In a normal year, the SailSuperior.com fleet would have had hundreds of guests sailing with them by now. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the sailing charter company to work on their vessels and rethink the season, which started last week with the Superior Rocket Hurricane Zodiac powerboat taking their first tour of 10 people out.
SailSuperior.com is also waiting for the delivery of a catamaran vessel measuring 50 feet long and 28 feet wide. It has been delayed leaving Martinique in the Caribbean due to COVID-19 complications.
“Our season would have began with an amazing 2020 birthday . . . we had such great things planned,” Gregory Heroux, captain and owner of SailSuperior.com, told The Chronicle-Journal.
“All of a sudden you are quarantined. You can’t go get your catamaran.”
Heroux is hoping the catamaran will be able to set sail this week, as the port in Martinique has just been opened.
SailSuperior.com’s revenues are down by 95 per cent, but Heroux credits federal government subsidies with keeping staff working and the business afloat.
Staff have been using the time to upgrade and service the SailSuperior.com fleet in preparation for being ready for sailing tours on July 10.
“Normally we have all kinds of people from the (U.S.) and internationally coming through and stopping in Thunder Bay taking trips,” said Heroux.
Tourists would ordinarily take quick harbour tours, the wine and cheese sail, or a ride in the Rocket zodiac out to the Welcome Island. But now SailSuperior.com, due to the international travel restrictions, doesn’t have those tourists.
SailSuperior.com cannot just take an individual out for a tour. They now require bookings of five, six or eight people.
“It is hard to integrate other people . . . because we don’t know what to expect from people and what their level of comfort is,” said Heroux, about wearing masks.
Crews aboard SailSuperior.com vessels will be wearing masks and they will then leave it to the passengers if they want to wear a mask or not. Staff will also be doing vigorous cleaning procedures between bookings that include pressure washing life-jackets along with thorough disinfecting and sanitizing.
Even though the COVID-19 situation in the Thunder Bay area is considered better than other areas of the province, Heroux doesn’t think people should relax.
“We will give you a great sailing experience, but the social interaction between our crew and you will be less,” he said.
Heroux is hoping that the people of Thunder Bay will get their family group bubble together to experience views of the Lake Superior like no other.
“Support from the citizens of Thunder Bay is critical,” said Heroux, who hopes that support extends to all local businesses.
“We are doing the best that we can to make sure that next year and the year after that, when the guests start coming and the international tourists come back, that we are still here,” said Heroux.
As a nod to history, SailSuperior.com will be naming the catamaran the Welcome, after the Welcome Ship that operated harbour tours from 1972 to 1993.