• Fri. Jun 24th, 2022

DC’s Pedal Boat Company Comes to Rocketts Landing

ByLinda W. Smith

Jun 10, 2022

With each paddle boat tour from Rocketts Landing, guests are taken north for panoramic views of the Richmond skyline. (Photos of Philippe De Mott)

A company that offers paddle boat rides in the Washington, DC area has set a new course for Richmond.

Sea Suite Cruises launched a new outpost based in Rocketts Landing on Memorial Day.

Jack Maher

Founders Jack Maher and Jack Walten said the move came after a handful of VCU graduates who had tried the company’s cruises in DC approached the owners with the idea of ​​expanding the practice to the river. James.

With a bring your own drink on board policy and options for hosting party events on the 20-person ships, Maher says summer bookings are filling up fast in Richmond.

“I expected Richmond to be a big market,” Maher said. “But I certainly didn’t expect it to take off so quickly.”

To settle in Richmond, Maher and Walten chose Rocketts Landing, liking its proximity to the city’s downtown core. A northbound boat ramp gives passengers a picturesque view of the city skyline, balanced by the natural surroundings on the way back.

They started the process in the fall and spent several months working with Rocketts Landing developer WVS Cos. Beyond renting space at the marina, Maher said expanding into a new town also requires boating and drinking permits. Maher would not say how much the company spent to launch in Richmond.

“The financial pressures this time around weren’t as extreme because we knew what we were getting into,” Maher said, referring to the founding of the company.

Jack Walton

In 2018, Sea Suite Cruises began as a semi-bet, an idea the two founders came up with on a night out. Inspired by land carts, Maher and Walten wanted to bring an aquatic version to the Potomac River. This resulted in their first boat purchase from Oregon-based manufacturer Sculpin Marine and a cross-country trip to retrieve the vessel.

Initial funding came from raising capital through friends and family and draining Maher and Walten’s bank accounts. Originally operating as a side gig, the pandemic kept the company inoperative from April to June 2020 and gave the founders cause for concern.

“We were 25, 26 at the time, so it’s not that we had huge bank accounts to lean on,” Maher said: “It was just kind of a scratch.”

However, the pandemic ended up contributing to the popularity of pedal boating, an outdoor sport that could be organized around private groups, without fear of transmission.

Sea Suite Cruises came to fruition more formally in DC in 2021. The business employs 30 people in the DC area, while 10 people work at the Richmond branch, including a captain, deckhand and management.

Sea Suite now owns five boats, including one cruising the James River. Depending on what is added to the boat, Maher estimates the average cost of one of the ships at $160,000. The company’s DC fleet includes a relatively new investment, the tiki club cruise, which relies more on a party-themed experience.

In order to expand into Richmond, Sea Suite Cruises worked with developer WVS Cos. and now leases space at Rocketts Landing Marina.

Still, most of the revenue comes from its paddle boat offerings. In Richmond, up to 20 customers pay for a 90-minute ride — $45 on weekdays and $55 on weekends — and pass the time pedaling while drinking.

Sea Suite continues to operate until October, starting its season in April. As for the company’s long-term goals, Maher declined to comment on specifics. But he cited interest in different types of boats, experiences and markets with a desire to explore the uncharted seas ahead.

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