How the Statue of Liberty Launched Our Business - Ocean Getaways
Our founders, Brad Lavigne and Trish Cronan, got their start in the yacht charter industry working as captain and chef on charter yachts in New England and the Caribbean in the early 1980s. Their time on yachts convinced them that the world’s best vacation secret had to transcend the pages of sailing magazines and be introduced to the mainstream luxury traveler. Hence, their yacht charter company was born with the intention of promoting through travel agents. In the beginning, the phone did not ring often (reminder to Millennials that the company was born before e-mail), and each call was tackled with tenacity. In early 1984, Trish fielded a call from Black and Decker who wanted to charter a yacht for the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. She pretended to know what the gentleman was talking about, took all his details, and said she’d look into it. After many years in the Caribbean where news traveled by the marine radio and coconut telegraph, Trish and Brad were not abreast all local happenings and had no idea that Lady Liberty was getting a facelift and that her Centennial debut would be celebrated in New York Harbor on July 4th weekend of 1986. Upon further investigation, they discovered that every yacht, dinner ship, excursion boat, barge, fishing boat, and canoe within proximity to New York City had a signed and sealed contract for the event. And the prices they commanded were astronomical. Was opportunity knocking? Could they lure some of their favorite yachts in the Caribbean to head north for the summer of 1986 and be available for charter? Within a month, they’d enrolled a small fleet of sailing yachts and one motor yacht to join their New York offerings. You need to remember that the term mega yacht and superyacht had not been invented yet, and the largest motor yacht for a charter was 100 feet. Next step – they sent a letter to the President of every Fortune 500 company based in New York. Step two – they began to call the office of every President and ask to speak to him (cold calling 101). Trish remembers it distinctly – it was call #49 to a cosmetics company, and the President’s assistant said, “Yes, we got your letter, and we forwarded it to our incentive company. We are an event sponsor and we do want to be on the water. They will be in touch.” Stumped again. What is an incentive company? Another quick study brought them up to speed. Since the message of “don’t call them, they’ll call you” was clear, they waited – maybe a week, continuing with the remaining 51 calls. 100 calls and the cosmetics company remained their only lead. In the interim, Brad traveled to Australia on a familiarization trip. The America’s Cup was taking place in Perth in 1987, and he was exploring the possibility of promoting charters for the event. During his absence, THE call came in. Yes, they wanted yachts for the event. Yes, they wanted to watch the Parade of Sail on the 4th. Yes, they wanted to be on the water for the night of the 3rd. Yes, they had 1700 people to attend. 1700 people? The Ocean Getaways New York fleet had one yacht for 100 and the rest only accommodated 25 people. Trish, of course, did not spurt this out loud and instead just took down all of the details and scheduled a follow-up call. Brad’s response from Aussie land, “Get the appointment. I’ll get the yachts”. Fast forward to two months later, they’re in a taxi on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with an armada of yachts up our sleeves. Brad had secured a 500 passenger dinner boat from Boston, a 600 passenger yet-to-be-built dinner yacht from Virginia, a 400 passenger paddle wheel replica from New Hampshire, a Tall Ship from Maine sailing in the Parade of Sail with another 50 guests and a luxury motor yacht for 100 from the Caribbean. Resourcefulness and doggedness have always been Brad’s winning formula, and in this instance, he outdid himself. The price tag for the entire package was $800,000.00. The company wanted it all! Being an upstart, the company’s biggest sale to date had been $12,000. Professional that they are, Brad and Trish managed to keep their jaws from dropping and screams from whooping at least until they were back out on the street. This marked the beginning of this corporate yacht charter specialty. You remember the familiar adage, “When you’re up to big things, expect big breakdowns”? Theirs was a big one – all of the marinas in New York Harbor and along the Hudson River were already sold out. There was no place to board the guests. No dockage, no contract. Again, Brad embarked on mission impossible, scouring the shores of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey in search of unused piers. And he found a couple – kind of derelict, but possible fixer-uppers. This marked the beginning of their logistics and event management specialty. Hiring cranes to scoop out all the old cars that had been driven off one of the piers (fortunately no dead bodies), dealing with union workers that had to upgrade the plumbing and electrics, hauling in floating docks and a myriad of other activities to make the docks safe and attractive. The initial breakdown became a commodity – something that no other yacht charter company had. We could not only sell a client a yacht charter, but we could also guarantee them dockage. By the event, we had booked 50 major corporations for a total of 7,000 people on 60 yachts. For the event itself, we had 40 travel staff, caterers, security, limousines, buses, trash haulers, dock handlers and more. We earned our stripes! And we keep earning them 30 years later although with a lot more finesse, less stress, and no more fishing cars from rivers.
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