Captains request that payment be in cash or a personal check. A few will take credit cards. Make sure to discuss how you are going to pay preferably before you depart on your trip. The fee is generally collected after you’ve docked at the end of the charter.
What about a tip? Conducting charters is a service business. It requires a high degree of skill, providing top notch equipment and delivering a great time on the water. If you feel your group has had an extraordinary outing and your Captain has delivered in a highly professional and courteous manner, then extending a gratuity (tip) is always appreciated. A 20% tip is not uncommon. Some offer less, others more. It probably best falls in the range of what you might extend if you were dining in a high class establishment with a first class wait staff.
At The End of the Day…..
I’d have to emphatically and proudly say, I’ve had more than a few guests tell me that their outing on the Hey Mon was the highlight of their trip to the Sanibel/Captiva area. Gosh, that’s a good feeling and keeps me wanting to give even more.
The perfect outings are really about everyone --- you, your group and your Captain. If everyone is committed to just plain having a great time, then you shall indeed.
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