There’s a new captain in town
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PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – There’s a new captain in town.
Originally from Ottawa and formerly living in Georgia, Larry Ritchie has recently settled in Prince Edward County and his new business, Picton Boat Tours, is testing the waters.
Shortly after moving here with his wife Marjorie last year, he noticed some things were lacking in and around town.
One major thing he realized was there was no way for people to get out on the water, except if they owned their own boat.
“I was thinking about it and I said ‘I’m going to look into this boat tour business,” he said Thursday afternoon.
“I went to Transport Canada and I was thinking about going on a much larger scale,” he said. “I certainly learned a lot about what you can’t do and just how prohibitive and expensive it is.”
After re-evaluating his plan, he went back to Transport Canada with the idea of doing tours with smaller groups.
“Things started to work out,” he said.
Now, the business is up and running – and already getting a lot of attention.
“It’s been really well received, people just see the sign at the dock and they phone me up,” he said. “It’s really been a neat experience and I think it’s a perfect fit.”
His two-year-old pontoon boat is small and slow – and that’s the point. He can fit six guests on the boat at a time.
For Ritchie, being on the water is about the sense of freedom.
“Coming from a large city, such as Atlanta, it is pretty hard to get away where there aren’t gunshots and sirens,” he said. “So, here, it’s very peaceful.”
The 90-minute rides allow passengers to see and learn about various historical sights and experience natures ‘sanctuaries’ under the boat’s silent electric engine.
Right now he doesn’t know just how busy he’s going to get. Currently, he is operating two runs in the morning and two in the afternoon, from Thursday through Sunday out of Port Picton Harbour Marina ‘A’ dock.
Once the summer hits, he’ll be operating every day.
Twice a week, there will be a sunset ride available – weather permitting.
“I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be extremely busy. The business plan I have calls for a second boat out of West Lake, if it’s busy here or there, there will be a third one,” he said.
Interested parties can call or text 613-920-1408 to find out when the next tour is leaving, or just head down to the marina and look for the Picton Boat Tours sign. More information is available at www.pictonboattours.ca .
No alcohol is allowed on board.
Picton Harbour Pontoon Boat Tours: A Love Story
By Steve Campbell in the County Magazine
Captain Larry Ritche has the spirit of an entrepreneur. He has a keen eye for the opportunities that life brings it to him –Which last lead him through a multitude of business ventures which took him all over the world.
He’s one of those rare characters who loves life, and let’s it lead him where it wants him to go. He’s a natural talker with countless stories to tell which suits him well in his latest venture: Picton Boat Tours.
This, to him– and many County folk and tourists – has long been an idea waiting for a driving force to make it happen.
His pontoon boat, docked at Picton Harbour, is equipped to take small parties of people on a tour of Picton Bay. This one-and-a-half hour tour– out past Essroc and back – is a view of the County that few get to see, despite the fact that are famous access to water has been part of our lives since before the first Loyalist set foot on this land.
Striking views of the shoreline, accompanied by running chatter about the sites and history along the shoreline, make for a relaxing and informative so journey along one of our major harbours.
Larry’s tours are now in their third year of operation, and his story of how this came to be is a rather interesting one.
“I’m going to tell you a love story,” he said.
It’s a story about love of the water, love of life, and I’m more important story about love of a woman.
“I spent about 40 years in Canada, and then about 30 in the U.S.,” he said. In between, he lived in various places around the world, including Greece and the Caribbean islands.
“About four or five years ago I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and I called a long time friend of mine in Ottawa.”
She had a large family– all sisters– and, during one phone call, he had a long conversation with a younger sister, Marjorie.
The conversations continued and, “I fell in love, phone calls and flowers and the whole thing.”
“We commuted from Toronto to Atlanta, or sometimes places in between,” he said.
“Then we decided to get married, with plans to go to the U.S. We thought that we would spend part of the time in Panama, and then back to Georgia.”
“I had dual citizenship, but then the immigration papers and green card for Marjorie got held up for a long, long time.”
Meanwhile, Marjorie still had a therapy practice in Toronto so, when they started looking for a Plan B she suggested Picton.
“I knew the place because I had raced boats back here in the 1950s,” Larry said. “But, when we arrived here, everything started to fall together.”
He knew of real estate agent Libby Crombie through a relative, and told her to “find me a home”. This let him to an old brick house on Elmbrook Road, in need of some repair. But he fell in love again – this time with the house. “Twelve weeks later we moved here,” he said “and started calling contractors” for the work that needed to be done.
“I love the County contractors,” he said, “everything went perfectly!”
Already he was making great connections in the county and, come Fall, I wanted to get out on the water.
Captain Larry was well familiar with boating – in one of his many incarnations, he ran charter boats from the in the Virgin Islands. From this came the concept of starting up a boat tour here in the County.
“I took the idea to Transport Canada in Kingston,” he said “They were really great people, but the hoops you have to jump through were enormous… it’s like trying to get the Queen Mary approved!”
The main problem with the boat size, power and tonnage, so Larry came back to ponder.
“The bigger the boat, the more licensing you need,” he said “so I went back home and started again.”
Though he had moved most of his belongings from Georgia, he remembered that he had a small pontoon boat behind it his barn in Atlanta. He arranged to bring it here, and it became part of the new plan.
“When I came back with a plan for a smaller vessel, they said: okay, we can jump to Chapter 5!” The plan was coming together, but “insurance was the toughest part,” he said.
The insurance company was edgy, but agreed to a limited run of tours. “That was okay we wanted to start slow, and test the water,” Larry said. By the third year the insurance people had gained confidence in the operation and now allow him to run four tours per day.
Shortly after starting, he encountered Mike Roy, who coincidentally lived within walking distance of Larry’s home on Elmbrook Road. Mike had tons of experience on the water – he lived for about eight years on board – and had spotted a story about Larry’s new tour operation. He offered his expertise and the two became fast friends.
“I didn’t even know he was there,” Larry laughed. And Mike pitched in: “But we knew you were there… c’mon, a new guy in the neighbourhood from Georgia?!”
They make a perfect team, spelling each other off whenever they need.
“We’re having fun,” Mike said, “We’re having a good ol’ time.”
Part of the fun is in the chatter, telling people about the rum-running days and various County Legends – and answering a multitude of questions from their passengers
“I was surprised,” Larry said, “that most of our first groups were locals.” Well sure, what a great opportunity to see our County from a completely different angle!
There are limited activities for families in the County – after they’ve done the Beach – and Larry and Mike encourage family outings.
“People know this is not a 1000-Island type tour,” Mike says, “it’s just the right length of time, and it’s a private afternoon on the water.”
They don’t allow babies because, after all, it is a boat, and the risks are far too great. But, as a family outing, it’s a great way to give the kids a new experience.